The 15 most valuable IT certifications today

Looking for a leg up in your IT career? Here are the most valuable IT certifications you can earn to boost your salary in 2021.

Certifications have long been a great means for IT career advancement. The right credentials can boost your salary, set you apart from the competition, and help you land promotions in your current role. In fact, 66% of IT decision-makers say that the additional skills from a certified employee compared to a noncertified employee holds an annual economic value of over $10,000, while 22% put that number at $25,000 or more.

But knowing which certifications can have the most impact on your career and salary can be challenging. To help, Global Knowledge recently released data on the highest-paying certifications based on research from 3,700 US respondents for its forthcoming 2021 IT Skills and Salary Report. Following are the 15 certifications associated with the highest pay for 2021.

The 15 most valuable certifications for 2021

  • Google Certified Professional Data Engineer
  • Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect
  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate
  • Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
  • Project Management Professional (PMP)
  • Nutanix Certified Professional – Multicloud Infrastructure (NCP-MCI)
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
  • VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization 2020 (VCP-DVC)
  • MCSE: Windows Server
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate
  • Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) – Enterprise
  • Citrix Certified Associate – Virtualization (CCA-V)
  • CompTIA Security+

Google Certified Professional Data Engineer

The Google Certified Professional Data Engineer certification assesses your ability to design, build, operationalize, secure, and monitor data processing systems. It will test your knowledge of data security and compliance, scalability and efficiency, reliability and fidelity, and flexibility and portability. According to Google, a successful data engineer should be able to “leverage, deploy, and continuously train pre-existing machine learning models.” It’s recommended to have three or more years of experience, including more than one year of experience designing and managing solutions using Google Cloud Professional.

It’s a popular certification for cloud architects, and of those who hold this certification, 80% also report earning an additional certification in the past year, with AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate being the most popular cross-certification. On average, those who hold a GCP Data Engineer certification report having four certifications in total, according to Global Knowledge.

Average salary: $171,749

Google Cloud Professional (GCP) Cloud Architect

The Google Cloud Professional (GCP) Cloud Architect certification validates your ability to work with Google Cloud technologies in the enterprise and to design, develop, and manage scalable and secure business solutions in the cloud. The exam covers designing and planning, managing and provisioning, and implementing cloud architecture. You’ll also be tested on your ability to analyze and optimize business processes, design with security and compliance in mind, and ensure they work reliably. Unless otherwise stated, all Google Cloud certifications expire after two years from the date received and you will need to recertify to maintain your status. 

Similar to the GCP Data Engineer certification, Google’s Certified Professional Cloud Architect certification is most popular with cloud architects and 79% of people who hold this certification also earned an additional certification in the past year. The average GCP Cloud Architect certification holder has four total certifications.

Average salary: $169,029

AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate

The AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate certification is for solutions architects with one or more years of hands-on experience designing “available, cost-efficient, fault-tolerant, and scalable distributed systems on AWS,” according to Amazon. The exam tests your knowledge of AWS application architecture and security, your ability to define a solution based on customer requirements and how well you understand the best practices of AWS application implementation. It’s recommended to have hands-on experience with AWS services, knowledge of the best practices for building reliable and secure applications on the AWS platform and an understanding of the AWS global infrastructure and related network technologies.

It’s a popular certification for cloud architects and 81% of those who report holding this certification have earned another certification in the past year, with GCP Professional Cloud Architect reported as the most common cross-certification. The average AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate certification holder reports having eight other certifications.

Average salary: $159,033

Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)

The ISACA’s Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) certification is targeted at those who design, implement, monitor, and maintain information security controls. The exam covers IT risk identification, risk assessment, risk response and mitigation, and risk and control monitoring and reporting. It was recently updated in August 2021 to reflect the industry’s increased focus on business continuity, resiliency, privacy, security, and corporate governance.  To qualify for the CRISC exam, you’ll need at least three or more years of experience in IT risk management and information security control.

The CRISC certification is most popular with those in the position of CISO, CSO, or ISO, and CISSP is the most popular cross-certification; on average, CRISC certification holders report having five total certifications. Only 51% of those who hold a CRISC certification reported earning a new certification in the past year, but 100% say they hold at least one cybersecurity certification.

Average salary: $151,995

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification is offered through the International Information System Security Certification Consortium, known as (ISC)². The certification is accredited under the ANSI standard and it has been approved by the US Department of Defense (DoD) as a requirement for certain IT roles. As a vendor-neutral certification, the CISSP exam certifies your ability to design, implement, and manage a cybersecurity program.

The CISSP certification is popular with information security professionals and 100% of those who hold a CISSP certification report holding at least one cybersecurity certification and 64% say they have earned at least one new certification in the past year. The typical CISSP holder has seven other certifications, on average. 

Average salary: $151,853

Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

The ISACA’s Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) certification is designed to validate your skills and expertise in information security governance, program development and management, and risk and incident management. The certification is designed for IT pros working with or managing IT security at an enterprise or organizational level. To qualify for the exam, you’ll need at least five years of previous work experience in information security within the past ten years. The CISM certification is valid for five years and must be maintained by earning continuing professional education (CPE) credits.

The CISM certification is most popular with information security professionals and the most common cross-certification is CISSP. Of those that report having a CISM certification, 100% hold at least one other cybersecurity certification and 63% have earned a new certification in the past year. The average CISM certified professional reports having three other certifications, on average.

Average salary: $149,246

Project Management Professional (PMP)

The Project Management Institute offers the Project Management Professional (PMP Certification), which is aimed at advanced project managers. The certification exam tests your knowledge of project management fundamentals and the five main stages of a project’s lifecycle. To qualify for the exam, those holding a four-year degree must have three years of experience in project management, 4,500 hours of leading and directing projects, and 35 hours of project management education. For those with a secondary degree, you’ll need five years of experience, 7,500 hours leading and directing projects, and 35 hours of project management education.

Program managers that report holding a PMP certification are most likely to have a CISA certification as well and 56% say they’ve earned a new certification in the past year. The average PMP certified professional also reports having five certifications in total.

Average salary: $148,906

Nutanix Certified Professional – Multi Cloud Infrastructure (NCP-MCI)

The Nutanix Certified Professional – Multi Cloud Infrastructure (NCP-MCI) certification validates your ability to deploy, manage, optimize, troubleshoot, and scale Nutanix AOS in the enterprise cloud. The exam will test your knowledge and ability to deploy and administer Nutanix AOS nodes, blocks, and clusters, using Prism Element to monitor, manage, troubleshoot, and administer AHV hosts and virtual machines. You’ll be tested on cloud concepts, managing and securing a Nutanix cluster, networking, VM creation and management, health monitoring and alerts, distributed storage fabric, acropolis storage services, data resiliency, data protection, Prism Central, and lifecycle operations.

The NCP-MCI certification is most popular with systems architects; of those who report holding the certification, 90% say they’ve earned a new certification in the past year, the most popular of which is VCP-DCV 2020. The average NCP-MCI certification holder also reports having at least seven total IT certifications, on average.

Average salary: $142,810

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

The ISACA’s Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) certification is designed for those responsible for auditing, controlling, monitoring, and assessing an organization’s IT and business systems. The exam covers your expertise in the information systems (IS) auditing process, your ability to report on compliance procedures and to access vulnerabilities. To qualify for the exam you need five or more years of experience in IS or IT auditing, control, assurance, or security. To maintain your certification, you will need to need report at least 20 CPE hours annually; credentials expire after three years.

The CISA certification is most popular with IT auditors and 100% of people who report holding a CISA certification also say they have at least one other cybersecurity certification. The average CISA certified IT professional also reports having four certifications in total, with 46% saying they earned a new certification in the past year.

Average salary: $134,460

VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization 2020 (VCP-DVC)

The VCP-DVC - VMware Certified Professional - Data Center Virtualization 2020 (VCP-DCV) certification validates your ability to administer and troubleshoot vSphere 7 infrastructures to build stable virtualization environments. The VCP-DCV 2020 certification is the most recent version of the exam and it tests your ability to implement, manage, and troubleshoot a vSphere 7 infrastructure that can “accelerate the transformation to cloud computing,” according to VMware. In the past, VMware certifications expired after two years, but as of 2019 the company removed expirations on certifications, allowing IT professionals to revalidate their skills on their own timeline.

The VCP-DVC VMware Certified Professional Data Center Virtualization 2020 certification is most popular with systems and enterprise architects. Those who report holding this certification are most likely to have an MCSE: Windows Server certification as well and also hold 10 IT certifications, on average.

Average salary: $132,947

Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) Windows Server

The Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) Windows Server certification was retired on January 31, 2021. Despite its retirement, the certification is still recognized as valid for two years until they’re fully transitioned to role-based certifications for the Azure apps. The certification validated your skills when it comes to running a modern data center focusing on topics such as identity management, storage and networking, systems management, and virtualization. The exam is no longer available, but if you already hold the certification, it’s still valuable for the duration of the next two years before it is fully phased out.

The MCSE: Windows Server certification is most popular with system administrators, and CompTIA A+ is the most common cross-certification. Of those who report having an MCSE: Windows Server certification, 58% say they’ve earned a new certification in the past year and have eight total certifications, on average.

Average salary: $125,980

Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate

The Microsoft Certified Azure Administrator Associate certification is a role-based certification designed for Azure administrators and engineers, system administrators, and other IT professionals working with Azure. The exam covers Azure identities and governance, configuring, and managing virtual networks and how to deploy, manage, monitor, and back up Azure resources. It’s recommended to have at least six months of hands-on experience administering Azure and a knowledge of Azure services, Azure workloads, security, and governance. You will also need experience using PowerShell, Azure CLI, Azure portal, and Azure Resource Manager templates.

The average Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate certification-holder has nine total certifications, with 82% reporting that they earned a new certification in the past year. It’s most popular with cloud architects and cloud engineers, and the most common cross-certification is AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate.

Average salary: $121,420

Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Enterprise

Formerly known as the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Routing and Switching certification, the newly named CCNP Enterprise certification covers all the skills and knowledge needed to plan, implement, verify, and troubleshoot local and wide-area enterprise networks. The Routing and Switching exam was replaced with the Enterprise exam in February 2020; however, if you already completed the past exam before it expired, you will automatically hold the new credentials. It’s recommended to have at least three to five years of experience implementing enterprise networking solutions. Your certification will be valid for three years before you will need to be recertified.

The average CCNP certification-holder has eight total certifications, and 68% report earning a new certification within the past year. It’s popular with network engineers, analysts and technicians and CompTIA Security+ is the most common cross-certification.

Average salary: $118,911

Citrix Certified Associate – Virtualization (CCA-V)

The Citrix Certified Associate – Virtualization (CCA-V) certification is designed for IT operators and administrators to validate their ability to install, configure, and manage a virtual environment. You’ll be tested on your knowledge of Citrix virtual apps and desktops, delivery controllers, cloud connectors, StoreFront, Citrix Workspace, Director, Studio, and profile management for on-premises and Citrix Cloud environments. After earning your associate certification, you can move onto the professional and expert level credentials which further validate your cloud virtualization skills.

The CCA-V certification is most popular with systems engineers and the average CCA-V holder has seven total certifications. The most popular cross-certification is the VCP-DCV 2020 certification.

Average salary: $115,308

CompTIA Security+

The CompTIA Security+ certification is designed for cybersecurity professionals to validate their core knowledge of security best practices and problem solving. You’ll be tested on your ability to assess, monitor, and secure enterprise environments, including cloud, mobile, and IoT. The exam also covers security fundamentals and compliance regulations you’ll need to know as a cybersecurity professional. And you’ll need to demonstrate that you know how to identify, analyze, and respond to security events and incidents. It’s a certification directed at security and systems administrators, help desk analysts and managers, security engineers and analysts, DevOps and software developers, network and cloud engineers, IT auditors, and IT project managers.

The average Security+ certification-holder has seven total certifications, and 63% report earning a new certification within the past year. It’s most popular with network engineers or information security professionals and the most common cross-certification is the CCNA certification.

Average salary: $110,974

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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