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15 Top-Paying IT Certifications for 2021

Date:
Aug. 17, 2021
Author:
Global Knowledge

Get the skills. Get the certifications. Get the higher salary.

We have just released our 15 Top-Paying Certifications List for 2021, revealing the most in-demand skills and technology areas for organizations today and, crucially for employees, the average salaries associated with them. This year cybersecurity and cloud certifications lead the way as organizations focus more on risk management than ever.

IT certification is one of the best ways to validate your knowledge, skills and abilities in a subject. While the data shows these certifications have higher salaries associated with them, it’s important to remember salaries are the culmination of several factors including the ability to apply your certified skills at work, job role, continuous professional development, tenure and hard work.

The list also provides a snapshot of the average certification-holder for each credential, including the average number of certifications held, the most popular cross-certification, if they hold cybersecurity-related certifications, if they are in management and their average age.

The list of the top-paying certifications in the United States is based on data from more than 3,700 U.S. respondents who participated in the Global Knowledge 2021 IT Skills and Salary Survey.

 

Top-paying certifications:

 

List methodology.


#1

Google Certified Professional Data Engineer

Average salary: $171,749

The demand for data engineers is constantly growing, being one of the most in-demand disciplines in the industry. This year, the Google Cloud Certified Professional Data Engineer certification is associated with the highest paying salary in IT.

Data engineers analyze information to gain insight into business outcomes, build statistical models to support decision-making and create machine learning models to automate and simplify key business processes. The certification enables data-driven decision making by collecting, transforming and visualizing data.

To achieve this certification, candidates must pass the Google Certified Professional – Data Engineer exam.

Take the next steps

Learn more about the certification, practice exams and recommended prep courses 

Certification Prep Guide

How to Become a Google Certified Professional Data Engineer

Get advice on exam prep and certification training when you read this guide to becoming a GCP Data Engineer.

 

 

Average
certification-holder

4Certifications

80%Earned a certification in the past year

39.1Years old

Cloud ArchitectMost likely job role

AWS Certified Solutions Architect – AssociateMost popular cross-certification

20%Hold a cybersecurity certification

27%In management


#2

Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect

Average salary: $169,029

The Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect certification demonstrates an architect’s ability to design, develop and manage secure, scalable and reliable cloud architectures.

IT decision-makers say finding qualified candidates for cloud roles is among their greatest struggles behind cybersecurity. This certification helps professionals stand out from the crowd, while proving to employers they have the aptitude to excel in a Google Cloud environment.

To achieve this certification, candidates must pass the Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect exam.

Take the next steps

Learn more about the certification, practice exams and recommended prep courses 

Certification Prep Guide

How to Become a Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect

Take a deeper dive into the GCP Cloud Architect credential and gain expert tips you won’t find anywhere else.

 

 

Average
certification-holder

4Certifications

79%Earned a certification in the past year

40Years old

Cloud ArchitectMost likely job role

AWS Certified Solutions Architect – AssociateMost popular cross-certification

24%Hold a cybersecurity certification

34%In management


#3

AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate

Average salary: $159,033

The AWS Solutions Architect certification has a long-standing presence on this list. The certification validates an individual’s expertise in designing and deploying scalable systems on the AWS platform. It’s ideal for those who design cloud infrastructures, reference architectures or deploy systems and applications.

To achieve this certification, candidates must pass the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate (SAA-C02) exam.

The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification is a recommended prerequisite. AWS recommends a year of hands-on experience designing systems on its platform before taking this exam.

Take the next steps

Learn more about the certification, practice exams and recommended prep courses 

Certification Prep Guide

How to Become an AWS Certified Architect

You’re not fully prepared for the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate exam until you read this complete guide.

 

 

Average
certification-holder

8Certifications

81%Earned a certification in the past year

40.7Years old

Cloud ArchitectMost likely job role

GCP Professional Cloud ArchitectMost popular cross-certification

43%Hold a cybersecurity certification

41%In management


#4

CRISC – Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control

Average salary: $151,995

With a drastic increase in security breaches worldwide, there is a growing demand for professionals who understand IT risk and how it relates to the organization. ISACA’s Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) certification helps professionals develop these in-demand skills.

CRISC equips IT professionals with the knowledge to identify, evaluate and manage IT risk and to plan and implement control measures and frameworks. It also helps individuals establish a common language to communicate within IT and across the organization about security and systems control.

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, candidates must pass the CRISC exam, which consists of four domains:

  1. IT Risk Identification
  2. IT Risk Assessment
  3. Risk Response and Mitigation
  4. Risk Control, Monitoring and Reporting

Take the next steps

View more details and recommended courses for this certification 

Certification Prep Guide

How to Become Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control

This complete guide is a full examination of ISACA’s CRISC certification exam. Plus, learn the next steps to pursue once you’ve achieved this essential certification.

 

 

Average
certification-holder

5Certifications

51%Earned a certification in the past year

48.1Years old

CISO / CSO / ISOMost likely job role

CISSPMost popular cross-certification

100%Hold a cybersecurity certification

57%In management


#5

CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional

Average salary: $151,853

This (ISC)2 credential denotes cybersecurity expertise and years of experience. Earning the CISSP certification has been compared to earning a master’s degree in IT security, as it proves professionals have what it takes to effectively design, implement and manage a cybersecurity program.

The CISSP exam is based around eight domains in information security:

  1. Security and Risk Management
  2. Asset Security
  3. Security Architecture and Engineering
  4. Communication and Network Security
  5. Identity and Access Management (IAM)
  6. Security Assessment and Testing
  7. Security Operations
  8. Software Development Security

To achieve this certification, candidates also need at least five 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 and become an Associate of (ISC)2 if you pass. Then, you’ll have up to six years to obtain the required experience to earn your CISSP.

Take the next steps

View more details and recommended courses for this certification 

White paper

CISSP Has Changed (Again): What it Means for Your Certification Prep

Find out why CISSP stands out in a crowded industry. Set yourself up for exam success by learning more about all eight domains.

 

 

Average
certification-holder

7Certifications

64%Earned a certification in the past year

49.4Years old

Information SecurityMost likely job role

CISAMost popular cross-certification

100%Hold a cybersecurity certification

50%In management


#6

CISM – Certified Information Security Manager

Average salary: $149,246

ISACA’s Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) is an essential certification for professionals who are pursuing IT leadership positions. It confirms a high level of technical competence and qualification for leadership and management roles.

CISM validates a professional’s ability to manage, design and assess an enterprise’s information security.

To earn this certification, candidates must meet the real-world experience requirement and pass the CISM exam, which covers four domains:

  1. Information Security Governance
  2. Information Risk Management
  3. Information Security Program Development and Management
  4. Information Security Incident Management

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.

Take the next steps

View more details and recommended courses for this certification 

Certification Prep Guide

How to Become a Certified Information Security Manager

This guide is your one-stop-shop for CISM exam prep. Explore all the helpful details and advice you’ll need to pass the exam on the first try.

 

 

Average
certification-holder

3Certifications

63%Earned a certification in the past year

48.5Years old

Information SecurityMost likely job role

CISSPMost popular cross-certification

100%Hold a cybersecurity certification

60%In management


#7

PMP® - Project Management Professional

Average salary: $148,906

Projects live and die by how they’re managed, which is why skilled project managers are critical to any organization. They help define, organize and manage projects from start to finish.

The Project Management Institute (PMI®) Project Management Professional (PMP) is one of the most highly regarded project management certifications.

It provides employers and customers with a level of assurance that a project manager has both the experience and knowledge.

To earn the PMP, candidates must meet the Institute’s requirements. Candidates must have a four-year degree, three years of experience leading projects, and 35 hours of project management education or a CAPM® Certification. Or, candidates must have a high school diploma, five years of experience, and 35 hours of project management education/training or hold the CAPM® Certification.

Take the next steps

View more details and recommended courses for this certification 

Certification Prep Guide

How to Become Certified Project Management Professional

What’s the best way to prepare for the PMP exam? Learn all of the tips and tricks from a project management expert.

 

 

Average
certification-holder

5Certifications

56%Earned a certification in the past year

48.7Years old

Program ManagerMost likely job role

CISAMost popular cross-certification

80%Hold a cybersecurity certification

61%In management


#8

NCP-MCI - Nutanix Certified Professional - Multicloud Infrastructure

Average salary: $142,810

The Nutanix Certified Professional - Multicloud Infrastructure (NCP-MCI) certification is designed to recognize a professional’s skills and abilities to deploy, administer, and troubleshoot Nutanix AOS in the Enterprise Cloud.

Earning this certification validates a professional’s ability to guide an organization through the next phase of its enterprise cloud journey. During exam preparation and training for the NCP-MCI, professionals gain the essential knowledge and skill to deploy and manage a Nutanix environment.

To earn this certification, candidates must pass the Multicloud Infrastructure exam.

Take the next steps

View more details and recommended courses for this certification

Certification Prep Guide

How to Become a Certified Professional in Multicloud Infrastructure

 

 

Average
certification-holder

7Certifications

90%Earned a certification in the past year

41.5Years old

Systems ArchitectMost likely job role

VCP-DCV 2020Most popular cross-certification

31%Hold a cybersecurity certification

27%In management


#9

CISA - Certified Information Systems Auditor

Average salary: $134,460

Employing a CISA-certified professional helps organizations implement policies to secure critical business assets with certainty.

This certification has been around since 1978, making it one of the oldest, and most respected, credentials on this list. ISACA’s CISA certification validates audit, risk and cybersecurity skills.

To achieve this certification, candidates must pass the CISA exam, which consists of five domains:

  1. Auditing Information Systems
  2. Governance and Management of IT
  3. Information Systems Acquisition, Development, and Implementation
  4. Information Systems Operation, Maintenance, and Service Management
  5. Protection of Information Assets

Take the next steps

View more details and recommended courses for this certification 

Certification Prep Guide

How to earn the Certified Information Systems Auditor Certification

Our guide to becoming a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) is a helpful resource to help you prepare for the certification exam. Get the guide today.

 

 

Average
certification-holder

4Certifications

46%Earned a certification in the past year

45.2Years old

IT AuditorMost likely job role

CISSPMost popular cross-certification

100%Hold a cybersecurity certification

49%In management


#10

VCP-DVC - VMware Certified Professional - Data Center Virtualization 2020

Average salary: $132,947

The VCP-DCV certification validates a professional’s skills to implement, manage and troubleshoot a vSphere infrastructure. As well as use best practices to provide a powerful, flexible, and secure foundation for business agility that can accelerate the transformation to the cloud.

This certification continues to rank highly, given VMware’s ability to help organizations transition to digital environments, improve experiences and streamline operations and workflows.

To earn this certification, VMware requires candidates to attend at least one course offered by an authorized training provider or reseller. In addition to attending a class, candidates should have at least six months of experience working with the latest version of vSphere, VMware’s server virtualization software.

The 2021 version of the certification is available, with recommendations and tracks available to those who wish to stay updated on their VMware credentials.

Take the next steps

View more details and recommended courses for this certification 

VMware certifications

See additional VMware training and certification prep

 

 

Average
certification-holder

10Certifications

83%Earned a certification in the past year

41.6Years old

Systems/Enterprise ArchitectMost likely job role

MCSE: Windows ServerMost popular cross-certification

43%Hold a cybersecurity certification

29%In management


#11

Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: Windows Server

Average salary: $125,980

The MCSA, MCSD and MCSE certifications retired on Jan. 31, 2021 as Microsoft continues its shift to role-based certifications. However, Microsoft still recognizes them in the market during the transition.

The MCSE: Windows Server certification validated a professional’s ability to run a highly efficient and modern data center, identity management, systems management, virtualization, storage and networking.

The replacement certification opportunities for Windows Server are included in role-based certifications in the Azure Apps and Infrastructure and Data and AI solution areas.

If you hold a MCSE: Windows Server certification, here are your options:

  1. Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate
  2. Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert
  3. Microsoft Certified: Azure Security Engineer Associate

We will be providing more guidance and resources soon.

Take the next steps

Learn more about the retirement 

Certification Prep Guide

How to Become a Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect Expert

 

 

Average
certification-holder

8Certifications

58%Earned a certification in the past year

48.2Years old

Systems AdministratorMost likely job role

CompTIA A+Most popular cross-certification

57%Hold a cybersecurity certification

36%In management


#12

Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate

Average salary: $121,420

The Azure Administrator Associate certification validates a cloud administrator’s ability to manage an Azure instance — from storage to security and networking. It is one of Microsoft’s role-based certifications, which means it aligns directly with sought-after job roles.

To achieve this certification, Microsoft requires a deep understanding of each service across the full IT lifecycle. Professionals in an administrative role will take requests for infrastructure services, applications and environments.

Professionals will be equipped to make recommendations on services used for optimal performance and scale, as well as provision and size. They must monitor and adjust resources as appropriate.

Candidates must pass one exam: AZ-104: Microsoft Azure Administrator.

Take the next steps

Learn more about the certification, practice exams and recommended prep courses

Certification Prep Guide

How to Become a Microsoft Certified Azure Administrator Associate

Learn why you should pursue this certification, how to prep for the exam and the next steps to take once you've earned it.

 

 

Average
certification-holder

9Certifications

82%Earned a certification in the past year

42.3Years old

Cloud Architect or Cloud EngineerMost likely job role

AWS Certified Solutions Architect – AssociateMost popular cross-certification

33%Hold a cybersecurity certification

24%In management


#13

Cisco Certified Network Professional – Enterprise

Average salary: $118,911

The Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Enterprise is an advanced certification that requires deep knowledge and understanding of the Cisco technology used in today’s complex networks.

This certification is designed for network engineers and administrators who collaborate with specialists on advanced security, voice, wireless and video solutions.

To earn a CCNP Enterprise certification, candidates must pass two exams — a core exam and a concentration exam within the technology area.

Take the next steps

View more details and recommended courses for this certification 

Certification Prep Guide

How to Become a Cisco Certified Network Professional - Enterprise

Find helpful tips and tricks, key insights, and certification prep advice in this guide that’s written by a Cisco-certified professional.

 

 

Average
certification-holder

8Certifications

68%Earned a certification in the past year

43.7Years old

Network Engineer/Analyst/ TechnicianMost likely job role

CompTIA Security+Most popular cross-certification

51%Hold a cybersecurity certification

27%In management


#14

Citrix Certified Associate – Virtualization

Average salary: $115,308

The Citrix Certified Associate – Virtualization (CCA-V) validates the skills IT operators and administrators need to install, configure and manage highly available environments.

These environments are comprised of virtual apps and desktop delivery controllers, cloud connectors, StoreFront, the Citrix Workspace app, and more that reside either on-premises or in the Citrix Cloud.

To achieve this certification, candidates must pass exam 1Y0-204: Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops 7 Administration exam.

Take the next steps

View more details and recommended courses for this certification 

 

Average
certification-holder

7Certifications

52%Earned a certification in the past year

43.7Years old

Systems EngineerMost likely job role

VCP-DCV 2020Most popular cross-certification

26%Hold a cybersecurity certification

25%In management


#15

CompTIA Security+

Average salary: $110,974

Turn on the news and you’ll hear about another cyberattack. Every IT professional must think about cybersecurity whether they work in security or not.

For professionals pursuing jobs in cybersecurity, CompTIA’s vendor-neutral Security+ certification is an important step in their development.

IT professionals must demonstrate competency in:

  1. Network security
  2. Compliance and operational security
  3. Threats and vulnerabilities
  4. Application, data, and host security
  5. Access control and identity management
  6. Cryptography

For cyber-adjacent IT professionals, it’s important to have familiarity and awareness in this area.

There is high demand for professionals with cybersecurity knowledge and skills. Given that an organization’s attack surface is ever-evolving, IT professionals outside of proper security roles who can articulate cybersecurity risks and know what to look out for can increase his or her earning-potential.

Take the next steps

View more details and recommended courses for this certification 

Certification Prep Guide

How to Become a CompTIA Security+ Certified Professional

The Security+ certification will benefit your career — but how? Find out in this guide.

 

 

Average
certification-holder

7Certifications

63%Earned a certification in the past year

43Years old

Network Engineer or Information SecurityMost likely job role

CCNAMost popular cross-certification

100%Hold a cybersecurity certification

33%In management

Certifications that barely missed the cut

The following certifications are associated with top-paying IT salaries, but just missed the respondent threshold:

Other observations

  • 55% of IT professionals said they earned a new certification in the past year.
  • ITIL® Foundation is the most widely held certification.
  • CompTIA A+ and Network+ certifications are among the most popular certifications held by IT professionals.
  • The no. 1 reason mentioned by IT professionals who changed employers was due to the lack of opportunities for career growth and professional development. In a distance second, IT pros changed employers for an increase in compensation—56% to 41% respectively.
  • Certification is an excellent vehicle for professional development that leads to value creation for an organization. Sixty-six percent of IT decision-makers said the annual economic value of having an employee with the additional skills and contributions made by being certified over a non-certified employee is over $10,000. Within that group, 22% said the annual value is $25,000 and above. Organizations who support continuous learning will have an easier time attracting and retaining talent while deriving more value from their employees.

How we built the list

Our U.S. list of the top-paying certifications is based on survey responses from the Global Knowledge 2021 IT Skills and Salary Survey conducted November 2020 through February 2021. The survey is distributed to millions of IT professionals around the world by technology providers, certification bodies and Global Knowledge. Over 3,700 IT professionals in the U.S. participated.

To qualify for our list, a certification must have at least 68 U.S. survey responses to be considered. Then, we consider market/skill demand and certification requirements. Salaries are not normalized for cost-of-living or location (e.g., California vs. Montana).