Each year, our annual list of top-paying IT certifications reflects shifting philosophies and tech trends greatly impacting IT departments around the United States.
Based on survey responses from the Global Knowledge 2019 IT Skills and Salary Report, this year’s highest-paying certifications reveal a strong emphasis on particular topics, such as cloud computing, cybersecurity, networking and project management. In fact, cloud and project management dominate the top five spots.
Also, we have a new certification making its debut at No. 1. Talk about making an entrance!
To qualify for this year’s list, a certification must have at least 100 survey responses to be considered statistically valid.
- Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect - $139,529
- PMP® - Project Management Professional - $135,798
- Certified ScrumMaster® - $135,441
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate - $132,840
- AWS Certified Developer – Associate - $130,369
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Server Infrastructure - $121,288
- ITIL® Foundation - $120,566
- CISM - Certified Information Security Manager - $118,412
- CRISC - Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control - $117,395
- CISSP - Certified Information Systems Security Professional - $116,900
- CEH - Certified Ethical Hacker - $116,306
- Citrix Certified Associate - Virtualization (CCA-V) - $113,442
- CompTIA Security+ - $110,321
- CompTIA Network+ - $107,143
- Cisco Certified Networking Professional (CCNP) Routing and Switching - $106,957
Debuting in 2017, this certification 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 using Google Cloud Platform (GCP) technologies.
This is the first year GCP Cloud Architect cracks our list of highest-paying certifications. Cloud skills are critical for almost every organization. In general, cloud jobs pay over $100,000 a year in the U.S. and decision-makers are still struggling to fill all cloud job vacancies. That’s just a couple reasons why GCP made a big splash in its debut.
Path to certification: The certification exam is geared toward an architect that must understand what solution works best for a given scenario. There are no questions dedicated to specific usage of the product. It must be taken in-person at a Kryterion testing center location.
View the Google Cloud Certification Map.
Preparing for the exam? First, take a look at our certification prep guide, How to Become a Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect. Or check out these recommended prep courses:
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 about who to hire or entrust with important organizational project initiatives.
Path to certification: PMP certification is reliant on two factors: project management experience and exam success. To become certified, individuals must have 35 hours of PMP-related training. In addition, those who have less than 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. To become certified, you need to apply at the PMI website, and then once your application is approved, you can sign up for the actual exam via Prometric.
To maintain PMP certification, 60 professional development units (PDUs, similar to the CPEs in other certifications) are required every three years.
Check out the full Project Management Certification Tracks.
Preparing for the exam? Enroll in our PMP® Exam Prep Boot Camp, which includes our exclusive PMP Exam Guarantee. Also, be sure to check out our detailed certification prep guide, How to Become a Certified Project Management Professional.
Need to renew or refresh your PDUs? Check out our PMP Renewal Program.
Achieving a Certified ScrumMaster certificate validates that you understand the Agile Scrum methodology and are well-versed in putting scrum into practice. A Certified ScrumMaster leads a team and helps them work together to learn the Scrum framework and perform at their highest level. The ScrumMaster also removes internal and external distractions that might hinder meeting the goals. Attaining this certification gives you a two-year membership to the Scrum Alliance.
Certified ScrumMaster was eighth on last year’s top-paying certification list.
Path to certification: The Certified ScrumMaster certification is created and managed by the Scrum Alliance and requires the individual to attend the two-day Certified ScrumMaster® Workshop course. After successfully completing this course you will need to pass the exam. The certification is valid for two years from the original certification date. In order to renew your certification you will need to obtain 40 Scrum Education Units (SEUs) within each two-year period.
The AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate-level exam demonstrates an individual’s expertise in designing and deploying scalable systems on AWS. It’s unsurprising to see this certification again in our top five due to the market need for skilled and certified AWS solutions architects. This certification has been here for several years, showing how much demand there is year after year due to the growth in the cloud.
This is the prerequisite step to achieving the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional certification.
Path to certification: To get certified, you need to have hands-on experience with AWS (they suggest six months or more). The exam is computer-based and offered at PSI testing centers. The AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification exam addresses a range of topics, including designing on AWS, selecting the appropriate AWS services for a given situation, ingress and egress of data to and from the AWS environment, estimating AWS costs, and identifying cost-control measures.
Read more about what it takes to earn a top-paying AWS certification or check out our AWS Certification Tracks and Learning Paths.
This certification cracks our top five for the second straight year. It validates technical expertise in developing and maintaining applications on AWS, as opposed to designing the solution with the Solutions Architect certification. Achieving the AWS Certified Developer certification demonstrates the ability to efficiently use AWS SDKs to interact with services from within applications and write code that optimizes AWS application performance.
The explosion in popularity of the AWS Certified Developer certification is directly correlated with the rapid growth of organizations developing cloud-based applications to quickly advance their footprint and remain competitive. This also is related to the explosive growth in IoT (Internet of Things) and mobile development, much of which is backed by resources in the cloud.
Path to certification: To get certified, you need to have hands-on experience with one or more programming languages as well as AWS (they suggest six months or more). The exam is computer-based and offered at PSI testing centers, like all AWS exams. The AWS Certified Developer – Associate certification exam addresses a range of topics, including using SDKs to interact with AWS services, selecting the appropriate AWS services for a given situation, creating code that optimizes performance of the AWS services used in an application, and coding security for access to AWS services.
Preparing for the exam? Enroll in our Developing on AWS course.
6. Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Server Infrastructure
This certification was retired in 2017, but if previously earned it will remain on your transcript. It was replaced by the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification. At the end of 2018, Microsoft began their tectonic shift away from technology-centric certifications to role-based certifications. As a result, MSCE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure was retired and split into four different certifications, three that focus on the Azure Administrator, Developer and Solutions Architect roles, and the MSCE: Core Infrastructure, which is closer aligned to the on-premises focus of MSCE: Server Infrastructure.
Microsoft jumped into the cloud certification game with both feet. The exponential increase in demand for skilled cloud specialists, coupled with a multi-cloud strategy employed by most businesses, has helped the new Azure role-based certifications hit the market with an exceptionally high demand. Our own training enrollment data suggests that the Azure Administrator Associate is currently the most sought after of the new role-based certifications.
Path to certification: While there are now more options for those that once coveted the MCSE: Server Infrastructure, those options are now more clearly defined. Your company’s workload management strategy—and in the case of a cloud-centric strategy, your role—will determine which of the new certifications you will pursue. An on-premises strategy lends itself to the new MCSE: Core Infrastructure, while a cloud strategy will defer to your role—cloud administrator, cloud developer/engineer, or cloud solutions architect with more roles being added in the future.
For on-premises workloads, check out our MCSE: Core Infrastructure training recommendations. For cloud and the Azure role-based certifications, review the following training recommendations:
- Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate
- Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate
- Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert
Over the last 30 years, ITIL has become the most widely used framework for IT management in the world. Why? It’s a set of best practices for aligning the services IT provides with the needs of the organization. It covers everything from availability and capacity management to change and incident management, in addition to application and IT operations management.
And this year, ITIL is getting an upgrade. ITIL 4 was released earlier this year and reflects new ways of working that have accompanied the digital revolution, such as DevOps, Agile and Lean IT.
ITIL Foundation is the entry-level ITIL certification and provides a broad-based understanding of the IT service lifecycle.
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.
Path to certification: To become certified, you must simply pass the exam; there are no other prerequisites for the Foundation exam. It is, however, a prerequisite for follow-on ITIL Intermediate courses.
Want to prepare for the exam? If you’re new to ITIL, take our ITIL 4 Foundation course. If you’re already ITIL v3 certified, we offer an ITIL 4 Foundation Bridge course. Both courses include our ITIL Guarantee—pass your certification exam or get your money back.
ISACA created and maintains the CISM certification. It is a management-focused certification, aimed at professionals who build and manage an enterprise’s information security. CISM promotes international security best practices.
Path to certification: The exam is offered during the designated testing windows each year and is computer-based. Registration is via the ISACA website, as well as an exam locator.
It also requires at least five years of experience in IS, with at least three of those as a security manager. Your experience must be within 10 years of taking the exam or five years after passing it. There are some alternatives to the experience requirement for this certification. Continuing education credits are required each year to maintain your certification.
Preparing for the exam? We offer a CISM - Certified Information Security Manager Prep Course.
ISACA offers and manages this certification. When it comes to risk management proficiency, CRISC is the truest evaluation there is. CRISC-certified professionals help organizations understand business risk, and possess the skills to implement, develop and maintain information systems controls.
Path to certification: To obtain CRISC certification, you must have at least three years of experience in at least two of the four domains the certification covers, and you must pass the exam; the experience must be within the preceding 10 years or no more than five years after passing the exam. The exam is only offered during designated testing windows each year and is computer-based. Registration is via the ISACA website; use the CBT locator to find a testing site.
In addition, Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits are required each year to maintain your certification. Achieving CRISC certification requires ongoing effort and years of planning, but it has been a top certification for years and with the growth of cloud computing, it will stay in high demand for years to come.
Preparing for the exam? We offer a CRISC Prep Course.
Offered by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC)² as a vendor-neutral credential, CISSP is designed to prove security expertise. As with the other security-related certifications, demand is high and is projected to be so for many years to come.
CISSP is a widely desired indicator of knowledge, experience and excellence on the resume of many IT professionals. CISSP is not just a recommendation by industry groups—it has achieved its respected position as an important IT certification through practical observation. The drive to achieve this notable certification is evidenced in its appearance on a significant number of job postings. Performing a job search in any moderate or larger metropolitan area reveals that an astounding number of IT and security positions request that the applicant be CISSP-certified.
Path to certification: The exam is offered at Pearson Vue Testing centers. CISSP candidates must have at least five years of full-time, paid experience in at least two of the eight CISSP domains. If you don’t have the work experience, you can still earn an (ISC)² Associate designation by passing the exam while working toward the full certification. You will have up to six years to complete the required experience.
The exam is based around eight areas in computer security, including security and risk management, communications and network security, software development security, asset security, security architecture and engineering, identity and access management, security assessment and testing, and security operations. To remain certified, CISSPs must earn Continuous Professional Education (CPE) credits every year.
Preparing for the exam? Take our CISSP Certification Prep Course and learn about the exam in our white paper, CISSP Has Changed (Again): What it Means for Your Certification Prep.
The International Council of E-Commerce Consultants (EC-Council) created and manages the CEH certification, which is aimed at security officers and auditors, site administrators, and others responsible for network and data security. The exam is designed to test a candidate’s abilities to prod for holes, weaknesses and vulnerabilities in a company’s network defenses using techniques and methods that hackers employ. The difference between a hacker and a CEH is that a hacker wants to cause damage, steal information, etc., while the CEH wants to fix the deficiencies found.
The goal of this certification is to master ethical hacking methodology that can be used in penetration testing. These skills are in-demand and internationally-recognized.
CEH applies equally to on-premises and cloud deployments. Given the many attacks and great volume of personal data at risk and the potential legal liabilities, the need for CEHs is high, hence the salaries reported.
The CEH certification is continually being updated to match the tools and techniques used by hackers and information security professionals alike to break into any computer system. You will be immersed into a “Hacker Mindset” in order to think like a hacker and better defend against future attacks.
Path to certification: Passing the CEH exam is the only step needed to certification. Exam topics include general background knowledge, analysis and assessment, security (in many forms), tools/systems/programs used, procedures and methodology, regulation and policy, and ethics.
The CEH certification is valid for three years and can be renewed by earning 120 continuing education credits within the three-year period. The credits can be earned in many ways, including attending conferences, writing papers and attending webinars. Visit EC-Council for more details.
Preparing for the exam? Take our Certified Ethical Hacker v10 course.
The CCA-V certification covers the basics of managing, maintaining, monitoring and troubleshooting. It is designed for desktop and application administrators and the technical support staff that support those users and is an entry-level certification for Citrix. Note that like most certifications, upgrading to the Citrix Certified Professional – Virtualization (CCP-V) certification increases the average salary and is a good idea to progress in your career as well.
While the number of Citrix-certified individuals is elusive, demand is fairly high and supply low to command a premium salary. It is also a prerequisite for the CCP-V.
Path to certification: This is an entry-level certification, so the only requirement is hands-on experience and passing the exam.
Preparing for the exam? Enroll in Citrix Virtual Apps, Desktops and Provisioning 7.1x Administration (Fast Track) (CMB-310).
CompTIA Security+ is an intermediate-level exam, focusing on a wide array of foundational security topics, including data, application, host, network, physical and operational security. You are expected to understand encryption, access control, hardening and secure software development, among other things. Many organizations consider Security+ to be the minimum level of certification to validate the baseline skills you need to perform core security functions.
Path to certification: CompTIA’s exams are designed to test professionals, ensuring they have the skill set necessary to work in the IT industry. So don’t expect that you can just skate through these exams. You have to prepare. While on-the-job experience is an excellent start, the average IT job doesn’t provide all of the requisite information needed to cover all of the certification exam objectives. Ideal candidates for the Security+ exam have at least two years of experience in IT administration with a focus on security, and day-to-day technical information security experience. A CompTIA Network+ certification is also recommended.
14. CompTIA Network+
CompTIA Network+ focuses on entry-level networking, including networking help desk technicians, infrastructure installers and junior network technicians. This exam covers the installation, maintenance and troubleshooting of networks, including Ethernet and Wireless. You are also tested on various protocols for both the LAN and WAN, and on the importance of network security. Passing this exam proves that you have foundational knowledge related to network infrastructure and network protocols. Network+ can be a stepping stone for vendor-specific certifications, such as Cisco CCNA.
Path to certification: CompTIA’s exams are designed to test professionals, ensuring they have the skill set necessary to work in the IT industry. So don’t expect that you can just skate through these exams. You have to prepare. While on-the-job experience is an excellent start, the average IT job doesn’t provide all of the requisite information needed to cover all of the certification exam objectives. For Network+, the CompTIA IT Fundamentals certification and CompTIA A+ certification are prerequisites.
The Cisco CCNP Routing and Switching certification is an advanced certification that ensures network engineers and administrators have the skills to plan, implement, verify and troubleshoot local and wide area enterprise networks and can work collaboratively with specialists on advanced security, voice, wireless and video solutions. Students should have at least a year of networking experience and the ability to work independently on complex network solutions.
This certification has staying power and is always in demand. While other areas come and go, routing and switching is something that is required for almost all organizations, whether they keep their data locally or in the cloud.
Path to certification: Achieving CCNP certification requires that you have achieved CCNA Routing and Switching and that you pass three exams—one for routing, one for switching, and one for troubleshooting. View the entire Cisco Certification Roadmap for a visual representation.
Preparing for the exam? Check out the following recommended courses:
- Eleven of these certifications were included in the 2018 top-paying certification list.
- Five are in security, down from six last year.
- Four are in cloud computing, up from two last year.
- Two are in project management.
- Two are in networking.
- AWS, ISACA and CompTIA each have two certifications in the top 15.
- Both CompTIA certifications are new to the list this year.
- CISSP tops this list in terms of popularity, with 568 certification-holders. It was followed, in order, by ITIL, Security+, AWS Certified Solutions Architect and PMP.
NOTE: ISACA's Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT), which was the top-paying U.S. certification of 2018, did not make this year's list as it missed the respondent threshold. IT professionals with CGEIT have an average salary of $141,703, which would have made it No. 1 on this list.