If you’re trying to enter or reenter the IT job market, IT certifications can give you a competitive advantage. They are real proof of your professional knowledge and skills in the field and are highly respected by employers across all IT industries.
Different types of certifications for IT can grant you access to different types of jobs and roles. In this article, we’ll be covering the highest paying IT certifications, how much they cost, where you can get them, and how you can prepare for them.
What Is a Professional Certification?
A professional certification is a credential that proves you have professional knowledge and skills in a particular industry or career field. A certification helps you qualify for specific jobs or roles and is a very competitive asset to have on your resume. The IT industry is extremely competitive and the best professionals are always in demand. Some companies already require their employees to be certified in their fields in order to be hired.
What’s the Difference Between Certification and a Certificate?
The difference between a certification and a certificate is the main goal of each. IT certifications require some experience in the field and are used to demonstrate expertise within the IT field. These credentials are awarded by professional associations that meet industry standards.
IT certificates, on the other hand, are awarded by education institutions and are earned by completing required courses. People with IT certificates are eligible for entry-level IT jobs or IT bachelor’s degree programs.
Why Is Certification in IT Important?
Certification in IT is important because it can help improve your chances of getting hired or receiving a promotion if you’re already employed. IT certifications are a great way to stay on top of your IT game and improve your knowledge, skills, and overall confidence in your abilities.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), people with certifications are more likely to be employed than those without one. In 2018, the labor force participation rate for people with certifications was 88 percent, and for people without certifications it was only 58 percent.
Best IT Certifications by Salary
|Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
|Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)
|Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
|AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
|Amazon Web Services
|Project Management Professional (PMP)
|Project Management Institute (PMI)
|VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization (VCP-DCV)
|Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
|Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
|Oracle MySQL Database Administration
Best IT Certifications to Further Your Career
How to Choose the Best IT Certification for Your Career
To choose the best IT certification for your career path, you must start by doing some research. You should figure out what different types of certifications there are in your field and how they align with your ultimate career goals. You should also keep in mind how much money you’re able to spend on a certification.
Do Some Research
There is a wide variety of IT certifications that cover different areas in the field. You should do research to figure out what subjects each of them cover, how legitimate their providers are, and how long the certifications last before they expire to determine whether or not they are worth their cost.
Understand Your Goals
Different career goals will lead you toward different certification programs. Whether you want to get a promotion, improve a skill you already have, or even learn a new skill that’ll open some doors in a slightly different field, the right certification will help you meet those goals.
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Consider Your Budget
You have to consider your budget when choosing the best IT certification for your career path. Certification prices vary with each provider and the final cost of a certification can increase drastically when including exam preparation resources.
Which IT Certifications Pay the Most?
The IT certifications that pay the most are ISACA’s Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC), and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).
They are followed closely by Amazon’s AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate and Project Management Institute’s Project Management Professional (PMP) information technology certifications.
Highest-Paying IT Certifications
- Certified Information Security Manager (CISM): $130,000
- Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC): $129,000
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): $120,000
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate: $118,000
- Project Management Professional (PMP): $110,000
Which IT Certifications Are the Best for Beginners?
The IT certifications that are best for beginners are the CompTIA A+ certification, Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certification, and the Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC).
The CompTIA A+ certification doesn’t focus on a particular job or product. This entry-level certification provides a skill set that you can use in an IT career. The MTA is another entry-level certification that tackles desktop infrastructure, private cloud computing, and more.
Finally, the GIAC certification provides fundamental knowledge of cyber security. This certification has introductory, intermediate, advanced, and expert levels, which is great for beginners.
Best College Certificate Programs
How to Prepare for Your IT Certification Exam
The best way to prepare for your IT certification exam is to enroll in prep courses that are geared towards the specific certification you’re looking for. You can also use resources like books and dedicated Discord groups in your IT exam prep sessions.
Best Courses to Prepare for IT Certification Exams
The best IT prep courses include CompTIA’s CertMaster Labs for Network+, the CISM Online Review Course, a PMP Certification Training Course, (SAA-C02) course for AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification, and Cybrary’s CISSP Course.
Other Resources to Prepare for Your IT Certification Exams
Other relevant resources you can use as your IT exam prep can include the ones found in the provider’s official website, books, Discord servers, LinkedIn groups, and online learning platforms like Quizlet.
Provider’s Official Website
Sometimes, the official provider of the certification you’re trying to get offers study resources, as well. CompTIA, for example, has a learning and training section on its website where you can get exam objectives, practice questions, and book samples.
Provider’s Official Website Overview
- Type of Resource: Website
- Cost: Free
- Ideal For: People who want to get an idea of what the certification exam entails even before applying
Quizlet is an interactive study tool that contains study materials across all sorts of areas. These materials include flashcards, textbook references, and even specific questions about different topics. One resource you can find there are CRISC flashcards, which you can use to study for the exam.
- Type of Resource: Interactive website
- Cost: Free
- Ideal For: People who want to try a free and interactive way of studying
CISA Certified Information Systems Auditor Study Guide
There are several books available to help you study for any IT certification. This extensive study guide offers over 500 review questions that cover all of CISA’s knowledge areas and exam objectives.
CISA Certified Information Systems Auditor Study Guide Overview
- Type of Resource: Book
- Cost: $31.58
- Ideal For: People who prefer a more traditional way of studying
AlphaGrad Discord Server
The AlphaGrad Discord Server welcomes anyone who’s interested in learning more about IT certifications. Experts in the field are glad to help newbies and learners in their journeys. In the AlphaGrad server, you can participate in study sessions and find help picking the right certification for you.
AlphaGrad Discord Server Overview
- Type of Resource: Discord server
- Cost: Free
- Ideal For: People who want to join a community while going through the certification process
Information / Cyber Security Certifications LinkedIn Group
The Information / Cyber Security Certifications LinkedIn Group welcomes anyone who’s interested in learning more about IT certifications. This group offers professionals at all levels a place to share advice, ideas, group discounts for certifications, personal experiences, and more.
Information / Cyber Security Certifications LinkedIn Group Overview
- Type of Resource: LinkedIn group
- Cost: Free
- Ideal For: People looking for advice on choosing the right IT certification
Best Online Courses
IT Job Outlook and Average Salary
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall IT job outlook is positive. For example, computer network architect jobs are expected to grow 5 percent while information security analyst jobs are expected to grow by 33 percent.
Professionals with IT jobs also receive an average annual salary that is well above the national average of about $58,000. Computer network architects earn around $120,650 per year, and information security analysts receive an average annual wage of $113,270.
Best IT Jobs After Certification
The best IT jobs to get after getting a certification are senior solutions architect, information technology director, network architect, risk management director, and senior project manager (IT). These are the highest-paying IT certification jobs.
Best IT Associations
IT associations are a great way to stay up to date with the field, as they usually host relevant conferences, provide several newsletters and publications, and showcase new certifications for their members. Some of the best IT associations include the Association for Computing Machinery, the Network Professional Association, and the Association for Women in Computing.
Association for Computing Machinery
This international association brings together educators, researchers, and professionals in the IT field. They host conferences and workshops and promote networking and career opportunities. Their goal is to give IT experts a place to discuss the ever-evolving aspects of technology and the professional world.
Network Professional Association
The Network Professional Association is a leading global organization for network computing professionals. It was established in 1993 and has been dedicated to advancing the networking industry ever since. They publish online articles in the field and offer a job board for members.
Association for Women in Computing
The AWC has been helping women further their careers in IT since 1978. Its members occupy several positions in IT from programmers and system analysts to management and leadership roles. It focuses on providing professional growth opportunities for women in IT.
Are IT Certifications Worth It?
Yes, IT certifications are worth it because they are a great way to prove your expert-level skills to potential employers across all IT fields. Certification allows you to develop and grow as a professional and it can open doors when it comes to changing your career or even getting a promotion.
There are a range of certifications that you can choose from once you’ve done your research and decided which one is best for you. These certifications give you a competitive edge when applying to in-demand jobs in the IT industry.
Additional Reading About IT
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IT Certifications FAQ
The main differences between bootcamps and certifications are the learning approaches and career services these types of programs offer. The target audience for bootcamps and certifications differ as well, as does the average cost of each. However, both bootcamps and certifications are great ways to improve your IT skills.
The skills you need to be successful in IT include technical skills like programming, tech support, and cloud computing. IT professionals should also have skills in project management, problem-solving, and communication.
The main differences between an IT certification and a degree in IT are the duration of the programs, their total cost, and the amount and type of knowledge that each has to offer.
No, IT certifications do not replace on-the-job experience. In fact, many of them require professionals to have a few years of hands-on experience before enrolling. However, certifications are a good place to start, as they’re a way to prove you have expert-level skills in IT.
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