IT certifications can open many doors throughout your career, especially when you’re searching for your next challenge. Recruiters and hiring managers tend to look at the Certifications section of a tech resume before anything else. Why? They want candidates with up-to-date knowledge, and IT certifications quickly show them a person’s mastery of a particular technology or practice.
These are some of the most valuable IT certifications today, according to the 2019 Robert Half Technology Salary Guide:
- Certified Scrum Master (CSM)
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
- Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
- Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
- CompTIA A+
- Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC)
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure
- Project Management Professional (PMP)
You can earn an IT certification in a wide range of practices, from help desk basics to mastery of complex cloud environments. So whether you’re a recent graduate or seasoned tech specialist, preparing for and attaining a certification is a great way to expand your skill set, impress prospective employers and stand out from the crowd. Here’s a roundup of some of the most valuable IT certifications today.
Best entry-level and intermediate IT certifications
Just starting out in the IT field? Or perhaps you’re ready to specialize? The following are some of the best introductory and mid-level certifications today:
CompTIA issues certifications for a variety of technologies and platforms, but one stands above the rest in terms of value to IT pros:
- CompTIA A+: Get started in IT with this foundational certificate. It’s all about hardware, technical support and troubleshooting. It also covers best practices in security, networking, operational procedures, mobile devices and various operating systems.
The most valuable certifications from this tech giant include:
- Microsoft Office Specialist: The MOS, MOS Expert and MOS Master certifications show your competence level in Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Access, SharePoint, OneNote and Exchange. They’re not just for administrative professionals — these certifications are also helpful for IT workers in cloud computing and general tech support.
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: MCSE certifications come in several specializations and show that you have the skills to manage servers, data systems, storage, private clouds, networking and more, depending on which ones you successfully complete.
- Microsoft Certified Solution Developer: Getting the MCSD certification shows that you have what it takes to design and create apps across a wide range of Windows products.
As Cisco is a leading provider of infrastructure products, a certificate from this company confirms that the holder is prepared for the latest developments and best practices in networking. The most essential are:
- Cisco Certified Network Associate: A step up from Cisco’s entry-level certification, CCNAs can specialize in one of the following areas: cloud, collaboration, cyber operations, data center, industrial/IoT, routing and switching, security, service provider, and wireless.
- Cisco Certified Network Professional: A step up from the associate level, the CCNP is a more advanced IT certificate in one of the above specialty areas.
Best IT certifications for security
Hacking and cyber attacks are hot topics today, and many jobs in security and risk management are going unfilled. The following are some of the most valuable IT certifications in this booming field.
A professional organization devoted to IT security and governance, ISACA manages five global certification programs, including:
- Certified Information Systems Auditor: According to the ISACA, the CISA is its cornerstone certification. As the name indicates, this exam is aimed at information systems (IS) professionals who monitor, control and assess a company’s IT or business systems. This certificate requires five years of professional experience in the field.
- Certified Information Security Manager: The leading credential for information security managers, the CISM certification is designed for people who design, build and manage information security programs. To qualify, you must have at least five years of IS experience and three years as a security manager.
- Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control: The CRISC (pronounced SEE-risk) accredits professionals and project managers responsible for information security and its overall impact on the enterprise. It covers risk identification, risk assessment, risk response and mitigation, and risk control monitoring and reporting.
- Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT: The CGEIT demonstrates your understanding of enterprise IT governance principles and practices. It is one of the most sought-after certifications in IT, commanding some of the highest salaries.
- Cybersecurity Nexus: In a time of constantly evolving cybersecurity threats, the CSX certification demonstrates that you are up-to-date on the most current security standards and risks.
Other valuable IT certifications for security include:
- Certified Ethical Hacker: EC-Council offers several certification programs, and one of the most popular ones is the CEH. Holders of this specialize in penetration testing, which is why this IT certificate is often a prerequisite for positions like cyber forensics analyst, cybersecurity engineer and applications developer.
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional: This is one of the most sought-after certifications in cybersecurity. Designed for experienced IT professionals, CISSP holders understand vulnerabilities in networked systems and create policies to safeguard systems and minimize risk.
- Global Information Assurance Certifications: All about information security, the GIACs come in several categories: cyber defense; penetration testing; incident response and forensics; cybersecurity management, audit and legal proficiencies; developer; and industrial control systems. The highest level is the GIAC Security Expert (GSE).
Best certifications for cloud computing
As cloud computing becomes the new normal in IT, more cloud credentials are available. Many of them are specific to individual vendors, including Microsoft, VMware and Amazon. There are also a few certifications that focus on more general practices across this fast-growing area. Top certifications include:
- CompTIA Cloud Essentials and CompTIA Cloud+: The CompTIA Cloud Essentials certification covers both cloud computing and virtualization skills. Cloud+ represents the next step up from the Essentials certification.
- MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure: Passing this exam testifies to your skills across a wide set of Microsoft's cloud technologies, including storage, networking, virtualization, and systems and identity management.
- VMware Certified Professional 6 – Data Center Virtualization: Virtualization is the foundation of cloud computing, and VMware offers the VCP6-DCV certification in managing data center virtualization via VMware's vSphere 6.0 and vRealize within cloud environments.
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional: Amazon is the largest provider of cloud computing services, and this certification affirms your ability to design and deploy cloud environments using Amazon Web Services.
Best management certifications
Project management is indispensable to IT operations. Even if you're tech-focused, it can be a very valuable soft skill to acquire. And because project management involves planning, scheduling, budgeting and execution, certification can be a key steppingstone to managerial positions.
- Certified Associate in Project Management: Offered by the highly respected Project Management Institute (PMI), the CAPM is an ideal entry-level credential.
- Project Management Professional: Also offered by PMI, the PMP credential is among the most prestigious in the profession. A number of subspecialty certifications are also available.
- Certified Scrum Master: The entry-level CSM certification is offered by the Scrum Alliance. It is an excellent way to show your knowledge of Scrum and Agile management practices.
Best help desk certifications
Many IT professionals begin their careers in technical support and help desk roles. And to give students a leg up, schools are increasingly offering courses that specifically prepare students to gain help desk certifications.
You can gain certification in either help desk functions as a whole, or you can concentrate on a specific vendor's platforms and products.
- HDI certifications: Formerly called the Help Desk Institute, HDI offers certifications that range from the entry-level HDI Desktop Support Technician to the HDI Support Center Director. The HDI Technical Support Professional certification is particularly popular with hiring managers. They also offer credentials for support center analysts, team leaders and customer service representatives.
- ITIL: The UK organization AXELOS is charged with promoting best practices for IT service management (ITSM). ITIL, formerly an acronym for Information Technology Infrastructure Library, is the registered name for a widely accepted framework for managing IT service delivery. There are five ITIL certifications, ranging from Foundation to Master.
- Apple Certified Support Professional: You can demonstrate your expertise with macOS with this the ACSP certification from Apple.
Best certifications in database, analytics and other data technologies
Database technologies remain foundational to IT operations, while growth in big data and analytics initiatives is driving new career opportunities. Certifications tend to be built around a single provider's platform, including:
- Oracle Certified Professional: Oracle, the world's leading database provider, offers certification in a range of database professions, from database administration and database application development to analytics, data warehousing and big data.
- SAP Certified Technology Associate – SAP HANA 2.0: This certification demonstrates your ability to install, manage, monitor, migrate and troubleshoot SAP's database technology.
- Microsoft SQL Server certifications: Like Oracle, Microsoft offers a range of certifications, including database administration, business intelligence, and data management and analytics.
- CCIE Data Center: This Cisco certification demonstrates expert-level skills required to plan, prepare, operate, monitor and troubleshoot complex data center networks.
According to the Robert Half Technology Salary Guide, employers prefer to hire certified professionals, especially those who also have college degrees and real-world experience to go along with them. Those who put in the effort to obtain credentials can expect larger salaries and quicker movement up the career ladder, not to mention a healthy shot of self-confidence.