Rara Avis: A Fully Endorsable Top 10 Certifications List

Ed Tittel discovers a Top 10 certs list worth its salt.

Those who regularly read my ramblings here at GoCertify know that I like to single out — and pick on — recent "Top Certification" stories from other publication. Today, for a change, I'd like to single one such list out for high praise and appreciation.

This list is indeed a rare bird (rara avis) as far as I'm concerned. I'm talking about the compilation enshrined in a Dec. 1 story from PC Magazine by Neil McAlister entitled Level Up Your Career: The Highest-Paying IT Certifications for 2024.

Simply put, this story is a peach, and its information is pure gold. But there's an uncommonly good reason why, too. PC Magazine is a Ziff-Davis publication. That gives it priority and special access to the data that sister company Spiceworks (another ZD company) routinely gathers as it handles more than 6 million unique visitors to its incredibly active website (and online community) every month.

Spiceworks has outstanding insight into a very large and vocal group of IT professionals who readily respond to requests for data to help Spiceworks to better understand and serve that community. Better still, however, the PC Magazine feature also draws data from the survey findings published each year by Skillsoft.

The Skillsoft survey is a reliable treasure in its own right: I've been following their surveys and reports for going on two decades now. Here's a link to the most recent report.

Brief Detour: Self-Disclosure Time

I have written in the past for PC Magazine (most recently in 2004) and I've covered Spiceworks as a journalist, as well as acting as a presenter at several Spiceworld gatherings (most recently in 2020). I am neither beholden to either party, nor obligated to say good things about them. Such regard as I have for them (pretty high for Spiceworks) is based on my personal experience and opinion.

OK, Then: The Highest Paying Certs for 2024

Ed Tittel discovers a Top 10 certs list worth its salt.

Without further ado or detours, here's the Top 10 list from PC Magazine/Spiceworks. It's interesting that in rounding the numbers that appear below — which represent the average annual salary of the credential holder — I rounded up twice, and down eight times.

The writer doesn't say anything about the population size from which the data comes, but what I glean from the underlying report (link above) is a group of tens of thousands of IT professionals drawn from Skillsoft's own customers, and from certification participants in programs for Google Cloud, Microsoft, ISACA, Nutanix, and CompTIA.

My immediate impression in looking at the list is that it's a little heavy on AWS and Google Cloud (three out of 10 for the former, four of 10 for the latter). But the salary numbers seem reasonable (though clearly chosen for their position at the top end of reported pay ranges):

1) Google Cloud – Professional Cloud Architect — $201,000
2) Google Cloud – Professional Data Engineer — $194,000
3) PMP (Project Management Professional) — $176,000
4) AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional — $174,000
5) CISM (Certified Information Security Manager) — $167,000
6) AWS Certified Security – Specialty — $166,000
7) Google Cloud – Profesional Cloud Database Engineer — $163,000
8) Google Cloud – Associate Cloud Engineer — $161,000
9) AWS Certified Solutions Architect — $160,000
10) CISSP — $157,000

None of the non-Google Cloud and AWS entries is quibble-worthy. In fact, all three have been evergreen, high-end, high-value certs for at least the past 15 years (longer for PMP and CISSP). Out of any sizable population, given the importance of cloud platforms and technologies, Azure, IBM, Oracle and other leading cloud platform certs should be able to give the Google and AWS items shown a run for the money.

And given that items five through nine fall in a narrow range — $167,000 to $161,000 — I'm willing to bet that sampling error could allow that order to oscillate pretty freely. I'm also willing to bet that top certs from the other cloud platforms not shown here would fall pretty much in the same range: $160,000 to $200,000, in very round numbers.

Interesting Takeaways from the Story (and its supporting data)

Obviously, cloud still rules the IT world as we know it today. I have to believe we'll see these leading positions adding AI-based skills and knowledge as soon as certs to identify qualified AI professionals really start gaining some traction. I wouldn't be surprised to see cybersecurity claim more than three slots in any given future survey, either.

The really big moral from the story is, of course, that those willing to put in the time and effort to earn and learn top-tier accolades should get paid pretty well for their investment. This list does provide a number of noteworthy and valuable targets for any IT professional's goals (or stretch targets, for people just starting down their career paths).

A Final Holiday Note

Ed Tittel discovers a Top 10 certs list worth its salt.

These will by my last words to appear here at GoCertify in 2023. So please let me take this opportunity to wish, you dear reader (and your friends and family) the best of all possible holiday seasons, with plenty of interesting things to do, learn, see, and eat! Have a good time and be ready to hit the ground running: 2024 looks to be a particularly important year for everybody in IT, and for all those pursuing learning and personal development for themselves and their careers. Cheers!

Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at www.edtittel.com, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.