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10 Top IT Certifications to Explore

February 4, 2020

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Investing in certifications that are specific to your career and industry can help you gain valuable skills and set yourself apart from the competition. Information technology certifications can give you advanced knowledge in a particular practice, improve your chances of promotion and boost your overall income. In this article, we will explore the importance of IT certifications, as well as the top IT certifications you can pursue today and how to prepare for each.

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Why are IT certifications important?

IT certifications can be beneficial to both employers and employees. Being certified in a certain set of information technology skills can better prepare you for your desired job and demonstrate to prospective employers that you have the dedication and knowledge needed to be successful as an IT professional. Holding an IT certification can help you perform better at work, be more productive and implement services and products faster and with fewer mistakes.

Related: Technical Skills: Definitions and Examples

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10 top IT certifications

The following is a list of 10 valuable IT certifications as well as the qualifications needed for each and how to prepare for the certification exams.

  1. Project Management Professional (PMP)
  2. Certified Scrum Master (CSM)
  3. AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
  4. AWS Certified Developer – Associate
  5. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
  6. Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
  7. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  8. Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)
  9. Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
  10. Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect

1. Project Management Professional (PMP)

The PMP certification is offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI) and is considered one of the most important and beneficial certifications for project managers to have. This certification trains on the five life stages of a project: initiation, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling/closing.

Qualifications: To qualify to take the exam, you will need to hold a bachelor's degree as well as three years of project management experience. You'll need to have 4,500 hours of leading and directing projects and 35 hours of PMP-related education.

How to prepare: Review and understand the five main stages of a project. You can also participate in a formal study course or class to prepare for the PMP.

Related: Understanding the Project Management Processes and Phases

2. Certified Scrum Master (CSM)

The Certified Scrum Master certification is offered through the Scrum Alliance and verifies that you understand and can effectively implement the Agile Scrum methodology. This certification is ideal for project managers, Scrum masters, product developers, program managers and project leads. In addition to the certification, the CSM will also provide you with a two-year membership with the Scrum Alliance.

Qualifications: To take the CSM exam, you must first complete an in-person two-day Certified Scrum Master workshop course. Once you have obtained the certification, you will need to complete 40 Scrum Education Units every two years to maintain it.

How to prepare: The two-day workshop should prepare you for the course; however, you can also study using additional resources for this certification.

Related: Job Search Guide: Product Management and Software Engineering

3. AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate

The AWS Certified Solutions Architect certification demonstrates a person's ability to create and use scalable systems on AWS. This certification is recommended for those who have a solutions architect position and have at least one year of experience designing and implementing effective scalable AWS systems.

Qualifications: You must have a minimum of one year of hands-on experience creating and maintaining AWS applications and a solid understanding of AWS services.

How to prepare: There are several AWS training courses and studying materials available to help you prepare for this certification. The more hands-on experience you can obtain, the more likely you will be to pass the exam.

4. AWS Certified Developer – Associate

This IT certification is offered through Amazon and validates your ability to create, use and debug cloud-based systems with AWS. The AWS Certified Developer certification is best for people who play a developmental role within their company's information technology department.

Qualifications: In order to take this exam, you must have knowledge of one or more programming languages as well as six months to a year of experience using AWS systems.

How to prepare: Ensuring that you are familiar with the topics that will be tested is key to preparing for this course. Topics include using SDKs in AWS applications, designing code that works best with AWS applications and coding security to access AWS systems. There are several preparation courses or study guides you can utilize to prepare for this exam.

5. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

This certification is offered by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) and focuses on IT security and implementations at the management level. This certification is ideal for information systems professionals who wish to further their knowledge in their area of expertise and advance to management. The CISM demonstrates a person's ability to create, implement and manage a company's security systems.

Qualifications: You must have a minimum of five years of experience in information systems to take this exam. This experience must be within the last 10 years of taking the exam.

How to prepare: In addition to five years of hands-on experience, you can prepare for this exam by taking a CISM prep course.

6. Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

The Certified Ethical Hacker certification was created by and is offered through the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants. This certification validates your ability to find and fix any vulnerabilities in applications and implement anti-hacker initiatives. The CEH is best for site administrators, security officers and security auditors.

Qualifications: You must have a minimum of two years of experience in information security to take this exam.

How to prepare: Familiarizing yourself with the exam contents is the best way to prepare for this test. Topics to cover include general security knowledge, tools and programs used to implement information security and regulation and policy.

7. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

This certification is offered through the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium and is used to validate a person's security expertise and understanding of technology security best practices. The CISSP can benefit a variety of IT professionals is one of the most requested certifications on IT job listings.

Qualifications: You must have a minimum of five years of experience in information security as well as three years of experience as a security manager to take this exam.

How to prepare: To prepare for the CISSP exam, you should familiarize yourself with the eight components that will be covered on the test: software development security, security assessment and testing, security operations, risk management, communications and network security, asset security, security architecture and engineering and identity and access management.

8. Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)

The CRISC certification is offered through ISACA and is used to demonstrate a person's knowledge and skills regarding risk management and the development and implementation of information systems controls. This certification is good for IT professionals in nearly every industry.

Qualifications: You must have at least three years of experience in two of the four sectors covered on the exam.

How to prepare: To prepare, you can enroll in a CRISC prep course or participate in an in-person class.

9. Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

The CISA is another certification offered by ISACA and validates a person's abilities to effectively go through and manage every stage of the auditing process. The CISA is recognized on a global level as the primary certification for information security audit control. If you work in IS auditing, security or control, this certification may be a good choice for you.

Qualifications: You must have at least five years of experience in information security control, auditing or security and must pass an entry-level exam before being able to take the CISA exam.

How to prepare: The entry-level exam is a great way to prepare for this test as are courses specific to the CISA exam.

10. Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect

This is a certification that was introduced in 2017 to certify IT professionals as cloud architects skills in the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). This certification validates a person's capability to develop and manage scalable and effective GCP architecture.

Qualifications: You must be knowledgeable about architecture solutions that best fit a given situation.

How to prepare: To best prepare for this exam, you should have ample real-world experience, training and practice with architecture within the GCP. You can also take a number of different prep courses to expand your knowledge of what to expect on this test.

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