Let’s face it. For IT professionals, certification always pays. Even if it doesn’t result in an immediate raise, having those letters next to your name offers job security, as well as the ability to impress your industry colleagues.
But when it comes to long-term career payoff, no two certifications are completely equal. Complicating matters further, the demand for skills can easily change from one year to the next, as the industry struggles to keep up with changes in technology. In other words, the certification you achieved a few years ago can quickly become obsolete.
As we look to 2018, it’s another year of shifting demand. Keeping in mind what’s likely to be hot this year, here are the top ten certifications that will help you advance your career.
There are thousands of reasons to pursue an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certification. First off, the popularity of cloud-based tech and services has increased in recent years and shows no signs of slowing down. As more organizations turn to the cloud to help them save time, money, and even space, the demand for IT pros who can leverage the cloud will soar.
The Solutions Architect certification specifically prepares you to design and deploy systems using the AWS platform. It’s an intermediate-level cert that sets you up to earn AWS’ professional certifications, which are its highest level of certification.
With AWS holding the biggest share of the cloud hosting market, getting certified with AWS and building on your skills can be huge for your professional growth — and your salary, as AWS positions can command six figures.
2. ISACA CRISC
Looking back at 2017, it was definitely the year of the data breach. Who can forget Equifax being hacked? Or Uber? So it’s not surprising the demand is high for experts who can assess and reduce a business’s IT security risk. Spoiler alert: this won’t be the first security-related cert on this list for 2018.
Because companies can never be too safe, and the number of complex cyber threats continues to increase, the Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) is a hot credential to earn. You’ll be tasked with a big role, and be well-compensated with an earnings potential of up to $100,000 per year USD.
Many organizations and government agencies require ISACA certifications. Earning CRISC certification is an excellent way to validate your IT security skills since ISASA certs combine your cert with credit for your professional and educational experience. This will help organizations have confidence in your ability to help them reduce the risks of, and prevent data breaches.
3. CompTIA CASP
CompTIA certifications are vendor-neutral, meaning they are a great starting point for acquiring foundational IT knowledge and skills. However, recognizing the increasing demand for IT pros with a more advanced level of security savvy, the CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) certification attempts to help fill that void.
What makes this certification so appealing is that CompTIA exams are usually less expensive than their vendor-specific counterparts like the CISSP (the CASP exam costs $439 USD). It also meets several U.S. government agencies’ requirements and standards, including the Department of Defense’s Directive 8570.01-M requirements.
Developed by industry leaders, this certification shows that you have the skills necessary to build and support security solutions, which can help you move up in your existing organization or transition into a more advanced role.
DevOps is quickly becoming an integral part of many organizations’ IT infrastructures. Since DevOps is a relatively new concept (err, mindset), there’s a lack of IT pros with the skills and certification to help organizations adopt a DevOps approach.
This advanced-level cert validates your ability to perform a wide range of IT tasks on the AWS platform including the implementation of delivery systems, automation of security controls, and deploy monitoring systems.
If you are looking to up your cloud skills and really bring value to organizations that use AWS, this is the cert to go for in 2018. Last but not least, the value of certification extends beyond diversifying your IT skill set and making you an in-demand cloud pro — it also pays well.
When it comes to virtualization, VMware still reigns supreme. VMware even claims that it’s VCP6-DCV cert was its most popular to date with more than 10,000 IT pros earning the certification. The VCP6.5-DCV is latest, most comprehensive edition of the popular certification. IT is all about staying ahead of the curve, so it’s a safe bet that more virtualization pros will look to earn the 6.5 version.
Another key reason this will be a sought-after certification in 2018 is that it’s the stepping stone to VMware’s more advanced-level certs. Plus, if you can understand and leverage VMware tech, you’ll be able to pick up other virtualization platforms easier.
Yes, another security certification, but hear us out. This one can lead you to a fun and challenging career. What’s the best way to defeat a hacker? To think like one! Earning CEH certification provides you will the insight and skills to do that.
Organizations are desperate to protect their data from hackers, so having the ability to turn the tables on hackers and prevent their attacks not only makes you desirable, but can provide you with excellent job security. Organizations that have a CEH-certified IT pro on staff also can help them assure stakeholders that the company data is in good hands.
For those IT pros who aspire to move into a leadership role, earning Certified Information Security Manager certification is a smart move. Having the CISM on your resume can position you for key roles such as Information Systems Manager or Chief Security Officer, two crucial and in-demand roles at just about any company.
This certification focuses on information security management, so it’s a logical next step for those who have advanced IT security skills and are looking for a new challenge, as it hones on the ability to create and implement security programs and policies that keep organizations safe. It’s a great way to take your knowledge a step further.
Oh, and did we mention many positions that require CISM positions pay well, as both roles that we previously mentioned on average command $100,000+ USD salaries? So, for IT security pros, this is sure to be a cert to pursue in taking their next career step this year.
There’s even more data available to organizations this year, and employees need to know how they can use it to their advantage. Welcome to the era of Big Data! Companies need IT pros who can leverage the technologies that store, mine, and pull all that data so that it can be compiled and presented.
Big Data is in big demand, and there’s a large selection of certification options in the field. Cloudera’s data analyst module includes Spark and Apache Hadoop development, CCA Data Analyst, and CCA Administrator.
This is one certification that can quickly pay off, because that demand is expected to increase 28 percent by 2020. Why not get a jump start and join the Big Data revolution this year? Think about how many companies use data to gain key insights. If you can help them with their data needs, you’ll be as in demand as this certification.
Project management is another area with a huge talent gap, which means a Scrum Alliance Certified Scrum Master certification can pay off. If you’re looking for change of pace, becoming a project manager for IT projects could be ideal.
You’ll also get the opportunity to work on a variety of projects, which will lead to a change of pace and will hopefully keep things interesting for you.
In fact, businesses have begun to choose certified project managers, because their own clients want a credentialed professional to oversee their endeavor — further intensifying the demand for people who can see projects through to a successful completion. Explore more how you can launch your PM career starting today.
A longtime leader in IT security, Cisco’s certifications are always a safe bet. The Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) can put you at the top of any stack of IT job candidates. The expert-level exam may be rigorous, but it will be worth it once you have that credential attached to your name.
Cisco’s networking equipment has always been an industry standard, ensuring that if you have this certification you’ll always be in demand. Not to mention that this cert opens the door to working with other technologies such as the cloud and virtualization, as networking is the bane of all things IT. Once you have a strong networking foundation, you’ll be able to expand into other areas such as IT security.
If you’re hoping to up your IT game with a certification, it’s important to first choose your desired path. From there, you can narrow down the list to the certifications that can help you achieve your goals. With so many to choose from, there will always be an in-demand certification that meets your needs.