The 13 most valuable IT certifications today

By:  Sarah White and Rich Hein

In IT, experience is king. Yet IT certifications remain a valuable tool for advancing your career. IT certifications give junior-level workers an opportunity to gain more resume-worthy experience in the IT industry. For tenured employees, certifications help you continually grow and adapt your skillset to fit the changing landscape of IT. Because there are an overwhelming number of IT certifications offered today, it’s important to do your research – some are more valuable than others.

In its 2017 Salary Guide, Robert Half Technologies reports data on the most valuable IT certifications across multiple areas of technology. The following 13 IT certifications have emerged as the most valuable IT certifications to help you get a leg up in a new job, increase your salary, boost your chances of gaining a more senior-level position or demonstrate knowledge and interest when making a career change.

Tip: You’ll find a must-have utility for your IT certification toolbox at GoCertify. The Certification Advisor allows you to plug in your area of expertise, skill level, career goals and more to generate a list of recommended certifications to pursue.


Microsoft certifications

Microsoft has three valuable certifications that address server, desktop, applications, database and developer skillsets. You can obtain different levels of certification, starting with associate and going up to master. Microsoft organizes its certification by technology specialties, with programs dedicated to mobility, cloud, productivity, data, app development and business application development.

1. Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS)

IT professionals with MOS certification are skilled in the Microsoft Office Suite, including Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Access, SharePoint, OneNote and Exchange. MOS certifications are most popular with office managers, executive assistants and other administrative workers, but John Reed, senior executive director of Robert Half Technology, says they’re also valuable if you work in cloud computing or technical support.

Certifications can boost your salary, but the percentage will depend on your current job title and seniority. According to data from PayScale, the average salary for MOS certification ranges from $45,000 and goes up to $65,000.

2. Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE)

A MCSE certification is best suited for anyone working with servers, private cloud networks, enterprise networking, data systems, enterprise devices, business applications or storage. There are multiple sub-categories to choose from, including business applications, cloud platform and infrastructure, data management and analytics, mobility and productivity.

MCSE certification is popular with IT managers, directors, system administrators, systems engineers and network administrators. According to data from PayScale, the average salary for MCSE certification ranges from $50,000 to $145,000.

3. Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD)

Microsoft promises that the MCSD certification will help you “get hired, demonstrate clear business impact and advance your skills.” This certification focuses on building apps designed specifically for Windows products – a skill that will be especially valuable at companies creating customized in-house applications.

The most common job titles associated with an MCSD certification are software engineer, architect, developer and programmer. PayScale reports that, depending on your job title, the average salaries for MCSD certification start at $50,000 and go up to $150,000 per year.

ISACA certifications

The ISACA was originally founded in 1967 as the Information Systems Audit and Control Association, but now goes by the acronym to acknowledge the “broad range of IT governance professionals” the organization serves.

4. Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

The ISACA describes the CISA certification as a “globally recognized certification for IS audit control.” It focuses on demonstrating your capabilities in every stage of the auditing process, your ability to report on compliance procedures and how well you can assess vulnerabilities.

CISA certifications are commonly associated with IT auditing roles, including senior information technology auditor, information security manager and security analyst. Data from PayScale shows that the average salary for CISA certification starts at $48,000 and goes up to $171,000 per year.

5. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

To obtain a CISM certification, you need at least “5 years of information security experience and three years as a security manager,” says Reed. The certification is specifically tailored for workers responsible for building, designing and managing enterprise security initiatives.

CISM certifications are best suited for IT security professionals, such as information security managers, security offices, security analysts, CIOs and IT security architects. According to PayScale, depending on your job title, salary for CISM certification ranges from $59,000 to $225,000 per year.

6. Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)

The ISACA touts the CRISC certification as the “only certification that prepares and enables IT professionals for the unique challenges of IT and enterprise risk management, and positions them to become strategic partners to the enterprise.” This information security certification demonstrates your abilities in risk management, assessment, mitigation, response, monitoring and reporting.

CRISC certification is best suited for IT auditors, CIOs, information security officers, systems audit managers and security managers. PayScale data shows that the average salary for CRISC certification can range from $93,000 to $181,00 per year, depending on your job title.

7. Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT)

Holding a CGEIT certification shows employers you’re skilled in valuable governance knowledge. The importance of IT only grows as technology dominates the enterprise, so businesses want to hire someone who can manage the intricacies of compliance. Reed notes that this is one of the “most sought-after certifications in IT, commanding among the highest salaries.”

CGEIT certification is more common for upper-level and senior-level employees including vice president of IT, IT director, IT security manager and CIO. PayScale data shows that the average salary for CGEIT certification range from $127,000 to $140,000 per year.

Cloud computing

Cloud computing has emerged as a crucial platform for modern businesses to store and manage massive amounts of data, and to host applications and infrastructure. As a result, cloud computing skills and certifications can help advance your career and, with the right certification, even increase your salary.

8. MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure

Microsoft’s MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification is a sub-category of the generalized MCSE certification listed above. This certification focuses solely on Microsoft’s cloud technologies, which includes areas like storage, networking, virtualization and systems and identity management, says Reed.

MCSE certification is most valuable for IT managers, directors, systems administrators, system engineers and network administrators. PayScale data shows that the average salary for MCSE certification ranges from $47,000 to $145,000 per year.

9. VCP6 – DCV

VMWare’s latest VCP certification, VCP6 – DCV, specifically targets skills to troubleshoot vSphere V6 infrastructures. VMWare cites it as one of its most popular certifications, globally. To obtain this certification you must first be VCP certified, which is the base level of VMWare’s certification program.

VCP certification is best suited for systems administrators, IT managers and systems engineers. PayScale data shows that the average salary for VCP certification ranges from $48,000 to $126,000 per year.

10. AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional

AWS remains the top cloud platform of choice, and its AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional program is aimed at IT pros seeking to design distributed applications and systems on AWS. Candidates are required to already have AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate credentials, as well as two years of experience on AWS.

Because the certification requires previous work with AWS, it is best suited for IT administers, systems engineers, and developers familiar with Amazon’s cloud. A Global Knowledge survey of IT professionals from last year pegged the median salary for AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional at $125,000.

Project management

Project management is crucial in hardware and software development – it’s how businesses can oversee the development process from start to finish. Project managers are responsible for pushing products through the development cycle and ensuring they are properly maintained once launched. For an IT professional, a certification in project management can demonstrate proficiency in planning, scheduling, organizing, executing projects and delivering solid results.

11. Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)

CAPM certification is offered through the Project Management Institute (PMI) – Reed touts this certification as an “ideal entry-level credential.” A CAPM certification will help those just starting out in project management develop their skills and knowledge to gain more experience.

CAPM certifications are generally best for project managers, project coordinators and IT business analysts. While the average salary for CAPM certification will depend on your job title and seniority, data from PayScale shows the average salary ranges from $35,000 to $129,000 per year.

12. Project Management Professional (PMP)

The PMP certification is also offered through PMI, but takes a more advanced approach to project management. PMI states that a certification in PMP will let you “work in virtually any industry, with any methodology and in any location.” To take the exam, those holding a four-year degree need 3 years’ experience in project management, 4,500 hours of leading and directing projects, and 35 hours of project management education. With a secondary degree, you’ll need 5 years’ experience, 7,500 hours leading and direction projects and 35 hours of project management education.

IT professionals who can benefit the most from a PMP certification include IT project managers, directors of operations and IT directors. PayScale reports that the average salary for PMP certification starts at $58,000 and goes up to $177,000 per year.

13. Certified Scrum Master (CSM)

A CSM certification will demonstrate your abilities with Scrum, a popular agile framework commonly used to develop software and hardware. Scrum’s usefulness has expanded beyond the tech industry, as a framework to manage any large-scale business project, making it an even more valuable skill for your resume.

CSM certifications are best suited to IT project managers and software engineers. Data from PayScale shows that the average salary for CSM certification ranges from $56,000 to $142,000 per year.