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Global Knowledge today released its 15 Top-Paying IT Certifications for 2021 list, which is based on its 2021 IT Skills & Salary report. Google’s Certified Professional Data Engineer certificate is the highest-paying in the U.S. today, with an average salary of $171,749. Among other key findings, salaries for security certifications soared 21% last year to $139,706 on average (from $115,867), while cloud computing certification salaries increased 17% to $149,498 (from $127,494).

A certification had to have at least 68 survey responses to ensure the data was statistically valid, and the certification exam had to be available when the report was released. According to the survey, 55% of IT professionals said they had earned a new certification in the past year.

Cloud computing and cybersecurity certifications dominate

Eleven of the 15 top-paying IT certifications are in cybersecurity and cloud computing, as organizations prioritize risk management in 2021. Six certifications are in cloud computing, five in cybersecurity, three in networking, and one in project management. The Google Certified Professional Data Engineer and NCP-MCI – Nutanix Certified Professional –Multicloud Infrastructure certifications are included in the 15 top-paying IT certifications for the first time. Eleven of the certifications in this year’s list were also featured in the 2020 top-paying certification list. From Global Knowledge’s survey published today, the following table provides a breakout of the top 15 IT certifications in 2021.

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Key insights into the 15 top-paying IT certifications in 2021 include the following:

  • Average salary across all 15 certifications is $140,308 in 2021, up from $136,185 in 2020. The highest-paying cybersecurity certification leads to $151,959 average salary, 31% over last year’s average cybersecurity certification salary of $115,867. Virtualization and cloud computing certifications pay an average salary of $149,498, up 17% from last year’s average salary of $127,494. The five cybersecurity certifications pay an average annual salary of $139,706. Network certifications pay an average salary of $120,066.
  • Google certifications are the best-paying in 2021 by an $11,000 margin above Amazon AWS and $46,000 above Microsoft.  The average salary of technical professionals with Google certifications leading the 2021 list is $170,389. In contrast, Amazon AWS certifications translate to an average salary of $159,033, and Microsoft’s certifications result in a $123,700 salary. Organizations are willing to pay a salary premium for data engineering and cloud architectural expertise, making Google’s certifications the most valuable in IT today.
  • Three top-paying certifications with over 78,000 combined open positions in the U.S. just missed the cut. Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert, Certified Ethical Hacker (EC-Council), and AWS Certified Developer just missed being included in this year’s list of the top-paying IT certifications. According to the report, there are currently 57,000 open listings on LinkedIn seeking AWS Certified Developer expertise and 2,362 on Glassdoor. In addition, there are 10,350 open jobs on LinkedIn and over 7,100 on Indeed looking for technical professionals with Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect expertise. Between LinkedIn and Glassdoor, over 1,600 jobs are available for technical professionals with Certified Ethical Hacker (EC-Council) expertise.
  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) are the two most popular cross-certifications. It’s common for technical professionals to have one or more active certifications, especially if they’re involved in cloud infrastructure or cybersecurity. Among the respondents who had earned one or more of the 15 top-paying certifications, AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate and CISSP are the most popular. Tech professionals with active Google Certified Professional Data Engineer, Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect, or Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate certifications also have AWS Certified Solutions Architect certifications. Global Knowledge found that ITIL® Foundation is the most widely held certification, and the CompTIA A+ and Network+ certifications are among the most popular certifications held by IT professionals.

Lack of opportunities for career growth and professional development top the reasons IT and technical professionals change jobs, with 58% leaving for better career growth and professional development prospects. Another 38% changed jobs for increased compensation. The challenge for all technical professionals is keeping up with the fast-changing nature of their fields. Forward-thinking organizations that want to retain technical talent see professional development as a cornerstone when it comes to creating value for customers and delivering value as a business.

In fact, 66% of IT decision-makers said the annual economic value of the skills and contributions gained through certification is over $10,000. Within that group, 22% said the annual value amounts to $25,000 and above. Organizations that support continuous learning will also have an easier time attracting and retaining talent in a competitive marketplace.

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