These 15 IT certifications have the best ROI

Number one on the list was the Google Certified Professional Data Engineer, which the survey found can bring in $171,749 annually.
Written by Jonathan Greig, Contributor

IT training company Global Knowledge has released a ranking of the 15 top-paying certifications in 2021 based on the responses of 3,700 US-based respondents, finding that some Google, AWS and Microsoft certifications often led to six-figure salaries.

Number one on the list was the Google Certified Professional Data Engineer, which the survey found can bring in $171,749. Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect was next on the list with a salary of $169,029 followed closely by Associate AWS Certified Solutions Architects, who bring in $159,033.

CRISC, CISSP, CISM, PMP, CISA, MCSE, CompTIA Security+, CCA-V and other certifications all made their way onto the list, with salaries ranging from $151,000 to $110,000. Certifications for Azure, Cisco, Nutanix and VMware were also featured on the list. 

The company surveyed US IT workers from November to February this year and only included certifications that got at least 68 responses. 

The researchers behind the study noted that many of the top-paying certifications relate to cloud computing and cybersecurity. ITIL Foundation is the most widely held certification, the survey found. 

More than 65% of IT leaders said the annual economic value of having an employee with the additional skills and contributions made by being certified over a non-certified employee is over $10,000 while another 22% said the annual value is $25,000 and above.

"Technology is only as powerful as the capabilities of the people trained to use it," said Michael Yoo, general manager of technology & developer skills at Skillsoft, which owns Global Knowledge. "With this in mind, certifications are an excellent way of infusing vital skills into an organization, while boosting employee productivity and investing in ongoing professional development."

More than 75% of IT leaders said they struggle to find employees who match the skills they're looking for, particularly now that hacks and technology-related outages have become more commonplace and damaging, Yoo explained. 

Yoo added the certifications on the list are all accredited by industry-leaders, including AWS, Cisco, Google Cloud, ISACA and Microsoft. 

Yoo told ZDNet that project management and virtualization are perennial entries in this list, which he said is not surprising given how mission critical those skills are. 

"With Virtualization, it is the technical backbone of any modern technical infrastructure that hopes to run efficiently at scale, and it's essential whether you are working on-premises, in the cloud, or in a hybrid of both," Yoo said. 

"The no. 1 reason mentioned by IT professionals who changed jobs and why organizations who support continuous learning/upskilling will have an easier time attracting and retaining talent while deriving more value from its employees. If IT professionals don't see a future with your company, they'll leave." 

This was backed up by the findings of the survey, where 52% of respondents had two to four positions they were unable to fill in the last 12 months. 

Yoo noted that the pandemic has accelerated cloud adoption and made it clear that enhanced digital security measures have become fundamental to business operations. 

"Cybersecurity risks paired with the high rate of skills gaps and growing talent wars, you can understand why organizations are willing to pay higher salaries to skilled IT professionals who can protect them," Yoo said. 

"In regards to cloud computing, worldwide end-user spending on public cloud services is forecast to grow 23.1% in 2021 to total $332.3 billion, up from $270 billion in 2020, according to Gartner, Inc.. The crisis was a catalyst for establishing the value and flexibility of cloud computing. However, with cloud adoption, IT now faces a the challenge of finding skilled talent."

IT departments, Yoo explained, are now investing more in hiring externally or upskilling employees with the necessary certifications. 

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