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5 Most Popular IT Certifications for 2020

May 11, 2020
Ryan Day

Global Knowledge’s annual IT Skills and Salary Report has yet to be released for 2020—but we’re not going to make you wait for all of the findings. Let’s take a sneak peek at some certification numbers and examine the most popular credentials held by IT professionals.

In North America, our survey respondents tend to hold more foundational-level certifications than past years. Advanced-level IT certifications, like (ISC)2’s CISSP and ISACA’s CISM, though still popular, did not crack this year’s top 5.

Cybersecurity remains the most popular certification category, though you’ll only see one cybersecurity credential on this list. Other top categories include Microsoft, Cisco, CompTIA and ITIL/IT service management.

Here are the five most widely-held certifications this year.


1. ITIL® Foundation

Over 12% of IT professionals have earned their ITIL Foundation certificate, making it the most popular certification in North America. For those planning to pursue certification this year, 7.2% have ITIL Foundation in their sights.

ITIL Foundation has been an industry staple for years, but the upgrade to ITIL 4 in early 2019 only added to this certification’s popularity amongst those who manage IT best practices. Its first update since 2011, ITIL 4 covers the latest best practices in IT service management (ITSM), the new terminology that organizations are using within ITSM, and how DevOps, Agile, and Lean IT are affecting the ITSM domain.

ITIL Foundation is also associated with higher-than-average salaries. This is because IT professionals who earn their ITIL certificate often go on to earn more advanced certifications. In fact, ITIL-certified professionals in the United States hold an average of 5.1 career certifications and earn $129,402 a year.

To be more specific about cross-certification, ITIL-certified individuals are most likely to also be certified in cybersecurity, Microsoft, CompTIA, project management and Cisco.

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2. CompTIA A+

The first of two CompTIA certifications on this list, A+ is held by 11.9% of North American respondents, and by 68% of CompTIA-certified professionals.

CompTIA A+ is for entry-level IT professionals, such as help desk technicians, field technicians and technical call center employees. For those with A+, 35% have 10 or fewer years of career experience.

The A+ certification exam focuses on the installation, maintenance and troubleshooting of hardware, software and operating systems. It also includes topics related to networking, security and operational procedures. Passing the two A+ exams proves your knowledge and expertise related to workstations and other user endpoints.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents certified in A+ are already planning their next certification. CompTIA Security+ is the most popular next step.

In order to achieve CompTIA A+, you must pass two exams:

  • CompTIA A+ Essentials Exam 220-1001
  • Practical Application Exam 220-1002

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Learn more about CompTIA certification


3. CCNA Routing and Switching

Cisco’s routing and switching credential, designed for network engineers, has always been popular in our IT Skills and Salary Report. This year, 10.6% of North American IT professionals have earned this certification, validating their abilities to implement, administer and manage medium- to large-sized networks.

In general, Cisco-certified professionals are in abundance. It’s the second most popular certification category worldwide, and the third most popular in North America.

As of February 2020, Cisco instituted a new certification framework. While you can no longer achieve CCNA Routing and Switching, all Cisco CCNA-level certifications have been condensed into a single certification supported by one exam. CCNA - Cisco Certified Network Associate is now the launching point for almost all Cisco certifications.

View new Cisco certification tracks


4. CISA – Certified Information Systems Auditor

ISACA’s globally-recognized certification that validates audit, risk and cybersecurity skills is held by 10.3% of North American IT professionals. This certification has existed since 1978 and leads a strong field of cybersecurity certifications this year—55% of survey respondents have at least one cybersecurity certification.

CISA-certified professionals also earn $128,086 annually, making it one of the top-paying IT certifications in North America. These same individuals tend to be a little older (5.3 years older than the North American average) and have more career experience (24% have more than 25 years on the job).

CISA leads a trio of popular ISACA credentials—CISM - Certified Information Security Manager and CRISC - Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control are also widely-held among cybersecurity professionals. CISA-certified professionals are likely to be cross-certified in ITIL Foundation, CISSP and PMP® – Project Management Professional.

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5. CompTIA Security+

Nearly 10% of IT professionals are already certified in Security+. Expect that number to grow as 11.7% have it in their 2020 plans.

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 be considered for all IT positions beyond entry-level, not just security-related jobs.

Individuals with Security+ are most likely to pursue CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst+ (CySA+) as their next certification.

In general, 17.5% of our respondents are CompTIA-certified. Those who plan to pursue Security+ are most likely to be cross-certified in (ISC)2 (37%), Cisco (22%), ISACA (16%), EC-Council (15%) and AWS (14%).

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