IT certifications are more than badges of honor. They validate your proficiency and prove to employers or clients that you know your stuff and hone your skills. Since the tech world moves so fast, it’s crucial for IT professionals to understand new technologies and what they mean for today and the future. Certifications are among the best ways to keep up to date. On top of that, better skills often lead to higher pay. According to a survey from Global Knowledge, the average salary for a certified IT professional (as opposed to one without certifications) is higher by $8,400 (11.7 percent).
There are many certifications that will help IT pros stand out. Note, however, that your individual mileage may vary. You or your organization’s goals and systems should dictate which areas you should focus on, not necessarily the trends that are gaining steam. Some certifications will open the door to higher paying positions or bigger client opportunities, but others might help sharpen the abilities you already have. Let’s get to it.
Certified Information Security Professional (CISSP)
With cybercrime so prominent, even private information stored by heavy-hitters like Google isn’t safe. It’s critical for IT professionals to understand the latest forms of cyberattack and how to design and build iron-clad networks that keep data safe. The CISSP certification is a great option for helping IT pros develop the skills they need to keep cyber baddies out. Offered by ISC and accredited under the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the CISSP certification is a global standard approved by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Amazon Web Services Certifications
There’s a good chance you’re already using Amazon Web Services (AWS) in some fashion or another. Since AWS continues to be one of the most popular cloud platforms available, IT pros with AWS certifications are among the highest paid. Forbes and CIO listed AWS certifications on their lists of highest paid certifications for 2018, and they’ll no doubt continue to be essential. These certifications come in five varieties, but two in particular stand out. The Certified Solutions Architect certification helps experienced AWS users understand how to design, deploy, and scale AWS systems. The Certified Developer certification helps code-savvy IT pros learn how to deploy and debug cloud-based apps inside AWS to leverage technologies ranging from Internet of things to machine learning and more.
Project Management Professional (PMP)
With 770,000 active project management professional (PMP) certificate holders, it’s far and away one of the most popular certificates out there. The PMP certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI) give IT pros the skills they need to bring a project from initiation to planning, execution, and conclusion. Although the PMP certificate isn’t as focused on technology, project management skills are essential for any IT professional looking to grow.
Citrix Certified Professional (Virtualization)
With benefits like higher availability and simple scalability, virtualization continues to be an infrastructure essential. IT pros using XenDesktop and other Citrix virtualization tools can gain all the skills necessary for creating and maintaining effective virtual environments with the Citrix Certified Professional certification. Unlike the first tier of virtualization certs from Citrix (Certified Associate), the Certified Professional certification is designed for engineers or consultants who support complex virtual environments, so it’s a great step up for any IT pro who uses Citrix for virtualization.
Cisco Certified Associate (CCNP)
Cisco is a behemoth of the networking world, making its certifications some of the most sought after. The Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Routing and Switching certification is for IT pros who have passed the basic CCNA Routing and Switching cert and are ready to level-up their networking skill set. According to Cisco, this certification “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.” For network or systems engineers, this certification is definitely one to put on your list.
With hundreds of certifications out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. As you consider options, take a look at the certifications available from sources like CompTia, Pluralsight, or even your local community college. Many are available as online courses, though some of the more specialized certifications require five or more days in class to complete. In any case, certifications are a key component of any IT pro’s career, so take some time to map out your certification plans for 2019—you’ll be glad you did.