Entry-level and experienced IT developers alike sometimes need to be reminded that employers view industry credentials as tangible proof of aptitude in industry standards and in specific areas of programming or development. That’s why they should always be looking to improve their coding chops. “Certifications may be seen as a key differentiator for candidates seeking roles on technology teams,” John Reed, senior executive director at Robert Half Technology, a staffing firm that focuses on filling jobs in IT, told InfoWorld.
There are two paths to take if you’re looking to advance your knowledge in IT-related fields: certifications and degrees. Both paths have benefits, but they are certainly not the same. While certifications are a cost-effective option, computer science degrees offer a more well-rounded education.
According to the 2021 IT Salary report from Robert Half, IT professionals holding the following popular certifications can earn 5% to 10% more than their peers. Whether you’re just starting out and building your resume or you’ve been in the industry for 20 years, there’s a certification that can help boost your salary and your career.
Here are 10 of the most-coveted computer science certifications in 2021.
The AWS Certified Solutions Architect: Professional exam is intended for individuals who perform a solutions architect role with two or more years of hands-on experience managing and operating systems on AWS. The exam is moderately difficult; in their first shot at the exam, 76% of candidates passed. The practice exams are said to be more difficult than the real exam, based on two attempts; 63% and 65% passed them, respectively. The SA pro course is a good intro, but you do need to do your research on the different services to get sufficient understanding to pass the exam. Average annual salary (according to PayScale): $113 000
Abilities validated by this certification:
- Design and deploy dynamically scalable, highly available, fault-tolerant, and reliable applications on AWS
- Select appropriate AWS services to design and deploy an application based on given requirements
- Migrate complex, multi-tier applications on AWS
- Design and deploy enterprise-wide scalable operations on AWS
- Implement cost-control strategies
Recommended knowledge and experience:
- Two or more years of hands-on experience designing and deploying cloud architecture on AWS
- Ability to evaluate cloud application requirements and make architectural recommendations for implementation, deployment, and provisioning applications on AWS
- Familiarity with AWS CLI, AWS APIs, AWS CloudFormation templates, the AWS Billing Console, and the AWS Management Console
- Explain and apply the five pillars of the AWS Well-Architected Framework
- Design a hybrid architecture using key AWS technologies (e.g., VPN, AWS Direct Connect)
- Ability to provide best practice guidance on the architectural design across multiple applications and projects of the enterprise
- Familiarity with a scripting language
- Familiarity with Windows and Linux environments
- Map business objectives to application/architecture requirements
- Architect a continuous integration and deployment process
The CCSP exam is generally not as tough as the CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) exam. But at the same time, it doesn’t mean that you can take the exam easily. You need to prepare well because there are no shortcuts to pass the ISC2 CCSP exam other than practicing it more and more.
To qualify for this cybersecurity certification, you must pass the exam and have at least five years of cumulative, paid work experience in information technology, of which three years must be in information security, and one year in one or more of the six domains of the (ISC)² CCSP Common Body of Knowledge (CBK).
The CCSP is ideal for IT and information security leaders responsible for applying best practices to cloud security architecture, design, operations and service orchestration, including those in the following positions:
- Enterprise Architect
- Security Administrator
- Systems Engineer
- Security Architect
- Security Consultant
- Security Engineer
- Security Manager
- Systems Architect
Average salary (global): $119 880; North America: $150 400 (ISC2.org)
The Certified Data Privacy Solutions Engineer (CDPSE) certification is the first experience-based, technical certification of its kind, assessing a technology professional’s ability to implement privacy by design to enable organizations to enhance privacy technology platforms and products that provide benefits to consumers, build trust and advance data privacy. Because privacy requires complex collaboration across multiple functions in an organization, CDPSE is also designed to validate privacy technologists’ ability to work cross-functionally with the legal team, policy department, engineers, software developers, database administrators, and back-end and front-end experts while playing a key role throughout the planning, development and delivery of IT privacy solutions.
The certification offers a natural progression for IT professionals tasked with designing, implementing and managing the technology that stores, collects and transports PII and ensures that privacy is considered in the design.
Earning the CDPSE Certification: Professionals can apply for the CDPSE certification as part of a limited early-adoption opportunity. Those who have the necessary experience can become certified without taking the exam.
Salary range: $75,000 – $118,000.
The Certified Data Professional (CDP) and Certified Business Intelligence Professional (CBIP) credentials use broad and current industry scenario questions to evaluate professional competency and currency of knowledge in a comprehensive three-exam requirement. You know you are getting an expert after the ICCP evaluation.
The CDP is an update of the Certified Data Management Professional (CDMP), created and offered by the ICCP from 2004 until 2015 and then upgraded to the CDP. Data Professionals may specialize and certify in the following areas:
Business Analytics, (CDP-BA)
Data Analytics & Design, (CDP-DAD)
Data Governance, (CDP-DG; DGSP)
Data Integration and Interoperability), (CDP-DII)
Data Management, (CDP-DM)
Data & Information Quality, (CDP-DIQ)
Data Stewardship, (CDP-DS)
Data Warehousing (CDP-DW)
Enterprise Data Architecture (Zachman), (CDP-EDA)
Information Systems or IT Management, (CDP-Mgmt)
Public Sector Data Governance (CDP-PSDG; PSDGP)
Salary range: $95 000 – $125 000
The Certified Ethical Hacker certification will be a good certification to pursue if you are an aspiring or current ethical hacker or penetration tester. You are or will be working in a domain within IT or cybersecurity that is focused on the security of systems. As a cybersecurity engineer, you’ll gather, analyze, and preserve data on computer systems in order to protect against malicious hackers. You’ll help identify security vulnerabilities for multi-million dollar corporations and learn to be a hacker with a strong moral compass.
The CEH (ANSI) exam is an MCQ (multiple-choice question) exam. This exam is only available at the ECC Exam Centre. For those attempting the exam at a physical testing centre (ETC/ Pearson Vue), the exam will be proctored by a proctor authorized at the testing center, and for those attempting the exam remotely (ECC/ ProctorU), the exam will be proctored remotely by an authorized proctor. In either of the options, no resources are allowed during the exam.
CISM certification is a globally recognized professional requirement in the IT Security domain. This certification is best suited for security consultants and managers, IT directors and managers, security auditors and architects, security system engineers, CISOs, information security managers, and risk officers.
The CISM credential focuses on security strategy and assessing the systems and policies in place. CISM (Certified Information Security Manager) is a key certification for information security professionals who manage, design, oversee, and assess enterprise information security. A CISM certification course, closely aligned with ISACA’s best practices, helps you learn all you need about IT security systems.
While ZipRecruiter sees salaries as high as $207 435 and as low as $77 665, the majority of CISM salaries currently range between $101 751 (25th percentile) to $158 771 (75th percentile), with top earners (90th percentile) making $183 840 annually in California.
Average salary (North America): $99 778
The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) is a highly regarded certification for security analysts. It was created by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC). The certification was created to ensure professionals in computer security have standardized knowledge of the field. Earning a Certified Information Systems Security Professional certificate can help candidates succeed as a computer security professional.
CISSP has been recognized for its exclusivity and granted a qualification level equal to that of a Master’s Degree across Europe. The CISSP constitutes various topics under information security studies.
Training Camp claims its CISSP program represents the culmination of hundreds of hours of instructional design, thousands of hours of exam-focused instruction, and tens of thousands of efficiently and effectively skilled, certified students. Training Camp became (ISC)²’s first and only “Boot Camp” partner in 2003. Since then, TC has won more awards and certified more CISSPs than any other company worldwide.
According to the InfoSec Institute, the average salary for a woman who successfully passed the CISSP exam falls between $66 000 and $156 000, while the average CISSP certifications-based salary for a man is between $72 000 and $164 000. The CISSP certification is very useful for those seeking a higher-level security job.
The Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert is a technical certification offered by Cisco Systems. The Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) and Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE) certifications were established to assist the industry in distinguishing the top echelon of internetworking experts worldwide and to assess expert-level infrastructure network design skills worldwide. These certifications are generally accepted worldwide as the most prestigious networking certifications in the industry.
The Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE certification) is a series of technical certifications for senior networking professionals who design, build, implement, maintain and troubleshoot complex enterprise networking infrastructures. The certification program is divided into six separate series, or tracks, and includes the following: collaboration, data center, routing and switching, security, service provider, and wireless.
First issued in 1993, the CCIE certification program is continuously updated by Cisco. Fewer than 3% of Cisco engineers achieve CCIE certification, accounting for fewer than 1% of all networking professionals worldwide.
Average salary: $149 800 (ZipRecruiter)
Microsoft Azure Fundamentals AZ-900 Exam Prep Specialization consists of four courses that will act as a bedrock of fundamental knowledge to prepare you for the AZ-900 certification exam and for a career in the cloud. The content of this Coursera program is tightly aligned to the AZ-900 exam objective domains.
This program provides foundational level knowledge on Microsoft Azure concepts; core Microsoft Azure services; core solutions and management tools; general security and network security; governance, privacy, and compliance features; Microsoft Azure cost management, and service level agreements. Ideal for IT personnel just beginning to work with Microsoft Azure or anyone wanting to learn about it.
Average salary: $152 142 (North America)
Oracle is the world’s largest database provider and is the primary supporting caretaker of MySQL, which is by far the world’s most popular open-source database. Whether a beginner or an experienced user, a MySQL database administrator, MySQL developer, or a MySQL security administrator, digital training helps candidates develop deeper knowledge of relational databases so they can manage MySQL applications more efficiently.
The MySQL open-source community also offers a set of certification courses.
Salary range: $64 500 – $91 300
Here’s a listing of recommended entry-level IT certifications
- Cisco Certified Technician (CCT)
- Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
- CompTIA IT Fundamentals+ (ITF+)
- Comp TIA A+
- CompTIA Network+
- CompTIA Security+
- Microsoft 365 Fundamentals.
- Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA)
Seven software certifications you can take to boost your IT career:
- Oracle Application Express Developer Certified Expert
- Oracle Certified Professional MySQL 5.6 Developer
- ITIL Foundation
- Scrum Alliance Certified Scrum Developer
- Certified ScrumMaster
- Puppet Labs Puppet Developer
- Project Management Professional
Random facts about computer science degrees and certifications
- Payscale’s 2019 College Salary Report listed that computer science graduates earned an average early career salary of $68,600 and a mid-career salary of $114,700.
- The average starting salary for graduates of computer science degrees is projected to be around $61,000, second only to engineering graduates. However, the real potential for wealth comes from the power to develop your own product and found a company in the same vein as Google, Microsoft, and Apple.
- A valuable C/C++ certificate is a powerful weapon in the race for better employment, first-rate expertise and greater competitiveness. Certification opens doors to a better job and a better salary. It is a great motivator for self-improvement and self-development.
- If you’ve already built a skill set and can demonstrate a high level of expertise, “then yes, certifications will only further bolster [your] case for better opportunities, more pay, etc.,” Wenzler says. Programmer certifications can bring value not only to employers but also to their customers.
Desirable certifications for computer programmers include the following:
- Oracle: Oracle Certified Associate (OCA): Java Programmer. Oracle Certified Professional (OCP): Java Programmer.
- Microsoft: MCPD: Microsoft Certified Professional Developer. …
- CIW: Web Foundations Associate.