Highest-paying IT certifications and why they matter


The technology landscape evolves at a breakneck speed, with features, versions or entirely new products premiering daily. This requires buying the right tools, implementing the right strategy and finding the right people to do the work. 

The talent pool is filled with fresh faces clutching college degrees. But for hiring managers searching for the best and the brightest, that pool is all but closed. Companies have to assess skills for cutting edge technologies, many of which have no associated degree. 

Many developers are also spurning formal four-year education.

About one-quarter of professional developers have not completed a degree, according to a 2018 Stack Overflow survey of more than 100,000 developers.

Professional developers who studied at the university level also have an array of majors. More than 64% studied computer science, computer engineering or software engineering. But some have degrees in natural science, social science or business, according to Stack Overflow.

With industry demanding more technologists, companies cannot always rely on traditional career or education paths.

Companies are turning away from “four-year-degree-itis,” and looking to determine a potential hire’s fit independent of a degree, according to James Stanger, chief technology evangelist at CompTIA, a trade association, which provides professional certificates for the IT industry. Certifications work like “shorthand in the industry.”

2018’s highest-paying non-security certifications
Rank Certification Certification Body Average Salary
1 AWS Certified Solutions Architect-Associate Amazon Web Services $117,773
2 CGEIT: Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT ISACA $117,544
3 AWS Certified Developer-Associate Amazon Web Services $112,984
4 Citrix Certified Expert-Virtualization CCE-V $111,923
5 PMP: Project Management Professional Project Management Institute $103,406
6 Citrix Certified Professional-Networking CCP-N $103,111
7 COBIT 5 Foundation ISACA $102,112
8 VMware Certified Professional 5- Data Center Virtualization VCP5-DCV $102,092
9 Six Sigma Green Belt IASSC $99,865
10 Certified ScrumMaster Scrum Alliance $98,562

SOURCE: Global Knowledge 2018 IT Skills and Salary Report with 16,200 respondents.

Average salary is for certifications in North America

Certifications act as a “scalable mentor,” Stanger said, in an interview with CIO Dive. Organizations put together thousands of subject matter experts worldwide, and give professionals a sense of what to focus on in a trade.

As technology has evolved, cloud, cybersecurity and software-defined networking certificates have become more important, according to Stanger. Project management certifications have stayed relevant and sough after, but now hiring managers are looking for PMs willing to immerse themselves in technology. 

Security-specific certifications

Cybersecurity certifications are worth highlighting, in particular, because reducing risk is an edict that comes from the board level.

CIOs, the majority of whom are the executives held accountable for cybersecurity, expect cyberthreats to get worse, according to a Gartner survey of more than 3,000 CIOs. If a cybersecurity incident negatively impacts a business, a CIO’s seat could get hot.

Cybersecurity resilience relies on building awareness and recovery practices, but it also calls on skilled professionals.

2018’s highest-paying security certifications
Rank Certification Certification Body Average Salary
1 CISSP: Certified Information Systems Security Professional (ISC)² $109,965
2 CRISC: Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control ISACA $107,968
3 CISM: Certified Information Security Manager ISACA $105,926
4 CEH: Certified Ethical Hacker EC-Council $103,018
5 CISA: Certified Information Systems Auditor ISACA $97,117
6 Security+ CompTIA $84,011

SOURCE: Global Knowledge 2018 IT Skills and Salary Report with 16,200 respondents.

Average salary is for security certifications in North America

Industry has had security wake up calls for the last 25 years, with big, expensive incidents impacting companies, according to John Pescatore, director of emerging security trends, SANS Institute, a security training, certification and research group.

Thanks to heightened security awareness, companies have created budgets to hire more people. But the trouble is finding professionals who can actually do security, Pescatore said, in an interview with CIO Dive.

Certifications can grow the skills side of the security pipeline, according to Pescatore. People with technology skills can take hands-on security courses and pivot into operational security.

In recent years, companies have started to look for potential hires with certifications in security operations centers, security analysts, incident responders and penetration testing.

These are all skills the “bad guys” have and what the “good guys” need to have to actively defend an organization, according to Pescatore.

The world of certifications tries to keep up with the rapidly evolving technology landscape. But focusing on certifications for specific job roles in different industries proves more valuable than pursuing the latest technology-based certification.

If the hottest tech “hasn’t congealed in the job world, be careful,” Stanger said.


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