Career / Career Progression

6 Certs Under $165 That Will Earn You a Higher Salary

by Team Nuggets
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Published on February 5, 2018

Are you the budget-conscious type? We get it, the IT certification journey can be expensive. But it doesn't have to be. You just have to know where to look. Here are six certs that won't break the bank and will actually allow you to make more money and level up your career.

You might notice that most of these certs lean more toward the entry-level side. That's just the way it goes. More advanced and niche certs demand bigger bucks. For example, an MCSE will put you back $825, and even a CCNA is $330. We focused on identifying certs that could boost your career for closer to $150 or less, quite the steal compared to other certs.

1.AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner

AWS is hot and we talk about it all the time here on the CBT Nuggets blog. For good reason, the company has quickly become a leader in cloud hosting as more companies choose them to run their apps and store their data. Jobs focusing on their platform are becoming more common, but learning it from scratch can be super overwhelming with the huge number of services available now.

Luckily, AWS has an entire training site with multiple certification tracks. All the tracks start at the same place, the Certified Cloud Practitioner cert, which only costs $100. With the free training they offer for this cert, you'll quickly get up to speed on basic AWS concepts, architecture, services, security, and billing. And if AWS's training doesn't go deep enough for you, we have a brand new course on the cert.

2. Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician

Maybe you want to keep your head out of the cloud(s) and focus on the on-prem infrastructure. The CCENT is the perfect cert if you are in a Cisco shop and want to move up from the help desk into a network engineer role. At $165 it's the most expensive cert on this list, however, it counts toward a CCNA, so it's a good value to jumpstart your career in that direction.

The exam covers networking essentials, building a small LAN from scratch, internet connectivity, and basic security. Training for it can be expensive but if you are persistent, you can find enough quality resources online, starting with an open source hardware emulator to train on simulated switches and routers, if you can't afford the real thing.

3. Microsoft Technology Associate

Microsoft certs are expensive, usually requiring multiple tests along with a few years experience in the domain areas. One program they've added in recent years is the MTA. These $127 tests focus on the fundamentals of your choice of one of several different areas.

Much like earning Cisco's CCENT can help get you off of the help desk and into networking, the MTA certification is the first step toward roles such as administering Windows servers, databases, or Microsoft Azure.

4. VMware Certified Associate – Data Center Virtualization

Maybe you're interested in virtualization instead, specifically VMware and vSphere — which is smart considering the demand for IT pros who can leverage virtualization for organizations is always high.  

Your first goal should be earning a VCA. This will prep you for day-to-day tasks around managing, configuring, and monitoring a vSphere infrastructure. The exam for this "stepping-stone cert" will only put you back $125, a small price to pay when you keep in mind the career possibilities that exist in the virtualization space.

5. Google IT Support Professional Certificate

This program is a little different; instead of studying then paying for a test to earn a certification, you pay monthly for a Coursera subscription and complete a series of courses to earn the certificate — much like how you would earn an online college degree.

The courses cover a wide range of topics in depth, from networking and OSes to automation and security. If money is really tight, there is financial assistance available from Google through late February. If it takes off, we predict this might replace the venerable CompTIA A+ cert for a new generation of IT workers.

6. CCNA Cyber Ops

We're double-dipping with the Cisco certs here, but this might be the best-kept secret right now in IT training. The Cyber Ops cert will prepare you to work in cybersecurity response and analysis, a wildly growing field.

And in response to a lack of trained security engineers, Cisco is offering a scholarship covering the entire cost of self-paced online training and the tests for the cert, roughly a $3,500 value for free. There are qualifications to meet before getting on the waiting list, so check those first and jump on this opportunity ASAP before it ends!

IT training and certifications can be expensive, but hopefully, we've spotlighted some great opportunities to level yourself up without spending too much. Don't forget about asking your employer if they will pay for tests or test prep, a smart employer wants to train and retain smart employees. Best of luck on your IT adventure!


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