The 8 Most-Powerful IT Certifications You Can Get

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The IT industry is currently booming. With technology continuing to progress forward at an unprecedented rate, more and more jobs are being created and employment rates are soaring. However, despite this increase, many individuals are still struggling to find employment.

One of the reasons for this is because the opportunities available are creating competition. In other words, despite there being an abundance of jobs available, there are also now millions of candidates out there applying for them.

The key, therefore, is to make yourself stand out from the crowd, and a great way to do this is by obtaining professional certifications to help bolster your resume. In this guide, we will be showcasing some of the best IT certifications available right now and comparing their best and worst aspects. If you are an aspiring IT practitioner, or you are simply looking to move up the ladder, stick around, as we discuss some of the most respected and well-regarded qualifications in the IT industry.

Top IT Certifications

CertificationTopicsSupportPrice
ISACA: CISM (Certified Information Security Manager)
  • Information Security Governance
  • Information Risk Management
  • Information Security Program Development and Management
  • Information Security Incident Management
  • Study materials
  • Instructor-led training
  • On-site chapter reviews
  • Exam preparation community
Exam: $415 (Members), $545 (Non-members)
ISACA: CRISC (Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control)
  • Risk assessment
  • Risk management
  • Study materials
  • Instructor-led training
  • On-site chapter reviews
  • Exam preparation community
Exam: $575 (Members), $760 (Non-members
EC-Council: CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker)
  • Reconnaissance
  • Network scanning
  • Enumeration
  • System hacking
  • Server hacking
  • Sniffing
  • Application hacking
  • Evading IDS, Firewalls, and Honeypots
  • Social engineering
  • Denial-of-service
  • SQL injection
  • IoT hacking
  • Cloud computing
  • Cryptography
  • Online training
  • Training partner
Exam: $500
Application fee: $100
EC-Council: ECSA (Certified Security Analyst)
  • Network penetration testing
  • Social engineering
  • Web application penetration testing
  • Database penetration testing
  • Cloud penetration testing
  • Report writing and post-testing actions
  • Online training
  • Training partner
Exam: $999
Course material: $899
Application fee: $100
ISACA: CISA (Certified Information Systems Auditor)
  • Information Systems Auditing Process
  • Governance and Management of IT
  • Information Systems Acquisition, Development, and Implementation
  • Information Systems Operations and Business Resilience
  • Protection of Information Assets
  • Study materials
  • Instructor-led training
  • On-site chapter reviews
  • Exam preparation community
Exam: $440 (Members), $625 (Non-members)
(ISC)2: CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional)
  • Software development 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
  • Online instructor
  • Private on-site training
  • Classroom-based training
Exam: $699
Google: GCP (Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect)
  • Design and plan a cloud solution architecture
  • Manage and provision the cloud solution infrastructure
  • Design for security and compliance
  • Analyze and optimize technical and business processes
  • Manage implementations of cloud architecture
  • Ensure solution and operations reliability
  • Hands-on labs
  • Practice exam
Exam: $200
CCNP Routing and Switching
  • Implementing Cisco IP Routing
  • Implementing Cisco IP Switched Networks
  • Practice tests
  • Courseware
  • Instructor-led training
  • 24-hour lab access
  • Hands-on training
  • Digital courseware (if available)
Exam: $900 – $1200

1. ISACA: CISM (Certified Information Security Manager)

ISACA: CISM (Certified Information Security Manager)

TopicsSupportExam DetailsCost
  • Information Security Governance
  • Information Risk Management
  • Information Security Program Development and Management
  • Information Security Incident Management
  • Study materials
  • Instructor-led training
  • On-site chapter reviews
  • Exam preparation community
Duration: 4 hours
Number of questions: 150
Passing percentage: 56%
Exam: $415 (Members), $545 (Non-members)

The CISM certification has been designed to teach relevant information security skills that cover a broad range of topics. It is currently one of the more popular certifications available, with many professionals often turning to it to bolster their existing credentials.

Topics

The main focus of CISM is on helping information security managers to understand the relationship between information security and the needs of a business. It does this by placing emphasis on management and strategy, covering topics with a more summarizing approach, rather than a deep and technical one.

This makes it a great choice for anyone looking to get into a management role, as it will give you the knowledge you need, without teaching you any unnecessary skills. It is also, therefore, worth looking at if you plan to become an auditor or consultant in this space for these same reasons.

Support

To help you study and prepare for the exam, ISACA provides you with a number of different resources, such as study materials, instructor-led training, and on-site chapter reviews. You are also given access to an exam preparation community, giving you the option to discuss the material with others.

The study guides, in particular, are extremely useful, as they give detailed information about the topics covered in the exam. There is an all-in-one option available, which integrates self-study along with expert information.

Exam Details

The exam for CISM is fairly straightforward. You will have 150 questions to answer in the space of four hours, and you will need to get at least 56% of the marks to pass. This makes it one of the more lenient certifications in this guide, although, the exam shouldn’t be underestimated because of its low pass mark.

Four hours to complete an exam may seem excessive at first, but when you do the math, you will only have around 1 and a half minutes to complete each question. There is also quite a lot of material to cover due to the certifications somewhat cursory approach, meaning you will need to revise multiple topics. This means it is less likely that you will remember everything off the top of your head, meaning you will most likely want to take your time with some of the questions.

Cost

The cost of the exam will vary depending on when you register and whether or not you are a member. As is the case for all of ISACA’s certifications, members get a significant discount compared to non-members, giving you an incentive to earn more of their certifications in the future. ISACA also offers discounts if you register early, giving you another way to save some money if you plan ahead.

Link to certification: https://www.isaca.org/credentialing/cism

2. ISACA: CRISC (Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control)

ISACA: CRISC (Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control)

TopicsSupportExam DetailsCost
  • Risk assessment
  • Risk management
  • Study materials
  • Instructor-led training
  • On-site chapter reviews
  • Exam preparation community
Duration: 4 hours
Number of questions: 150
Passing percentage: 56%
Exam: $575 (Members), $760 (Non-members)

CRISC is a certification aimed primarily at security analysts. As such its material is rather specific compared to some of the other certifications that are out there. However, this will likely benefit you when it comes to taking the exam.

Topics

There are two main topics covered in the CRISC exam, risk assessment, and risk management. Both of these topics are of course geared towards information security, meaning you can expect to learn how to identify IT threats, assess those threats, and then respond to those threats. You will also be taught how to monitor for future threats, as well as how to report any findings and processes that you carry out.

This makes CRISC both thorough and comprehensive, as far as security analyst certifications go, giving you plenty of information about how to carry out the role effectively and intelligently. The material covered is also useful for a variety of other professions within the cybersecurity space, making CRISC a somewhat versatile certification, despite the specific nature of its material.

Support

Like CISM, CRISC is an ISACA certification, meaning it comes with an abundance of support to help you prepare for the exam. Among this support is its study materials, which are highly detailed, and full of excellent explanations. The exam preparation community is also a fantastic source of information for anyone struggling or looking to share what they have learned.

Instructor-led training is also available for those who need extra guidance, as well as on-site chapter reviews designed that include on-demand video training sessions, interactive modules, and case study activities. This means there should be at least one method of training that suits the way you like to learn, making CRISC one of the more student-friendly options in this guide.

Exam Details

The CRISC exam includes 150 questions that must be completed within four hours. This gives you over a minute and a half on each question, which should be fine provided you don’t get stuck on too many of them.

To pass the exam, you will need to score at least 56%, which is pretty reasonable, considering how strict other certification exams can be. This doesn’t mean you won’t need to revise heavily for it, but at the same time, it shouldn’t warrant the same amount of stress as some of the more illiberal options on this list.

Cost

To register and take the exam, you will need to pay either $575 if you are a member, or $760 if you are not. You will also want to make sure to register early to avoid paying even higher rates. This makes CRISC a somewhat expensive certification to obtain. However, you can save some money by sticking to the online resources that ISACA provides you with.

Link to certification: http://www.isaca.org/Certification/CRISC-Certified-in-Risk-and-Information-Systems-Control/Pages/default.aspx

3. EC-Council: CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker)

EC-Council: CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker)

TopicsSupportExam DetailsCost
  • Reconnaissance
  • Network scanning
  • Enumeration
  • System hacking
  • Server hacking
  • Sniffing
  • Application hacking
  • Evading IDS, Firewalls, and Honeypots
  • Social engineering
  • Denial-of-service
  • SQL injection
  • IoT hacking
  • Cloud computing
  • Cryptography
  • Online training
  • Training partner
Duration: 4 hours
Number of questions: 125
Passing percentage: 60% to 85%
Exam: $500
Application fee: $100

The CEH certification is an excellent addition to any penetration tester’s resume, providing crucial skills and knowledge to a profession that demands constant and continued learning. The certification is also widely recognized by employers in the information security sector, increasing your odds when it comes to applying for jobs in this space.

Topics

CEH teaches fundamental concepts that cover the entire process of ethical hacking, including reconnaissance, scanning, exploitation, and post-exploitation. It also teaches a number of specific techniques such as SQL injection, social engineering, and honeypot evasion, allowing you to learn real-world skills that you can apply on the job when working as a penetration tester.

Aside from the general concepts covered in the course, you are also given the opportunity to learn several modern hacking techniques relating to IoT and cloud computing. This holds the certification in great stead for the future, as it shows EC-Council is determined to keep its material fresh and current.

Support

EC-Council provides a somewhat limited amount of support compared to some of the other certification providers in this guide. However, you do still get a variety of online training resources, as well as a training partner to help you through the material.

Having a training partner is particularly useful, especially if you struggle to retain information from a textbook, as it will allow you to engage in discussion about the material, potentially increasing your understanding. Unofficial support may also be available elsewhere online. However, you should take such information with a pinch of salt, as it might not be completely accurate.

Exam Details

The CEH exam lasts a total of four hours. This is mainly due to the fact that it covers a large quantity of material. However, it is also because you will need to answer 125 questions during this time, giving you just under two minutes to spend on each question.

You will also need to get a minimum score of between 60% and 80%, making it one of the harder exams in this guide to pass. Fortunately, however, the exam covers very specific material, meaning a revision plan shouldn’t be too difficult to come up with.

Cost

The exam itself will cost $500 to take. However, if you are a self-study student you will also need to pay a $100 application fee for an eligibility check. Further investment in textbooks and other materials will also be required, which could make this certification a rather expensive investment depending on how much support you need.

Link to certification: https://www.eccouncil.org/programs/certified-ethical-hacker-ceh/

4. EC-Council: ECSA (Certified Security Analyst)

EC-Council: ECSA (Certified Security Analyst)

TopicsSupportExam DetailsCost
  • Network penetration testing
  • Social engineering
  • Web application penetration testing
  • Database penetration testing
  • Cloud penetration testing
  • Report writing and post-testing actions
  • Online training
  • Training partner
Duration: 4 hours
Number of questions: 150
Passing percentage: 70%
Exam: $999
Course material: $899
Application fee: $100

The ECSA certification is focused on training individuals to become top security analysts. It is an advanced certification designed to be completed once you have obtained the CEH certification, as it follows on from the material that one covers.

Topics

The ECSA certification focuses heavily on advanced penetration techniques that can be used to combat hackers and other cybercriminals. For this reason, it is not recommended for beginners, as much of its material requires experience in ethical hacking to fully understand.

As ECSA is an advanced certification, it is highly recommended that you obtain one or more of the other options first. This will not only make you better prepared for ECSA from an experience perspective, but also provide you with a foundation of knowledge that you can then build on with this certification. As mentioned CEH is a particularly useful certification to obtain before attempting ECSA. However, there are a number of other great options out there as well.

Support

ECSA comes with a decent amount of support resources compared to CEH, offering a wide variety of study materials, as well as the option of a training partner. EC-Council also gives you the option of collaborating with top infosec professionals, allowing you to get their thoughts and opinions on the certification and the industry in general.

Having access to these professionals is also a great networking opportunity, which shouldn’t be taken lightly. After all, you are most likely obtaining certifications to land a better job, and networking is a fantastic way to do that.

Exam Details

The ECSA exam is a particularly grueling one, lasting four hours and comprising 150 questions. For this reason, you will want to make sure to hit the revision hard beforehand, as without sufficient preparation, this exam will be extremely difficult to pass.

This difficulty is further increased by the fact that the pass percentage for this exam is 70%. This means that not only do you need to contend with advanced topics and a fairly large volume of questions, but also the daunting task of scoring highly on those questions as well. It is for these reasons that ECSA is considered an advanced certification, and this is why it is recommended that participants first complete other certifications such as CEH before attempting it.

Cost

The ECSA certification is expensive, with the exam alone costing $999. A further $100 will also need to be paid if you are a self-study student, and course materials will likely set you back a further $899 as well. For these reasons, we recommend seeking professional funding from an employer or other sources before attempting ECSA, as its difficulty coupled with its price tag makes this certification a risky investment if you can’t subsidize the cost.

Link to certification: https://www.eccouncil.org/programs/certified-security-analyst-ecsa/

5. ISACA: CISA (Certified Information Systems Auditor)

ISACA: CISA (Certified Information Systems Auditor)

TopicsSupportExam DetailsCost
  • Information Systems Auditing Process
  • Governance and Management of IT
  • Information Systems Acquisition, Development, and Implementation
  • Information Systems Operations and Business Resilience
  • Protection of Information Assets
  • Study materials
  • Instructor-led training
  • On-site chapter reviews
  • Exam preparation community
Duration: 4 hours
Number of questions: 150
Passing percentage: 56%
Exam: $440 (Members), $625 (Non-members)

The CISA certification has been designed to teach valuable systems auditing concepts, including IT governance, management, and protection. It is somewhat of a niche certification compared to many of the others in this guide. However, the content of its syllabus could be useful to those within cybersecurity roles as well as auditing positions.

Topics

Aside from the topics mentioned above, CISA also focuses on information systems acquisition, development and implementation, operations and business resilience, and various auditing processes. The certification also places a large emphasis on security and the protection of information assets, making it somewhat relevant for systems and security analysts as well.

CISA is considered the global standard for professionals with careers in information systems, making it well recognized among employers in both infosec and other IT spaces. CISA holders are recognized as top professionals in their field, with the certification serving as proof of their knowledge and expertise within their respective roles.

Support

CISA is provided by ISACA, meaning you can expect a similar level of support to what is available for the organization’s other certifications. This means you will have plenty of study materials to work through, as well as instructor-led training, on-site reviews, and access to an exam preparation community.

Having all of this support available to you should make the process of preparing for the exam a lot easier, as it allows you to obtain information from a variety of different sources. It also gives you the option of tailoring your studies to suit you, rather than having to adapt to a set way of doing things.

Exam Details

The CISA exam lasts four hours and consists of 150 questions. This gives you an average of 1.6 minutes for each question, which is reasonable given its difficulty. To pass the exam, you will need to score at least 56%, which is in keeping with the other ISACA exams in this guide.

The exam will, of course, cover all of the topics mentioned above. However, the percentage of questions for each topic is unclear. For this reason, we recommend that you revise each section as much as possible in preparation for the exam to give yourself the best chance of success.

Cost

The cost of the CISA exam varies based on a number of factors, including when you register and whether or not you are a member. Early registration is the best way to go if you want to save money. However, you may also want to consider becoming a member to further reduce the cost.

Link to certification: https://www.isaca.org/credentialing/cisa

6. (ISC)2: CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional)

(ISC)2: CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional)

TopicsSupportExam DetailsCost
  • Software development 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
  • Online instructor
  • Private on-site training
  • Classroom-based training
Duration: 6 hours
Number of questions: 250
Passing percentage: 70%
Exam: $699

The CISSP certification deals primarily with teaching relevant security architecture and engineering skills. It is an ideal certification for a number of information security professionals. However, if you are looking for something that teaches specific skills that target a certain job role it might not be for you.

Topics

A lot of CISSP’s material focuses on risk management, security assessment, and testing. There are also modules designed to teach architectural and engineering concepts, giving you a well-rounded base of skills you can build from.

Identity and access management is also a major theme of this certification, teaching you how to build and manage software that ensures the correct people have the correct access to certain information and materials. This is a key area of cybersecurity at the moment, as it focuses on mitigating human error, which is one of the most prominent risks to an organization when it comes to information security.

Support

The support available for the CISSP certification is fairly extensive, including various study materials, as well as an online instructor, private on-site training, and classroom-based training. Some of these options, such as the classroom-based training, are only available in certain locations, so be sure to check what support is available to you before registering.

The certification also provides a number of self-study materials, giving you the freedom to study at your own pace. You can also schedule when you would like to take the exam for a time that best suits you, allowing you to fully prepare yourself before taking it.

Exam Details

The CISSP exam is a long and arduous one that will require your attention for six hours, as you work your way through 250 different questions. You will also need to score at least 70% on the exam to pass, making CISSP a rather difficult certification to obtain compared to some of the others in this guide.

For this reason, it is imperative that you revise heavily for this exam, as there is a lot of material to cover and you don’t want to get caught out by something unexpected. You do, of course, have the bonus of scheduling the exam for when you are ready, however, so you shouldn’t need to stress too much, provided you manage your revision time effectively.

Cost

The CISSP exam costs $699 to take, making it one of the more expensive options on this list. However, despite its seemingly inflated price tag, the CISSP certification is actually in keeping with the average price for certifications of this difficulty. We do recommend seeking professional funding if possible though, as subsidizing th4 cost will be highly beneficial.

Link to certification: https://www.isc2.org/Certifications/CISSP

7. Google: GCP (Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect)

Google: GCP (Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect)

TopicsSupportExam DetailsCost
  • Design and plan a cloud solution architecture
  • Manage and provision the cloud solution infrastructure
  • Design for security and compliance
  • Analyze and optimize technical and business processes
  • Manage implementations of cloud architecture
  • Ensure solution and operations reliability
  • Hands-on labs
  • Practice exam
Duration: 2 hours
Passing percentage: No scoring criteria
Exam: $200

The GCP certification is part of Google’s cloud certification program, which has been designed to teach modern technology skills to both aspiring and established professionals. The cloud architect certification we are featuring in this guide is intended for the latter and is recommended for those who have a few years of experience in the industry as well as at least one year’s experience on Google Cloud.

Topics

The topics covered in the cloud architect certification include designing and implementing cloud architecture, managing cloud infrastructure, and ensuring its reliability. You will also be taught how to analyze and optimize technical and business processes, as well as how to design for security and compliance.

This makes the certification a great option for anyone interested in cloud computing. However, those with a view of becoming cloud architects will find it the most beneficial, due to its strong focus on providing skills for this particular role.

Support

Google provides a decent amount of support to you when studying their certifications, including hands-on labs and practice exams. This not only gives you a way to learn practical skills in a specialized environment but also practice the test in a less stressful manner.

Google also gives you access to its Kubernetes engine, which is an open-source container-orchestration system designed for automating application deployment. Kubernetes allows you to build and test various software related to the certification, giving you a dedicated platform to work with as you study.

Exam Details

The exam for this certification lasts two hours, making it considerably shorter than the other certifications in this guide. There are no scoring criteria available for the exam. However, we do know that most of the questions are scenario-based and that many of them have nothing to do with Google.

This can make the exam particularly tricky compared to some of the others on this list, as the scope of the questions is almost limitless. Google also expects participants to come from a development background, which could trip you up if you aren’t a competent programmer.

Cost

To take the exam, you will need to pay a fee of $200, which is very reasonable, given the prices of the other exams in this guide. There are also no other fees to pay, as all of the material associated with the certification is digital and available on Google’s cloud platform.

Link to certification: https://cloud.google.com/certification/cloud-architect

8. CCNP Routing and Switching

CCNP Routing and Switching

TopicsSupportExam DetailsCost
  • Implementing Cisco IP Routing
  • Implementing Cisco IP Switched Networks
  • Practice tests
  • Courseware
  • Instructor-led training
  • 24-hour lab access
  • Hands-on training
  • Digital courseware (if available)
Number of exams: 3
Duration: 2 hours
Number of questions: 50-60 per exam
Passing percentage: 79%
Exam: $900 – $1200

The last certification in this guide is Cisco’s CCNP Routing and Switching certification. It has been designed primarily for network engineers. However, it is useful to a number of other professions as well, including other network-related roles, and some cybersecurity roles.

Topics

CCNP focuses on the use of Cisco technologies, teaching you how to implement Cisco IP routing, as well as switched networks. More specifically, this means you will be learning how to plan, implement, verify and troubleshoot local and wide-area networks for enterprise. You will also be given the opportunity to work with specialists on advanced security, voice, wireless, and video solutions.

This makes the certification rather specific in its approach. However, with so many industries relying on Cisco technology these days, it remains a useful addition to the resumes of several professions.

Support

Cisco provides a lot of support to help you earn this certification, including practice tests, instructor-led training, 24-hour lab access, and a variety of different courseware. You are also given opportunities to take part in hands-on training, allowing you to learn a variety of practical skills.

This makes the CCNP certification one of the best-supported options in this guide. However, as you will see from the next section, it really ought to be, as the exam process for CCNP is one of the more complex we have come across.

Exam Details

Unlike the other certifications on this list, CCNP includes three exams, each consisting of around 50 – 60 questions. You will be given two hours to complete each exam, meaning in total, you will spend up to six hours under exam conditions. This makes the assessment one of the more taxing in this guide. However, this thorough exam process is part of the reason why CCNP is so highly regarded among employers.

To pass each exam, you will need to score at least 79%. This makes earning the CCNP certification extremely difficult, as you will need to score consistently on each one in order to obtain a good average.

Cost

The CCNP certification is one of the more expensive in this guide, costing anywhere between $900 and $1200 depending on when you register and your status as a member. For this reason, subsidizing the cost is certainly preferable, although, we understand this might not be possible for everyone.

Link to certification: https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/training-events/training-certifications/certifications/professional/ccnp-routing-switching.html

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