ITCareerFinder examines salary data and hiring trends to determine the top paying IT certifications and why they demand a premium.
This article will be updated annually with the latest credentials and wages. Current year: 2021.
Do IT certifications really pay off? It depends.
According to the IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index published by renowned analyst firm Foote Partners LLC, tech certifications continued their three-year plunge in value during the third quarter of 2021 and are now at their lowest point since early 2013.
However, there are still some IT certificates that employers are willing to pay extra for.
To ensure that you invest in the training and certifications that offer the highest potential return, here are 12 of the highest paying IT certifications for 2021.
With companies everywhere looking for solutions to burgeoning cyber security issues, GSE's rigorous, hands-on exam, lab exam and experience requirements – covering general security skills, incident handling, intrusion detection and analysis – sets it apart and makes it particularly valuable for individual contributors said David Foote, Foote Partners’ chief analyst & CRO.
In fact, employers are willing to pay high salaries and median cash bonuses or premiums equivalent to 13% of base salary to tech workers and leaders who get GSE certified.
For example, according to Foote Partners’ 2021 IT Professional Salary Survey, the average total cash compensation (including premiums) for certified cyber security specialists is $108,703, while certified senior-level specialists earn $133,161. Meanwhile, PayScale reports that the average salary for GSE-certified information security analysts is $100,000 and $189,000 for penetration testers.
Before you start spending that extra cash, note that the pre-requisite baseline for the GSE is: GSEC, GCIH, GCIA with two Gold certifications.
The GXPN certifies that network and systems penetration testers, incident handlers, application developers and IDS engineers have the knowledge, skills, and ability to conduct advanced penetration tests, model the behavior of attackers and improve security in the popular Windows and Linux environments.
Applicants need to pass a 3-hour proctored exam to earn the highly valuable GXPN.
Currently, managers of information security with the GSLC earn average total compensation of $147,080, while lead IT security specialists earn $152,143 and directors of information security earn $200,006 according to the 2021 IT Professional Salary Survey. PayScale puts the average salary at $113,000 with senior leaders earning close to $200,000.
Best of all, applicants can qualify through a combination of practical work experience, training, college courses or self-paced study.
Companies are having to “rearchitect everything” to increase security and reduce the risk of cyber-attacks and data breaches he expanded.
It’s no wonder that the CISSP with the architecture extension has increased in value. According to Foote, security architects can command premium pay equal to 12% of base salary and total cash compensation of $130,770, leaving little doubt that the ISSAP certification is a worthwhile investment for professionals who want to build on their expertise in information security architecture.
To sit for the ISSEP examination, you must be a CISSP in good standing and have two years cumulative, paid work experience in one or more of the five domains of the CISSP-ISSEP CBK.
To illustrate, PayScale lists some 350 job tiles under the CISSP with an average salary of $117,000. If you want to specialize in cyber security, The New York Times reports that there will be 3.5 million unfilled jobs globally by 2021, up from one million positions in 2014.
Suffice it to say, showing employers that you not only understand security concepts, principles and tools but also the most pertinent issues around cyber security, will greatly increase your power at the salary negotiation table.
Speaking of profitability, the market value increase for Six Sigma Master Black Belt certification was 9.1% in the six months through July 1, 2021 and the average total compensation was listed at $169,170 in Foote Partners’ 2021 IT Professional Salary Survey.
Applicants are required to pass an exam, have a minimum 4 years’ experience executing Six Sigma Projects in a Black Belt Capacity (or equivalent), and submit a project for review on a pass/fail basis.
With businesses grappling with rapid transformation and accelerated AI, enterprise architecture is making a comeback and some companies are even making the Zachman certification a requirement Foote said. A distinctive element of this program is reality-based learning or the process of integrating theory with work and life experience. Even better, the average premium for certificate holders is 12% on top of base salaries averaging $135,003.
What’s more, according to Foote Partners’ data, certified scrum master certification holders can command 11% in median pay premiums or bonuses above base salaries averaging $96,785.
Earning PMI's Program Management Professional certification can help you move forward with confidence, demonstrate your competency to prospective employers and earn median pay premiums of 11% above base salaries that range up to $126,000. Plus, both high school and college grads can qualify by meeting the hands-on experience requirements and passing two evaluations.
Plus, the hands-on, performance-based and multiple-choice assessment is also approved by US Department of Defense to fulfill Directive 8570.01-M requirements.
After validating that you have the skills, techniques and knowledge to prevent, detect and combat cyber security threats inside and outside of organization, employers will reward you with bonuses or premium pay ranging from 8% to 13% of base salary according to Foote Partners.
Although PayScale puts the average salary for CCSP certified pros at $118,000, the sky’s the limit. IT managers can earn base salaries of $185,000, while CTOs can earn $250,000.
While the CCSP isn’t for newcomers, showing commitment to ongoing development can demonstrate your leadership potential to employers and lead to new and exciting career opportunities.
Although almost any certification can enhance your resume and raise your market value, it’s clear that companies are most concerned about advanced persistent threats and protecting valuable data and information. Until supply catches up with demand, earning any one of these cyber security certifications can give you a competitive advantage and the best opportunity to earn high salaries, bonuses and potentially move into management.
Our list of the top-paying IT certifications is based on customized data contained in the latest Foote Partners’ IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index and the firm’s 2Q 2021 IT Professional Salary Survey. The reports are based on compensation data provided by 3,805 private and public-sector employers in 83 American and Canadian cities who report pay for their 345,313 technology professionals in the US and Canada.