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The Best IT Certifications to Further Your Tech Career

Cartoon of male tech student sitting in a chair in front of big desktop computer working on IT certification. Screen shows open browser with Wi-Fi and internet symbols

IT is one of the hottest job markets right now, both in terms of demand and lucrative salaries. Whether you’re looking to enter the field as an entry-level candidate or want to take your career to the next level, IT certifications can help you achieve your professional goals. 

We’ll explain the benefits of pursuing IT certifications and share some of the top credentials that will help further your career prospects. 

What are IT certifications?

IT certifications are professional credentials awarded to people who have demonstrated a certain level of proficiency in a specific area of the IT field. These certifications are typically governed by reputable organizations and are based on globally recognized information technology standards. 

In addition to helping professionals advance their knowledge and skills, IT certifications are useful in conveying expertise to prospective employers who often use such credentials as part of their qualification process when hiring.  

Benefits of pursuing IT certifications

Advance your skills

IT certifications are a great way to hone new skills and expand your knowledge base, particularly in specialized aspects of your job or areas that are of interest to you. Certifications can be added to your resume to show hiring managers you possess the necessary skills to do a job effectively. 

Validate your knowledge

Most IT skills can’t be demonstrated during phone calls or face-to-face interviews. Certifications act as third-party confirmation of your capabilities, which bolsters your credibility in the eyes of prospective employers and other professional contacts. 

Expand your job prospects

Certifications can strengthen your candidacy when applying for jobs. Because many employers require certain credentials to pass the initial screening for select roles, obtaining these certifications will allow you to qualify for more jobs and more advanced positions. The certification process can also help you network with other professionals in your field, which builds connections that can open the door to future opportunities. 

Increase your earning potential

If you want to earn more money, becoming more specialized in your field is a great way to do it. The more niche your skills are, the more companies will be willing to pay to acquire them. If you’re one of few people with a particular skill set, this can bring job security and advancement opportunities. 

Which IT certifications should I pursue?

There are endless IT certifications out there, but quality matters more than quantity. Rather than obtaining one certification after another, which can be time-consuming and costly, it’s better to focus on the credentials that are most relevant to the job you have now or the position you want to hold in the future. 

Follow these tips for choosing the most practical and useful certifications to pursue. 

Look at job boards

Peruse job posts for the types of positions you want and jot down the certifications that are mentioned in each listing. You’ll likely see a pattern indicating the most important credentials for your desired role. 

Research credentialing bodies

IT certifications are different, even when they cover the same topic. Do your homework to make sure any credential you’re considering comes from an established and well-respected organization. Some examples are CompTIA, ISC², and ISACA.

Browse IT forums

One of the best ways to learn which certifications yield real-world career results is to ask others who’ve gone before you. Post and participate on IT forums to see which credentials others have obtained and how they contributed to landing a job or getting a raise. 

Go niche

If you’re open to taking the road less traveled, consider pursuing a certification that isn’t as widely held. You can dramatically increase your earning potential if you hold a certification in a very niche area, like AWS security or Google Cloud engineering. 

Valuable IT certifications to advance your career

Certifications for beginners

CompTIA A+

This widely recognized certification is considered a great basic credential for anyone just starting their IT career. Targeted toward people in technical support roles (where many IT professionals get their start), the A+ certification validates foundational skills like hardware, networking, mobile devices, security, and troubleshooting.

CompTIA Net+

Also offered by CompTIA (the Computing Technology Industry Association) is the Net+ certification, which is an introductory credential specific to networking skills. It demonstrates that an individual is proficient with core networking principles like configuration, management, and troubleshooting of both wired and wireless networks. 

Security certifications

CompTIA Sec+

Individuals who obtain the Sec+ certification demonstrate a solid understanding of cybersecurity concepts, including threats and attacks, vulnerabilities, cybersecurity tools, identity and access management, cryptography, and risk mitigation. It’s a vendor-neutral certification, meaning it is not tied to any specific cybersecurity platform. 

CISSP 

CISSP stands for Certified Information Systems Security Professional. It’s a highly regarded cybersecurity credential that’s recognized all over the world. To obtain this certification, you’ll need a deep understanding of security topics, including security architecture and engineering, network security, software security, asset security, security testing, and more. This is an advanced-level certification, so it’s best to pursue it once you have some professional cybersecurity experience. 

OSCP

OSCP stands for Offensive Security Certified Professional. It’s an ideal certification for candidates who want to pursue a career in an area like penetration testing or ethical hacking, which are roles that help companies pinpoint their cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Unlike other certifications, which are exam-based only, OSCP involves an exam, a hands-on simulation, and a report-writing component. Getting this certification demonstrates a well-rounded knowledge of offensive security. 

CEH 

The Certified Ethical Hacker credential focuses on penetration testing. This important area of security helps companies better understand how to secure their systems by finding and addressing vulnerabilities before malicious hackers can exploit them. 

CCSP

The CCSP (Certified Cloud Security Professional) credential focuses on the skills and knowledge required to design, manage, and secure cloud environments. This includes understanding cloud computing concepts, architecture, and security considerations. It’s a relevant credential for security professionals, IT managers, and data architects working in roles related to cloud security.

OS certifications

RHCSA, RHCE (Linux)

RHCSA (Red Hat Certified System Administrator) and RHCE (Red Hat Certified Engineer) are IT certifications that validate a person’s skills in the administration and management of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) systems. They’re useful credentials for professionals working in environments that rely on RHEL. These are performance-based exams, meaning you’ll need to demonstrate your skills in a real-world setting in order to pass the test. 

Microsoft Certified

Microsoft offers a broad range of role-based credentials for professionals who work with Microsoft products like Azure and Microsoft 365. Because so many organizations rely on these technology solutions, Microsoft credentials can be a great stepping stone to switch companies, move into a job with a higher title, or increase your earnings. Some of the most popular Microsoft certifications include:

  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate (AZ-104)
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate (AZ-204)
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert (AZ-303, AZ-304)
  • Microsoft 365 Certified: Modern Desktop Administrator Associate (MD-100, MD-101)
  • Microsoft Certified: Security, Compliance, and Identity Fundamentals (SC-900)
  • Microsoft Certified: Power Platform Fundamentals (PL-900)
  • Microsoft Certified: DevOps Engineer Expert (AZ-400)

Other useful certifications

CCNA

The Cisco Certified Network Associate certification is a widely recognized entry-level certification offered by Cisco Systems. It validates the knowledge and skills required to install, operate, and troubleshoot small- to medium-sized enterprise networks. It is considered a foundational step for more advanced Cisco certifications like CCIE and CCDE. The CCNA certification is valuable for network administrators, network engineers, and IT professionals involved in managing and supporting Cisco-based networks.

AWS-SAA

AWS-SAA is Amazon Web Services’ Certified Solutions Architect credential. It’s designed for individuals who want to validate their skills in designing distributed systems on the AWS platform. For those looking to build a career in cloud architecture, this certification is worthwhile. 

PMP

The Project Management Professional certification from the Project Management Institute is a highly practical credential for IT professionals in leadership positions. It tests an individual’s knowledge of various aspects of project management, covering waterfall, agile, and hybrid methodologies. There’s a long list of prerequisites to qualify for this certification, so it’s one to pursue after you have several years of project management experience.

CSM

The Certified ScrumMaster credential is for professionals who can demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of Scrum, an agile project management framework. It’s a widely sought-after credential among organizations that structure their work using agile methodologies. 

In summary, IT certifications offer numerous benefits, enhancing your career prospects and validating your expertise in specific technologies. They can provide a structured path for skill development, boosting your confidence and credibility in the professional world while fostering continuous learning in the dynamic field of information technology.

Learning new skills will help you stay competitive in your job search or within your organization. Check out these in-demand IT skills to enhance your resume!