Launching a career in IT takes much more than just college education. You need to be tech-trained and have one of the top IT certifications. Wondering why you need such certifications? Jobs in the IT domain require specific skill sets and having such certifications validate your ability to perform the job. Being certified also works in your favor when you are looking for a job for the first time or need a job change since the hiring managers would know you possess the skills to succeed. From security and networking to cloud computing and virtualization, there exists a wide range of IT certifications that would help you to earn a fat paycheck and launch your dream IT career, or take your career a few notches above in case you are already employed. However, not every certification would help. You need to find the ones that will give you the optimal return on your money. But with a proliferation of a wide range of certifications, each claiming to be better than its competitors, how do you decide which is the best for you? We bring you some help in your endeavor by listing the top seven IT certifications that you must do in 2017-18 to enjoy a rewarding IT career.
1. Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)
This certification from ISACA is designed for IT project managers and professionals as well as others whose job needs them to recognize and manage IT and business threats through suitable IS (Information Systems) controls. The CRISC exam covers the whole life cycle, from design and implementation to continuing maintenance, and will fetch you an average yearly salary of $131,298. On our list, this is the highest-paying certification. To get it, you must have a minimum of 3 years’ experience in at least two of the four areas (Identification, Assessment, Control Monitoring and Reporting, and Response and Mitigation) covered by this certification and pass the exam that consists of 150 multiple-choice questions. You can register for this computer-based test on the ISACA website, which will cost you at least $420 (a bit more actually when you add the cost of test materials and preparation to it). In 2017, this exam is offered in three test windows (May 1 - June 30; August 1- September 30; and November 1 to December 30). Every year, you will need CPE (Continuing Professional Education) credits for maintaining your certification.
2. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
The primary focus of this certification from ISACA is information security management. Though this certification will let you deal with engineering and designing of security protocols, you will have greater involvement in the company’s security management. This certification will let you earn an average yearly salary of $128,156. To get it, you must have 5 years’ experience in Information Security, a minimum of 3 of which should be as a security manager. This experience of yours must be achieved within the 10-year period prior to your date of application for certification or within the 5-year period from the date of passing the exam. Unlike the CRISC where no exceptions are applicable to the experience requirement, the CISM has some alternatives to the experience requirement. This exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions. You can register for this computer-based test on the ISACA website, which will cost you about $415 (but a lot more actually when you add the cost of test materials and preparation courses to it). In 2017, this exam is offered in three test windows (May 1 - June 30; August 1- September 30; and November 1 to December 30). Every year, you will need continuing education credits for maintaining your certification.
3. AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
This certification is aimed at people involved in designing and managing applications on the AWS (Amazon Web Services) platform. The exam covers everything from AWS best practices, AWS cost estimation and identification of cost control measures, to AWS system design and deployment. For getting this certification, you need to have hands-on AWS experience (1 year or more) along with proficiency in one high-level programming language. The candidates also need to have the ability to recognize an AWS-based application and define requirements for it together with the experience of deploying hybrid systems with AWS and components on-premises and be capable of providing the best practices for setting up reliable and secure applications on the AWS platform. Kryterion testing centers offer this computer-based exam that consists of 60 multiple-choice questions. The exam registration fee is $150. However, armed with this certification, you will get to earn a yearly average of $125,091.
4. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
This CISSP certification is your ideal choice if you are an auditor, analyst, systems engineer, security consultant, or manager since it gives you the chance to prove your capability of engineering, designing and maintaining the IT security policy of a company. Pearson Vue Testing centers offer this exam against a few of $599. This exam consisting of 250 multiple-choice questions and needs an eligible candidate to have a minimum of 5 years’ of full-time work experience in two or more of the eight domains CISSP CBK (Common Body of Knowledge) domains. Those not having adequate work experience can meet 1 year of required experience with a 4-year college degree (or its regional equivalent), or a credential permitted by the CISSP Prerequisite pathway. As a second alternative, you can earn your (ISC)2 Associate designation by taking and passing the CISSP exam, after which you will have up to 6 years’ time to earn the necessary work experience. You must earn CPE credits every year to stay certified. This certification will give you access to a career that pays an average yearly salary of $121,729.
5. Project Management Professional (PMP)
This is the most renowned project management certification that lets you work in almost any industry, at any location and with any methodology. Project Management Institute (PMI) has created this test and manages it as well. You have to apply at the PMI website to take this exam. After the approval of your application, you would be able to sign up for the actual exam via Prometric. The prerequisites of this exam are having a secondary degree (associate’s degree, high school diploma, or the global equivalent) along with 7,500 hours of project management experience and 35 hours of project management education; or having a 4-year degree together with 4,500 hours of project management experience and 35 hours of project management education. You will need to shell out $405 for taking this test. Every three years, you need to compulsorily earn 60 PDUs (professional development units) for maintaining your PMP. $119,349 is the average yearly salary that this certification will bring your way.
6. Citrix Certified Associate – Networking (CCA-N)
This certification is ideal for systems or network administrators, architects and engineers adept in desktop and app virtualization, who plan to expand their skills to include NetScaler 10.5 for desktop and solutions app. To get certified, you have to prepare with the recommended training that includes two options: taking Citrix NetScaler Essentials and Unified Gateway or CNS-222; or getting prepared with Citrix NetScaler Unified Gateway or CNS-221 in case you’ve already taken the Citrix NetScaler Essentials and Traffic Management or CNS-220. In addition, you have to analyze the preparation guide for Exam 1Y0-250: Implementing Citrix NetScaler 10 for App and Desktop Solutions; and pass Exam 1Y0-250. The exam costs $200 and the certification would stay valid for 3 years. With CCA-N certification, you can aim to earn an average yearly salary of $102,598.
7. ITIL v3 Foundation
It’s the entry-level ITIL certification that offers an extensive knowledge of the IT lifecycle together with the ITIL terminology and concepts. It covers everything from capacity and availability management to incident and change management, along with IT operations and application management. Selection and authorizations of partners are done by ITIL, who in turn provide education, training, and certifications. The ITIL foundation exam consists of 40 multiple-choice questions and costs $150 plus taxes (VUE/Prometric). To pass this exam, you should have knowledge (at the comprehension level) of ITIL service life-cycle, service management as a practice, and the key models as well principles along with awareness level knowledge of generic definitions and concepts, selected processes, roles and functions, as well as technology and architecture, among others. Simply passing this exam is all you need to do to get certified, and once you have this certification, you can expect to earn an average yearly salary of $103,408.
A quick analysis of this list shows that all these top certifications pay more than $100,000 on an average, and are related to the domains that are experiencing a growing demand in the market, namely security, virtualization and cloud computing, together with networking and business. All these IT certifications can help in your career advancement – no matter whether you are a junior-level employee aiming to improve your skills to bag better opportunities in the IT industry, or a tenured employee looking to constantly grow and adapt your skills to meet the fast-changing IT landscape. But since you will come across a huge number of IT certifications that are offered today, it becomes important to research well before taking your pick since a handful are far more valuable than the others.