In the ClearanceJobs 2022 Security Clearance Compensation Report, 52% said they hold at least one certification, a 3% jump from the prior year. More people are choosing to stand out to employers with certifications – and more companies are submitting proposals with a longer list of accomplishments. It’s no surprise that respondents who have a certification make $13,043 more than those who don’t hold any. Just like a graduate degree, a certification can be a salary game changer, but it all depends on which one you pick.

Access our report on top certifications held by security clearance holders. 

Top 10 Certifications Held by Cleared Professionals – 2022

The annual ClearanceJobs compensation survey had 24,089 respondents, and the level of talent is varied and deep for clearance holders. Sometimes, personal goals drive which certifications are popular, and other times in DoD contracting, the contract requirements are the push. Whatever the reason, here are the most popular certifications for clearance holders.

1. COMPTIA Security +

Once again, this is the most popular certification for clearance holders, and that’s because it’s a key baseline certification for meeting DoD 8140 – the directive that expands on the original DoD 8570. The COMPTIA Security + pays significantly less than other top certifications, but that’s because it’s one the beginning certifications on the cybersecurity ladder. And 24% of clearance holders who have a certification go for this one.

2. Six Sigma

Being more efficient is the name of the game when you’re supporting the federal government. The Six Sigma certification is not only commonly held by clearance holders, it also compensates well. Helping the federal government update its systems and processes requires data and proven methods.

3. COMPTIA Network +

If you want to prove that you have what it takes to troubleshoot, configure, and manage networks, the COMPTIA Network + plays an important role. Like the Security +, the Network + is important to have in order to meet DoD 8140, depending on the project role. This certification pays $3,560 more than the Security +.

4. Project Management Professional (PMP)

Want to be a better project manager? Want to get into project management at your current organization? This certification routinely compensates well, and it is commonly held by cleared professionals. It’s an investment to make, but if you’re in the position to take on project management, it is one to seriously consider.

5. Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) Foundations

Scope creep keep project managers up at night. The ITIL Foundations provide five levels to achieve during their career in providing IT services. Depending on the achievement level, this certification compensates well. Even at the Foundations level, those holding this certification average $19,500 more than the average clearance holder in the industry.

6. Amazon Web Services

Last year, this certification came in ninth, and this year, it jumped up three spots. Amazon Web Services continues to grow in federal spaces, and having this certification can be the right key to unlocking job opportunities.

7. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) is another entry-level certification for clearance holders. When it comes up to keeping pace with changing technologies and proving you have the network fundamentals down, the CCNA offers that verification.

8. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

If you want to prove that you can design, implement, and manage an organization’s cybersecurity program, the CISSP could be the right next step for you. Not only does this land in the top 10 list for commonly held certifications, it’s also a high-paying certification. And that’s because this certification is key for the IT director or Network Architect – roles that require experience and education as the foundation. Adding this certification makes a candidate a standout triple threat with the experience, education, and certification.

9. ScrumMaster

The federal government has a lot of complex problems, and it takes a creative approach to solve them. Standing out as an innovator or someone capable of bring about organizational change may mean adding a ScrumMaster certification to the resume. In software development, ScrumMaster certification can be a resume game changer.

10. Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE)

This retired certification is still commonly held by clearance holders, and it also routinely ensures a six-figure salary. The MCSE is typically used as an important step in Microsoft’s cloud certification line-up. Just because something is retired, doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant.

Certifications Key to Compensation

When it comes to winning contracts, it’s important to not just have a security clearance. One way to prove you have the experience you need to do that job – both to a recruiter and to the federal government – is to achieve a certification. And when it’s time to take on new roles – like a project management position, getting a PMP or ScrumMaster can be the ticket to making that transition seamless.

For full compensation details and other data on being cleared and certified, download our report, Cleared & Certified.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.