Top IT Certifications To Boost Your Computer Science Career

Computers are increasingly ubiquitous across professions, boosting the need for information technology (IT) support and management. Cybersecurity, cloud computing, and project management certifications are just a few of the credentials that allow IT professionals to remain at the top of their field. IT certifications also benefit students entering the job market, boosting their hireability and salary potential.

The top IT certifications cover the competencies needed to stay abreast of the latest trends, issues, and innovations in IT positions. IT certifications demonstrate expertise to employers, leading to leadership positions and providing professional development and enrichment. This guide covers some of the top certifications for IT professionals.

Top 10 IT Certifications of 2019

Google Cloud Certified Professional Architect

Average Salary $139,529
Cost $200
Designed For IT professionals who seek to work with Google Cloud technologies; the GCP Cloud Architect credential demonstrates expertise in cloud architecture design, development, and management.
Prerequisites There are no prerequisites for the GCP certificate, but learners benefit from background knowledge of cloud computing technologies.
How to Prepare

Global Knowledge offers a preparatory guide for GCP candidates. The guide provides an overview of the exam and includes tips about how to prepare. An additional cloud infrastructure learning path provides overviews of Google cloud training courses with practice and play options.

Through Coursera, Google Cloud provides a free course on architecting with Google Cloud Platform specialization. The online course combines presentations, demonstrations, and hands-on tools while exploring cloud security, access, and management.

Maintaining Certification and Renewal Certifications last for two years, at which point learners must pass the multiple-choice exam again. The two-hour exam always costs $200.
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AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate

Average Salary $108,000
Cost $150
Designed For Individuals working with solutions architecture with at least one year of experience in the field.
Prerequisites No prerequisites exist, but at least one year in the field is recommended.
How to Prepare Amazon offers training and preparatory materials for exam takers, such as an exam guide and sample questions, exam readiness training, and a practice exam. With the exam guide, learners gain insight into the technology and business essentials covered on the exam. The six-hour digital training course defines the use, principles, and compliance aspects of the AWS platform. The practice exam is a timed exercise modeled after the actual exam.
Maintaining Certification and Renewal The AWS certification lasts three years. To renew, individuals must retake the exam. Amazon offers discount vouchers for renewal. At the associate level, learners can recertify for the same credential or advance to the professional-level exam.
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AWS Certified Developer - Associate

Average Salary $97,000
Cost $150
Designed For Individuals with at least one year of experience developing and maintaining an AWS-based application. The certification demonstrates the ability to develop, deploy, and debug cloud-based applications.
Prerequisites Amazon recommends gaining knowledge of at least one high-level programming language and at least one year of experience before taking the exam. No prerequisites exist, but learners benefit from previous use of AWS services and security practices.
How to Prepare Amazon offers exam guides, an exam readiness course, sample questions, and a practice exam. During the exam readiness course, students review sample questions and learn how to apply AWS concepts effectively. Topics include creating code to optimize AWS services, coding security for AWS services, and choosing appropriate software development kits for AWS services.
Maintaining Certification and Renewal AWS certifications last for three years. Associate-level certification involves retaking the exam. Amazon offers discount vouchers for recertification. At the associate level, learners can advance to the professional exam for recertification, as well.
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Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

Average Salary $124,000
Cost $575 for members; $760 for nonmembers
Designed For Offered by ISACA, the CISM program demonstrates business management expertise while building competencies in information security management, design, and oversight.
Prerequisites Candidates need five years of experience in the field, but no prerequisite coursework exists. Learners benefit from at least three years of experience as a security manager. Exam domain areas include information security governance, information risk management, information security program development and management, and information security incident management.
How to Prepare

ISACA offers an exam candidate guide with information about registration, test dates, and exam processes. An online review course covers the four areas on the exam through videos, interactive content, case study activities, and a practice exam. Learners can access the self-paced program for one year. Seventeen hours of preparatory content is $795 for ISACA members and $895 for nonmembers.

ISACA also provides study materials and a self-assessment exam to help learners prepare. The CISM review manual includes review questions, answers, and explanations alongside knowledge checks and case study scenarios. The manual costs $135.

Maintaining Certification and Renewal CISMs can recertify annually or every three years. Individuals must demonstrate at least 20 continuing education hours each year. The three-year recertification requires 120 hours of continuing education. CISMs must also pay an annual maintenance fee.
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Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)

Average Salary $119,000
Cost $575 for members; $760 for nonmembers
Designed For ISACA's CRISC credential prepares IT professionals to identify, assess, and respond to security risks while building advanced knowledge of risk control monitoring and reporting.
Prerequisites No prerequisite coursework exists for the CRISC credential, but learners need at least three years of experience working within two of the four domains identified by ISACA. Domain areas include include information security governance, information risk management, information security program development and management, and information security incident management.
How to Prepare ISACA offers an online review course and a preparatory handbook for the exam. The online review course includes 12 hours of online content, including videos, interactive activities, and downloadable workbooks. Course content explores the four domain areas covered on the exam while emphasizing identification of information technology risks, managerial and strategic aspects of risk control, and techniques for risk monitoring and reporting. Additional preparatory materials include a CRISC self assessment and practice exam. ISACA also provides onsite review courses, downloadable study materials, a terminology list, and detailed information on job practice areas.
Maintaining Certification and Renewal To maintain the CRISC credential, learners must submit documentation proving continuing education requirements annually or every three years. Three-year renewal requires 120 continuing education hours, while one-year renewal requires 20 hours. Individuals must also submit an annual certification maintenance fee.
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Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

Average Salary $109,000
Cost $699
Designed For The CISSP credential is offered through the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC)² and demonstrates expertise in designing, implementing, and managing cybersecurity programs.
Prerequisites Applicants need at least five years of full-time experience working within two of the eight CISSP areas of emphasis. Emphasis areas include security and risk management, asset security, communication and network security, and security assessment and testing.
How to Prepare (ISC)² offers downloadable exam outlines in eight languages alongside glossaries and acronym guides. (ISC)² also provides four training programs for the exam. Learners can complete a classroom-based or online instructor-led program, an online self-paced course, or onsite study. Members of (ISC)² receive discounts on self-study resources offered by the organization. Self-study materials include practice tests, flash cards, and a comprehensive study guide.
Maintaining Certification and Renewal CISSP professionals must submit documentation from continuing education hours each year, as well as an annual maintenance fee. Certifications and renewals last for three years. Credential holders receive automatic renewal as long as they meet annual requirements.
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Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

Average Salary $90,000
Cost $850 including official training; $100 without training (must be approved through the eligibility process)
Designed For Offered by the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants (EC-Council), the ethical hacker certificate is designed for security officers, auditors, site administrators, and other individuals responsible for maintaining network and data security.
Prerequisites There are no prerequisite courses or credentials for the CEH exam. Learners who do not complete the training program offered by EC-Council need at least two years of experience working in information security to take the exam.
How to Prepare EC-Council offers a training program for the exam. The training program includes 20 comprehensive modules that explore 340 attack technologies used by hackers. Modules include social engineering, vulnerability analysis, and cryptography. Students can complete the course through self study, a live online training, in person, or as a Masterclass. The training lasts five days.
Maintaining Certification and Renewal The CEH credential is valid for three years. Holders need 120 hours of continuing education during that period. Students can earn continuing education hours through online and in-person activities, such as conferences, webinars, and research.
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CompTIA Security+

Average Salary $72,000
Cost $339
Designed For Designed to be the first security certification held by IT professionals, the CompTIA Security+ credential builds foundational knowledge of risk management, risk mitigation, threat management, and intrusion detection. The certification also trains professionals to implement, install, and configure secure network and wireless security systems.
Prerequisites No prerequisites for the CompTIA Security+ examination exist, but current IT auditors, penetration testers, systems administrators, and security professionals benefit from their experience in the field.
How to Prepare CompTIA provides extensive preparatory materials for the CompTIA Security+ exam. Learners can participate in e-learning courses by completing performance-based questions through interactive and self-paced exercises. Virtual labs allow learners to gain insight into the subject matter while reinforcing practical aspects of the exam. Additional exam readiness and study guide options accompany an instructor-led training that learners can complete online, either individually or in a group. Learners can also access interactive videos and in-classroom trainings.
Maintaining Certification and Renewal To maintain the CompTIA Security+ credential, learners must complete 50 continuing education hours over three years. After three years, the certification automatically renews. Students can meet continuing education requirements through online courses offered by CompTIA, higher certifications, or comparable field-specific activities.
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Sub-introduction

Certifications applicable to IT do not always draw specifically from the field. With information security being an essential component to businesses and industries worldwide, IT professionals may also benefit from certifications in project management, business leadership, and teambuilding.

Project Management Professional (PMP)

Average Salary $104,000
Cost $405 for members; $555 for nonmembers
Designed For Offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), PMP certification demonstrates expertise in planning, implementing, and leading projects while effectively working with teams and colleagues.
Prerequisites Applicants with a high school diploma, associate degree, or international equivalent need at least 35 hours of project management education and 7,500 hours of project leadership and direction experience. Candidates with a bachelor's degree need 35 hours of project management education and 4,500 hours of project leadership and direction experience.
How to Prepare PMI offers exam guidance and resources, including outline content, sample questions, and a comprehensive handbook. PMI chapters provide formal study courses. PMP exam prep classes incorporate 35 contact hours through an online portal. Registrants receive a focused PMP certification curriculum guide, access to simulation tools, one-on-one instructor interaction, and application assistance.
Maintaining Certification and Renewal To maintain the PMP certification, holders must complete 60 units of professional development work every three years. A renewal fee also applies. PMI offers courses that meet professional development requirements. Additional ways to earn professional development hours include working as a practitioner, creating content, and giving formal presentations. Organizational meetings, certifications, online courses from outside entities, and self-directed study also qualify.
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Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)

Average Salary $104,000
Cost ~$1,000 (varies by course provider)
Designed For Grounded in the Scrum framework, the CSM credential offered by ScrumAlliance demonstrates expertise in the values and principles needed to effectively lead teams and groups while minimizing external and internal distractions.
Prerequisites Candidates must complete a 16-hour course taught by a Certified Scrum Trainer. No additional prerequisites exist.
How to Prepare Preparation for the CSM exam takes place over a two-day, 16-hour workshop. The workshop explores foundational elements of Scrum, such as Scrum roles, the Sprint, and release planning. The Sprint emphasizes project backlog, planning, review, and retrospective, while release planning focuses on estimating product backlog and release planning meetings. After completing the workshop, learners take a 50-question exam to demonstrate Scrum competencies.
Maintaining Certification and Renewal To maintain the credential, certification holders must complete 40 Scrum education units every two years. To earn education units, individuals can participate in community webinars, Scrum events, or Scrum research and writing activities. CSMs who miss recertification deadlines must complete additional education units to renew their credentials.
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