9 Must-have IT Certifications Right Now
Cynthia Harvey, Informationweek 709 Times 459 People

These technology certifications not only command higher-than-average salaries, but their value also increased substantially in recent months.

According to CompTIA, the US tech unemployment rate was just 2.6% as of the end of November, significantly lower than the overall unemployment rate of 4.2%, which was itself considered low.

In its 2022 Salary Guide, Robert Half Talent Solutions noted that the low-tech unemployment right now resulted in large part from corporate growth over the past year. 

“Organizations are ramping up operations and restarting projects and hiring additional employees to handle the growing workload,” it noted. “Fifty-one percent of companies in the US are expanding hiring for permanent roles.”
As you might expect, that increase in demand is driving up salaries. That same Robert Half report said that many employers are offering perks like signing bonuses (48%), cash incentives for returning to the office (46%), more paid time off (43%), and job title upgrades (40%) to attract and retain staff.

In their Q4 2021 IT Skills &Certifications Pay Index, the researchers at Foote Partners noted that demand growth was particularly significant for workers with certifications on their resumes. 

So which certs are must-have and in-demand right now?

“For the first time in three years, average market value for 555 tech certifications increased between July and October with 117 (21.4%) changing in market value,” the report said. 

“More than half of these changes were increases in market value, including those in application development/programming languages, data/database, and info/cybersecurity certifications.”

Here’s a List of the Certifications

This isn't a list of the highest-paying certificates or a list of the most in-demand certificates, but rather a list that shows where already-high pay is increasing because demand for workers is greater than the supply. 

1. Okta Certified Professional cert

The Okta Certified Professional cert was No. 1 on the list with a 10% pay premium and a 39% increase in market value in six months ending Oct. 31, 2021. Okta Certified Administrator, which is a level up from the Professional certificate, was tied for eighth on the list with a 9% pay premium and a 12.5% increase in market value.

Okta prides itself on being “the world's #1 identity platform.” Its products include single sign-on, multi-factor authentication, user management, API access management, and many other products related to identity and security.

To receive the certificate, you must pass a 90-minute proctored online exam that includes 60 questions. Taking the test costs $250.

2. Cisco Certified Network Professional -- Security (CCNP Security)

The Cisco Certified Network Professional -- Security (CCNP Security) certification is among the most common and respected in the industry. It carries a 12% pay premium, and its market value increased 33.3% in the six months covered by the report.

To earn this certificate, you must first pass a core exam: Implementing and Operating Cisco Security Core Technologies. It lasts 120 minutes and costs $400. 

Then you must also pass one of the following: Securing Networks with Cisco Firepower Next-Generation Firewall (SSNGFW), Securing Networks with Cisco Firepower Next-Generation IPS (SSFIPS), Implementing and Configuring Cisco Identity Services Engine (SISE), Securing Email with Cisco Email Security Appliance (SESA), Securing the Web with Cisco Web Security Appliance (SWSA), Implementing Secure Solutions with Virtual Private Networks (SVPN), or Implementing Automation for Cisco Security Solutions (SAUI). 

Each of these exams lasts 90 minutes and costs $300.

3. Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP)

Offered by the (ISC)2 cybersecurity professional organization, the Certified Security Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP) is aimed at software developers who want to demonstrate their understanding of secure coding practices. 

On average, workers with a CSSLP certificate earn 13% more than their peers without the cert, and its market value increased 30% in the second half of 2021.

To qualify for the CSSLP, you first need at least three years of paid related experience plus a related four-year degree, or at least four years of paid related experience if you do not have a degree. 

Then you need to score at least 70% on the exam, which lasts three hours and includes 125 multiple-choice questions. 

You also need to become a member of (ISC)2, which costs $125 per year. The exam itself costs an additional $599.

4. Pega Certified Robotics System Architect (PCRSA)

Three different certifications from Pega (also known as Pegasystems) made the Foote Partners list. 

  • Pega Certified Robotics System Architect ranked the highest (fifth) with an average 10% pay premium and a 25% six-month market value increase. 
  • Pega Certified Data Scientist (PCDS) and Pega Certified Senior Systems Architect (PCSSA) tied for eighth with a 9% pay premium and 12.5% increase in market value.

The Certified Robots System Architect cert doesn't relate to walking, talking robots in the R2D2 or C3PO sense. Instead, it relates to robotic process automation (RPA), which uses software-based robots to automate business processes. This technology has been gaining a lot of attention lately, so it's interesting that the cert is gaining value.

To obtain this certification, you first need to take Pega's Robotics System Architect course. Then you must pass a 60-question, 90-minute test with at least a 65%. The exam costs $175.

5. SAS Certified Advanced Analytics Using SAS 9

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations have sped up their data analytics projects and hired more data scientists and business analysts. Because of that, two certs on the Foote Partners list relate to analytics software, particularly SAS analytics software.

The SAS Certified Big Data Professional Using SAS 9 certification, which was fourth on the list (9% pay premium, 28.6% increase in market value) is no longer listed on the SAS Global Certification Program page. 

However, the SAS Certified Advanced Analytics Professional Using SAS 9 certification, which was tied for sixth on the list, is still available. It has an 11% pay premium and increased 22.2% in market value.

To obtain the SAS Certified Advanced Analytics Professional certification requires you to pass three different exams:

The Predictive Modeling Using SAS® Enterprise Miner™ 7, 13, or 14 exam takes 165 minutes and has between 55 and 60 multiple questions. Candidates must achieve a score of 750 out of 1,000 points, and it costs $250. (You do not need to take this exam if you already have the SAS Certified Predictive Modeler Using SAS Enterprise Miner 7, 13, or 14 credentials.)

The SAS Advanced Predictive Modeling exam has 50-55 questions and lasts 110 minutes. You need a score of 67% to pass, and it costs $180.

SAS Text Analytics, Time Series, Experimentation, and Optimization exam also has 50-55 questions and lasts 110 minutes. As with the modeling exam, you need a score of 67% to pass, and it costs $180.

6. EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

Tied for sixth was another cybersecurity cert: EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). It carries an 11% pay premium. For the six months ending October 1, it gained 22.2% in market value.

This is one of the more respected credentials among cybersecurity experts. It's also a prerequisite for becoming a Certified Ethical Hacker Master.

To receive the cert, you must pass a four-hour, 125-question exam. (Note that the number of questions you are required to get correct varies from one version of the exam to another, depending on the difficulty of the exam version.) 

This is also one of the pricier exams. It costs between $950 and $1,119. However, at the time of writing, the EC-Council is offering a deal where you could get the Web Application Hacking and Security Course free if you register for the exam.

7. GIAC Certified Forensics Examiner (GCFE)

Yet another cybersecurity cert -- GIAC Certified Forensics Examiner (GCFE) tied for eighth place. According to Foote Partners it commands a 9% pay premium and has increased in value by 12.9%.

The Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) is an independent certification agency established by the SANS Institute, and SANS offers training classes to prepare for this exam. 

GCFE focuses on collecting and analyzing data from Windows systems. 

To obtain the certification, you need to score at least a 71% on a 115-question, 3-hour, proctored exam. Like the CEH exam, this one is not cheap. It costs $2,499, which also buys you access to some training materials.

8. TOGAF 9 Certified

TOGAF 9 is an enterprise architecture standard created by The Open Group. The TOGAF 9 Certified credential is a step up from the group's introductory-level TOGAF 9 Foundation certification. The Foote Partners report said that it has an average 10% pay premium and has recently gained 11% in market value.

IT workers with the word “architect” in their title tend to earn higher salaries than other IT professionals. This certification is intended to demonstrate that you have practical understanding of a popular architecture standard and, thus, might deserve that architect title.

To qualify for the certification, you'll need to pass a two-part test. The first half has 40 questions and takes an hour. The second half lasts 90 minutes and has only 8 questions, but they are far more complex than those in the first half. Exam fees range from $230 to $550 depending on where you are taking the exam and whether you are taking just one half or both parts at once.

9. Certified Scrum Professional (CSP)/ Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO)

The last two certs on this slideshow are combined because both relate to Agile development methodologies and both are available through the Scrum Alliance. And both were tied for thirteenth on the Foote Partners list. The Certified Scrum Professional and Certified Scrum Product Owner certifications have an average 11% pay premium, and they gained 10% in market value.

The Certified Scrum Professional certification comes in three different flavors -- one for Scrum Masters, one for product owners, and one for developers.

In order to attain this level, you need to have already achieved the Certified and Advanced Certified levels for one of the tracks. You will also need at least two years of experience, and you must complete a certified course.

The Certified Scrum Product Owner certification is one of the lower-level certifications that serves as a steppingstone toward the Certified Scrum Professional credential. You must take a certified course to obtain the credential, and continuing education is necessary to keep it up to date.


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