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Computer science certifications can open the door to new jobs and better salaries. You can consider earning a credential instead of or in addition to a computer science degree.
The tech industry places a premium on professional certifications, which let people demonstrate their expertise and skills. Although not required across the board, some employers require or prefer candidates with a certification for certain roles.
Learn about some of the best IT certifications for computer science careers below. We describe what each credential covers, who it is useful for, the potential career benefits from pursuing it, and how to earn it.
Top Certifications for Computer Science Professionals
Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
EC-Council offers the CEH. One of the most well-known security-focused computer science certifications, the vendor-neutral CEH proves competency in ethical hacking. This includes aptitude in identifying vulnerabilities and weaknesses in computer systems and ensuring network infrastructure integrity. Candidates must pass the four-hour, 125-question CEH exam (312-50).
- Cost: $100 application fee and $950 for an ECC exam voucher or $1,199 for a Pearson Vue voucher
- Prerequisites: At least two years of experience in the information security field, or attend an official EC-Council training, or hold a CEH certification of version 1 to 7
- How to Prepare: Applicants can prepare for the CEH exam by consulting the CEH Handbook and taking the CEH Assessment to get an idea of the types of questions that may appear on the test.
- Maintaining Certification: CEH-holders must recertify every three years by completing 120 continuing education credits. EC-Council requires an $80 membership fee each time a member recertifies.
- Ideal For: Cybersecurity professionals, auditors, website administrators, and security officers
CompTIA IT Fundamentals (ITF+)
One of the best IT certifications for beginners, this pre-career credential from CompTIA focuses on basic IT knowledge and skills. The ITF+ showcases competencies in IT terminology and concepts, database fundamentals, software development, and applications. Candidates must pass the CompTIA IT Fundamentals exam.
- Cost: $134
- Prerequisites: No prior experience required.
- How to Prepare: Prepare with CompTIA's IT fundamentals training. This includes exam prep, study guides, and virtual labs.
- Maintaining Certification: The ITF+ does not require renewal. The certification is valid for life.
- Ideal For: Students and career-changers considering a career in IT and non-technical professionals in IT organizations.
Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
Cisco offers the CCNA for people seeking a career in networking. The credential certifies competency in networking fundamentals.
This includes knowledge of automation and programmability, network access, IP services, and security fundamentals. Candidates must pass the 2-hour 200-301 CCNA exam.
- Cost: $300
- Prerequisites: None, but they recommend at least one year administering and implementing Cisco solutions
- How to Prepare: Cisco provides a recommended course on implementing and administering Cisco solutions for the CCNA. Students get access to official practice questions, simulation tools, webinars, and training videos. The CCNA 200-301 Official Cert Guide Library can also help candidates prepare.
- Maintaining Certification: CCNA-holders must renew the certification every three years by passing a qualifying exam or completing 30 continuing education credits.
- Ideal For: Beginner IT workers who want computer certifications that can expand their job possibilities to roles like network administrator, entry-level network engineer, and network support technician.
The CompTIA A+ is one of the best IT certifications for individuals looking to start a career in information technology. The beginner-friendly credential demonstrates that you hold foundational IT skills including software troubleshooting, virtualization and cloud computing, operating systems, and operational procedures. Applicants must pass two exams: Core 1 (220-1101) and Core 2 (220-1102).
- Cost: $246 per exam (must take two)
- Prerequisites: 9-12 months of hands-on IT experience recommended
- How to Prepare: CompTIA offers many training opportunities to prepare for the CompTIA A+ exam including study guides, exam prep, and virtual labs.
- Maintaining Certification: Every three years, CompTIA A+ certified professionals must complete 20 continuing education units. Alternatively, they can pass CertMaster CE, an online, self-paced CE course.
- Ideal For: Prospective or current beginner IT workers. The CompTIA A+ is useful for roles like help desk tech, junior systems administrator, and system support technician.
Cisco Certified Technician (CCT)
Earning Cisco's CCT certification shows employers your expertise with Cisco networking and system devices. The certification is available in three different technology tracks: CTC collaboration, CTC data center, and CTC routing and switching. Candidates take a different exam depending on the track they pursue.
- Cost: $125 per exam
- Prerequisites: No formal prerequisites.
- How to Prepare: Cisco recommends candidates complete the training course that aligns with the exam they plan to take.
- Maintaining Certification: Must recertify every three years by taking exams, completing continuing education, or both
- Ideal For: Technicians working with Cisco networking and system devices
Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
(ISC)² offers the CISSP, one of the best IT certifications for cybersecurity professionals. The credential demonstrates expertise in the design, implementation, and management of cybersecurity programs.
Candidates must pass the CISSP exam, which covers domains like asset security, software development security, and communication and network security. After passing the exam, candidates complete an online endorsement process and agree to the (ISC)² code of ethics.
- Cost: (ISC)² certified members pay an annual maintenance fee of $125.
- Prerequisites: Five years of cumulative, paid IT experience in at least two of the eight (ISC)² CISSP Common Body of Knowledge domains required
- How to Prepare: Consult the free CISSP Ultimate Guide to learn what to expect on the exam and tips for how to prepare for it.
- Maintaining Certification: CISSP-holders must pay a $125 annual maintenance fee.
- Ideal For: Experienced cybersecurity managers and practitioners. This includes jobs like chief information security officer, director of security, and security systems engineer.
AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional
The AWS Certified Solutions Architect demonstrates proficiency with creating, deploying, and assessing applications on Amazon Web Services. Applicants must take and pass the 180-minute AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional exam. The test covers knowledge in cost control, continuous improvement, and design for organizational complexity.
- Cost: $300
- Prerequisites: Two or more years of experience designing cloud architecture on AWS (recommended). Other recommendations include familiarity with AWS CLI, WS CloudFormation templates, and AWS Management Console.
- How to Prepare: Amazon Web Services offers free exam prep resources, including an exam guide and sample questions.
- Maintaining Certification: The certification lasts three years. To maintain the credential, you can take the current version of the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional exam. Certified individuals can get 50% off the recertification exam using their voucher code.
- Ideal For: Professionals who use AWS, such as a solutions architect
CompTIA offers the Cloud+ computer science certifications for computer science professionals who work in the cloud. It demonstrates knowledge of cloud architecture and design, cloud security, cloud deployment, and troubleshooting. This is the only cloud-focused certification with Department of Defense approval.
- Cost: $358
- Prerequisites: CompTIA recommends 2-3 years in networking or systems administration (five years total in IT) and experience with CompTIA Network+ and Server+. Candidates must pass the CompTIA Cloud+ exam.
- How to Prepare: CompTIA offers certification training to prepare candidates for the Cloud+ exam. This includes interactive labs, instructor-led classes, and study guides.
- Maintaining Certification: CompTIA Cloud+-holders must complete 50 continuing education units (CEU) every three years. The credential automatically renews when you upload your CEUs to your certification account.
- Ideal For: Senior level professionals whose jobs deal with the cloud. Examples include roles like cloud project manager, cloud engineer, and senior systems administrator.
Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect
The Professional Cloud Architect from Google is one of the best IT certifications for individuals who want to demonstrate their expertise in Google Cloud technologies and cloud architecture. The credential shows employers that you can design for security, optimize processes, and manage cloud solution infrastructure.
- Cost: $200 registration fee
- Prerequisites: None required. Google recommends applicants have at least three years of industry experience including one year using Google Cloud to design and manage solutions.
- How to Prepare: Consult the exam guide, which explains all of the skills covered on the test. Complete the Professional Cloud Architect learning path with online training, hands-on practice, and in-person classes.
- Maintaining Certification: Recertify every two years by retaking and passing the certification exam.
- Ideal For: Cloud architects using Google Cloud
Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
The CISM certification from ISACA can help candidates move into management positions in information security. The credential indicates expertise with incident management, information security governance, risk management, and program development.
Applicants must pass the CISM certification exam and agree to ISACA’s code of professional ethics. Globally, CISM-holders earn an average salary of more than $149,000.
- Cost: $575/$760
- Prerequisites: At least five years of professional experience in information security management. Test-takers can substitute some other certifications or education to count towards 1-2 years of the five-year requirement.
- How to Prepare: ISACA offers various exam prep materials. This includes an online review course, review manuals, and review questions and answers.
- Maintaining Certification: CISM-holders must maintain certification by completing 120 continuing education credits every three years including at least 20 annually. They need to pay an annual CISM maintenance fee ($45 for members, $85 for non-members). Recertification also requires complying with the annual CPE audit (if selected) and agreeing to ISACA’s Code of Professional Ethics.
- Ideal For: Those working in information security management
How IT Certifications Benefit Careers in Computer Science
Earning IT certifications can provide various benefits to computer science professionals, including improving job prospects, expanding knowledge of the field, and creating advancement opportunities.
For example, the Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) certification opens the door for information security professionals to pursue management roles, which often come with higher salaries.
The tech industry in general places a high value on IT certifications, and it is not uncommon for companies to prefer candidates that hold specific credentials.
Some organizations may let job applicants substitute a certification for a computer science-related degree or education.
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FAQ About Certifications and Computer Science Careers
Which IT certifications are in demand?
In-demand computer science certifications include the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), and AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional.
What is the best IT certification for a beginner?
The best IT certifications for beginners include the CompTIA IT Fundamentals (ITF+), Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), and CompTIA A+.
Which certifications can boost your salary?
Many different types of computer certifications can potentially boost your salary, but no certification is a guarantee that you will make more money. Consider a certification that boosts in-demand skills in cybersecurity or cloud computing.
How do I choose which computer certifications I need?
Choose computer science certifications that align with your career goals. Look at job postings that interest you and see what types of skills and/or certifications they require or prefer.
Page last reviewed Nov 2, 2022
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