When it comes to IT certifications, a certain set remains at the forefront. If you look at various IT certification salary surveys or reports on the most sought-after IT certifications, you’ll see specific names or acronyms pop up again and again. To spell those out explicitly, here’s an updated list of the best evergreen IT certifications for 2019.
This guide presents some top IT certifications for 2019, based on recent pay surveys in IT, reports from IT professionals about certifications they want or pursue the most, and those that appear most frequently in online job postings. For the record, “evergreen” is a publishing industry term for a title that keeps on selling year after year. We consider the certifications in this collection to be evergreen, as all show noteworthy longevity in terms of desirability and popularity, and often in associated remuneration.
Our top IT evergreen certifications for 2019 include the CCIE, CCNA, CISSP, PMP, ITIL and MCSE. Below, we’ll also review other evergreen IT certifications, including the VMware Certified Professional (VCP) certifications and the CompTIA “Holy Trinity,” namely the A+, Network+ and Security+ certifications.
Note: All these certifications are quite different, and range from entry to senior level in terms of the knowledge, skills and experience required to earn them. We present them here in no particular order.
Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)
The Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) remains one of the most coveted networking certifications available. Internationally recognized, the CCIE is an expert-level credential achievable by only the most skilled, technically proficient and experienced IT networking professionals. All roads in the Cisco certification path lead to the CCIE, making it a career pinnacle and the culmination of years of hard work, training and experience. CCIE credential holders are recognized by peers and employers as experts in their respective networking fields. Such skilled professionals possess superior network engineering skills and can manage and operate large, complex networks, as well as develop creative solutions to complex networking problems across a broad range of circumstances and technologies.
There are six CCIE certification specializations available, each corresponding to a Cisco certification path:
In addition to a rigorous written exam, credential seekers must pass a strenuous lab exam. Labs are timed and designed to test technical skills such as problem determination and the ability to find solutions under stressful conditions. The CCIE lab exams have a well-deserved reputation of being difficult and demanding; many candidates must try two or more times to pass them. At $1,600 plus travel costs for each try, that’s an expensive proposition.
In 2015, Cisco updated all its expert-level, written exams to include a new domain focused on new and emerging technologies. This new domain, aptly named Evolving Technologies, remains focused on three areas: Cloud, Internet of Things (IoT) and Network Programmability. (Focus areas may change as additional technologies are introduced and adopted.) The Evolving Technologies domain constitutes 10 percent of the total CCIE exam and targets conceptual comprehension. Earning a CCIE is time-intensive and requires real effort and commitment. IT professionals who like a marathon will find the rewards at the end of the journey — recognition, prestige and earning potential, to name a few — make the CCIE credential well worth the work involved in earning one. A CCIE is a long-term career goal worth considering for IT professionals serious about their networking careers.
|Routing and Switching|
Exam costs: Written exams are $450. Lab exams are $1,600 per attempt (available only at specific Cisco sites worldwide). Pearson VUE is Cisco’s authorized test delivery partner. Exam prices may vary by geographies due to local taxes and exchanges rates.
Self-paced training: The Cisco Learning Network Store offers a variety of self-study, self-paced courses and labs. Additional resources, including reference and design guides, training opportunities, and self-study resources materials are available on individual exam pages.
Other learning opportunities: Study documents, recommended reading, test examples, training opportunities, online communities and study groups are available at the Cisco website.
Recertification: Certification is valid for 24 months. Credential holders may recertify by passing one of the following:
- Any CCIE written or lab exam
- Any CCDE written or practical exam
- Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr) interview and board review
Candidates may also earn 100 credits through the Cisco Continuing Education Program to meet the recertification requirement.
Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
For those pursuing a career working with Cisco routed and switched networks, the Cisco Certified Network Associate, or CCNA, is a must-have credential. The CCNA serves professionals with the technical skills to ensure that routers and network systems operate at the highest levels of quality and efficiency.
CCNA credential holders are leaders in performing essential tasks such as installation, configuration, operation, troubleshooting and problem analysis, connection verification to remote sites, security risk mitigation, and performance enhancement, just to name a few. Credential holders are familiar with technologies such as access control lists (ACLs), VLANS and various routing protocols.
IT professionals seeking to specialize in a particular area of midsize routed and switched networks will find the CCNA Routing and Switching certification particularly suited to their needs. Eight other CCNA concentrations are available (three of which require a valid CCENT or CCNA Routing and Switching as a prerequisite; see prerequisites table below for more details):
- CCNA Cloud – Technical skills include provisioning and management of cloud environments with cloud administration and reporting. Candidates should possess a basic understanding of cloud infrastructure and the skills necessary to manage infrastructure as a service (IaaS) deployments.
- CCNA Collaboration – Focus is on collaboration and video skills, including integration with mobile applications and data, video and voice.
- CCNA Cyber Ops – Focus is on detecting cybersecurity breaches and responding effectively to cybersecurity incidents (typically in the context of a security operations center).
- CCNA Data Center – Credential holders are ready to work in data centers to support, maintain and manage data center networks and services.
- CCNA Industrial – Credential targets professionals in the industrial roles (process control or manufacturing) where IT and industrial networks converge.
- CCNA Security – Technical skills include the ability to develop security infrastructures, identify and mitigate security risks, and maintain integrity and availability of the network and network devices.
- CCNA Service Provider – CCNA SP holders act as Tier 1 support engineers in a troubleshooting role within carrier-class NGN core network infrastructures, including incident handling, plus fault, configuration, change and performance management procedures, in an environment where network management systems (NMS) and ticketing tools are in everyday use.
- CCNA Wireless – Credential holders support and manage WLAN systems.
Required courses: None; however, some CCNA specializations have prerequisites, as listed below.
|CCNA Cyber Ops||None|
|CCNA Data Center||None|
|CCNA Industrial||Must complete the Industrial Networking Specialist exam, or possess a valid CCENT, CCNA Routing and Switching, or any CCIE certification|
|CCNA Routing and Switching||None|
Must possess a valid CCENT, CCNA Routing and Switching, or any CCIE certification
|CCNA Wireless||Must possess a valid CCENT, CCNA Routing and Switching, or any CCIE certification|
Required exams: Each CCNA specialization has a different exam requirement, as listed below.
|CCNA Cyber Ops|
|CCNA Data Center|
|CCNA Routing and Switching|
Exam costs: All CCNA exams listed above are $300 except for 200-125, which is $325, and the ICND1 and ICND2 exams at $165 each. Pearson VUE is the authorized Cisco test delivery partner.
- CCNA Routing and Switching Complete Study Guide: Exams 100-105, 200-105, and 200-125, 2nd edition, by Todd Lammle (Sept. 26, 2016). Sybex. ISBN-10: 1119288282; ISBN-13: 978-1119288282
- CCNA Routing and Switching Complete Certification Kit: Exams 100-105, 200-105, 200-125, 2nd edition, by Todd Lammle (Feb. 6, 2017). Sybex. ISBN-10: 1119375126; ISBN-13: 978-1119375128.
CCNA practice exams: Candidates may purchase the Cisco Practice Tests by MeasureUp: CCNA Routing and Switching (200-125) (30-day key) for $119 and lab access for $149. Candidates may also purchase a 365-day Routing and Switching certification pass for $319. The Cisco Learning Network Store offers fee-based learning labs.
Self-paced training: The Cisco Learning Network Store offers a variety of self-study, self-paced courses and labs.
Recertification: The CCNA credential is valid for three years. Candidates must pass one of the following to recertify:
- Any current associate-level exam (except for ICNDI1)
- Any current 642-XXX or 300-XXX professional-level exam
- Any current 642-XXX Cisco Specialist exam (some exclusions apply)
- Any current CCIE written exam
- The current CCDE written or practical exam
- The Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr) interview and board review
Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
Hackers and other unscrupulous persons will always find new and innovative ways to violate and break through network security perimeters. The need for qualified information security professionals has never been greater. For those professionals, the Certified Information Systems Security Professional, or CISSP, is one of the premier and highest-value certifications available.
Developed by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, or (ISC)2 (pronounced “ISC squared”), the CISSP credential is not only recognized globally, but was the first certification of its kind to be accredited by the American National Standards Institute to comply with ISO (International Organization for Standardization) Standard 17024. Recognized for their excellence, CISSP credential holders possess advanced skills necessary to develop policies, create standards and implement protective procedures to safeguard information.
Credential seekers are required to possess a minimum of five years of experience, all of which must be in at least two information security domains specified by (ISC)2. Candidates with a four-year college degree or equivalent, or an approved credential, may request a waiver of one year of experience. These are the eight CISSP security domains:
- Security and Risk Management
- Asset Security
- Security Architecture and Engineering
- Communications and Network Security
- Identity and Access Management (IAM)
- Security Assessment and Testing
- Security Operations
- Software Development Security
After completing the CISSP, credential holders can choose to pursue additional certifications in Architecture (CISSP-ISSAP), Engineering (CISSP-ISSEP) or Management (CISSP-ISSMP). The CISSP is not a lifetime certification; credential holders are required to pay annual maintenance fees and continue their professional development and training. Despite the cost of ongoing maintenance, IT pros will find the CISSP well worth the effort.
Required courses: None.
Required exams: One exam.
Exam costs: Standard registration is $699. Additional exams for each CISSP concentration area (CISSP-ISSAP, CISSP-ISSEP and CISSP-ISSMP) are $599 each. See examination pricing document for costs in other countries.
CISSP books: (ISC)2 Certified Information Systems Security Professional Official Study Guide, 8th edition, by James M. Stewart, Mike Chapple and Darril Gibson (May 8, 2018). ISBN-10: 1119475937, ISBN-13: 978-1119475934
Official (ISC)2 Guide to the CISSP CBK, 4th edition (ISC)2 Press, by Adam Gordon (Mar. 11, 2015). Auerbach Publications. Sybex ISBN-10: 1482262754, ISBN-13: 978-1482262759
CISSP training: (ISC)² offers multiple training opportunities, including review seminars, live online classes, e-learning and textbooks. For more information, visit https://www.isc2.org/Training.
Practice exams: Practice exams are available on Amazon.com.
Recertification: The CISSP certification is valid for three years. Credential holders are required to earn a minimum of 40 continuing professional education (CPE) credits each year (total of 120 CPEs in the three-year certification cycle) to maintain the credential. An annual maintenance fee of $85 is required.
Project Management Professional (PMP)
Offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the Project Management Professional (PMP) credential is highly sought after by those responsible for converting IT project plans and strategies into action. The PMP credential is coveted by employers seeking the most skilled project management professionals.
Developed by project managers, the PMP certification is the highest credential PMI offers. This credential ensures that credential holders possess the skills and qualifications necessary to successfully manage all phases of a project, including initiating, planning and budgeting, scheduling, controlling, monitoring and closing the project. PMP-certified project managers are also well versed and skilled in managing all aspects of the triple constraints — time, cost and scope. Employers depend on PMP professionals to manage budgets, track costs, manage scope creep and identify how changes to the triple constraints may introduce risk into the project and minimize such risk.
In addition to passing a comprehensive and exhaustive exam, credential holders must demonstrate and certify that they possess the skills and education necessary to succeed in the project management field. Credential seekers should be prepared to provide documentation regarding such items as education, projects worked on and hours spent in each of the five project management disciplines.
In September 2017, PMI released the sixth edition of its PMBOK Guide. In response to the release of the new PMBOK Guide, PMI also rolled out a new PMP exam on March 26, 2018. The purpose of the new exam is to ensure consistency regarding terminology usage, tools, techniques and processes references between the new PMBOK Guide and the exam. The Exam Content Outline remains unchanged.
While it’s a difficult certification to achieve, the rewards for PMP credential holders can be significant. According to the latest (2018) PMI Salary Survey, PMPs globally earn an average of 23 percent more than their non-credentialed counterparts, with median annual earnings in the United States of $112,000. Global Knowledge reports slightly higher average earnings for U.S. PMPs at just under $115,000 for 2018.
Those interested in the field of project management who do not yet possess the required combination of skill and education to qualify for the PMP credential may consider the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification. An entry-level project management credential, the CAPM is designed for those who are new to the project management profession but are still determining whether project management is their long-term career path.
PMI offers additional project management-related certifications, including program and portfolio management, risk analysis credentials, and specialty certifications for Agile practitioners. Those interested in expanding their project management careers would do well to check out other credentials in the PMI portfolio, which include the following:
- Program Management Professional (PgMP)
- Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)
- PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)
- PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA)
- PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)
- PMI Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP)
Required courses and prerequisites: There are no required courses. Candidates must possess one of the following combinations of education and experience to qualify:
- Secondary degree (high school diploma plus associate’s degree or global equivalent), a minimum of five years non-overlapping project management experience with at least 7,500 hours of leading and directing projects, plus 35 hours of project management
- Four-year degree, a minimum of three years non-overlapping project management experience with at least 4,500 hours of leading and directing projects, plus 35 hours of project management education
Required exams: One.
Exam costs: Computer-based exams are $405 for PMI members and $555 for non-PMI members. Retakes are $275 and $375, respectively. Credential seekers must obtain an eligibility ID from PMI prior to registering for the exam. To obtain an ID, candidates must submit an application that demonstrates they meet the prerequisite combination of education and experience. All PMI exams are administered by Prometric.
Recertification: The PMP credential is valid for three years. Candidates must obtain 60 professional development units (PDUs) in each three-year cycle to maintain the credential.
- A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge: PMBOK Guide, 6th edition, by PMI (Sept. 22, 2017). Project Management Institute. ISBN-10: 1628251840, ISBN-13: 978-1628251845
- PMP Exam Prep – Updated: Rita’s Course in a Book for Passing the PMP Exam, 8th edition, by Rita Mulcahy (Aug. 1, 2015). RMC Publications. ISBN-10: 1932735658, ISBN-13: 978-1932735659
- An Introduction to Project Management, 6th Edition, by Kathy Schwalbe (Sept. 8, 2017). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN-10: 1544701896, ISBN-13: 978-1544701899.
PMP practice exams:
- PMP Exam: Practice Test and Study Guide, 10th edition (ESI International Project Management), by J. LeRoy Ward and Ginger Levin (Sept. 17, 2015). Auerbach Publications. ISBN-10: 1498752829, ISBN13: 978-14987528247.
Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE)
IT professionals seeking recognition of proficiency in the realm of Microsoft technologies will almost certainly want to consider the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) credential. MCSE credential holders are recognized for possessing the technical skills, expertise and knowledge necessary to perform complex roles using Microsoft technologies. Employers depend on MCSE professionals to solve difficult problems requiring innovative resolutions, design systems and complex solutions, build and deploy, and operate, maintain and optimize Microsoft-based systems.
The MCSE comes in various flavors, designed to meet the demanding requirements facing advanced Microsoft professionals in today’s ever-changing technology environment. Over the past several years, Microsoft introduced numerous changes to the MCSE certification portfolio. In September 2016, Microsoft introduced an entirely new collection of credentials, and retired its former slate of MCSE credentials in March 2017. While nothing regarding program changes has been formally announced, it appears that more changes are on the horizon. By way of example, you’ll note that the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure credential is absent from the certification program this year as it retired on December 31, 2018. The MCSE: Mobility credential is scheduled to retire on March 31, 2019. While it hasn’t been retired, the MCSE: Business Applications certification has an entirely new list of prerequisites and exams since our 2018 updates. Candidates interested in pursuing the MCSE should check the Microsoft certification page frequently for the latest updates.
Current MCSE certification paths include the following:
The MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure retired on December 31, 2018. A replacement has not yet been announced. Mobility – march 19, 2018 MCSE: Business Applications, new set of exams
An advanced credential, the MCSE builds on foundational skills developed at the MCSA certification level. In addition to earning a preliminary MCSA (which takes two or three exams depending on subject matter), credential seekers must pass only one exam relating to their area of expertise and focus to advance to the MCSE from the MCSA. Links in the preceding list also lead to applicable prerequisite MCSA requirements for each MCSE (for example, the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure takes a variety of MCSAs as prerequisite, including the MCSA: Windows Server 2016).
The MCSE offers credential holders numerous benefits, including recognition from peers, establishment as an expert in Microsoft technologies, and prestige and validation of technical skills. Plus, the MCSE (and the MCSA) credentials have real-life benefits in terms of earning potential and access to new jobs or promotions.
The latest generation of MCSE credentials does not expire. But each credential is tied to a specific platform or version, so an outdated MCSE will make itself obvious in any certification portfolio. Microsoft encourages MCSAs and MCSEs to keep their credentials current by taking at least one new or relevant exam every year. That’s also why MCSE and MCSA cert holders need to check in on exam offerings and prerequisites yearly.
Required courses: Prior courses are not generally required, but a current MCSA is. The MCSE requirements list all necessary exams, along with prerequisite MCSA credentials (of which any one will suffice).
Required exams: All current MCSEs require candidates to pass three or four exams, depending on the concentration area, as some MCSA certifications require three exams, while others require only two.
|Prerequisites & Required Exams|
MCSA: Windows 10 Take any one of the following exams:
This credential is scheduled to retire on March 31, 2019.
|MCSE: Data Management and Analytics|
MCSA: SQL Server 2012/2014, SQL 2016 Database Administration, SQL 2016 Database Development, BI Development, Machine Learning, BI Reporting or Data Engineering with Azure
Take any one of the following exams:
MCSA: Office 365, Windows Server 2012, or Windows Server 2016
Take any one of the following exams:
|MCSE: Business Applications|
MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365, or Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations
Take any one of the following exams:
Exam costs: Microsoft exams typically cost $165. Prices may vary based on the specific geography, and taxes may apply in some instances.
MCSE study materials: Microsoft Learning has numerous resources available by specialization area, including books, exams, online courses and classroom training. For more information on self-study, visit Microsoft Learning.
IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) Service Management Foundation
For many IT professionals, the ITIL Service Management Foundation Certification represents the holy grail for those interested in best practices. ITIL is much more than a certification; it’s a philosophy designed to increase reliability and produce the highest-quality IT products and services through use of organizational best practices and proven processes.
ITIL practices meet quality standards set by ISO/IEC 20000 (the IT Service Management Code of Practice). As business and organizations become increasingly dependent on technology, the requirement for IT professionals who possess a superior understanding of ITIL management philosophies and processes continues to increase.
ITIL currently has five certification tiers:
- ITIL Foundation – Credential holders understand ITIL key processes, terminology, structure and concepts, as well as links between the lifecycle stages and how they enhance product quality. The Foundation certification fulfills prerequisites for the ITIL Intermediate level.
- ITIL Practitioner – This qualification focuses on Continual Service Improvement (CSI), including measurement and metrics, communication, and organizational change management.
- ITIL Intermediate – Two paths are available: Service Lifecycle (strategy, design, transition, operation, CSI) and Service Capability (planning, protection, optimization, service offerings and agreements, release, control and validation, and operational support and analysis). A candidate may create a combined qualification by choosing modules from both the Service Lifecycle and Service Capability paths. ITIL Intermediate credential holders possess an in-depth knowledge of processes, roles, best practices, management, activity control and execution.
- ITIL Expert – Credential holders possess superior in-depth knowledge of ITIL processes and practices across the entire cross-spectrum of ITIL disciplines. Credential seekers must earn a total of 22 credits, which includes passing the Managing Across the Lifecycle (MALC) exams, to qualify for the Expert designation. Up to 17 of the credits may come from passing various Foundation and Intermediate modules.
- ITIL Master – Credential holders possess superior knowledge and practical experience applying ITIL principles and processes across a broad set of ITIL disciplines including organizational and industry change, continual improvement and audit and certification preparation. They must be able to analyze and create solutions to complex issues. Master credential holders have achieved the Expert level and have at least five years of experience in IT service management. They also possess skills necessary to train other ITIL practitioners.
Modular in its structure, each ITIL tier builds upon skills obtained in preceding certification levels. Credential seekers earn credits at each level, which accumulate as they progress through ITIL’s tiers. While the numbers of credits required at each certification level remain constant, credential seekers can choose their paths from the various modules available. ITIL certifications, especially the Expert and Master qualifications, are time-consuming to obtain and require dedication and commitment. However, the rewards make ITIL certifications well worth the effort for IT professionals focused on best practices and continual quality improvement.
Required courses: Credential seekers need to review the individual ITIL qualification pages for complete certification details and prerequisites, as these vary depending on the individual ITIL qualification and the given certification’s area of concentration. Training is recommended but not required for ITIL Foundation and ITIL Practitioner.
|ITIL Practitioner||ITIL Foundation certification|
Required exams: ITIL Foundation, ITIL Practitioner and ITIL Expert credentials require one exam; ITIL Intermediate credential seekers can expect to take a minimum of four or five exams, depending on the path. No exams are required for the Master certification.
|ITIL Foundation||ITIL Foundation exam|
|ITIL Practitioner||ITIL Practitioner exam|
|ITIL Intermediate – Service Lifecycle|
|ITIL Intermediate – Service Capability|
|ITIL Expert||ITIL Managing Across the Lifecycle (MALC) exam|
|ITIL Master||None (board review occurs instead)|
Exam costs: PeopleCert is the Axelos Accredited Exam Institute. The Foundation exam costs $346 while the Practitioner exam is $469. Intermediate and Expert level exams are $399 each. Exams are also frequently given at the end of an approved training course by the training provider. ITIL books: Official and other ITIL publications are available from the AXELOS store. Credential seekers must create a user profile to log in and access materials.
ITIL practice exams: Check with individual ITIL exam institutes for availability of practice exams.