Top 10 Best-Paying IT Certs

Posted November 1, 2016 By  Cynthia Harvey
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    Top 10 Best-Paying IT Certs
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    Top 10 Best-Paying IT Certs

    Many of the top-paying IT certifications are related to security, networking and cloud computing.
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    1. AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate: $125,871
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    1. AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate: $125,871

    For IT pros who are involved in cloud computing, Amazon Web Services offers a certification program with multiple tracks and tiers. The AWS Certified Solutions Architect — Associate exam, the lowest tier of the AWS program, carries the highest average pay of any of the certifications on the Global Knowledge list.

    Before they take the exam, candidates must have at least a year of designing systems for Amazon's cloud computing service and in-depth knowledge of at least one high-level programming language. They also need to understand the requirements and best practices for AWS-based applications and have experience deploying hybrid applications.

    Candidates have 80 minutes to complete the multiple choice and multiple response exam. It's available in nine different languages, and it costs $150.

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    2. Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC): $122,954
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    2. Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC): $122,954

    Offered by ISACA, a non-profit organization formerly known as the Information Systems Audit and Control Association, the Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) certification is targeted at risk and information control professionals. ISACA points out that many of the IT pros who earn this certification go on to become high-ranking executives within their organizations. It says that of the more than twenty thousand people with a CRISC cert, more than 2,400 are C-level executives, such as CIOs, CISOs or CEOs, and more than 3,200 are security directors or chief compliance, risk or privacy officers.

    In order to qualify for the certification, candidates must have at least three years of experience in IT risk and information systems control, and that experience must cover at least two different domains. (The possible domains are risk identification, risk assessment, risk response and mitigation, and risk and control monitoring and reporting). The exam covers all four domains and includes 150 questions that test-takers must answer within four hours. It is available in English or Spanish, and fees for the exam start at $450.

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    3. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM): $122,291
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    3. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM): $122,291

    Also offered by ISACA, the Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) certification pays nearly as well as the CRISC cert. As the name suggests, CISM is designed for information security managers. Of the more than 32,000 people worldwide who have obtained the certification, more than 7,500 are security directors or managers and more than 3,500 are directors or managers in other parts of IT.

    In order to qualify for the CISM, candidates must have at least five years of experience in information security, including at least three years of management experience. They also need to have worked in three of the four CISM domains: information security governance, information risk management, information security program development and management, and information security incident management.

    The exam includes 200 questions and lasts four hours. It is available in English, Japanese, Korean or Spanish, and fees start at $450.

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    4. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): $121,923
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    4. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): $121,923

    Another option for IT security professionals, the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification is offered by (ISC)2, a non-profit professional organization with 115,000 members worldwide. It was designed for a wide range of security professionals including security analysts, security systems engineers, CISOs, security architects, network architects and others. Those who want to obtain the certification will need to show that they have five years of full-time work in at least two of the eight domains covered on the exam (or four years of work if they have a related four-year degree).

    The CISSP exam includes 250 questions and lasts six hours. It covers eight domains: security and risk management, asset security, security engineering, communications and network security, identity and access management, security assessment and testing, security operations and software development security. It is available in nine different languages, and it costs $599.

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    5. Project Management Professional (PMP®): $116,094
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    5. Project Management Professional (PMP®): $116,094

    Offered by the Project Management Institute, the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification is for highly experienced project managers. In order to qualify for the cert, candidates without a bachelor's degree need to have 7,500 hours of leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education, and candidates with a four-year degree need 4,500 hours of experience and 35 hours of education. According to PMI, PMP certification holders earn 20 percent more than those without the cert.

    This exam costs $405 for PMI members and $555 for non-members. To earn the credential, applicants will need to pass the four-hour exam, which includes 200 multiple choice questions.

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    6. Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA): $113,320
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    6. Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA): $113,320

    Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) is another ISACA certification program targeted at IS leaders, specifically those involved with audits, controls and assurance. More than 125,000 people have obtained their CISA cert, including more than 2,800 who are C-level executives and more than 31,000 who are audit directors, managers or consultants.

    This certification requires at least five years of professional information systems auditing, control or security work experience, but there are quite a few exceptions and possible substitutions described on the website. The four-hour exam has 150 questions covering the process of auditing information systems; governance and management of IT; information systems acquisition, development and implementation; information systems operations, maintenance and service management; and protection of information assets. Like the other ISACA exams, fees for the CISA start at $450.

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    7. Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) Routing and Switching: $112,858
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    7. Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) Routing and Switching: $112,858

    Cisco certifications regularly show up on list of the most valuable and most popular IT certs. The Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) Routing and Switching certification is intended to validate that candidates have the ability to " configure, validate, and troubleshoot complex enterprise network infrastructure; understand how infrastructure components interoperate; and translate functional requirements into specific device configurations."

    Unlike many of the other IT certifications in this slideshow, the CCIE switching and routing exam does not have any work experience prerequisites. Instead, candidates who have passed the two-hour written test must also pass an eight-hour lab exam where they must demonstrate their ability to configure networks and troubleshoot problems. The written exam has between 90 and 110 questions and costs $350. The lab exam costs $1,600 per attempt, and candidates must pass within three years of passing the written exam.

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    8. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Data Center: $107,045
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    8. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Data Center: $107,045

    The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Data Center certification is ideal for "data center network administrators who want to save time and money on data center design, equipment installation, and maintenance." Like the CCIE certification, this cert has no experience prerequisites; however, it does require candidates to pass two different exams: Introducing Cisco Data Center Networking and Introducing Cisco Data Center Technologies. Both are 90-minute tests with 65 to 75 questions, and each costs $250.

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    9. Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP): $105,008
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    9. Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP): $105,008

    The last Cisco certification in our slideshow does have some prerequisites. Before candidates can take the Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP), they must first have a CCDA certificate and a CCDA or a CCIE certificate. Candidates must also pass three exams: Implementing Cisco IP Routing (2 hours, 45-65 questions), Implementing Cisco IP Switched Networks (2 hours, 30-40 questions) and Designing Cisco Network Service Architectures (75 minutes, 60-70 questions). Each exam costs $250.

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    10. Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH): $103,297
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    10. Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH): $103,297

    The Certified Ethical Hacker certification is offered by the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants, or EC-Council, which claims to be "the world’s largest cyber security technical certification body." It defines an ethical hacker as "a skilled professional who understands and knows how to look for weaknesses and vulnerabilities in target systems and uses the same knowledge and tools as a malicious hacker, but in a lawful and legitimate manner to assess the security posture of a target system(s)."

    In order to be eligible for the CEH exam, applicants must first attend an official training course or submit an application which shows that they have at least two years of related experience. The exam lasts four hours and includes 125 multiple choice questions. The exam itself costs $500 or $600, depending on the place of purchase, and there are additional fees for the application or training.

One of the ways for IT professionals to increase their earning power is by obtaining one or more certifications. But not all certifications are the same. Some can boost IT salaries significantly, while others do little to increase pay.

A 2015 report from testing provider Pearson Vue found that 24 percent of IT professionals who had obtained a certification received a salary increase of up to 20 percent as a result of the certification. In addition, 59 percent of people who had obtained IT certs said that the training and exam helped them either to gain confidence or to achieve higher performance ratings, both of which can help IT pros increase their salaries over time.

So which IT certification should you pursue?

The answer depends on a lot of factors, including your area of expertise, the vendors your current employer uses and your past education experience. IT workers might also want to take into account the level of pay associated with various certificate programs and the cost and requirements of the various options.

For this slideshow, we compiled a list of the 10 IT certifications with the highest average salaries. The salary data comes from a 2016 report published by Global Knowledge, a professional development training provider. Many of the certifications on the list are related to a few in-demand areas, notably networking, security and cloud computing.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.



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