These certifications pave the way for a higher salary
In recent years, IT decision-makers have told us conclusively there are two technical areas that demand the most investment—cloud computing and cybersecurity.
So it shouldn’t be a major surprise that the top four IT certifications by salary are in either cloud or security. IT professionals with these skills are in high demand and command the largest paychecks in the industry.
Our list of the top-paying IT certifications in the United States is based on survey responses from the Global Knowledge 2020 IT Skills and Salary Survey (report to be released in the spring). This year saw more turnover than most, as seven new certifications cracked the top 14.
Also new this year, we provide a snapshot of the average certification-holder for each credential. Find out how many current certifications they own, which other certification they’re likely to have, their age and most likely job role. We offer this new information to provide a more representative picture of each certification. The salaries in this article aren’t simply a result of achieving a specified certification—they are a culmination of many factors, including relevant skills, job role, tenure and hard work.
- Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect — $175,761
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate — $149,446
- CISM – Certified Information Security Manager — $148,622
- CRISC – Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control — $146,480
- PMP® – Project Management Professional — $143,493
- CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional — $141,452
- CISA – Certified Information Systems Auditor — $132,278
- AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner — $131,465
- VCP6-DCV: VMware Certified Professional 6 – Data Center Virtualization — $130,226
- ITIL® Foundation — $129,402
- Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals — $126,653
- Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate — $125,993
- CCA-N: Citrix Certified Associate – Networking — $125,264
- CCNP Routing and Switching — $119,178
Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect
Average salary: $175,761
For the second straight year, the GCP Cloud Architect certification is associated with the highest salaries in IT. This newer credential—it launched in 2017—allows IT professionals to certify as a cloud architect on the GCP platform. It demonstrates the ability to design, develop and manage a secure, scalable and reliable cloud architecture.
Cloud skills are critical for any organization operating in the cloud and IT decision-makers are struggling to find qualified candidates for cloud job openings. They’re in such demand, the average cloud computing professional in the U.S. makes over $160,000 a year despite being such a small percentage (4%) of our respondent base.
To achieve this certification, you must pass the Google Certified Professional – Cloud Architect exam.
AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
Average salary: $149,446
Three out of every four cloud architects have earned one of the top two certifications on this list—and 28% have both! AWS Solutions Architect jumps up two spots from 2019 and proves once again that it’s one of the most popular and lucrative cloud certifications in IT.
AWS Solutions Architect – Associate validates an individual’s expertise in designing and deploying scalable systems on AWS. It is ideal for those who design cloud infrastructures, reference architectures, or deploy systems and applications.
To achieve this certification, you must pass the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate (SAA-C01) exam. The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification is a prerequisite. AWS also recommends a year of hands-on experience designing systems on AWS before taking this exam.
AWS Solutions Architect – Associate is a prerequisite for AWS Solutions Architect – Professional, which is projected to be the most pursued cloud certification this year by our survey respondents.
CISM – Certified Information Security Manager
Average salary: $148,622
The top-paying cybersecurity certification this year is ISACA’s Certified Information Security Manager. CISM validates the skills necessary to manage, design and assess an enterprise’s information security.
CISM is an essential certification for individuals looking to make the move from security technologist to security manager. It confirms a high level of technical competence and qualification for top-caliber leadership and management roles. CISM is the third most popular certification amongst IT professionals with 20-plus years of career experience.
To earn this certification, you must pass the Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) exam, which consists of four domains:
- Information Security Governance
- Information Risk Management
- Information Security Program Development and Management
- Information Security Incident Management
CRISC – Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control
Average salary: $146,480
Technology is a leading risk factor for organizations, so it’s never been more important to have an expert on staff who can identify and evaluate aspects of IT that are a threat to business objectives. ISACA’s CRISC certification validates those skills.
CRISC demonstrates the ability to identify and evaluate IT risk, and provide insight on that risk from an overall organizational perspective. Standard IT professionals often lack the skills to conduct a valid risk analysis. Having a CRISC-certified individual on staff is vital to ensure risk is properly scrutinized and business objectives are met.
Security manager and director are the most common job roles for a CRISC-certified professional, but a large percentage also work in information security, as a security engineer or analyst, or as a security architect.
To achieve this certification, you must pass the Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) exam, which consists of four domains:
- IT Risk Identification
- IT Risk Assessment
- Risk Response and Mitigation
- Risk Control, Monitoring and Reporting
PMP® – Project Management Professional
Average salary: $143,493
PMP was created and is administered by the Project Management Institute (PMI®) and is the most important industry-recognized certification for project managers. It provides employers and customers with a level of assurance that a project manager has both the experience and knowledge to effectively define, plan and deliver their projects. The PMP credential is often the key differentiator in decisions on who to entrust with important organizational project initiatives.
PMP certification is reliant on two factors: project management experience and passing the PMP exam. To become certified, individuals must have 35 hours of PMP-related training. In addition, those who don’t have a bachelor’s degree must have 7,500 hours of project management experience, while those who have a bachelor’s degree or higher need 4,500 hours.
Of the IT professionals planning to earn a project management certification this year, 49% are pursuing the PMP.
CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional
Average salary: $141,452
This (ISC)2 credential proves cybersecurity expertise and years of experience. Achieving your CISSP has been compared to earning a master’s degree in IT security, as it proves you have what it takes to effectively design, implement and manage a best-in-class cybersecurity program.
The CISSP exam is based around eight domains in computer security:
- 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
- Software Development Security
To achieve this certification, you also need at least five cumulative years of paid, relevant work experience in two or more of the CISSP domains. If you lack the necessary experience you can still take the certification exam, then you’ll have up to six years to obtain the required experience.
CISA – Certified Information Systems Auditor
Average salary: $132,278
ISACA’s CISA certification validates audit, risk and cybersecurity skills.
Employing a CISA-certified professional is proof that an organization’s critical business assets are secured and available. This certification has been around since 1978, making it one of the oldest, and most respected, credentials on our list.
To achieve this certification, you must pass the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) exam, which consists of five domains:
- Auditing Information Systems
- Governance and Management of IT
- Information Systems Acquisition, Development, and Implementation
- Information Systems Operation, Maintenance, and Service Management
- Protection of Information Assets
AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
Average salary: $131,465
AWS Cloud Practitioner is the starting point for a variety of popular cloud certifications, including AWS Solutions Architect, Developer, DevOps Engineer and SysOps Administrator.
This certification is designed for professionals seeking an overall understanding of AWS cloud services. This fundamental-level certification is often held by individuals early in their careers, as it is a springboard for more specialized AWS certifications down the road.
AWS Cloud Practitioner validates the ability to define basic cloud infrastructure and architectural principles, as well as key services on the AWS platform. A certified professional should also be able to describe basic security and compliance aspects of the platform.
Over 12% of U.S. IT professionals plan to pursue this certification in 2020.
To achieve this certification, you must pass the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner (CLF-C01) exam.
VCP6-DCV: VMware Certified Professional 6 – Data Center Virtualization
Average salary: $130,226
VCP6-DCV validates the skills needed to build a scalable virtual infrastructure using VMware vSphere 6. Certification candidates will learn how to deploy, consolidate and administer virtualization technologies, such as vSphere High Availability and Distributed Resource Scheduler clusters.
IT professionals with this credential have earned an average of 7.4 career certifications, the highest amount on this list.
If you are new to VMware virtualization technology, you’ll need to attend one course from an authorized training provider, such as Global Knowledge, and pass two exams: vSphere 6 Foundations and VCP6-DCV. If you already have a VMware certification, you’ll need to complete one of the following exams: VCP6-DCV (2V0-621) or VCP6-DCV Delta (2V0-621D).
Average salary: $129,402
With the launch of ITIL® 4 a year ago, the world’s most widely-used framework for IT management experienced an update for the first time since 2011. ITIL 4 addresses the new processes and methods used in modern IT, such as DevOps, Agile and Lean IT development.
ITIL Foundation introduces ITIL 4 and examines IT service management through an end-to-end operating model. The certification validates an understanding of the ITIL framework and how it can be used to enhance IT service management.
This certification is accepted as a framework for managing the IT lifecycle. As such, it is different from the other certifications on this list and is one of the few that focuses on the intersection of IT and the needs of the business.
Though this is a foundational certification, it is often linked with higher IT salaries because of cross-certification. Professionals who earn their ITIL Foundation certificate often go on to achieve higher-level credentials. Certified IT professionals who don’t have this certification earn roughly $8,000 less annually than those with ITIL Foundation.
To achieve this certification, you must pass the ITIL exam; there are no other prerequisites for the Foundation exam. It is, however, a prerequisite for follow-on ITIL Intermediate courses.
Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals
Average salary: $126,653
Azure Fundamentals is the first step on the path to Microsoft’s role-based certifications and provides foundational knowledge about basic cloud concepts and services. Core Azure services, like security, privacy, compliance and trust, are covered.
This certification is targeted specifically for professionals with non-technical experience. Program managers and sales reps who are responsible for selling or purchasing cloud-based solutions are ideal candidates.
To achieve this certification, you have to pass AZ-900: Microsoft Azure Fundamentals. While it is a recommended first step, this certification is not a prerequisite for more advanced Azure credentials, such as Azure Administrator Associate or Azure Developer Associate.
Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate
Average salary: $125,993
The Azure Administrator Associate certification validates the skills necessary to be successful in the role of Azure cloud administrator. It is one of Microsoft’s role-based certifications, which means it aligns directly with sought-after job roles. Azure cloud administrators manage cloud services that span storage, security and networking.
To achieve this certification, you’ll require a deep understanding of each service across the full IT lifecycle and will take requests for infrastructure services, applications and environments. You will need to be equipped to make recommendations on services used for optimal performance and scale, as well as provision, size, monitor and adjust resources as appropriate.
This year, 21.4% of Microsoft-certified professionals plan to earn this certification, making it the most pursued of all Microsoft credentials in 2020.
To achieve this certification, you must pass one exam: AZ-103: Microsoft Azure Administrator. The next step after earning the Azure Administrator Associate credential is to pursue the Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate certification. Both are prerequisites for the Microsoft Certified: Azure DevOps Engineer Expert certification.
CCA-N: Citrix Certified Associate – Networking
Average salary: $125,264
CCA-N covers the basics of a NetScaler implementation, followed by either a specialization in traffic management or the NetScaler Unified Gateway, including integration with XenDesktop and XenApp. It also covers how to troubleshoot issues with NetScaler in these areas. Like all Citrix certifications, the CCA-N certification is valid for three years.
NetScaler is a popular piece of infrastructure and is widely used in Citrix deployments. It is also somewhat complex, requiring a solid foundation in basic networking.
To achieve this certification, you must pass one of two exams: Citrix CCA-N 1Y0-230 or Citrix CCA-N 1Y0-240.
CCNP Routing and Switching
Average salary: $119,178
This professional-level Cisco certification demonstrates the ability to plan, implement, verify and troubleshoot local and wide area enterprise networks. This certification was designed for network engineers and administrators who collaborate with specialists on advanced security, voice, wireless and video solutions.
As of Feb. 23, 2020, Cisco is launching a new certification framework, with CCNP Enterprise replacing CCNP Routing and Switching. The CCNP Routing and Switching exam will no longer be offered, but those already holding Cisco certifications have an easy-to-follow migration plan to ensure they receive credit for work completed and credentials earned.
For all new CCNP certifications, candidates must pass two exams—a core exam and one concentration exam within the technology area.