Top 15 US IT certifications

What IT certifications do you need to push your tech career to new heights?

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When looking to start a new career in the IT space, the first logical step is formal education at a two- or four-year college. While a degree is generally a great place to start, the IT space is constantly moving, shaking, and modifying, so change is constant. It's critical that IT workers keep up with these changes and stay up to date.

Remaining on the cutting edge of the latest tech and cyber threats doesn't come easy, and this is where constantly getting the latest IT training and certifications come in to help.

These refresher courses and the certifications that follow not only test your understanding of IT, but they also test your ability to grasp new topics and remain agile in your learning.

While most IT certifications are certainly helpful, not all are created equal. To help you determine which IT certification is best for you, we've put together a list of the top 15 IT certifications in the US.

Methodology

With such a vast number of capable IT certifications available, it’s tricky to whittle this down to a list of just 15.

The first step involved assessing potential pay and likely job titles that each certification could lead to. To do so, we relied on analysis by Global Knowledge, which takes a good, hard look at these factors. We then matched the projected job title with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine the potential for job growth between now and 2028.

Projected job growth rankings and pay were then factored into our decisions to rank these certifications from 15th to 1st. Those with the highest salaries tended to rank higher on our list. 

15. Citrix Certified Professional – Virtualization

Average Salary: $117,069

Job Growth: 5%

The ability to work remotely without having to continually shift data from your office PC to a laptop or tablet is vital in the modern workplace. Helping streamline this are remote-accessible desktops like Citrix Desktops, which was formerly known as Citrix XenDesktop.

With distributed teams and remote working becoming more common, having IT professionals on hand to install and manage the systems behind these remote desktops is critical. The Citrix certified professional – virtualization certificate, according to Global Knowledge, validates an IT professional's skill in this area.

This certificate can earn you an average of $117,069 per year, and Global Knowledge says most holders of a CCP-V certificate end up in a systems administrator role. The BLS lists job growth in this area through 2028 at 5%. This adds up to a No. 15 ranking on our list.

14. Cisco Certified Network Professional Routing and Switching

Average Salary: $119,178

Job Growth: 5%

Corporations of all shapes and sizes are now reliant on networking, so having IT professionals certified in routing and switching is instrumental in keeping things online and operating smoothly. This is why the Cisco certified network professional routing and switching certificate is one of the 15 best IT certifications.

According to Cisco, CCNP routing and switching "validates the ability to plan, implement, verify and troubleshoot local and wide-area enterprise networks and work collaboratively with specialists on advanced security, voice, wireless and video solutions."

As of Feb. 24, 2020, CCNP enterprise has replaced CCNP routing and switching, but it covers the same ground.

Global Knowledge says the average salary with this certification is $119,178 and the likely role is as a network engineer or analyst. The BLS puts job growth through 2028 at 5%. This adds up to CCNP Routing and Switching ranking No. 14 on our list of top IT certifications.

13. Citrix Certified Associate – Networking

A server overlaid with a concept image of networking, featureing nodes for different types of technology, such as Wi-fi and upload/download connected by lines

Average Salary: $125,264

Job Growth: 5%

The Citrix certified associate – networking certificate shows the competence of a network administrator and engineer in implementing and managing Citrix ADC for traffic management, load balancing, content switching and SSL offloading, according to Citrix.

Global Knowledge says most holders of a CCA-N certificate will end up as solution engineers, and it lists the average salary at $125,264. The BLS says this field boasts an average growth rate of 5%. This is enough to push the CCA-N certificate to No. 13 on our list.

12. Azure Administrator Associate

Average Salary: $125,993

Job Growth: 5%

Cloud computing has a firm hold in the world of business, as agile companies look for ways to keep employees on the job from wherever they are in the world. Microsoft Azure has played a considerable role in the development and management of cloud computing, so it's no shock Microsoft's Azure administrator associate certification is No. 12 on our top IT certifications list.

According to Microsoft, this certification measures a professional's ability to manage Azure subscriptions and resources; implement and manage storage; deploy and manage virtual machines; configure and manage virtual networks; and manage identities.

According to Global Knowledge, most IT workers with this certification are cloud engineers and earn an average salary of $125,993. Statistics from the BLS show the projected job growth in this corner of the tech industry to be 5% through 2028, which is about average.

11. Azure Fundamentals

Average Salary: $126,653

Job Growth: 5%

Another Microsoft cloud certification, the Azure fundamentals certification, hits our list at No. 11. This IT certification measures a professional's understanding of cloud concepts, core Azure services, security, privacy, compliance, trust, and Azure pricing and support.

According to Global Knowledge, most holders of this valuable IT certificate work as cloud engineers or solutions architects, and the BLS pegs projected job growth at 5% through 2028. The average salary of an Azure fundamentals-certified IT professional is $126,653.

10. VMware Certified Professional 6 – Data Center Virtualization

A corridor in a blue-hued data centre

Average Salary: $130,226

Job Growth: 9%

Cloud computing certifications continue to dominate our list, as VMware certified professional 6 – data center virtualization rings in at No. 10. This IT certification shows a professional's ability to administer and troubleshoot vSphere V6 infrastructures while adhering to best practices for scalability and reliability.

Global Knowledge says the average IT professional holding a VCP6-DCV certification will earn $130,226 and work as a systems architect. The BLS lists growth in this field through 2028 at a healthy 9%.

9. ITIL Foundation

Average Salary: $129,402

Job Growth: 32%

With the introduction of ITIL 4, the ITIL foundation certificate has become an essential part of continued technical education. It also stands out due to its ability to intersect the world of managing IT needs and the needs of a business, according to Global Knowledge.

Holders of an ITIL foundation certificate generally have positions in information security, which the BLS predicts to grow by 32% through 2028, making it one of the fastest-growing IT fields. This quick growth helped push it to No. 9 on our list. Holders of this certificate earn an average of $129,402.

8. AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner

Average Salary: $131,465

Job Growth: 21%

Another position on our list, another cloud-focused IT certification.

Coming in at No. 8 is the AWS certified cloud practitioner certificate. According to Amazon, this certification validates a professional's ability to define the AWS Cloud and the basic global infrastructure. It also shows the professional's ability to describe basic AWS Cloud architectural principles and value proposition, and explain the AWS platform's key services, basic security and compliance aspects.

Global Knowledge's survey found the average holder of this certificate earns $131,465 per year and works as a software or solutions architect. The BLS projects this sector of IT to grow significantly faster than average at 21% through 2028.

7. Certified Information Systems Auditor

A female data scientist working with graphics overlaid all around her

Average Salary: $132,278

Job Growth: 32%

An information systems auditor has the critical responsibility of determining if a company's acquisitions, development, testing and implementation match the business' objectives. A great way to advance your career in this IT sector is to become a certified information systems auditor.

A CISA certification validates your expertise in auditing processes, IT management, information systems acquisitions, development and implementation, information systems operations and business resilience, and protection of assets.

A CISA-certified IT pro generally works as an IT auditor and earns an average of $132,278, according to Global Knowledge. The BLS lists this field as one of the fastest growing in the IT world with a projected growth of 32% through 2028. This all adds up to a firm placement of No. 7 on our top IT certifications list.

6. Project Management Professional

Average Salary: $143,493

Job Growth: 11%

Coming in at No. 6 on our list of top IT certifications is becoming a certified project management professional. When you earn a PMP certificate, it validates your ability to "perform in the role of a project manager, leading and directing projects and teams," according to the Project Management Institute.

This certification stands out because it not only requires passing the PMP exam, but it also requires 35 hours of PMP-related training and 4,500-7,500 hours of project management experience.

With Global Knowledge reporting the average certified PMP earning $143,493, it is certainly worth the commitment. Plus, most PMP certificate holders work as program managers, which the BLS projects to grow by 11% through 2028, so there is plenty of stability.

5. Certified Information Systems Security Professional

Average Salary: $141,452

Job Growth: 32%

With hackers continually looking for ways to beat your security, becoming a certified information systems security professional will bode well for your future. This valuable certification validates your ability to "design, implement and manage a best-in-class cybersecurity program," according to (ISC)².

Global Knowledge's survey found most CISSP certificate holders work as security engineers or analysts and earn an average of $141,452 per year. Like others on this list, this falls into one of the fastest-growing sectors in IT with a BLS-projected growth of 32% through 2028.

4. AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate

AWS advertisement close up in underground transit platform in NYC Subway Station

Average Salary: $149,446

Job Growth: 5%

Any solutions architect who's been on the job for at least a year will benefit from becoming an AWS certified solutions architect – associate. This certification, according to Amazon, validates your knowledge of designing and deploying secure and robust applications on AWS technologies; your ability to define a solution based on customer requirements; and your ability to provide implementation guidance that adheres to an organization's best practices throughout the life cycle of a project.

Global Knowledge's survey found that most holders of the solutions architect – associate certificate were cloud architects and earned an average salary of $149,466 per year. That salary ranks No. 2 on our list, but its 5% BLS-projected job growth through 2028 dragged it down a bit.

3. Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control

Average Salary: $146,480

Job Growth: 11%

A business' tech backbone is one of its riskiest ventures, so being certified to analyze this risk can put you in demand. This is where ISACA's certified in risk and information systems control certification can help, as it validates your skill in risk certification, assessment, response and mitigation, and risk and control monitoring and reporting.

The CRISC certificate is not only in demand, but it also leads to a larger salary, as Global Knowledge's survey found its holders earned an average of $146,480 per year. The survey also found most CRISC-certified IT pros worked as security managers or directors, which are positions the BLS estimates will grow by 11% through 2028.

2. Certified Information Security Manager

Average Salary: $148,622

Job Growth: 11%

IT professionals looking to take the next step toward management must understand how to tie IT security with corporate needs. This is where the ISACA's certified information security manager certification can give you an edge.

The CISM certification validates your abilities in information security governance, information risk management, information security program development and management, and information security incident management.

As a management-focused certification, Global Knowledge's survey found that most CISM holders are security managers or directors and earn an average of $148,622 per year. BLS pegs job growth in this area as much faster than average at 11% through 2028.

1. Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect

Pictures of white clouds on a desk besides a laptop

Average Salary: $175,761

Job Growth: 5%

At No. 1 on our list is the Google certified professional cloud architect certificate. With cloud computing such a large part of today's corporate world and the Google Cloud platform being a leader in the space, it's no surprise this is such an in-demand certification.

According to Google, its professional cloud architect certification validates your ability to design, plan, manage and provision a cloud solution architecture; design for security and compliance; analyze and optimize technical and business processes; manage implementations of cloud architecture; and ensure solution and operations reliability.

The Google certified professional cloud architect landed at No. 1 on our list mostly due to the sky-high salary professionals holding this certificate earn. According to Global Knowledge, holders of this certificate generally work as cloud architects and earn an average salary of $175,761. The BLS' projected job growth pulls it back down to Earth with a 5% growth rate through 2028.

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