The COVID-19 pandemic has seen businesses accelerating digital transformation strategies faster than originally planned. But the ongoing IT skills gap has complicated progress, with more than half of IT decision-makers reporting that hiring for essential IT positions is “somewhat difficult or extremely difficult,” according to the Global Knowledge 2021 IT Skills and Salary report.
To bridge this gap, employers and job seekers alike are leaning on certifications, whether to train up existing staff or to provide evidence of skills in high demand. Ninety-two percent of more than 9,300 IT professionals surveyed by Global Knowledge report holding at least one certification — a 5% increase over last year’s report. Meanwhile, 64% of IT decision-makers contend that certified employees bring $10,000 or more of additional value over their non-certified counterparts.
But which certifications hold the most promise? To help you get a sense of where to place your training bets, here are the top 10 most pursued IT certifications of 2021, according to data from Global Knowledge.
1. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
The Certified Information Systems Security Professional certification offered by the ISC is designed to validate your skills and knowledge for designing, implementing, and managing cybersecurity programs. It’s aimed at those in the role of CISO, CIO, director of security, IT director or manager, security systems engineer, security analyst, security manager, security auditor, security architect, security consultant, and network architect. The exam covers topics such as security and risk management, asset security, security architecture and engineering, communication and network security, identity and access management (IAM), security assessment and testing, security operations, and software development security. Candidates are required to have at least five years of cumulative, paid work experience in two or more of the eight domains covered in the CISSP Common Body of Knowledge to qualify for the exam.
2. AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate
The AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate certification is designed to validate your skills and abilities for designing and implementing cloud initiatives using AWS services. The exam covers topics such as deploying, managing, and operating workloads on AWS; implementing security control and compliance requirements; and using the AWS Management Console and AWS Command Line Interface (CLI). It also covers your knowledge of the AWS Well-Architected Framework, AWS networking, security services, and the AWS global infrastructure. It’s recommended that candidates for the exam have at least one year of hands-on experience with AWS, including using compute, networking, storage, and database services, as well as AWS deployment and management services.
3. AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification is an entry-level exam that is aimed at anyone with basic knowledge of the AWS platform. It’s recommended to have at least six months of exposure to AWS Cloud, a basic understanding of IT services and knowledge of core AWS services. The exam covers topics such as AWS cloud concepts, security, and compliance within the AWS Cloud, core AWS services and the economics of AWS Cloud. It’s a great place to start if you’re just getting into cloud technology and plan to grow your cloud skills.
4. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
The Certified Information Security Manager certification offered by the ISACA demonstrates your skills and abilities with IS and IT security and control and can help pave the way to an IT manager role. The CISM exam covers information security governance, information risk management, information security program development and management, and information security incident management. To qualify for the exam, candidates are required to have five or more years of experience in IS management — experience waivers are available for a maximum of two years.
Price: $575 for members; $760 for non-members
5. Google Professional Cloud Architect
The Google Professional Cloud Architect certification demonstrates your skills and ability to leverage Google Cloud technologies in an organization. The exam covers designing and planning a cloud solution architecture, managing and provisioning the cloud solution infrastructure, designing for security and compliance, analyzing and optimizing technology and business processes, managing implementations of cloud architecture, and ensuring solutions and operations reliability. The certification will show that you have the skills as a cloud architect to implement enterprise cloud strategy, solution design and to follow architectural best practices in addition to your knowledge of software development methodologies in multicloud or hybrid environments.
6. AWS Certified Solutions Architect Professional
The AWS Certified Solutions Architect Professional certification establishes your ability to design, deploy, and evaluate applications using AWS services. The exam covers topics such as AWS CLI, AWS APIs, AWS CloudFormation templates, AWS Billing Console, AWS Management Console, scripting languages, and navigating Windows and Linux environments. You’ll need a strong understanding of the best practices for the architectural design of applications and enterprise projects, including how to map them to business objectives. Your knowledge of cloud application requirements and ability to design a hybrid architecture using AWS technologies as well as a continuous integration and deployment process will also be tested. It’s recommended to have at least two or more years of hands-on experience designing and deploying cloud architecture on AWS.
7. Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals
The Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals certification validates your knowledge of cloud services offered through Microsoft Azure. It’s an entry-level certification for those who are new to working with cloud-based solutions or who are new to using Azure. Candidates are expected to have general knowledge of topics such as networking, storage, compute, application support, and application development. The certification covers your knowledge of cloud concepts, Azure services, Azure workloads, security and privacy in Azure and Azure pricing and support.
8. Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)
The Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control certification offered by the ISACA is designed to validate your knowledge of building agile risk-management programs. The exam covers governance, risk response and reporting, IT risk assessment, and information technology and security. It’s designed for mid-career IT or IS audit, risk, and security professionals to prove their skills and knowledge when using governance best practices and continuous risk monitoring and reporting.
Price: $575 for ISACA members; $760 for non-members
9. Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate
The Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate certification is designed to demonstrate your skills and abilities for implementing, managing, and monitoring an organization’s Microsoft Azure environment. Candidates for the exam should have at least six months of hands-on experience administering Azure and a strong understanding of core Azure services, workloads, security, and governance. It’s also recommended to have experience using PowerShell, Azure CLI, Azure portal, and Azure Resource Manager templates. The exam covers managing Azure identities and governance, implementing and managing storage, deploying and managing Azure compute resources, configuring and managing virtual networking, and monitoring and backing up Azure resources.
10. Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert
The Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert certification is an advanced exam for solution architects to demonstrate their “expertise in designing cloud and hybrid solutions that run on Microsoft Azure, including compute, network, storage, monitoring, and security.” You’ll need to pass the associate-level exam first before you can take the expert-level exam. Candidates are recommended to have advanced experience and knowledge of IT operations such as networking, virtualization, identity, security, business continuity, disaster recovery, data platforms, and governance. The Azure Solutions Architect Expert exam is set to be retired on March 31, 2022, but Microsoft has already implemented a new replacement exam called Designing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions — it is currently available in beta.