What IT certificates should I get?

By Brian Fairbanks

June 2, 2021 • 4 minute read

If you’re thinking of breaking into information technology (better known as IT) or you’re already in the IT field, certificate programs can be useful for enhancing your knowledge, earning certain credentials or simply staying current on the latest technology.

There are several ways to earn an IT certificate, including online and in-person programs, and it’s important to consider which is best for you as you take this first step toward a career in cybersecurity, computer networking, computer forensics, software development or entry-level IT.

There’s also the added advantage that certificate programs can help distinguish you in a sea of IT professionals. Read on to learn about the online certificate programs that may be available to you, the skills you’ll learn and how these can help enhance your career.

What are the best IT certificates for beginners?

It may be especially difficult to determine which IT certificate training or course you should start with. Sometimes, the hardest part is getting started. However, for a good entry-level start, IT professionals should look for certificates below the A+ level.

Once you’ve completed a course, you should have a better idea of what you still need to learn and, if you’ve figured out which specialty you want to focus on, you may want to sign up for a second program that focuses on that specialty.

Some entry-level certificates to consider are:

  • CompTIA Network+
  • CompTIA Security+
  • AWS Cloud Practitioner
  • CompTIA IT Fundamentals (ITF+)

What are the most valuable IT certificates?

Some information technology jobs require a certain IT certificate. For instance, a cybersecurity-focused job posting may request applicants with a cybersecurity certificate or a computer forensics certificate.

Some of the top IT security certificates and general IT certificates are:

  • Cybersecurity certificate

There are several excellent cybersecurity certificate courses out there, including online cybersecurity certificate programs. These include:

First, a Cybersecurity Policy and Governance Certificate helps students develop tools and skills they’ll need to help protect agencies and companies in the private or public sector from data loss and other risks of cyberattacks. Graduates of this program are educationally prepared to sit for the EC-Council Certified Chief Information Security Officer (CCISO) exam upon completion. (At some online universities, credits in this certificate program may be applied toward an optional Bachelor of Science in Information Technology degree program.)

Second, an Advanced Cybersecurity Certificate is a good option for IT professionals who have experience in the cybersecurity world or have completed other, basic cybersecurity certificate programs.

Third, a Cyber and Network Defense Certificate is an undergraduate course that focuses on the crucial area of preventing cyberattacks, which can mitigate damage and potentially save a company substantial financial losses and the threat of negative publicity.

  • Cloud architect and networking certificate

A Cloud Computing Certificate is especially relevant in today’s data-focused, IT-driven world. Some may find it easy to upload and update data in “the cloud” (external, virtual storage). However, businesses still depend on qualified professionals to do the hard part: set up all the automated uploading and other cloud computing systems. With a Certificate in Cloud Computing, students can gain the foundational knowledge and skills to help organizations build and manage their cloud services. Not only is this aspect of IT sometimes a full-time job, it can require an entire department at some major corporations.

Additionally, another option is an Advanced Networking Certificate, which is almost exactly what it sounds like: a way to deep dive into network solutions. Students in these courses tackle network protocols, operating systems and network architecture. they may also learn design and management. Many of these classes are available online and can help give budding IT professionals a boost in expertise.

To that end, future software developers might consider getting an Advanced Software Developer Certificate to better compete in that field. This undergraduate certificate program delves into programming languages and software architecture basics. Moreover, it typically lasts at least seven months and helps prepare students for C# and C++ certificate exams.

  • Computer forensics certificate

Have you ever heard of digital forensics? In the cybersecurity world, it’s an essential aspect of every major company’s security measures. Organizations task digital forensics professionals with planning, implementing and monitoring technological security settings and initiatives. This certificate is designed for IT professionals who are interested in pursuing a role as a cybersecurity specialist. Therefore, a Cybersecurity Digital Forensics Certificate may be the right first step!

Network forensics is similar: A Cybersecurity Network Forensics Certificate course focuses on how to keep systems safe from attack. Areas of instruction include teaching students how to conduct network penetration tests and handle and respond to security incidents. Also, they may analyze the vulnerability of networked computers.

What do IT certificate holders typically earn after graduation?

Experienced and trained IT professionals may, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), earn a wide range of annual incomes. This may depend on the location of the employer, the size of the company, the background and qualifications of the applicant, and several other factors. For example, an information security analyst earned a median salary of $103,590 in 2020. Comparatively, computer and information systems managers earned a median salary of $151,150 in the same year.

Equally important is the strong predicted job growth. For example, BLS estimates jobs for computer and information systems managers will grow by 10% between 2019 and 2029.

According to BLS, “Employment growth will result from the need to bolster cybersecurity in computer and information systems used by businesses. Industries such as retail trade will need to implement more robust security policies as cyber threats increase.”

Organizations consider some IT certificates as the industry standard. In other words, these can be critical and can help professionals grow in their career. Upskilling helps you stand out and remain relevant in your field. With this in mind, certificates can offer a speedy way to add to your skills. Best of all, students can complete certificates online, often as part of an IT degree program.

Looking to earn a technology degree or certificate? University of Phoenix has a number of offerings in cybersecurity, networking, cloud computing and more. Check out our available degrees and certificates.

The future of technology is constantly changing. Hear from people working in the industry on how you can keep up.

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