Certifications in CS

Why Choose a Certification in CS?

Certifications in computer science offers increased expertise and hands-on technical experience in a chosen area or field, allowing professionals to stay ahead of the learning curve and increase their value as an employee or entrepreneur.

Many computer science professions require honed skills in specific areas, such as in system operations or in a field like cyber security. More basic certification programs are also available and offer exposure to computing fundamentals and various operating systems. These are especially useful for professionals going through a career transition and in need of introductory guidance.


Types of Certifications

Certifications can be used to demonstrate proficiency in certain CS languages, platforms and softwares or industry standards. They can range widely in terms of time to completion, as well as in what kind of education or experience are required to enroll.

Many certifications fall under the umbrella of vendor-neutral or vendor-specific; it’s important to know the difference. Vendor-neutral certifications reflect an unbiased knowledge of technology principles and demonstrate that candidates are capable of working with a broad range of software and equipment. Vendor-specific certifications, often found in the software industry, convey implementation skills specific to vendor systems. Know the differences and determine which is the best type of certification for your specific career objectives.

Types of computer science certifications include:

  • Entry-level IT certifications
  • Management-level certifications in computer systems and networks
  • Security and database systems
  • Vision and graphics
  • Software engineering
  • Specific programming languages
  • Specific operating systems
  • Computer Science instructors
  • Artificial intelligence

Confirming Accreditation and Legitimacy

Accreditation indicates that a program is delivered by qualified faculty and its content is continuously updated to reflect the latest knowledge developments in the field or industry. There are different types and levels of accreditation, the most common for certification programs being specialized accreditation. Also called professional accreditation, specialized accreditation is applied to specific programs that meet national-level standards for a particular field of study.

Determining the legitimacy and value of a program is important. Make sure to do the following to find the program that’s right for you:


Evaluate providers and programs

  • Look for accreditation with an organization like the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), as well as membership in (or endorsements by) discipline-specific professional associations.
  • Look for exams that are aligned with certification industry best practice, such as the International Organization for Standardization and International Electrotechnical Commission (ISO/IEC).
  • Ask employers or peers in a specific industry about their experience with and recommendations on the most valuable certifications, providers and programs.

Understand the value placed by employers

  • Certifications show employers that an individual is well-versed in performance-level skills and knowledge needed for a particular position.
  • Certifications have to be updated as technology evolves, and holding one reflects a candidate’s up-to-date technical experience and knowledge.
  • Many employers look for evidence of professional certifications when hiring an employee. According to the Microsoft Certification Program Satisfaction Study 2012, 91% of recruiters look for relevant certification when making a hiring decision. CompTIA released a similar survey in 2014 that cited 93% of hiring managers view certifications as beneficial.

Applying and Paying for Certifications

If new to certifications, it might not be clear what to expect when applying to, qualifying for and paying for programs. There are a range of factors to consider, including:

Common requirements

  • Many certificate providers require some level of experience in the field of interest before candidates can register for a certification program or exam.
  • Most programs require passing at least one certification exam.
  • Many providers require an annual fee to maintain certification and/or renewal of a certification after two to five years.

Cost ranges

  • Costs vary greatly depending on type of certification and level of training. Total costs, including exam fees, training and maintenance fees, can range anywhere from $440 to over $4,000 for both entry-level and advanced certifications.

Possibilities of employer sponsorship, scholarships and other forms of financial aid

  • Some certification providers, such as (ISC)2, offer companies options to schedule private training sessions for large groups. If multiple employees would benefit from earning a particular certification, this is an option worth suggesting to your employer.
  • Larger companies, like Microsoft, Cisco and CompTIA, tend to offer great scholarship opportunities.
  • Scholarship opportunities are often available through community or technical colleges.
  • Other scholarship opportunities exist through a variety of nonprofits and foundations, including:
  • Candidates should research the many technical certification scholarship and funding opportunities available at both the state and national level, through the Office of Education and Department of Education respectively.

Certifications

Cisco

Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

  • Provider: Cisco
  • Skills: Validates skills needed to operate, install, configure and troubleshoot a small- to medium-sized network
  • Designed for: Network Specialists, Network Administrators and Network Support Engineers with one to three years experience
  • Duration and Cost: Cisco offers five-day on-site and virtual training courses for each respective exam. Course costs differ based on course type, location and training center, but usually cost $3,600 for the CCNA Composite course and range from $2,200 to $3,200 for the ICND1 and ICND2 trainings. Certification requires passing either of the following exam options:
      • Option 1: CCNA Composite 200-120 exam ($295)
      • Option 2: Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 1 (ICND1) 100-101 ($150) and Part 2 (ICND2) 200-101 ($250)

    All exams are taken through Pearson VUE and each is completed within a 90-minute time frame.

  • Key Facts:
    • Certificates are valid for three years
    • Renewal requires passing one of a list of exams offered through Cisco

Cisco Certified Network Professional Routing and Switching (CCNP)

  • Provider: Cisco
  • Skills: Certifies the ability to plan, implement, verify and troubleshoot local and broad-area enterprise networks and work collaboratively with specialists on advanced security, voice, wireless and video solutions
  • Designed for: Systems Engineers, Network Engineers, Support Engineers and Network Technicians with at least one year of networking experience interested in advancing their skills and working independently on complex network solutions.
  • Duration and Cost:
    • Cisco offers five-day on-site and virtual training courses for each respective exam. Course costs differ based on course type, location and training center, but range from $2,600 to $3,300 per course.
    • Certification requires passing the following exams: Route 300-101 ($250); Switch 300-115 ($250); and TShoot 300-135 ($250). Exams are taken through Pearson VUE and each is completed within a 120-minute time frame.
  • Key Facts:
    • Prerequisites include a minimum of one year work experience and a valid CCNA Wireless Certification or any CCIE Certification.
    • Certification is valid for three years
    • Renewal requires passing an exam offered through Cisco

Cisco Certified Network Associate Security Credential (CCNA)

  • Provider: Cisco
  • Skills: Validates associate-level knowledge and skills required to develop security infrastructure, recognize vulnerabilities in networks and handle security threats
  • Designed for: Experienced Security Engineers
  • Duration and Cost:
    • Certification requires passing the Implementing Cisco Network Security (IINS) 210-260 exam ($250). The exam is taken through Pearson VUE and completed within a 90-minute time frame.
    • Cisco offers five-day on-site and virtual training exam preparation courses. Both on-site and virtual training courses cost about $3,500.
  • Key Facts:
    • Requires a minimum of one year work experience as well as previously earned certification in one of several related certifications.
    • Prerequisites include any valid Cisco CCENT, CCNA Routing and Switching, or any CCIE certification.
    • Certification is valid for three years
    • Renewal requires passing one of a list of exams offered through Cisco

Microsoft

Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer for Web Applications (MCSD)

  • Provider: Microsoft
  • Skills: Certifies the skills needed to create and deploy modern web applications and services
  • Designed for: Web Developers or Web Administrators with one or more years of experience programming the essential business logic for a variety of application types and hardware/software platforms using JavaScript; Microsoft also recommends that candidates have a minimum of one to two years experience developing with HTML in an object-oriented, event-driven programming model.
  • Duration and Cost:
    • Certification requires passing the following exams: Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3 – 480 ($150); Developing ASP.NET MVC Web Applications – 486 ($150); and Developing Microsoft Azure and Web Services – 487 ($150). Exams are completed within a 120-minute time frame.
    • Microsoft offers five-day on-site and virtual training courses for each respective exam. Course costs differ based on course type, location and training center, but range from $2,800 to $6,000.
  • Key Facts:
    • Certification is valid for two years
    • Renewal requires completion of the appropriate Microsoft recertification exam

Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate Windows Server 2012 (MCSA)

  • Provider: Microsoft
  • Skills: Validates ability to manage a sophisticated data center, with expertise in identity management, systems management, virtualization, storage and networking
  • Designed for: Computer Support Specialists and Information Security Analysts
  • Duration and Cost:
    • Certification requires passing the following exams: Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012 – 410 ($150); Administering Windows Server 2012 – 411 ($150); Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services – 412 ($150). Exams are completed within a 120-minute time frame.
    • Microsoft offers three- to five-day on-site and virtual training courses for each respective exam. Course costs differ based on course type, location and training center, but range from $2,400 to $3,000.
  • Key Facts:
    • MCSA certification holders may upgrade to the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) Server Infrastructure Certification by taking these additional exams: Designing and Implementing a Server Infrastructure – 413 and Implementing an Advanced Server Infrastructure – 414.
    • Certification is valid for three years
    • Renewal requires completion of the appropriate Microsoft re-certification exam

Professional Associations

Software Development Associate Certification (SDA)

  • Provider: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
  • Skills: Validates an understanding of the principles and processes involved in software requirements, software design, software construction and software testing
  • Designed for: IT professionals with two to four years work experience (depending on education level)
  • Duration and Cost:
    • Certification requires passing one online exam in four knowledge areas: Software Requirements, Software Design, Software Construction and Software Testing. The cost is $225 for IEEE members and $296 for non-members. The exam is completed within a 180-minute time frame.
    • IEEE offers optional review courses online for each knowledge area of the exam. Prices range from $65 to $125 per course for IEEE members and $85 to $155 for non-members. Courses are self-paced and must be completed within two years of purchase.
    • A bundled course and exam option may be purchased for $345 (members) and $435 (non-members).
  • Key Facts:
    • Once certification is achieved, there are no additional renewal requirements.

CompTIA’s A+ Certification

  • Provider: Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA)
  • Skills: Validates foundational knowledge in IT areas, including installation, preventative maintenance, networking, security and troubleshooting
  • Designed for: Remote Support Specialists, Deskside Support Specialists and Bench/Depot Technicians with at least 6 to 12 months of hands-on experience
  • Duration and Cost:
    • Certification requires passing two exams in the same A+ series – 220-801 and 220-802. Users can purchase online CompTIA A+ exam vouchers for $194 each, or choose from a bundled offer. The Deluxe package costs $293 and includes a CertMaster (training) membership, one exam voucher and one exam voucher retake; the Premier package costs $378 and includes a CertMaster (training) membership, one exam voucher, one exam voucher retake and a $100 CompTIA Marketplace e-gift certificate. Each exam is completed within a 90-minute timeframe.
    • CompTIA offers a range of training tools through its website, from boxed CD course training materials to adaptive, online learning courses. Prices range from $45 for an individual course eBook and training video to $249 for a full one-year license for adaptive, online trainings for both required courses.
  • Key Facts:
    • Certificate holders must pay an annual fee of $25.
    • Certifications are valid for three years. Professionals have three options when renewing their certificate:
      • Pass the most current version of the exam for the A+ certification.
      • Earn a higher-level CompTIA certification or other industry

      certification.

    • Earn a certain number of Continuing Education Units (CEUs) through CE activities.

CompTIA’s Security+

  • Provider: Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA)
  • Skills: Shows proficiency in network security; compliance and operational security; threats and vulnerabilities; application, data and host security; access control and identity management; and cryptography
  • Designed for: Security Specialist/Consultants, Security Engineers, and Security Administrators with a minimum of two years experience
  • Duration and Cost:
    • Certification requires passing the SYO-401 exam. Users can purchase an online CompTIA A+ exam voucher for $302 or choose from a bundled offer. The Deluxe package costs $378 and includes a CertMaster (training) membership, one exam voucher and one exam voucher retake. The Premier package costs $472 and includes a CertMaster (training) membership, one exam voucher, one exam voucher retake and a $100 CompTIA Marketplace e-gift certificate. The exam is completed within a 90-minute timeframe.
    • Prices range from $30 for a CD-ROM course to $255 for eLearning courseware complete with a practice exam and live mentoring.
  • Key Facts:
    • An advanced level option of the Security+ is the Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) certification, which requires at least five years of enterprise-level security skills; a separate exam is required to earn this certification.
    • Certificate holders must pay an annual fee of $49.
    • Certifications are valid for three years. Professionals have three options when renewing their certificate:
      • Pass the most current version of the exam for the Security+ certification
      • Earn a higher-level CompTIA certification or other industry certification
      • Earn a certain number of Continuing Education Units (CEUs) through CE activities

CompTIA’s Linux+

  • Provider: Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA)
  • Skills: Validates basic knowledge and skills required of junior Linux administrators, including Linux installation and package management, filesystem and filesystem hierarchy standard and scripting and data management
  • Designed for: Junior Linux Administrators, Linux Database Administrators and Network Administrators who have earned their A+ and Network+ certifications and have at least one year Linux experience
  • Duration and Cost:
    • Certification requires passing two exams in the Linux+ series – LX0-103 or -104 and LX0 101 or -102. Users can purchase online CompTIA Linux+ exam vouchers for $188 each. Each exam is completed within a 90-minute timeframe.
    • CompTIA offers a single training course option for the Linux+, available in a hard-copy study guide or via eBook, for $60.
  • Key Facts:
    • The Linux+ certificate is powered by the Linux Professional Institute (LPI).
    • Certification is valid for five years. Certification holders may begin the recertification process two years after earning their certificate. Expiration may also be extended by certifying at a higher level, available through the Linux Professional Institute.

Nonprofits

Project Management Professional (PMP)

  • Provider: Project Management Institute (PMI)
  • Skills: Certifies expertise in initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, and controlling the project-management process
  • Designed for: Experienced project managers who are responsible for all aspects of project delivery, leading, and directing cross-functional teams
  • Duration and Cost:
    • Candidates for the PMP must apply to take the exam for certification. Exam costs for US-based PMI members is $405 and $555 for non-members. The exam is completed within a 4-hour timeframe.
    • PMP exam preparation courses are available through a variety of organizations, from online providers such as Udemy at a cost of $35 to instructor-led courses at onsite locations that generally cost between $1,800 and $3,200. Course completions range from one to five days.
    • Materials range from exam prep books, which can be purchased online at costs ranging from $2 to $70, to exam prep kits that range from $100 to $300. A number of free websites are also available that offer examples of PMP exam questions.
  • Key Facts:
      Prerequisites include one of the following options:

      • A secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or global equivalent) with 7,500 hours experience in leading projects and 35 hours project management education
      • A four-year degree with 4,500 hours experience in leading projects and 35 hours project management education
  • PMP certificate holders must earn 60 professional development units (PDUs) every three years.
  • Candidates who do not meet the PMP requirements may consider a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification, ideal for those looking to gain more experience in managing larger projects.

Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)

  • Provider: Scrum Alliance
  • Skills: Provides in-depth knowledge of Scrum values, practices and applications; also qualifies for team management of proper use of Scrum software
  • Designed for: For employees or members of an organization whose company uses Scrum software looking to increase expertise in Scrum project management, as well as for professionals looking to expand their career opportunities using Scrum across industry sectors
  • Duration and Cost:
    • Certification requires taking an in-person, two-day CSM course from a Certified Scrum Trainer, followed by passing a 35-question online CSM test. Certified Scrum Trainers pay the initial membership fee for students who successfully complete a Certified ScrumMaster course, which includes the cost of the CSM test and the first two years of membership.
    • Candidates can find a comprehensive list of Scrum-certified trainers nationwide. Course costs vary based on location and trainer, but generally range from $1,000 to $1,400.
  • Key Facts:
    • Certified Scrum Masters will become part of the official Scrum Alliance community and are offered a number of networking opportunities.
    • CSM membership must be renewed every two years, through the Scrum Alliance organization, for a fee of $100.
    • Advanced level options include the Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) certification, enabling business professionals to serve as Product Owner on a Scrum team. Certification is also available for a Certified Scrum Developer (CSD) who has mastered specialized Agile engineering skills.

Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)

  • Provider: ISACA
  • Skills: Validates ability to assess risk management proficiency and develop and implement appropriate IS controls
  • Designed for: IT professionals who have some experience and interest in advancing in business and technology risk management
  • Duration and Cost:
    • Certification requires passing the CRISC exam, which costs $490 for members ($440 for early registration) and $675 for non members ($625 for early registration). The exam is completed within a 4-hour timeframe.
    • CRISC provides study training materials through its website. The basic study training manual costs $85 for members and $115 for non-members. A full 12-month subscription to the study database costs $185 for members and $225 for non-members.
    • CRISC review courses are also available through local ISACA chapters nationwide. Onsite and virtual courses range from two days to classes spread out over almost two months, and costs depend on location and on member status. Costs for members range from $300 to $630 for a virtual course, and from $400 to $810 for an onsite course. Costs for non-members range from $500 to $770 for a virtual course, and from $500 to $990 for an onsite course.
  • Key Facts:
    • Prerequisites include at least three years experience in two of the four CRISC domains: IT Risk Identification; IT Risk Assessment; Risk Response and Mitigation; and Risk and Control Monitoring and Reporting. One of which must be either Domain 1 or 2. Candidates must also submit an application once the certification exam has been passed.
    • In order to maintain certification, professionals must pay maintenance fees ($45 for members and $85 for nonmembers) and complete a minimum of 20 contact hours of CPE on an annual basis. In addition, at least 120 contact hours are required over a fixed 3-year period.

Citrix Certified Professional – Virtualization (CCP-V)

  • Provider: Citrix
  • Skills: Validates the skills IT solution builders need to install, configure, and implement common XenDesktop solutions
  • Designed for: IT Engineers and Consultants
  • Duration and Cost:
    • Certification requires passing the 1Y0-301 Deploying Citrix XenDesktop 7.6 Solutions exam ($300). The exam is taken within a 90-minute time frame through Pearson VUE.
    • Citrix offers a five-day training course, available through an on-site facilitator or through a virtual instructor-led platform. On-site training costs vary by location, ranging from $2,500 to $5,000; virtual instructor-led courses cost $5,000. Additionally, Citrix users can purchase a 12-month e-learning subscription for $600 that provides access to 20 Citrix Education courses.
  • Key Facts:
    • The Citrix Certified Associate – Virtualization (CCA-V) certification is a lower-level option for IT Operators and Administrators who manage XenDesktop solutions
    • The Citrix Certified Expert – Virtualization (CCE-V) certification is a more advanced option for IT solution designers such as Architects, Engineers and Consultants.
    • Candidates can opt to update their certification level at any point during the three-year certification period.
    • Certifications are valid for three years and must be updated within that time frame by completing the prescribed path given upon certification.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

  • Provider: (ISC)2
  • Skills: Validates technical and managerial skills in security and risk management, asset security, security engineering, communications and network security, identity and access management, security assessment and testing, security operations and software development security
  • Designed for: Security Consultants, Security Managers, IT Director/Managers, Security Auditors, Security Architects, Security Analysts, Security Systems Engineers, Chief Information Security Officers, Directors of Security and Network Architects
  • Duration and Cost:
    • Certification requires passing the CISSP exam ($599). The exam is completed within a 6-hour time frame at a Pearson VUE testing facility.
    • (ISC)2 offers classroom-based courses and trainings through (ISC)2 and associated providers. Classroom-based courses through (ISC)2 last five days and cost $3,800. Live online webinars are held twice a week for eight weeks at a cost of $2,700.
    • (ISC)2 also offers hardcover and digital textbooks, ranging in price from $65 to $68. Official hardcover and Kindle study guides are also available, from $37 to $40.
  • Key Facts:
    • Three CISSP Concentration certifications are offered for those looking to validate expertise beyond that required for the CISSP credential. These include the CISSP in Architecture (CISSP-ISSAP), the CISSP in Engineering (CISSP-ISSEP) and the CISSP in Management (CISSP-ISSMP). Applicants must have at least two years experience in their respective field and complete an application process.
    • The Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP) certification is a lower-level option for professionals working towards the types of roles towards which the CISSP is aimed.

Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

  • Provider: ISACA
  • Skills: Validates an understanding of the relationship between an information security program and overarching business objectives
  • Designed for: Professionals with experience in information security management who are looking to advance their career opportunities
  • Duration and Cost:
    • Requires passing the CISM exam, which costs $490 for members ($440 for early registration) and $675 for non-members ($625 for early registration). The exam is completed within a 4-hour timeframe.
    • CRISC provides study training materials through its website. The basic study training manual costs $85 for members and $115 for non-members, while a full 12-month subscription to the study database costs $185 for members and $225 for non-members.
    • CRISC review courses are also available through local ISACA chapters nationwide. Onsite and virtual courses range from one to two days in length, and costs depend on location and member status. Costs for members range from $300 to $630 for a virtual course, and from $400 to $810 for an onsite course. Costs for non members range from $500 to $770 for a virtual course and from $500 to $990 for an onsite course.
  • Key Facts:
    • Prerequisites include submitting documentation of five years of information security work experience, including at least three years information security management in three or more of the job practice analysis domains: Information Security Governance; Information Risk Management and Compliance; Information Security Program Development and Management; and Information Security Incident Management. Work experience must be within the past 10 years or earned within five years from date of passing the exam.
    • *Experience substitutions (*not valid for required three years in information security domains) include one of the following options:
      • Two years as a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) or a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) in good standing OR a post-graduate degree in information security or a related field (business administration, information systems, information assurance)
      • One year of full-time experience in information systems management or in general security management, along with skill-based security certifications (such as SANS Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC), Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), CompTIA Security+, Disaster Recovery Institute Certified Business Continuity Professional (CBCP), ESL IT Security Manager) as well as completion of an information security management program at an institution aligned with the Model Curriculum.
    • For professionals who have a passing exam score but do not complete the required work experience, certifications are only valid for five years.
    • In order to maintain certification, professionals must pay maintenance fees ($45 for members and $85 for nonmembers) and complete a minimum of 20 contact hours of CPE annually. In addition, at least 120 contact hours are required over a fixed 3-year period

Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional Credential (CSSLP)

  • Provider: (ISC)2
  • Skills: Developing application security programs, managing production processes and managing software security
  • Designed for: Professionals involved in the software development lifecycle (SDLC) with a minimum of four years full-time work experience
  • Duration and Cost:
    • Certification requires passing the CSSLP exam ($549). The exam is completed within a 4-hour time frame at a Pearson VUE testing facility.
    • (ISC)2 offers classroom-based courses and trainings through (ISC)2 and associated providers, as well as live online webinars. Classroom-based courses through (ISC)2 last five days and cost about $2,500. Live online webinars are held twice a week for eight weeks at a cost of $2,700.
    • (ISC)2 also offers hardcover and Kindle study guides, costing from $32 to $85.
  • Key Facts:
    • Professionals who have less than four years full-time experience in the area of SCLD can become an Associate of (ISC)2 by pursuing the CCSLP CBT certification.