Best IT Certifications to Get You a Job
Updated 15 January 2021
As businesses embrace new technologies such as automation, cloud computing and remote working, there has never been a better time for career progression amongst IT experts.
These days, having a well-functioning IT network is imperative to the smooth running of a business.
IT departments are no longer tucked away in the basement acting only as a technical ‘helpdesk’ – instead, IT managers play an intrinsic role in developing business strategies.
They are tasked with finding technical solutions to ensure that the business has the capability of working as efficiently as possible.
It should therefore come as no surprise that the IT sector is more popular than ever before.
Working in IT promises a variety of career opportunities with ample opportunities for continuous upskilling.
To help you understand more, we’re looking at some of the best IT certifications which can help you to get a new job.
What Are IT Certifications?
If you want to have a career in IT, then you will need to have a number of IT certificates to show that you have the technical capabilities.
A potential recruiter will be more interested in your IT certificates than your career history and will likely head straight to the certifications section of your resume before they look at where you have previously worked.
This is because recruiters need to know that you are up-to-date with the latest software and technical requirements.
How Do IT Certificates Differ From Academic Qualifications?
Whilst a computer science major will open doors and give you the ability to work in IT roles, your IT certifications will determine your proficiency in certain areas.
The best IT certificates are focused on specific areas and achieving a certificate shows that you have undertaken additional study and have gained accredited expertise in that specialism.
Each certificate requires an element of study and participants must pass an examination before they receive their IT certificate.
Why Are IT Certificates So Important?
IT is a fast-paced industry, so anyone working in the sector must be up-to-date with the latest technological changes. It’s a profession where all employees have to undertake continual training regardless of how much experience they have.
IT certificates provide a guarantee that you have obtained the latest knowledge and are a certified expert.
Each certificate typically lasts three years before they expire. To renew your certificate, you may need to complete additional training and pass another exam to show that your skills are still up to date.
Your IT certificate will showcase your proficiency in specific technical areas, whether that’s networking, cabling or even online security.
IT departments must have a blend of experience and your IT certificates will provide evidence of your skill set, regardless of whether you are just starting your career or you have decades of experience.
The Best IT Certifications to Help You Get a Job
There are many different IT certifications available to help you at each stage of your career.
We’ve broken down these suggestions into different sub-categories to help you understand how they differ.
The Best Cloud Computing IT Certifications
With more businesses operating fully in the cloud (thanks to platforms such as Office 365), it’s clear that IT engineers and technicians will need to know how to install cloud computing software as well as fix any unexpected faults.
Many cloud computing IT certifications may apply to specific vendors (such as Microsoft or Google), so you may need to undertake more than one IT certification to showcase your value to an employer.
This is especially true if you are working for an external IT support service and are working alongside many different organizations.
The best IT certifications include:
Exam format: 110 multiple-choice/performance-based
Test length: 165 minutes
This is a certification looking at cloud-based IT infrastructure.
As a neutral-vendor certification, it’s not aligned with any specific platforms, so it is effective for those looking to increase their knowledge of a range of different software solutions.
It also goes beyond just cloud infrastructure and covers aspects such as networking and security as well.
Requirements: Two+ years of hands-on experience managing and operating systems on AWS
Exam format: Multiple-choice questions
Test length: 180 minutes
If you work across Amazon Web Services (AWS) then you may need the professional certification provided by Amazon.
This is designed to help you understand how to design and install AWS services effectively. It also gives you insights into how you can use AWS strategically to increase your business growth.
Price: $125 to $450 depending on what level of certification you require
There are many different cloud-based computing IT certifications available from VMware. These are designed to help you understand how to upskill yourself at different levels of your career, from certified professional to advanced professional and design expert.
Each IT certification will give you insights and understandings of VMware solutions.
They are ideal for those looking to implement automation into their business.
Once you have passed a certification, you receive an accredited digital ‘badge’ which showcases your knowledge and expertise. This badge provides employers with a verification of your credentials.
Requirements: Three+ years’ experience, one+ year's experience designing and managing solutions using GCP
Exam format: Multiple-choice questions
Test length: Two hours
If you continually work across Google cloud platforms or you are a professional cloud architect, then you may require an IT certification from Google.
This exam shows that you can design, develop and manage robust cloud solutions using Google products.
There are numerous resources online, courtesy of Google, that will enable you to understand what to expect from the exam, including sample test questions and sample case studies.
The Best Networking IT Certifications
If you are involved in designing and installing IT network infrastructure, then it is likely that you will need to undertake IT certifications to showcase that you can pull together robust networks that are resilient and secure.
Within networking IT certifications, you may choose to specialize in individual areas such as routers/switches, security, wireless communications or even virtual networks.
As businesses have implemented remote working as standard, having accessible networks is more important than ever.
Here are some of the top certifications:
Requirements: Three+ years’ experience
Exam format: Written exam, lab exam
Price: $450 for written exams, $1,600 for lab exams
This is highly regarded as one of the most credible certifications that a network engineer can have.
Designed by CISCO, this is designed to enable IT technicians to showcase their knowledge across six key areas:
- Wireless Communications
- Data Center
- Service Provider
Each element results in an IT certification, so you can choose which one is most suitable for you, or complete all of them.
The knowledge required for the CISCO CCIE means that applicants should typically have at least three years of practical experience. It is also recommended that you have previously studied and completed the CISCO CCNA and CCNP certifications before your application.
As well as doing a written exam, you may also have to complete a lab exam.
Requirements: No formal requirements but a basic knowledge of the exam topics
This is a foundation networking IT certification which is ideal for those at the start of their careers.
The CCNA certificate will allow participants to understand more about network access, connectivity and security fundamentals.
Exam format: 90 multiple-choice questions
Test length: 90 minutes
This is also a good IT certification for those new to networking or at the start of their career.
The course covers a range of areas including how to design and implement networks, how to use specific devices to enhance network connectivity, and how to troubleshoot specific network problems.
It’s an ideal qualification for those working on job roles such as network administrator, system engineer, IT consultant or helpdesk technician.
The Best Cybersecurity IT Certifications
Cybersecurity is imperative for ensuring that your business remains safe and secure against hackers.
Firms are looking to employ IT technicians who can demonstrate that they know how to implement stringent security procedures across entire networks as well as websites.
They will need IT professionals who can run disaster recovery drills and have the ability to retrieve confidential data in the event of a security breach.
When it comes to cybersecurity, the stakes are increasingly high, so it stands to reason that firms will be looking to work with those who have achieved a variety of cybersecurity IT certifications.
Test length: Two to five hours
Price: From $579
There are a wide variety of GIAC certifications available, including:
- Cyber defense
- Cybersecurity management
- Incident reporting
These are designed to allow IT technicians to improve their knowledge and understanding of the wide variety of issues relating to cybersecurity.
The GIAC certificates will test your real-life capabilities as well as your theoretical knowledge. They are also highly-regarded within the industry and will be an effective addition to your resume.
Requirements: You must pass the CEH credential to take the CEH (Practical) exam
Exam format: 125 multiple-choice questions
Test length: Six-hour practical exam/four-hour multiple-choice exam
Price: From $2,000
This is an interesting IT certification because it teaches you how to become a hacker.
It is taught in line with the US government. This means that you can understand how cybercriminals approach their targets and learn how to test your resilience to hackers.
This certificate specializes in penetration testing. This means that you understand how to find an organization’s weak points.
It’s an ideal certificate for those wishing to work in roles such as digital forensic analyst and cybersecurity engineer.
CEH certification has been proven to provide job security as well as improve your salary opportunities.
The Best Project Management IT Certifications
A common task for IT professionals is to project manage the design and installation of entire IT infrastructures. They’ll be responsible for ensuring that installations are created on time and delivered to budget, giving a solid return on investment.
Therefore, some employers will be looking to establish whether candidates have any particular project management IT certifications.
These will demonstrate their ability to manage hardware or software upgrades as well as understanding how to design and implement new networks or entire systems from scratch.
Exam format: 50 multiple-choice questions
Test length: One hour
This is an entry-level project management certification. It won’t allow you to become a fully-fledged project manager but it will help you understand the core fundamentals of the role.
When combined with your technical IT knowledge, it will help you to become a more well-rounded professional, especially if you are keen to progress into managerial opportunities.
This is a globally-recognized certification and it shows a commitment to employers that you can pay attention to detail and have a theoretical understanding of project management.
Requirements: Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or equivalent)
Exam format: 150 multiple-choice questions
Test length: Three hours
The CAPM is a great certification for those with some experience in project management but who are looking to move onto larger projects.
Certified by PMI (the Project Management Institute), this course provides a strong theoretical understanding of project management.
Within this certification, you will learn:
- How to define a project lifecycle
- The role of a project manager
- The seven project management processes in the project integration management knowledge area
- How to create a project management schedule and budget
Requirements: Two years’ experience project managing teams
Exam format: 150 multiple-choice questions
Test length: Two hours
Like the APM, this is a certificate provided by the Global Association for Quality Management.
It takes your learning beyond that of the APM, looks in more detail at a wide variety of topics and introduces areas such as risk and crisis management, as well as leadership and communication.
It’s a certificate designed for those working at an intermediate or senior level and it is considered to be a 'how-to' practical certification. The learning will provide you with practical insights to help you get the best out of your work.
Due to its strict content, it’s also known as one of the hardest certifications to pass – almost 70% of applicants fail on their first attempt.
This means that those who do have the certificate are highly regarded by employers as it shows that they can be considered an expert.
Now that we’ve taken a look at the wide range of IT certifications available, it is clear that finding the best IT certificate for you will depend on what your professional interests are and what stage you are at in your career.
There are many options available for those starting their careers, as well as for those looking to progress into senior management positions.
If you are serious about your career progression as an IT professional, then you should consider investing in your learning and development.
This means that you should take the time to identify which is the best IT certificate for your career.
You should use your IT certifications strategically. If you know that you are looking to move into a specific area of expertise, then you need to align your learning in that direction to allow you to take advantage of new opportunities.
Many employers will sponsor your additional training as they know that they will benefit from your expertise. Your employer will discuss with you whether they think that you should specialize in a specific vendor (such as Microsoft) or whether you could benefit from something more generalized – such as cybersecurity or project management.
Once you have a wide range of IT certificates, your skills section and certificate/accreditation part of your resume will be greatly enhanced.
Employers will be interested in understanding your technical proficiency, but it should be noted that many of these certifications will only have a lifespan of three years.
Once your certificate has expired, you will be expected to renew your certification through additional learning and the completion of another exam.