As technology evolves, it has a disruptive effect on the certification industry. Certs are retired, others are updated — and new certs are created to reflect the whirlwind nature of IT. Then there are certifications that seemingly stand the test of time. They also continue to pay surprisingly well — despite newer technologies, more niche certifications, and the oversaturation of certified professionals.
Making the claim that certs pay well raises the question of what “well” means. Too often, average salary ranges are misleading; they don’t reflect outliers that can skew numbers like crazy. For example, consider location. A developer based in Seattle, Washington is going to make a bit than more someone in the same role in Charleston, South Carolina. So we pulled the salaries associated with specific certs from Glassdoor, as we believe they reflect the most honest salary ranges for IT roles.
Another point here, and this is important. It’s not just about certifications. Certifications validate knowledge in a transferable way across an industry. That knowledge can be gained through courses, but it’s typically gained through experience. These salaries are associated with jobs that require (or prefer) the candidate to have these certifications in addition to experience with the technologies. It’s not just the cert.
Having said that, here are seven certifications we saw tucked into job descriptions with surprisingly high salaries, even when adjusted for geography.
1. AWS Certified Solutions Architect
Salary range: $120,000 to $150,000
Why the cert paid well: Cloud integration now is the de facto way to build a scalable enterprise network. There’s a huge need for IT pros who can leverage cloud tech — and Amazon is the market leader in this space. AWS provides a fully scalable platform for organizations.
What the exam covers: The AWS Solutions Architect certification tests learners on cloud integration, design, and deployment specific to the AWS platform. IT pros with this certificate have hands-on experience with several AWS infrastructure components including databases, IAM, instances, and cloud storage.
The training you’ll need: Before sitting for the AWS CSA exam, it’s recommended that you have at least 1-2 years of experience working directly with AWS. You should also have an in-depth knowledge of at least one high-level programming language. May we recommend Python? Both the CBT Nuggets AWS: Technical Essentials and the AWS: Certified Solutions Architect – Associate courses also help.
2. Certified Scrum Master
Salary range: $100,000 to $130,000 per year
Why the cert pays well: Development teams move fast, often adjusting on the fly, without breaking stride. But they can’t do without the help of project managers. Scrum Masters provide the leadership and organizational skills to help teams move quickly — and successfully — using the Agile methodology.
What the exam covers: To sit for the Scrum Master certification exam, you’ll need to have a thorough understanding of Scrum principles and agile methodology. You’ll also need to understand project life cycles, artifacts, and the essentials of managing teams. This certification is all about validating the skills organizations need for successful project management.
The training you’ll need: Learners should watch our Scrum Essentials and Soft Skills for ScrumMasters courses to understand the basics of Scrum. When you’re ready to pursue certification, the Scrum Alliance requires you to take a classroom course before sitting for the exam. It’s a little bit of a hassle, but it can pay off rather nicely.
3. CCNP Routing and Switching
Salary range: $100,000 to $120,000
Why the cert pays well: A CCNP validates the network engineering skills every organization needs. IT pros who can maintain networks — whether it’s adding new appliances or expanding current infrastructure — are always in demand. Even in a seemingly saturated field. The result? CCNP-certified pros have one of the highest average salaries for IT management roles.
What the exam covers: Cisco is one of the most widely used and respected vendors in the networking space. The CCNP R&S exams test the knowledge needed to be successful using Cisco technologies. You’ll be tested on intermediate routing and switching topics, including network security and performance monitoring.
The training you’ll need: Test-takers are expected to have 1-3 years of experience with Cisco products. Also, CCNA Routing and Switching certification is the prerequisite for taking the CCNP exam. And to earn the CCNP, you’ll need to take three exams, which are covered in our 300-101 ROUTE, 300-115 SWITCH, and 300-135 TSHOOT courses. This cert might take a while to earn — but it’s worth it, salary-wise.
4. Citrix Certified Associate – Networking (CCA-N)
Salary range: $100,000 to $115,000
Why the cert pays well: CCA-Ns are valued by organizations who use Citrix for their virtualization needs. (Yes, there are other solutions besides VMware.) While there are plenty of IT pros who know VMware, it can be harder to find ones who work with Citrix. As such, Citrix-certified pros are paid handsomely.
What the exam covers: Citrix exams are designed to prove how well you use their products in real-world situations. The CCA-N tests your ability to administer enterprise environments using Citrix Gateway. You’ll need to especially understand how to secure remote access for desktops and apps.
The training you’ll need: For this exam, you’re expected to have 1 to 3 years of experience working in networking, or with Citrix products. The CBT Nuggets Citrix NetScaler 10.5 1Y0-253 course can prepare you to get CCA-N certified, as it maps to the exam objectives.
5. Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA)
Salary range: $70,000 to $100,000
Why the cert pays well: The fact remains that Microsoft still rules the enterprise. Earning MCSA certification proves to employers that you are serious about IT — in particular when it comes to using Microsoft products and services. MCSA certs are entry-level but pay surprisingly well. There’s a wide variety of MCSA certifications (from Server 2016 to Azure to Power BI), that help employers fill business needs.
What the exam covers: There currently are 17 MCSA certifications available — covering Server 2016 to the cloud to BI reporting. But the gist is this: MCSA exams help validate a lot of foundational knowledge that will help springboard your IT career. This especially goes for those who want to Microsoft tech or work in shops that are Microsoft-heavy.
The training you’ll need: You have plenty of options here. Learn about training for SQL 2016 Database Development, Windows Server 2016, Linux on Azure, Cloud Platform, Windows 10, Windows Server 2012, Server 2008, SQL Server 2012/2014, and Office 365 with our various Roadmap to Success blog posts.
6. Project Management Professional (PMP)
Salary range: $70,000 to $100,000
Why the cert pays well: Organizations with large development and IT teams value PMP-certified professionals. They need someone to help not only manage projects but facilitate communication between those teams and stakeholders.
What the exam covers: This exam covers five domains that relate to project stages: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing. Not surprisingly, the PMP exam focuses the most on the Executing domain (31 percent). So, you’ll need to thoroughly understand each phase of a project as defined by the Project Management Institute, the body that awards PMP certifications.
The training you’ll need: To sit for the PMP, you need a secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree, or the global equivalent). Oh, and 7,500 hours of leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education. Daunting? Sure. The good news is plenty of tasks you’re likely already working on count as project management experience and education.
7. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
Salary range: $100,000 to $111,475
Why the cert pays well: It’s not surprising that having a security cert can pull in nice bucks. What’s more interesting is how the value of CISSP certification has held strong. Despite an influx of more advanced InfoSec certs, CISSP still pays well. CISSPs are in demand due to their ability to manage, analyze, and implement InfoSec solutions for any enterprise.
What the exam covers: The CISSP exams test an applicant’s ability to analyze, architect, and engineer systems that are secure from common threats and vulnerabilities. One thing to note, CISSP certifications tend to focus on InfoSec from a management and analytics perspective.
The training you’ll need: Typically, learners pursuing this certification should have at least five years of experience working in IT security. The CBT Nuggets (ISC)2 CISSP 2015 course covers all topics covered in the exam. (Note: Trainers Keith Barker and Ben Finkel are creating training for the new CISSP exam.) That course will include a section dedicated to the eight domains from the common body of knowledge associated with the CISSP credential.
These certifications paid well this year — and there’s no reason to think they won’t continue to do so. They validate the knowledge and skills that organizations need. Areas such as ITsec, the cloud, and project management will continue to be crucial to business success.