In the 2023 Security Clearance Compensation Report, 52% of the respondents said they had at least one certification. Those who had a certification earned $15,609 more, and that certification can get a recruiter’s attention. Although some certifications are more common, not all certifications offer the same compensation. The higher you are on the career ladder and the harder the certification process, the more compensation candidates can earn.

Top 10 Certifications That Pay

Since time is money and getting certified is a commitment, you want to make sure the extra work is worth it. Respondents shared which surveys they had and how much they payed in the cleared industry.

1. Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) – $158,981

In an era of increasingly interconnected software, networking, and infrastructure, the CCIE certification seizes the opportunity to cater to this growing demand. While the certification process may appear uncomplicated at first glance, successfully achieving this prestigious credential serves as a definitive testament to a candidate’s exceptional expertise and substantiates the associated expert price tag.

2. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) – $150,806

With comprehensive knowledge and expertise in various domains, CISSP-certified professionals are equipped to navigate complex challenges and protect critical information assets. Their certification serves as a testament to their commitment to maintaining the highest standards of security practices.

3. Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE) – $150,364

Getting the CCDE demonstrates expertise in creating innovative network designs that address business requirements and technical challenges. CCDE professionals are well-versed in analyzing network requirements, designing scalable architectures, and implementing cutting-edge solutions for large-scale networks, putting its earning power in the top three.

4. Project Management Professional (PMP) – $147,045

By implementing standardized processes throughout all project phases, contractors significantly mitigate the risk of jeopardizing future contracts due to subpar performance. PMP-certified professionals have the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively lead diverse project teams towards successful outcomes. And it doesn’t hurt to have the salary to go with it.

5. Scrum Master – $144,236

The Scrum Master plays a crucial role in supporting the federal government by actively seeking out innovative approaches to tackle intricate challenges. With the Scrum Master certification under their belt, leaders gain a significant advantage over their competitors, as they are equipped with the skills and knowledge to navigate the ever-changing landscape of government projects.

6. GIAC Certifications – $143,076

In an era where cybersecurity has become a pressing concern, the GIAC certifications serve as a reliable indicator that a candidate actually has genuine expertise and isn’t just proficient on paper. These certifications validate practical skills and knowledge, providing employers with confidence in their hiring decisions by emphasizing hands-on application and rigorous assessments.

7. VMware Certified Professional/VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCP/VCAP) – $140,230

VMware certifications on a resume reflects an investment of time and money. Beyond the monetary aspect, these certifications serve as a compelling testament to an individual’s expertise and proficiencies in delivering a robust and expandable virtualization infrastructure. Additionally, they demonstrate an applicant’s ability to architect and maintain a highly scalable and dependable virtual environment, catering to the evolving demands of modern businesses.

8. Amazon Web Services – $139,704

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a leading certification provider in the industry. Among the extensive range of cloud services offered by Amazon, Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Glacier, and Simple Storage Service (S3) have gained immense popularity and are increasingly being embraced by businesses worldwide. AWS also offers a diverse portfolio of certifications catering to different domains and levels of expertise, empowering professionals to validate their skills and advance their careers in cloud computing.

9. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) – $138, 686

The CISM is tailored for professionals who have substantial experience and expertise in the field of information security. This certification is not intended for recent college graduates, as it specifically targets individuals responsible for managing, designing, or evaluating the information security practices within an organization. It demonstrates an individual’s commitment to enhancing the security posture of an organization.

10. Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) – $132,603

The MCSE, which was an integral part of Microsoft’s cloud certification line-up, served as a crucial component for IT experts to demonstrate their proficiency in transitioning organizations to the cloud and enhancing data security. Although this certification is no longer active, candidates who possess it on their resume are still rewarded and recognized for their expertise. Furthermore, having the retired MCSE certification showcases a candidate’s extensive knowledge and experience in cloud technologies, making them highly valuable assets to potential employers.

Making the Right Investment

Money doesn’t necessarily have to be the driving force behind obtaining a certification, but for many individuals, the return on investment plays a significant role. If the certification doesn’t enhance your job performance, bring you more job satisfaction, or result in increased pay, you might consider skipping it. Additionally, not all certifications hold the same value, and not every employer will be willing to cover the expenses. Therefore, it’s crucial to invest time in determining whether pursuing the certification is a sensible decision. Sometimes, it appears that a graduate degree holds the same weight as a bachelor’s degree, making certifications an effective way to stand out among other candidates.

Nevertheless, the more common a certification becomes, the lower the salary tends to be. Before committing your time and money in the certification process, make sure it will bring you closer to your career and compensation objectives.

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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.