by Sarah K. White

16 best entry-level IT certifications to launch your career

Oct 27, 202313 mins
CareersCertificationsIT Skills

IT certifications can verify your knowledge in various skillsets, boost your pay, and set you apart from other entry-level candidates. Here are the entry-level certs worth pursuing.

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Certifications give your resume more credibility and can make you more marketable to recruiters and hiring managers. And at the entry-level, they’re a great way to stand out from other candidates — and even boost your pay.

As you grow in your career, you’ll want to consider more advanced certifications to continue your professional development. By then, you’ll know what specialties to focus on and what skills you need for your desired career path. But at the entry level, it’s better to stick with more generalized certifications that will help get your foot in the door.

Here are 16 IT certifications to launch your career, whether you have recently graduated or have decided to make a career change.

16 entry-level IT certs to jump-start your career

  • Apple Professional Training Courses
  • AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner (CCP)
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
  • Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
  • Cisco Certified Technician (CCT)
  • CompTIA certifications
  • GIAC Information Security Fundamentals (GISF)
  • ISACA Information Technology Certified Associate (ITCA)
  • ITIL 4 Foundation
  • Linux Essentials Certification
  • Microsoft Certified: Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA)
  • Oracle Certified Associate (OCA)
  • PMI Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
  • Systems Security Certified Practitioner

Apple Professional Training Courses

Last year, Apple launched professional training and certifications for IT support and management, with two new certifications for Apple-certified IT professionals. The courses are designed to be completed in succession, starting with the Apple Device Support course, which focuses on the skills and expertise you’ll need as a help desk professional, technical coordinator, or service provider for an organization that relies on Apple hardware and software. The follow-on Apple Deployment and Management course focuses on configuring, managing, and securing Apple products using mobile device management (MDM). The courses are self-paced and online, and you will need to pass an exam to earn each designation.

Exam fee: $149 per exam

AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner (CCP)

The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam offered by Amazon is an entry-level cloud certification that covers the fundamentals of IT services and how they are used in the AWS cloud platform. The exam covers topics such as coding, designing cloud architecture, cloud security, troubleshooting, implementation, migration, load and performance testing, and business applications. Although this is an entry-level certification, it’s recommended to have six months of exposure to the AWS cloud and knowledge of core AWS services, use cases, billing, pricing models, security concepts, and how cloud impacts the business.

Exam fee: $100

Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

Ethical hacker might sound like an oxymoron, but there are plenty of companies that are eager to hire security professionals who can help keep the company one step ahead of hackers who threaten company security. Part of that is having a deep understanding of the tools, resources, and practices that hackers lean on to exploit IT vulnerabilities. The CEH certification offers comprehensive training to help you start out as an ethical hacker. It covers the latest commercial-grade hacking tools, techniques, and methodologies employed by hackers so that you understand what risks and vulnerabilities to keep an eye on when working in an organization.

Exam fee: $1199

Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)

Certified ScrumMaster is an entry-level certification offered by Scrum Alliance that is designed to validate your skills and abilities using Scrum, a popular agile development framework. It’s a valuable certification for anyone interested in becoming a Scrum master, but it’s also useful for anyone on the path to becoming a software engineer, business analyst, or project manager. The exam covers topics such as Scrum and agile, Scrum theory, Scrum values, Scrum teams, the Scrum master role, Scrum events, and Scrum artifacts. For more information, see “CSM certification: What you need to know.”

Exam fee: From $400 to $1,000, depending on location and whether you choose an online, in-person, or hybrid course

Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

In the past, Cisco offered several individual certifications under the Certified Network Associate certification scheme, but it has recently consolidated all CCNA certifications into a single CCNA certification. The new CCNA validates your skills and knowledge with network fundamentals, network access, IP connectivity, IP services, security fundamentals, and automation and programmability.

The CCNA certification covers a “broad range of fundamentals based on the latest technologies, software development skills and job roles.” It’s an entry-level certification designed to get you up to speed on the latest IT fundamentals to launch your career. It’s best suited to those interested in roles such as entry-level network engineer, help desk technician, network administrator, or network support technician.

Exam fee: $300

Cisco Certified Technician (CCT)

The Cisco Certified Technician certification verifies your ability to diagnose, restore, repair, and replace critical Cisco networking and system devices at customer sites. There are two CCT paths to choose from: data center or routing and switching.

The CCT Data Center certification covers support and maintenance of Cisco Unified Computing systems and server. It’s targeted at field support engineers working with Cisco data center system devices and software. You’ll need to take the course Supporting Cisco Data Center System Devices (DCTECH) v2.0 before you can pass the exam. The course covers data center networking fundamentals, field servicing and equipment replacement, and how to identify Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) component models, accessories cabling, and interfaces.

The CCT Routing and Switching certification covers on-site support and maintenance of Cisco routers, switches, and operating environments. It’s designed for on-site technical support and other support staff who work with Cisco Data Center Solutions. Before you can take the exam, you’ll need to take the course Supporting Cisco Routing and Switching Network Devices (RSTECH). The online self-paced course covers networking fundamentals, Cisco outer and switch models, Cisco IOS software operating modes, and the Cisco command line interface (CLI).

Exam fee: $125 per exam

CompTIA certifications

CompTIA offers several well-regarded beginner and entry-level certifications for IT professionals. These certifications cover a handful of vital IT topics, such as networking concepts, security fundamentals, IT fundamentals, and IT support. These certifications validate that you have the necessary skills to work in these areas of IT, and that you’re able to identify, troubleshoot, and solve various IT business problems in an organization. Popular entry-level certification options from CompTIA include:

  • CompTIA A+: Designed for support specialists, field technicians, desktop support analysts, and help desk support; validates your ability to troubleshoot and solve problems with networking, operating systems, mobile devices, and security.
  • CompTIA IT Fundamentals+: Designed for those starting a career in IT or who want to change career paths; validates your foundational knowledge in IT and can help give you a better idea of what it is like to work in IT.
  • CompTIA Network+: Designed for junior network administrators, network field technicians, junior system engineers, IS consultants, and network field engineers; validates your ability to configure, manage, and maintain network devices, and implement and design functional networks, among other network-specific topics.
  • CompTIA Security+: Designed for administrators, security specialists, junior IT auditors, security consultants, and security engineers; validates your knowledge of IT threats, attacks, and vulnerabilities, as well as risk management, architecture and design, technology and tools, cryptography and PKI, and identity and access management.

Exam fee: Prices range from $75 to $125 per exam.

GIAC Information Security Fundamentals (GISF)

The GIAC Information Security Fundamentals certification is offered through the GIAC, covering the foundations of IT security, networking, cryptography, and cybersecurity. It’s designed to demonstrate that you have expertise in information security, and that you can identify potential risks and threats to data and information resources. The certification also validate your skills in dealing with potential security threats and ensuring businesses can maintain privacy and security. It’s designed for those new to cybersecurity, non-IT security managers, and anyone working closely with IT security, such as IT managers and systems administrators. It’s also marketed to anyone looking to make a career change, with an eye on cyber security as a career path.

Exam fee: $949

ISACA Information Technology Certified Associate (ITCA)

The Information Technology Certified Associate certification is offered by the ISACA as an entry-level option for those just entering the IT industry. It’s targeted at students and recent graduates, rising IT professionals, and teams that are looking to upskill workers. The certification consists of five individual certificates, each covering a different domain, including the fundamentals of computing, networks and infrastructure, cybersecurity, software development, and data science. It’s a well-rounded certification that demonstrates your competency in several vital areas of IT.

Exam fee: $120 for ISACA members, $150 for nonmembers

ITIL 4 Foundation

The ITIL 4 framework from Axelos is a popular management methodology designed to improve team efficiency and organizational processes. The ITIL 4 Foundation certification covers the basics of IT service management and the best practices for creating, delivering, and improving tech-enabled products and services. If you plan to work in an IT service management role, it’s a great certification to help you get started on that path. The exam covers the guiding principles of ITIL 4, the four dimensions of service management, and key concepts such as Lean, agile, and DevOps.

Exam fee: Varies depending on vendor

Linux Essentials Certification

The Linux Essentials Certification is designed to demonstrate your understanding of Linux, a popular open-source operating system used in several industries. The exam covers the basic concepts of Linux hardware, software, processes, and programs as well as system security, file permissions, and public and private directories. It also covers topics such as open-source applications, how to work with command lines, creating and resorting compressed backup and archives, and creating and running simple scripts. It’s best suited to those on track to become an IT developer, administrator, or engineer.

Exam fee: $120

Microsoft Certified: Fundamentals

Microsoft offers several fundamentals certifications that cover the basics of IT and Microsoft-related products and services. Certifications include Microsoft 365, Azure AI, Azure Data, Azure Fundamentals, Dynamics 365 (CRM), Dynamics 365 (ERP), Power Platform, and Security, Compliance, and Identity. Each certification covers all you need to know at the entry-level about its given topic, ensuring you have the right skills to get the job done. Many of the fundamental certifications can lead you on a path to higher levels of certification, expanding your expertise and demonstrating your knowledge of various Microsoft products and services. They’re best suited for technical professionals starting out their careers, students who want to build a foundation with in-demand tech skills, and business professionals looking to expand their technology expertise.

Exam fee: $99 per exam

Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA)

The Microsoft Technology Associate certification scheme includes several entry-level certifications that cover the fundamentals of IT topics such as mobility, JavaScript, Python, networking, operating systems, Windows Server administration, security, and development. MTA certs are designed for workers just starting out in IT or for those looking to change IT careers. The exam is meant to help you establish your career track in IT, allowing you to decide what areas you want to focus on. MTA certs are a great place to start for anyone interested in starting a career in desktop infrastructure, server infrastructure, or private cloud computing.

Exam fee: Varies by location

Oracle Certified Associate (OCA)

The Oracle Certified Associate certification is an entry-level option for building a foundational knowledge of Java, and is the first step on a path to demonstrating you have the skills to become a professional Java developer. To prepare for the exam, you will need to complete the beginner and intermediate Java SE 8 training, where you will gain practical hands-on experience with Java. The course covers the basics of Java and what it is, as well as exercises that help you better understand object-oriented programming using the Java language.

Exam fee: $245

PMI Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)

The Certified Associate in Project Management certification is a widely recognized entry-level certification for project management offered through the Project Management Institute (PMI). You don’t have to be a project manager to get your CAPM — plenty of IT jobs require project management skills to oversee technical projects. You’ll need a secondary degree and at least 23 hours of project management education completed before you can take the exam — but you can accomplish that through PMI’s Project Management Basics course. The course is designed by PMI to prepare you for the CAPM certification exam — it covers project management basics and skills you’ll need for an IT project management job. For more information, see “CAPM certification: Cost, salary, training, and more.”

Exam fee: $225 for members; $300 for non-members

Course fee: $350 for members; $400 for non-members

Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP)

The Systems Security Certified Practitioner certification certifies your skills in implementing, monitoring, and administering IT infrastructure in alignment with the industry’s best practices as established by the (ISC)². The certification is best suited for network security engineers, systems administrators, security analysts, systems engineers, security consultants, security administrators, systems and networks analysts, and database administrators.

To qualify, you need at least one year of work experience in one or more of the seven domains, which includes access controls, security operations and administration, risk identification and monitoring, incident response and recovery, cryptography, network and communications security, and systems and application security. If you don’t have the required experience, you can take the exam to become an Associate of (ISC)², after which you will have two years to complete the required year of experience. You may also qualify to take the exam if you have a related degree from an accredited college or university or the equivalent in computer science, computer engineering, computer systems engineering, management information systems, or IT. It’s a great place to start if you want to add cybersecurity skills to your expertise.

Exam fee: $249

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