Career / Career Progression

7 Best Certs for Your Time and Money

by Team Nuggets
7 Best Certs for Your Time and Money picture: A
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Published on February 8, 2018

All IT certifications are valuable. However, the effort and money you put into some certifications might outweigh the time and effort you might put into others. And after all that effort and expense, the question lingers: "Is this certification really going to improve my career?"

The truth is that while certifications are an important part of the overall picture, some certs tend to deliver better results than others. We've provided the vital stats to seven certifications which, in 2018, are most likely to supercharge your hireability and earning potential, without consuming your nights, weekends, and bank accounts.


1. Cisco CCNA – Routing and Switching

CCNA R&S sits at the perfect axis of time and money. Ask anyone who has taken the exam. It's not easy. It's also not impossible as long you've been on the job a little while (and studied). Finally, it's not a terribly expensive exam when you consider its potential impact on your career and salary. Earning the CCNA validates your arrival as a networking pro, and instantly boosts your career opportunities.

Cisco has done an excellent job of revamping the exam to reflect the changing networking landscape. For example, as virtualization and hybrid cloud computing have become mainstream, Cisco kept the exam in pace with these innovations, ensuring that cert holders are prepared for the future of network administration.

You can earn this cert by taking two exams or a single accelerated test.  Either way, testing costs are very reasonable — and you can recertify as you pursue your CCNP while advancing up the career ladder.


At a Glance

Prerequisites: None

Required Study: None

Approximate cost: $325

Maintenance: Recertify every three years with an additional exam or earn a higher cert


2. Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)

The Certified Scrum Master (CSM) certification requires formalized, in-person training, so it's a little heavy on the time side of the time-money equation, but it's still worth it — especially if you want to pursue more of a managerial role. It's also among the more expensive certifications on this list. Don't be deterred by its relatively high price tag though. Becoming a certified ScrumMaster will validate your abilities to successfully get projects done using an increasingly popular project management approach. That's incredibly valuable to companies.

Businesses are turning toScrum as an integral process for implementing projects of all types. Agile and Scrum are among the most in-demand skills for 2018 and beyond, as businesses seek proven processes to meet project goals. Getting this cert can help you accelerate into a leadership position because you'll prove you have what it takes to get business-critical projects done.

A Certified ScrumMaster certification demonstrates your ability to take the lead in a Scrum environment. The cost of mandatory training and testing are rolled into one, helping to keep total costs under control while limiting training time to only 16 hours. It might be a tough cost to swallow at first, but you'll quickly recover that cost once start being put in charge of projects.


At a Glance

Prerequisites: None

Required Study: Two-day, in-person CSM course

Approximate cost: $1,200 for the 2-day course + exam

Maintenance: $100 renewal every two years


3. VMware Certified Professional 6.5 – Data Center Virtualization (VCP6.5-DCV)

Just about everything plays nicely with virtualization, especially the cloud. With that in mind, earning VCP6.5-DCV certification is a sound time and money investment — as VMware is the golden standard when it comes to virtualization technology and platforms.

This certification validates your ability to install, deploy, scale, and manage vSphere 6.5, the latest version of VMware's signature platform. Considering how well vSphere integrates with the cloud, having this cert can make you a valuable commodity in two of the most in-demand areas of IT.

The VCP6.5-DCV is an intermediate-level certification, so if you are new to virtualization, you'll need to attend VMware training course and pass one of their foundation exams before sitting for the VCP6.5 test. Yes, there's a process to get this cert, but it's well worth it, considering the technology you'll be able to leverage and the career doors that'll open.


At a Glance

Prerequisites: Pass the vSphere 6 Foundations Exam or vSphere 6.5 Foundations Exam.

Required Study: Attend one of the required training courses at an authorized commercial training center.

Approximate cost: $250

Maintenance:  Must recertify every two years by earning any new VCP or higher-level certification.


4. CompTIA Security+

There's arguably no better area in IT to be in than security. There's a high demand for IT security pros and it's not slowing down anytime soon. That's why we're grading the CompTIA Security+ as a highly positive value for the time and money you'll spend earning it. Earning CompTIA Security+ certification is a no-brainer at this point: It will open the door to the plentiful and lucrative IT security field. And best of all, it's affordable.

Training for CompTIA Security+ certification exposes you to a broad range of vendor-neutral security concepts. It also counts toward the prerequisites of the CISSP credential that you may choose to earn. Bottom line, this certification might be the biggest bang for the buck on this list — because of the career possibilities it can provide, both instantly and down the road.


At a Glance

Prerequisites: None required. Network+ certification plus 2 years experience is recommended

Required Study: None

Approximate cost: $330

Maintenance: Recertify every three years with 50 education credits, or earn senior-level certs


5. MCSA – SQL Server 2016 Database Development

There's a lot of debate in IT circles about whether you should go wide and learn a little bit of everything, or go deep and specialize in one technology. This certification definitely falls into the latter category. With one certification and a little experience, you'll not only be in demand, but likely make good money.

The test costs about the same as most intermediate-level technical certifications. With that said, it might take a little more time to study for this exam if you're just getting into it. The MCSA – SQL Server 2016 Database Development certification validates a broad skill set that can be applied to many data specialties. The cert exam is heavily focused on building databases and designing efficient queries.

The demand for data analytics pros has never been higher and this is reflected in the vast number of data-specific certifications now available. It's going to take some time to train and pass this cert, but it's well worth your efforts.


At a Glance

Prerequisites: None

Required Study: None

Approximate cost: $330 total for two exams.

Maintenance: None required, but it is expected that you will pursue an MCSE certification


6. AWS-CSA Associate

The AWS family of certifications are among the most affordable in this list. The subject matter is accessible. And, demand is high for AWS certified professionals. Is it worth the time and money? We'll let you be the judge, but look at the trends.

What was once an emerging hot technology is now a must-have staple of any organization's IT infrastructure. Training for the AWS-CSA Associate provides an affordable way to add one of the most in-demand skill sets to your resume, the cloud.

Cloud skills are in peak demand, as businesses retire outdated on-site systems and migrate them to AWS and Microsoft Azure. Fortunately, Amazon Web Services offers a cost effective certification that demonstrates your commitment to a distributed IT infrastructure. The CSA credential can stand on its own or serve as a prerequisite toward your cert as an AWS-Certified Solutions Professional.  


At a Glance

Prerequisites: None

Required Study: None

Approximate cost: $150

Maintenance: Take the recertification exam every 2 years ($75) or earn your AWS-CSP

Other CBTN Training: AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner


7. CompTIA Network+ N10-006

You've got to start somewhere, right? And if you want to be successful in IT, you must have a strong networking working foundation. That's why CompTIA's hallmark Network+ certification is probably the best value for your time and money. In addition to providing you basic networking knowledge and skills, the cert is considered the gateway to the world of IT.

Want to go into IT security? Virtualization? The cloud? Well, you have to understand the theory and practice of networking, and when it comes to that, Network+ is going to be your best bet. Having your Network+ will help you in learning other technologies, even if you decide Cisco's CCENT cert might be a good choice for you.

If you think about how a college degree can open so many doors, earning your Network+ does the same for IT, at a fraction of the cost. Talk about a certification that's well worth pursuing. And if we're being honest, you could probably say this about every IT certification. They will be less expensive than college, and in IT, certs and experience carry a lot of weight.


At a Glance

Prerequisites: None. CompTIA A+ certification plus nine months of experience is recommended.

Required Study: None

Approximate cost: $302

Maintenance: Earn 30 education credits every three years


Bottom line is that one of the keys to succeeding in IT is to find your passion. Don't lose sight of that while looking for a certification that won't take up all of your time or be a real financial drain. Happy hunting!


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