I Want More Money: What Certifications Should I Pursue?

More-MoneyCerts200398520WideAre you interested in earning a higher salary?

In this series, I’ve embarked on an expedition to explore and filter through data from Global Knowledge’s eighth annual IT Skills and Salary Report to discover correlations in situations where professionals report a higher income.

In this post, I’ve broken down the report’s most popular certifications to find which one leads to more money, based on the average reported salary. Unlike in my previous posts on states and industries, this data is limited to IT professionals and covers certifications with only 100 or more responses. While you’ll see some business-type certifications on the list, these are held by respondents who designated themselves as IT professionals.

Wouldn’t it be nice to earn a certification and immediately make more money? Are you curious to see how your salary compares to others with your same certifications?

Before you plan out a certification path, know that even if you attend the courses, study for the tests and pass the certification exams, you’re not guaranteed to earn that specific salary, and results among different individuals will always vary. You could earn more, or less, than the reported amount depending on other factors like tenure, management level, location, job function, company size and experience. When comparing the data below to our report averages, note that the mean overall salary for respondents is $86,223 for those who provided their certification information.

Top 10 certifications: 1 – 10

The top 10 certifications represent the major moneymakers for certified IT professionals, and rightfully so. They are some of the most advanced designations one can receive in the technology field.

With the recent security hacks and increased risks that come from our connected world, it’s no surprise that security-type certifications top the list, securing three out of the four tops spots for compensation. Thankfully, companies are preparing themselves to fight possible hacks by hiring the industry-certified best, and ensuring proper compensation to keep those professionals on their security teams. Also on the top list, Cisco and Microsoft both secure two spots with their popular certifications. Additionally, we see a representation on the business side for the PMP and ITIL® certifications — typically directors and others in management roles tend to pursue these types of certifications.

If you’re new to IT or just beginning your journey on the certification path, these industry-set designations represent an ultimate career goal where you’ll most likely receive the largest compensation for your efforts.

Certification Area Mean Salary
1 CRISC: Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control Security $119,227
2 CISM: Certified Information Security Manager Security $118,348
3 CISSP: Certified Information Systems Security Professional Security $110,603
4 PMP®: Project Management Professional Project Management $109,405
5 CISA: Certified Information Systems Auditor Security $106,181
6 CCDA: Cisco Certified Design Associate Cisco $99,701
7 CCNP: Cisco Certified Network Professional – Routing and Switching Cisco $97,038
8 MCSE: Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer – 2003 Microsoft $96,726
9 MCSE: Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer Microsoft $96,215
10 ITIL v3 Foundation ITIL $95,434


Next 10 Certifications: 10 – 20

The next 10 certifications all average above the mean reported salary for certified professionals of $86,223. Citrix holds a majority of these spots with six of the top 10 – 20 for their administrator/associate certifications on XenServer, XenDesktop and XenApp, along with Associate Virtualization and Enterprise Engineer designations. Also in virtualization, VMware tops the list with their VCP-DCV cert.

Along the security trend, Certified Ethical Hacker barely missed the top 10 list, demonstrating again the growing trend to compensate individuals trained to keep their company’s data and privacy safe.

Certification Area Mean Salary
11 CEH: Certified Ethical Hacker Security $95,155
12 VCP-DCV: VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization VMware $94,181
13 CCAA: Citrix Certified Advanced Administrator – XenApp 6 Citrix $93,831
14 CCEE: Citrix Certified Enterprise Engineer Citrix $93,662
15 CCA-V Citrix Certified Associate – Virtualization Citrix $93,437
16 CCA: Citrix Certified Administrator – Citrix XenServer 6 Citrix $92,695
17 CCA: Citrix Certified Administrator – Citrix XenDesktop 6 Citrix $92,411
18 MCITP: Microsoft Certified IT Professional – Enterprise Administrator Microsoft $92,252
19 CCA: Citrix Certified Administrator – Citrix XenApp 6 Citrix $91,069
20 CNA: Certified Novell Administrator Novell $89,018


Middle-of-the-Road Certifications: 21 – 40

The first two certifications, MCSA: Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator and CCNA: Cisco Certified Network Associate – Voice, average above the mean reported salary for certified IT professionals, while all certifications from #23 on dip below that average.

In general, these certifications represent intermediate industry-defined skills sets, still providing professionals an advantage on their resume but not necessarily top dollars. These certifications can provide a stepping stone to the more advanced certified designations in the top 20 for a higher compensation potential.

Certification Area Mean Salary
21 MCSA: Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator Microsoft $87,667
22 CCNA: Cisco Certified Network Associate – Voice Cisco $87,502
23 MCITP: Microsoft Certified IT Professional – Server Administrator Microsoft $85,575
24 MCTS: Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist Microsoft $85,234
25 MCP: Microsoft Certified Professional Microsoft $84,940
26 CCNA: Cisco Certified Network Associate – Security Cisco $84,547
27 MCITP: Microsoft Certified IT Professional Microsoft $83,844
28 MCSA: Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate – Windows Server 2008 Microsoft $83,112
29 VCA-DCV: VMware Certified Associate – Data Center Virtualization VMware $82,342
30 MCTS: Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist – Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure Configuration Microsoft $81,945
31 CCNA: Cisco Certified Network Associate – Routing and Switching Cisco $81,161
32 Project+ CompTIA $80,412
33 CompTIA Project+ Project Management $80,412
34 MCTS: Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist – Windows Server 2008 Active Directory Configuration Microsoft $80,032
35 Security+ CompTIA $79,730
36 Security+ Security $79,730
37 Server+ CompTIA $79,420
38 MCSA: Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate – Windows Server 2012 Microsoft $79,201
39 MCDST: Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician Microsoft $76,409
40 Other CompTIA Certification CompTIA $74,647


Bottom Certifications: 41 – 51

Many of these certifications in the least-compensated grouping are typical for those in the early stages of their certification path or career. Designations like CompTIA A+ and Network+ have become an industry standard minimum as a groundwork for the tech field — both validated as standards as the two highest number of certified respondents. As these certifications tend to fall in the foundational category, use these findings as a general foundation for moving up through a certification path to find higher compensation for your evolving skills set.

Certification Area Mean Salary
41 JavaScript Specialist Internet/Web Dev $74,521
42 Web Foundations Associate Internet/Web Dev $74,048
43 Network+ CompTIA $73,743
44 MCTS: Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist – Windows 7, Configuration Microsoft $73,499
45 MCSA: Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate – Windows 7 Microsoft $73,009
46 Web Design Specialist Internet/Web Dev $71,468
47 CCENT: Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician Cisco $70,680
48 A+ CompTIA $70,554
49 MTA: Microsoft Technology Associate Microsoft $66,668
50 JavaScript Specialist Internet/Web Dev $74,521
51 Web Foundations Associate Internet/Web Dev $74,048


This overarching look at certifications provides the best depiction of potential earnings for IT and non-IT professionals, in comparison to conclusions based on location and industry. In all instances, an average doesn’t represent the whole, so I recommend finding an online forum, like the My Community forums inside MyGK, to connect with professionals in your field and ask about specific certification combinations and impacts on salary from other factors like tenure and management level.

To find out more about earning more based on state and industry, view the previous blogs in this series, “I Want More Money: Where Should I Live?” and “I Want More Money: What Industry Should I Choose?

Want to learn more?
To see additional data on demographics, job functions and other factors that impact salary, download the full eighth annual 2015 IT Skills & Salary Report.

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  1. michael Reply

    With what’s taking place with the IOE (Internet Of Everything) and mobile devices. Wireless is the future. Get certified now.

    1. Kelsey Garner Reply

      You make a great point, Michael. Interesting to note that inside the IT Skills and Salary Survey data, the number of respondents who currently hold wireless certifications is low when compared to other industry certifications, like route/switch (CCNA Routing and Switching had 983 respondents). The wireless-based certifications included in our data all came in below statistical relevance, and thus, not included in the tables inside my post.

      Here’s the salary and response count data for wireless certifications we captured:

      CCNP Wireless: Mean = $114,444; Response count = 28
      CCNA Wireless: Mean = $87,187; Response count = 96.
      CCIE Wireless: Mean = $90,800; Response count = 5.
      CWNA (Certified Wireless Network Administrator): Mean = $91,251; Response count = 50.
      CWSP (Certified Wireless Security Professional); Mean = $101,948; Response count = 18.
      CWTS (Certified Wireless Technology Specialist): Mean = $83,948; Response count = 19.

      Here are the certification prep courses we offer at Global Knowledge: http://ow.ly/Pp07b
      (crlt+F Wireless)