The 12 Most In-Demand IT Certifications In 2020

Cisco has three of most in-demand IT certifications identified by Robert Half Technology, while Microsoft has two and Oracle and Salesforce each have one.


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Finding professionals with in-demand technology expertise can take time, but businesses and their IT needs can’t always wait. As a result, workers and companies alike are turning to training and certifications to upskill some or all their employees.

Salaries for workers holding the 12 most in-demand IT certifications identified by Robert Half Technology may be 5 percent to 10 percent higher than their peers without similar certifications. Robert Half has found that the most common areas for professional development are cloud computing, security, project management, data science, AI and machine learning.

Cisco has three of most in-demand IT certifications identified by Robert Half Technology, while Microsoft has two and Oracle and Salesforce each have one. Of the five vendor-agnostic certifications, two are in cybersecurity, one is in data government, one is in project management, and one covers various technologies and operating systems.

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Certified Data Professional (CDP)

The Certified Data Professional (CDP) has been offered in its current form since 2015, and replaced the Certified Data Management Professional (CDMP), which was offered by the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP) from 2004 to 2015.

The CDP executive management credential requires attending a four-day in-person workshop on data management and data governance, as well as passing a written assessment. Certificate holders are required to pass a 90-minute exam on IS (Information Systems) Core, a 90-minute exam on business core and data management, and a specialization exam at 70 percent or higher.

More than half of CDP certificate-holders have at least 10 years of industry experience, while a quarter have between six and 10 years of industry experience and the remaining 22 percent have six or fewer years of experience. Some of the specialty credentials offered as part of the CDP include: business analytics; data governance; data warehousing; and information systems management.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certificate proves a user has what it takes to effectively design, implement and manage a best-in-class cybersecurity program, and has been compared to a master’s degree in IT security. Certificate-holders earn an average salary of $141,452 in 2020, according to Global Knowledge.

The CISSP exam is based around eight domains in computer security: security and risk management; asset security; security architecture and engineering; communication and network security; identity and access management; security assessment and testing; security operations; software development security. Certificate-holders need five years or relevant experience in two or more of the CISSP domains.

The average CISSP certificate-holders is 48.1 years old, works as a security engineer or analyst, and holds 6.1 certifications in total, according to Global Knowledge. The most popular cross-certification is the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA).

Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)

The Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) certifications is generally accepted worldwide as the most prestigious networking certifications in the industry. Certificate-holders have established a reputation of leading the industry in deep technical networking knowledge and are deployed into the most technically challenging network assignments.

The CCIE program is currently divided into six different areas of expertise or "tracks:” routing & switching, service provider, security, collaboration, data center, and wireless. Through a rigorous written exam and a performance-based lab exam, these expert-level certification programs set the standard for internetworking expertise.

The CCIE evaluation consists of a 120-minute written exam with 90 to 110 multiple choice and simulation-based questions, as well as an eight-hour lab exam that tests the user’s ability to configure actual equipment and troubleshoot the network in a timed test situation. An in-depth understanding of the topics on the CCIE exams typically requires three to five years of job experience.

Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certificate was originally focused on routing and switching, and in recent years new certificates have been added around security, cloud, collaboration, security operations, design, data center technologies, industrial plants, service providers, and wireless.

CCNA certificates are valid for three years, and renewal requires certification holders to register for and pass the same or higher-level Cisco recertification exams every 3 years. Cisco certificate holders in North America were paid an average salary of $101,533 in 2019, according to Global Knowledge.

Cisco certifications were held by 16 percent of all IT professionals in 2019, according to Global Knowledge, with CCNA Routing and Switching being the most commonly held Cisco certification. Seventy-one percent of Cisco-certified staff held a CCNA Routing and Switching certificate in 2019, Global Knowledge found, while 18 percent held a CCNA Security certificate.

Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)

The professional-level CCNP Routing and Switching certification demonstrates the ability to plan, implement and troubleshoot local and wide area enterprise networks. This certification was designed for network engineers and administrators who collaborate with specialists on advanced security, voice, wireless and video solutions.

CCNP Routing and Switching was the second most commonly held Cisco certification in 2019, with 33 percent of Cisco-certified staff holding that certificate, according to Global Knowledge. CCNP Routing and Switching certificate holders will earn an average salary of $119,178 in 2020, Global Knowledge found, and are most likely to be network engineers or analysts.

Cisco launched a new certification framework on Feb. 23, 2020, with CCNP Enterprise replacing CNP Routing and Switching. All new CCNP certifications require candidates to pass two exams – a core exam and one concentration exam within the technology area.

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

The Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) certification validates audit, risk and cybersecurity skills, and is proof that an organization’s critical business assets are secured and available. The certification has been around since 1978, making it one of the oldest and most respected credentials available.

The CISA exam exists of five domains: auditing information systems; governance and management of IT; information systems acquisition, development, and implementation; information systems operation, maintenance, and service management; and protection of information assets. The average CISA certificate-holder is expected to make $132,278 in 2020, according to Global Knowledge.

Certificate-holders on average are 46.9 years old, work as an IT auditor, and hold a total of 3.3 certifications, Global Knowledge found. The most popular cross-certification for CISA certificate-holders is ITIL Foundation, according to Global Knowledge.

CompTIA A+

The CompTIA A+ certification represents entry-level competency as a computer technician and is a vendor neutral certification that covers various technologies and operating systems. CompTIA A+ earned accreditation in 2008, and was held by more than one million people worldwide as of 2014.

Certificate-holders must pass two 90-minute exams consisting of at most 90 questions in a variety of formats. One of the exams covers mobile devices, networking technology, hardware, virtualization and cloud computing and network troubleshooting, while the other exam covers installing and configuring operating systems, expanded security, software troubleshooting and operational procedures.

CompTIA certificate holders in North America earned an average salary of $93,097 in 2019, Global Knowledge found. The most popular CompTIA certifications worldwide in 2019 were Security+, A+, and Network+, according to Global Knowledge.

Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA)

The Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certifications are designed for entry-level workers to demonstrate proficiency in Microsoft products, roles and knowledge areas. The MCSA certifications serve as prerequisites for many Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) certifications, which are intended for more experienced IT workers.

The Microsoft certifications focused on a user’s ability to design and build technology solutions. MCSA certifications center around specific roles and proprietary products such as Microsoft Azure, SQL Server, Office 365, SharePoint Server, Skype for Business, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Exchange Server and Windows Server.

Microsoft certifications were held by 16 percent of people that responded to Global Knowledge’s 2019 IT Skills and Salary survey. Global Knowledge found that 19 percent of Microsoft-certified professionals in North America held a MCSA: Windows Server 2008 certificate, while 17 percent of Microsoft-certified professionals in North America held a MCSA: Windows Server 2012 certificate.

Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA)

The Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) is an entry-level certification that validate fundamental technology knowledge for the Microsoft SQL Server, Visual Studio, Windows and Windows Server 2016. Other MTA exams are more technology-agnostic, validating security fundamentals, networking fundamentals, and mobility and device fundamentals.

MTA certifications address a wide spectrum of fundamental technical concepts, assess and validate core technical knowledge, and enhance technical credibility. They are a great place to start for people looking to get into the technology field.

Microsoft certificate holders in North America earned an average salary of $104,127 in 2019, according to Global Knowledge. MTA exams do not qualify for Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) certification, nor are they a prerequisite for MCSA (Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate) or MCSD (Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer) certifications.

Oracle Database Certifications

Oracle University allows users to demonstrate your database and Java knowledge and skills with a distinction that is recognized by IT professionals and industries. Understanding how computers organize, use, and process data is essential to understanding how to use the data organizations have, and to finding innovative ways to manage and use data better.

Oracle Database Design and Programming with SQL teaches students to analyze complex business scenarios, design and create data models, and create databases using SQL. Meanwhile, Oracle’s programming with PL/SQL introduces students to the company’s procedural extension language for SQL and the Oracle relational database.

Oracle’s database courses in database design and SQL and PL/SQL programming focus on data organization, management and use. Database certificate holders in North America were paid an average salary of $116,961 in 2019, according to Global Knowledge.

Project Management Professional (PMP)

Project Management Professional (PMP) provides employers and customers with a level of assurance that a project manager has both the experience and knowledge to effectively define, plan and deliver their projects. The credential is often a key differentiator in decisions on who to entrust with important organizational project initiatives.

Individuals looking to become certified must have 35 hours of PMP-related training. In addition, those who don’t have a bachelor’s degree must have 7,500 hours of project management experience, while those who have a bachelor’s degree or higher need 4,500 hours. The average salary for a PMP certificate holder in 2020 is $143,493, according to Global Knowledge.

The average PMP certification holder is 48.7 years old, works as a program manager, and holds a total of 4.5 certifications, Global Knowledge found. The most popular cross-certification for PMP certificate holder is the Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), according to Global Knowledge.

Salesforce Certified Development Lifecycle And Deployment

The Salesforce Certified Development Lifecycle and Deployment Designer credential is designed for professionals who have the requisite skills and experience at managing Lightning Platform development and deployment activities, and effectively communicating technical solutions to business and technical stakeholders.

Those pursuing the certificate should have experience analyzing the environment and requirements to design an appropriate governance framework as well as managing the development and deployment lifecycle on the Lightning Platform.

Certificate-holders should also have experience designing and implementing complex development and deployment strategies, as well as communicating the proposed solution and design trade-offs to business and technical stakeholders alike. The exam has 60 multiple-choice questions to be completed in 105 minutes, and certificate-seekers must get at least 68 percent of the questions right to pass.