Tech employers commonly seek candidates with computer science certifications. Completing a credential relevant to your career goals can help you expand your knowledge, qualify for better opportunities, and negotiate for a higher starting salary.
According to a 2021 report from Skillsoft Global Knowledge that surveyed over 9,000 IT professionals globally, 92% held at least one certification. Learn about some of the most popular computer science certifications below.
What Are Computer Science Certifications?
Tech professionals earn computer science and IT certifications to demonstrate skills, knowledge, and areas of competency and/or expertise.
Unlike licenses, which the government may require for jobs in healthcare or education, certifications are voluntary. Certifications also differ from academic certificates — which educational institutions confer.
Professional organizations typically provide computer science certifications. To qualify for certification, applicants usually must meet education and experience prerequisites and pass an exam. The time it takes to earn a certification varies depending on the candidate's previous knowledge and whether they complete certification courses.
The tech industry prefers or requires certifications for some positions. Candidates can pursue various computer science certifications for different specializations and levels of experience.
Common Computer Science Certifications
Cisco Systems offers computer science training and certification programs that prepare candidates to work with Cisco products.
CCIE Data Center Certification
The CCIE data center certification demonstrates expert-level competency in data center automation. It prepares candidates for technical leadership positions at data centers. Applicants must pass core and lab exams.
Cost: $400 (core exam), $1,600-$1,900 (lab exam)
Prerequisites: 5-7 years of experience with data center solutions and technologies recommended
How to Prepare: Take practice labs similar to what appears on the exam; take the Implementing Cisco Data Center Core Technologies class
Maintaining Certification: Recertify every three years by completing continuing education, taking exams, or a combination of the two.
Designed For: Tech professionals seeking leadership roles at data centers.
Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE) Certification
Cisco's CCDE certification demonstrates expertise in technology and business. This credential validates advanced knowledge of the science and art of enterprise network design. Each candidate must pass a qualifying exam and an eight-hour practical exam.
Cost: $450 (CCDE written exam), $1,600-$1,900 (lab exam)
Prerequisites: Recommended 5-7 years of experience designing and architecting network solutions and related work
How to Prepare: Explore the CCDE book list for recommended reading
Maintaining Certification: Recertify every three years by earning continuing education credits, passing an exam, or a combination of both
Designed For: Candidates seeking expert-level roles in network architecture and designs
Cisco DevNet Professional
Cisco's DevNet Professional certification verifies that candidates hold the skills to develop and maintain applications on Cisco platforms. They can implement network applications and test and deploy automation. Each applicant must pass a core exam and a concentration exam.
Cost: $400 (core exam) and $300 (concentration exam)
Prerequisites: 3-5 years experience with software development and Python programming recommended; no formal prerequisites required
How to Prepare: Take the Developing Applications Using Cisco Core Platforms and APIs (DEVCOR) v1.0 training. Practice with Cisco learning labs, modeling labs, and simulation tools.
Maintaining Certification: Recertify every three years by passing a professional concentration exam and earning 40 continuing education credits or earning 80 continuing education credits
Designed For: Senior software developers, senior network designers, senior infrastructure architects, senior network automation engineers
Popular Online Programs
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA)
CompTIA offers many vendor-neutral computer science certifications, training, continuing education, and events.
The CompTIA A+ certification demonstrates competencies in hardware, operating systems, software troubleshooting, and mobile devices. Companies like Intel, HP, and Dell use A+ for critical entry-level IT support roles.
Cost: $246 per exam
Prerequisites: None; 9-12 months of experience recommended
How to Prepare: Virtual labs, e-learning, exam prep, and study guides
Maintaining Certification: Complete 20 continuing education units every three years
Designed For: Entry-level professionals inIT support jobs like help desk tech, junior systems administrator, and system support technician
The CompTIA Security+ certification demonstrates competencies in skills necessary for IT security careers. Candidates learn about architecture and design, operations and incident response, and threats and vulnerabilities.
Prerequisites: Two years of experience in IT administration with a security focus and experience with CompTIA Network+
How to Prepare: Virtual labs, study guides, and instructor-led training
Maintaining Certification: Complete 50 continuing education units every three years
Designed For: Entry-level cybersecurity professionals in roles like security administrator, security engineer, or IT project manager
The CompTIA Network+ credential indicates expertise in networking fundamentals, network operations, and network troubleshooting.
Prerequisites: Must hold the CompTIA A+ Certification and 9-12 months of networking experience
How to Prepare: Study guides, instructor-led training, and virtual labs
Maintaining Certification: Complete 30 continuing education units every three years
Designed For: Early-career professionals in roles like network engineer, system administrator, and junior network administrator
The EC-Council offers professional certifications related to information security and e-business. Many of the credentials have global recognition and received endorsements from government agencies.
Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
The EC-Council's vendor-neutral CEH certification demonstrates aptitude in thinking like a hacker to identify vulnerabilities and make computer systems more secure. Candidates must pass the four-hour, 125-question CEH exam.
Prerequisites: At least two years of professional experience in information security, complete an official EC-Council training, or hold a CEH certification of version 1-7
How to Prepare: See the CEH Handbook and CEH Exam Blueprint
Maintaining Certification: Complete 120 continuing education credits every three years
Designed For: Information security professionals, website administrators, auditors
Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI)
The EC-Council's CHFI vendor-neutral certification prepares applicants to become computer hacking forensic investigators. Candidates must pass the four-hour, 150-question exam EC0 312-49. Participants learn to investigate security threats and prevent future cyberattacks.
Prerequisites: Possess at least two years of professional experience in information security and education in digital security or complete an official EC-Council training
How to Prepare: Read the CHFI Handbook and CHFI Blueprint
Maintaining Certification: Complete120 continuing education credits every three years
Designed For: Systems administrators, IT managers, law enforcement, military and defense personnel
Microsoft offers many globally recognized computer science certifications that demonstrate technical skills using Microsoft products.
Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Fundamentals
This certification demonstrates mastery of working with data in Azure, Microsoft's cloud computing platform. Candidates understand core concepts related to big data, relational and nonrelational data, and analytics. This certification is good for anyone beginning to work with Azure data services. Each applicant must pass the DP-900: Microsoft Azure Data Fundamentals.
Prerequisites:Azure fundamentals training and certification (for anyone new to Azure) and familiarity with relational and nonrelational data and data workloads
How to Prepare: Take the practice exam, study relevant self-paced content or attend an instructor-led training event, and practice with a trial subscription
Maintaining Certification: No expiration
Designed For: Database administrators, data engineers, developers, data analysts
Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Scientist Associate
This credential assesses skill in designing and preparing machine learning solutions, deploying and retraining models, and preparing models for deployment. Candidates must pass the Exam DP-100: Designing and Implementing a Data Science Solution on Azure.
Prerequisites: Expertise in applying machine learning and data science to Azure workloads
How to Prepare: Take the official practice test; complete free self-paced online training or paid instructor-led courses
Maintaining Certification: Pass the renewal assessment for this certification yearly
Designed For: Data scientists and other computer science professionals working in data science
Amazon Web Services (AWS)
Amazon Web Services offers more than 10 certifications that attest to cloud expertise and technical skills using AWS at different experience levels.
AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional
This professional-level certification demonstrates advanced skills in implementing cloud initiatives on Amazon Web Services. Candidates learn to optimize security, automate manual processes, and come up with complex solutions to complex problems. You must pass the 180-minute AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional exam (SAP-C02).
Prerequisites: Minimum of two years of AWS Cloud experience recommended.
How to Prepare: Attend a paid in-person or online exam prep bootcamp; download a free exam guide and sample questions
Maintaining Certification: Pass the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional exam every three years
Designed For: Requires advanced skills and knowledge
AWS Certified Developer - Associate
This associate-level credential indicates its holder's understanding of core AWS uses, services, and basic architecture. The certification also demonstrates skills in using AWS to debug, deploy, and develop cloud-based applications. Each candidate must pass a 130-minute, 65-question exam.
Prerequisites: Recommended experience with AWS technology, working in a developer position and in-depth knowledge of at least one programming language, strong IT experience, or working on other cloud services
How to Prepare: Explore the exam guide and sample questions; complete a webinar or digital training
Maintaining Certification: Pass the associate exam every three years
Designed For: AWS developers
AWS Certified Machine Learning - Specialty
This AWS certification demonstrates that candidates can build, train, and deploy machine learning models. The credential requires passing the 65-question, 180-minute specialty exam.
Prerequisites: At least two years of experience developing, running, and architecting AWS Cloud workloads recommended; other recommendations include experience with machine learning and deep learning and knowledge of basic machine learning algorithms
How to Prepare: Explore digital training, the exam guide, and sample questions
Maintaining Certification: Pass the certification every three years
Designed For: Machine learning professionals using AWS
Why Get a Computer Science Certification?
Earning computer science certifications can help computer science professionals improve their job prospects, expand their knowledge of the field, and pursue advancement opportunities. Although employers may not require certifications, they are very popular in the computer science field. Computer science professionals who do not hold certifications may miss out on career opportunities.
Which Computer Science Certification Should You Get?
When considering the right computer science certification, think about your career goals and the certifications that can best help you meet them. For example, if you work in information security, consider the EC-Council's CEH credential.
Factor in cost, time commitment, and whether you meet the required prerequisites. Do you have the minimum education level and/or work experience to apply? Sometimes it makes sense to pursue multiple certifications.
Consider where the certification is valid, as well. Some certifications have worldwide recognition, while others only apply to specific areas. Most certifications require renewal every few years by completing continuing education credits.
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More Questions About Computer Science Certifications
Which computer science certifications are the most popular?
Popular computer science certifications include the CompTIA A+, Cisco's CCDE, EC-Council's CEH, and AWS-certified solutions architect - professional. Popularity varies depending on specialization, employer, and field.
Do computer science majors need certifications?
While computer science majors can benefit from earning certifications, they are not an industry requirement. However, some employers and jobs require specific certifications. Look at job listings to develop a sense of the certifications companies prefer or require.
Which computer science certification is the hardest to get?
Some of the most difficult computer science certifications to earn include Cisco's certified internetwork expert certifications and the (ISC)² certified information systems security professional credential.
Do computer science certifications help you get a job?
Yes — computer science certifications can help you get a job. They do not guarantee any job but can help you differentiate yourself from other applicants. Earning a certification demonstrates to potential employers that you possess the necessary skills and knowledge for the job.
Page last reviewed on Dec 1, 2022