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The $100K club: Which certs could get you in?

Amelia Gray, June 22, 2011

The results of the 2011 IT Skills and Salary Report were released in March of this year by IT training firm Global Knowledge. The report found that 81 percent of IT professionals who earned certifications in the past five years considered it to be a worthwhile endeavor. More job responsibilities, promotion and a bigger paycheck could all start with a certification.

Certs that pay more than $100k

Top certifications can lead to big rewards. The certifications which broke the six-figure barrier, with average wages from 2011 as reported by Global Knowledge include the following:

  1. CCDP: Cisco Certified Design Professional ($107,878): An advanced knowledge of Cisco's design principles is necessary for this certification. Individuals with this credential are able to discuss, design and create sophisticated networks.
  2. ITIL Expert Certification ($107,092): The Information Technology Infrastructure Library provides the pillars for quality IT service management. Certified workers have a superior level of infrastructure knowledge.
  3. PMP: Project Management Professional ($103,570): This globally recognized certification is the most important for project managers, and requires a thorough knowledge of project management from initiating to closing.
  4. CISSP: Certified Information Systems Security Professional ($100,735): For anyone who develops information security policies and procedures, this is a highly useful certification. Many governmental, military and civilian security positions require the designation.

While no certification can guarantee a particular job or salary, designations like the ones above are often preferred or required by hiring and promotions managers as proof of an IT professional's knowledge with certain vendors and technologies.

What do the top paying certifications have in common?

Earning one of the certifications above might seem like a quick path to six figures, but the designations are more likely to be the final step on a long journey of training and prerequisites. Take a look at the requirements for the various certifications:

  • CCDP: Cisco CCNA and CCDA, or any CCIE certification
  • ITIL: Foundation in IT Service Management, then Intermediate, Expert and Master Qualification
  • PMP: Bachelor's degree, 4,500 or more hours of project management experience, 35 contact hours of project management education
  • CISSP: Bachelor's degree, three years of professional experience

These high-level certifications are designed to be difficult to acquire. As a result, they retain their high standard with hiring and promotions managers across businesses. Certificate holders are harder to find, and therefore in higher demand.

The future of certifications

In any competitive job market, certifications stand out. Peter Wood, member of the ISACA conference committee, recently told the website Women in Technology that well-established credentials are required for IT security jobs, and candidates applying would need CISA, CISM and CISSP qualifications and possibly a master's degree.

Unlike specific product certifications that can become irrelevant as technology advances, the broad standards covered in the certifications above have a longer shelf life. The skills workers can prove with certifications should be marketable for years to come.

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