It’s no secret that the IT industry is booming. As organisations are becoming increasingly digitalised, and their reach begins to extend far beyond traditional boundaries, the merging of business strategy and information technology is creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs every year. Yet, in many instances, this growth means that supply is not able to meet demand, which is good news for industry jobseekers – especially those who hold highly sought-after technical skills.
If you’re wondering just where that demand is, look no further – we’ve compiled a handy list of the top qualifications and the kind of salaries they can command.
So, whether you’re just starting out and considering your options or you’re an experienced professional looking for the next big opportunity, read on – these are the best IT certifications for your career.
1. Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)
Area: Software development
Exam fee: $150 (£118)
Average salary: $135,440 (£106,470)
For those who are unfamiliar, Scrum is a project management concept that is based on the idea of having daily huddles (like a rugby scrum, get it?) to monitor and fine-tune development and progress. There are no pre-existing requirements for the CSM qualification, although some prior experience of Scrum is recommended.
If you want to advance your career, this is a highly useful qualification to possess, regardless of your industry or specialism. It can be attained by completing a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) class, followed by a two-day, in-person course. The final exam is then sat online and consists of 35 questions, of which you need to correctly answer 24 to pass.
2. Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) – Routing and Switching
Exam fee: $900 (£707)
Average salary: $106,960 (£84,080)
Regardless of how businesses store their data, routing and switching is still an essential part of network management; therefore, this intermediate step on the Cisco seniority roadmap continues to be a highly sought-after qualification.
It’s highly recommended that as an engineer or an administrator, you are au fait with tackling complex network issues independently.
You should already possess the entry-level Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certificate, and will then need to pass three separate exams (routing, switching and troubleshooting), with the potential to graduate to CCIE (expert) level further down the line.
3. Citrix Certified Associate – Virtualization (CCA-V)
Area: Cloud management
Exam fee: $200 (£157)
Average salary: $113,440 (£89,180)
Generally speaking, the demand for Citrix-certified professionals is higher than the supply, which means that if you pursue this qualification, you’ll be in a prime position when it comes to negotiating your salary.
The CCA-V is the first step on the Citrix Virtualization ladder and is followed by the Citrix Certified Professional (CCP-V) qualification. In order to get to the required standard to pass, you will need to be familiar with the XenApp and XenDesktop suite of tools and software.
4. Project Management Professional (PMP)
Area: IT project management
Exam fee: $405 (£318) (PMI member) / $555 (£436) (non-PMI member)
Average salary: $135,800 (£106,750)
Similar to ScrumMaster, the PMP certification is a highly valuable management qualification to possess, regardless of your industry. Administered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), there are currently an estimated 770,000 active PMP holders across the globe.
To join this exclusive group, it is necessary to undertake the PMI’s Exam Prep Boot Camp, as well as hold at least 4,500 hours of quantifiable project management experience (7,500 if you don’t hold a relevant bachelor’s degree). You will then need to prepare for and pass the 4-hour, 200-question accreditation exam.
5. Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
Exam fee: $500 (£393)
Average salary: $116,300 (£91,420)
Cybersecurity is an ongoing concern for organisations of all shapes and sizes, with numerous companies, organisations and systems being successfully penetrated every day. Therefore, there is a big market for so-called ‘ethical’ hackers who adopt the same techniques and methods as malicious black-hat hackers in order to identify – and then fix – weaknesses.
In order to sit the official 4-hour, 125-question CEH exam, you must demonstrate at least 2 years of IT security experience and a good knowledge of networking protocols. You will also need to obtain authorisation from the administering body, the EC-Council.
6. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
Exam fee: $415 (£325)
Average salary: $118,410 (£93,080)
The CISM certificate is aimed at those who work within IT security management, with a particular focus on the assessment of existing security systems and the creation of ongoing security strategies. Available since 2002, it is another field where demand is outweighing supply.
You will also need to demonstrate 5 years of prior IT security experience (3 in a managerial role) before you can attempt the 4-hour, 150-question test, while sittings are only available twice per year.
7. Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)
Area: Risk management
Exam fee: $415 (£325) (ISACA member) / $545 (£428) (non-ISACA member)
Average salary: $117,390 (£92,280)
The CRISC certificate is designed specifically to evaluate how proficient your risk management skills are, with candidates subject to a robust and rigorous assessment. Unsurprisingly, many business analysts and other financial professionals such as accountants and bankers pursue CRISC and are able to command excellent salaries as a result.
Like other ISACA-accredited qualifications, there is no set course (although it is advisable that you purchase the official study materials as directed on the ISACA website), while it’s a great option for those looking to change careers. Professionals from any background (that have some knowledge of CRISC) are encouraged to sit the test.
8. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
Exam fee: $699 (£549)
Average salary: $116,900 (£91,890)
Designed specifically to prove security expertise, this broad vendor-neutral certificate – administered by the International Information System Security Certification Consortium, or (ISC)2 – covers a wide range of security topics, referred to as Common Body of Knowledge (CBK) domains.
Applicants to this course must demonstrate at least five years of paid experience in at least two of these CBK domains. They are then required to sit the mammoth 6-hour long, 1,000-question exam. A score of at least 70% is required to pass, while you must also submit a written reference to the (ISC)2 and subscribe to their code of ethics before you can become accredited.
9. AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
Area: Architecture / Cloud management
Exam fee: $150 (£118)
Average salary: $132,840 (£104,410)
As cloud technology continues to grow, so too does the need for skilled architects to design and deploy scalable systems, especially in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) environment. This Associate certificate is a steppingstone to the Professional qualification, and it can set you on the way to success in a high-demand, well-paid sector.
In order to sit the computer-based exam, Amazon recommends that you have at least six months of direct familiarity with AWS. The test itself contains 60 questions set over 80 minutes and must be taken at a designated exam centre.
10. Google Cloud Certified – Professional Cloud Architect
Area: Architecture / Cloud management
Exam fee: $200 (£157)
Average salary: $139,530 (£109,670)
As mentioned, IT professionals with proven knowledge of cloud technology are increasingly in demand, with this certification demonstrating evidence of Google’s own cloud systems. This includes designing and maintaining cloud solutions, taking into account security, compliance and reliability.
The exam, which is two hours long and multiple choice-based, must be sat at one of Google’s approved test centres – although, on the plus side, there are no official prerequisites.
As you can see, there is a diverse range of sought-after qualifications within the IT industry, particularly within cybersecurity and cloud management, where existing skill shortages are being compounded by predictions of massive job growth. This means that there is no better time to pursue one of these qualifications than now, with the added incentive of job security and strong salary performance also a welcome bonus.
Are there any other handy qualifications we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below.
This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 1 June 2018.