Global Knowledge Names the 15 Highest-Salaried IT Certs for 2021

Global Knowledge has anointed the 15 highest-salaried IT certs for 2021.

It's that time of year again, when Global Knowledge starts mining the results of its annual IT Skills and Salary Report. As I write this, the complete repot, based on survey of several thousand IT professionals, is not yet published. That said, the company has released a popular and well-known teaser for same — namely, its list of 15 top-paying IT certifications for 2021.


Without further ado, I will now reproduce that list verbatim from the afore-linked source:


1) Google Certified Professional Data Engineer — $171,749

2) Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect — $169,029

3) AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate — $159,033

4) CRISC - Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control — $151,995

5) CISSP - Certified Information Systems Security Professional — $151,853

6) CISM – Certified Information Security Manager — $149,246

7) PMP® - Project Management Professional — $148,906

8) NCP-MCI - Nutanix Certified Professional - Multicloud Infrastructure — $142,810

9) CISA - Certified Information Systems Auditor — $134,460

10) VCP-DVC - VMware Certified Professional - Data Center Virtualization 2020 — $132,947

11) MCSE: Windows Server — $125,980

12) Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate — $121,420

13) CCNP Enterprise - Cisco Certified Network Professional - Enterprise — $118,911

14) CCA-V - Citrix Certified Associate - Virtualization — $115,308

15) CompTIA Security+ — $110,974


Multiple Methods of Breakdown and Analysis


Global Knowledge has anointed the 15 highest-salaried IT certs for 2021.

For a certification to register in the survey, it must get at least 68 responses from participants, and considered further in light of "market/skill demand and certification requirements" (quote comes from "How we built the list" section of the list document itself). 68 = 1.8 percent of the total population surveyed, so it doesn't take much to register on this radar.


That said, although Global Knowledge provides plenty of data about the average characteristics for each cert-holder on its list, the one thing it doesn't provide is the raw number of persons who laid claim to those credentials it includes. It does, however, say that salary is a simple mathematical average, and not adjusted for location or cost-of-living considerations.


Looking at the items in the list, I see five with out-and-out indisputable cloud connections. That's one third of the whole shooting match. There are also two certs that focus on virtualization which is at least arguable as a necessary underpinning for cloud-based services and operations. Security touches on five of the items, for another third of the list.


Auditing, project management, networking and Windows Server also appear. I'm amazed that the MSCE still shows sufficient staying power to remain in the top 15, at position 11. It's been retired since January of this year, with its retirement having been announced in February 2020.


Realistically, the MSCE has been out of circulation since 2018. But lots of people making the kinds of salaries shown in the list have been in the industry for 10 years or more, where average ages by cert show that many could have 20 or more years of IT experience to help justify their remuneration.


Nothing in this list surprises me except for the MCSE —and I'm not questioning its veracity or its right to be included. It's interesting that Google, AWS, and Azure all register in the cloud realm. That speaks of their well-developed and long-standing certification programs and close ties into the training and certification industries.


I suspect other major cloud platforms will register in this list in the next year or two. It's interesting that VMware, Nutanix and Citrix all appear on the list in what have to be "supporting infrastructure" roles for an increasingly cloud-based and -heavy IT world we all now live in.


I'm also tickled to see those truly evergreen certs — namely the CISSP and the PMP — keep on keeping on in the list as they have done for as long as I can remember.


Turning Aspirations Into Learning and Development Targets


Global Knowledge has anointed the 15 highest-salaried IT certs for 2021.

One of the more interesting breakdowns in the list is on the vendor-specific vs. vendor-neutral access. There can't be a tie with an odd number of entries, but it's interesting that 6 are vendor-neutral and 9 vendor-specific. That's a 40-60 split. It's about what I'd expect given that senior-level IT certifications lean more toward vendor-specific coverage as seniority and salary levels increase.


And certainly all of the vendors whose names appear in the list are solid, well-known and -run companies whose programs represent fruitful areas of personal and professional investment for the foreseeable future. I'm also glad to see at least a couple of certs with Architect in their titles, because of the ever-increasing and important involvement of architects in IT design, deployment, development and operations.


Two More Things..


Thing One: Do read the original Global Knowledge list. It includes lots of useful details about the people who earned each of the certifications included therein.


Thing Two: It also lists the also-rans (spots 16-18), which continue very much in the same vein as the items that precede them. These are  EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (No. 16), AWS Certified Developer (No. 17), and Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect Expert (No. 18).


The cloud theme continues strong, and will no doubt predominate future lists for the foreseeable future. Check it out, and think about what you wanna be for your next IT incarnation (or "when you grow up" as the old question used to go). 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, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.