While a computer science degree of some kind is required for most tech industry jobs, your tech education is often incomplete unless you have one or more computer science certifications. If you want to go beyond general education, take your career to the next level, and earn a higher salary, you need to seek out the best certifications for computer science in your subfield.
In the ever-evolving field of computer science, certification is the most efficient way to hone and validate a specific set of up-to-date computer science skills. In this article, we assess the value of computer science certifications across the industry and look at the best computer science certifications in cyber security, cloud computing, database administration, and IT support.
What Is Computer Science Certification?
Computer science certification is a non-degree pathway whereby tech professionals can gain a narrow set of in-demand skills. It is a form of continuing education that gives employees a chance to upskill and demonstrate their new skillsets to current and future employers. For some jobs, you may need specific computer science certifications to be eligible to apply.
Some tech roles that typically require computer science certification are IT project manager, network administrator, and cloud solutions architect. It’s less common for a software engineer, web developer, or business analyst to seek certification, presumably because those roles have less standardized and more company-specific requirements attached to them.
The best computer science certifications are incredibly beneficial to job retention and career growth. Even if you are early in your career and actively searching for a job, computer science certifications can strengthen your resume and set you apart from candidates who aren’t certified. Certification increases recruiters’ confidence that you will be a successful hire.
Why Choose a Certification in CS?
You should choose a CS certification if you want to advance in your tech career. Newcomers to tech tend to underestimate how important certifications in computer science are because other forms of education, like CS degrees and coding bootcamps, are more likely to get your foot in the door. Below are a few reasons why you should consider computer science certifications.
To Update Your Skillset
Computer science certifications are a surefire way to prevent your skills from becoming outdated. A computer science degree might be good enough for your first job, but it won’t help you stay on top of the latest tools and technologies. By showing your commitment to continuing education through the certification process, you can survive in the fast-paced world of tech.
To Compete for Better Jobs
You can measure how beneficial a computer science certification is by the doors that it opens. Even if you have a bachelor’s degree and several years of relevant experience, your tech career may hit a roadblock without a certification. With the best certifications for computer science, you can parlay your extensive IT experience into managerial and leadership roles.
To Earn a Higher Salary
It’s no secret that better jobs lead to higher pay, and the best computer science certifications are linked to the highest salaries of all. For careers in cloud computing and cyber security especially, employers are only willing to pay big bucks to candidates who can prove their extensive knowledge of complex technologies and processes, such as AWS and security architecture.
Types of Computer Science Certifications
From one perspective, there are as many types of computer science certifications as there are specializations. More simply, what kinds of certifications there are for computer science professionals depends solely on the type of entity offering the credential. In these terms, there are just two types of computer science certifications, vendor-specific and vendor-neutral.
Vendor-specific certifications are offered by the vendors of specific products. This type of computer science certification exists because big tech companies have a vested interest in disseminating their hardware and software solutions as widely as possible. As a product becomes more pervasive, more professionals are needed to understand how it works.
Proprietary operating systems, database technologies, and cloud computing infrastructures are among the kinds of complex products that professionals need to be trained on. Below is a brief list of companies that teach people how to implement, manage, and otherwise manipulate these kinds of products.
Companies That Offer Vendor-Specific CS Certifications
- Amazon Web Services
Vendor-neutral certifications are offered by organizations that are unaffiliated with any particular company or product. The role of these organizations is to set high-quality standards for the entire tech industry and then to create certification processes that enable employees to signal to employers that they have worked to meet those standards.
Of the two types of computer science certifications, vendor-neutral certifications validate the broader array of skills. You may not learn the ins and outs of a specific tool or technology, but you will master the general principles and concepts that apply to all the major technologies in use within a given industry domain, be it cloud computing or database administration.
Organizations That Offer Vendor-Neutral CS Certifications
- Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA)
- Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA)
- Institute for the Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP)
- International Council of Electronic Commerce Consultants (EC-Council)
- International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC)²
What Are Some of the Top Certifications to Choose From?
Computer science certifications are a great way to build foundational knowledge, enhance your resume, and advance your career, but what are the best certifications for computer science? While this question is still up for debate, no computer science certifications list would be complete unless it showcased a broad range of options from across the industry.
You should think about your career goals when deciding which computer science certification program to pursue. The best computer science certifications will depend on the specific field you wish to enter. There are cyber security certifications, database certifications, cloud certifications, and help desk certifications for professionals with varying levels of experience.
In this section, we break down the best certifications for computer science by professional category. Whether you’re just starting out or seeking advanced skills for higher-paying jobs, you should be able to find the right certification for your career from one of the lists below.
CS Certifications for Cyber Security Professionals
|EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)||$100 application fee, $950-$1,199 for an exam voucher, $850 for access to optional CEH online courses||Have 2 years of professional experience in the information security field and pay a $100 application fee (option 1); pay $850 to attend official training through EC-Council (option 2)|
|(ISC)² Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)||$749||Have 5 years of paid work experience in the relevant cyber security domains|
|CompTIA Security+||$381||2 years of IT administration experience and CompTIA Network+ certification (recommended)|
EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
This popular certification covers one of the most valuable skills in cyber security. As a Certified Ethical Hacker, you will be able to demonstrate to employers your ability to hack an organization and identify network vulnerabilities. With all of the latest tools and technologies at your disposal, you will be ready for a career as a security analyst, penetration tester, or network engineer.
(ISC)² Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
This advanced certification is the gold standard among cyber security experts with five or more years of experience. CISSP is intended primarily for security managers, anyone whose job it is to build and oversee the security plan for an entire organization. You’re a good candidate for CISSP if you’re a chief information security officer (CISO) or a network architect.
Security+ is one of the best computer science certifications for any tech professional who wants to signal that they understand the importance of a well-rounded cyber security skillset. There are no work experience requirements, so you can start studying right away for the exam, which covers incident response, network security architecture, security governance, and much more.
CS Certifications in Databases
|IBM Certified Administrator – Db2 12 for z/OS||$200||None|
|Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Fundamentals||$99||None|
|Oracle Database SQL Certified Associate||$245||None|
IBM Certified Administrator – Db2 12 for z/OS
This vendor-specific certification is for anyone familiar with the database technology IBM uses for its in-house operating system. If you want to work as a data specialist for IBM, or for any company that employs IBM’s database management system, you should take the 60-question exam and test your knowledge of database design, operation, security, and installation.
Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Fundamentals
This Microsoft Azure certification is designed for beginners in databases and cloud computing. It is a good credential for anyone who aspires to become a database administrator or data engineer someday. The future is in the cloud, and by passing the exam, you will have the in-demand skills needed to work with relational and non-relational data on Azure.
Oracle Database SQL Certified Associate
The demand for SQL skills is still high, which is why Oracle offers an SQL certification to professionals who need comprehensive knowledge of the SQL programming language to interface with Oracle Database. Learning to use SQL in the context of Oracle could help you land a job at a Fortune 500 company, the vast majority of which use Oracle products.
CS Certifications for Cloud Computing
|AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate||$150||1 year of hands-on AWS experience (recommended)|
|CompTIA Cloud+||$348||2-3 years of networking or systems administration experience and CompTIA Network+ and Server+ certifications (recommended)|
|Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals||$99||None|
AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
According to Statista, Amazon Web Services accounts for one-third of the cloud infrastructure in use today. By certifying your ability to build and implement AWS solutions, you will put yourself in the running for countless jobs in tech. You should only take the certification exam if you are confident in your ability to identify the right AWS services for a given set of technical constraints.
Of all the professional certifications for cloud specialists, this one is probably the most general in scope. Whether you want to work with Azure, AWS, or Google Cloud, you can study for the Cloud+ exam and learn skills that have cross-platform applicability. Careers in systems administration, cloud engineering, and cloud project management are good fits for Cloud+.
Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals
If you’re on a career path that entails working with Azure, then this is the certification for you. The exam covers essential concepts of cloud architecture, Azure’s full range of cloud services, and the security and privacy features of Azure. You will learn how to choose a sensible Azure solution for a client, paving the way for more glamorous Azure roles later in your career.
CS Certifications for Help Desk Professionals
|Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)||$300||1 year of experience working with Cisco solutions (recommended)|
|CompTIA A+||$478 (2 exams, $239 each)||9-12 months of hands-on experience in IT (recommended)|
|CompTIA Network+||$348||9-12 months of hands-on experience in networking and CompTIA A+ certification (recommended)|
Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
With a global network infrastructure market share of 55.7 percent according to Statista, Cisco remains a leader in enterprise networking solutions. This Cisco certification will make you an expert in administering Cisco networks. As a master of Internet Protocols, security measures, and setup and installation, you will be a top candidate for network support roles.
Coupled with an information technology bachelor’s degree, this foundational CompTIA certification will set you up with all the theoretical and practical knowledge you need for any number of IT support roles. The certification exam covers hardware and software, traditional networking and cloud networking, and security best practices.
If you already have your A+ certification and are looking for more advanced knowledge of networks, the Network+ certification is a good next step. It is vendor-neutral, so the training isn’t limited in the same way that a vendor-specific certification like CCNA is. With Network+ on your resume, you can apply for senior systems admin or junior network admin jobs.
Computer Science Degree vs Certification
When it comes to deciding whether to get a computer science degree or certifications, you do not have to choose. Almost every tech professional with one or more computer science certifications already has a computer science degree, but if you have a degree in computer science and no certifications, you may still be able to make it in the tech industry.
In fact, according to Dice’s 2022 Tech Salary Report, only 46 percent of all tech employees have certifications. Whereas a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or a related discipline is the main barrier to entering the industry, computer science certifications are viewed as an optional form of continuing education. Below is a summary of the main differences between the two.
|CS Degree Main Benefits||Certification Main Benefits|
How to Get Computer Science Certifications
It doesn’t require a lot of legwork to learn how to get computer science certifications. Most companies and organizations make it pretty easy. While the best certifications for computer science do come with strict prerequisites, you won’t need to jump through any special hoops to study for and take the exams. In general, here is how to get computer science certifications:
- Identify your career goals. The first step is to determine whether computer science certifications are necessary to get the job you want. If you work in a field like cyber security, you may not be able to move up in the ranks without getting certified.
- Research relevant certifications. There may be several certifications that can help you achieve your goals. The trick to finding the best computer science certifications is to compare prerequisites, review costs, read all the exam outlines, and determine how long each is going to take. Then conduct a cost-benefit analysis to select the best option.
- Register for your desired certification and start studying. Signing up for a certification is usually a simple matter of paying the exam fee. Most computer science certifications offer a variety of training methods at different price points. Budget your time and money accordingly and make sure you’re prepared on exam day.
- Take the exam. At this point, go to the testing center and settle in. Most certification exams impose a time limit of one to two hours and are primarily made up of multiple choice questions. You will be tested on a vast body of theoretical and practical knowledge, so you should review your study materials backwards and forwards.
- Keep your certification valid. If you pass the exam, you may have to submit documents to prove that you meet all the prerequisites. Many computer science certifications also expire after three years. The renewal process usually involves fulfilling a specified number of continuing education hours, more testing, or both.
What Jobs Can You Get With Computer Science Certifications?
You can get a wide range of jobs with computer science certifications. As a general rule, you can find computer science certification jobs wherever the specialized skills and technical knowledge demanded of the role have been standardized throughout the industry. Most of these jobs involve decisions that affect the high-level operations of an entire organization.
The most common computer science certification jobs deal with the design, administration, oversight, or protection of a company’s IT systems and data. Certification is less common for software engineering or web development roles, which have looser processes for validating skills. Below are a few of the best jobs you can get with a computer science certification.
|Chief Information Security Officer||$170,975||(ISC)² Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)|
|Computer and Information Systems Manager||$159,010||EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)|
|Cloud Solutions Architect||$129,625||AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate|
|Senior Database Administrator with IBM Db2 Skills||$120,017||IBM Certified Administrator – Db2 12 for z/OS|
|Information Security Analyst||$102,600||CompTIA Security+|
|Cloud Engineer||$91,409||CompTIA Cloud+|
|Entry-Level Data Engineer||$77,793||Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Fundamentals|
|Network Administrator with Cisco Networking Skills||$63,264||Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)|
|Computer Network Support Specialist||$62,760||CompTIA A+|
|Database Specialist||$50,549||Oracle Database SQL Certified Associate|
What Is the Industry Saying About These Certifications?
The tech industry broadly supports computer science certifications. This is because computer science industry certifications allow employers to quickly identify the best candidates. According to a 2021 report by Pearson VUE, a leading certification exam provider, most employers find certified candidates more efficient and productive than their non-certified counterparts.
People working in the IT industry also like computer science certifications because they look great on a resume and provide a clear and direct path to lucrative upskilling. For example, Global Knowledge estimates that an AWS Certified Solutions Architect earns $159,033 per year, while the average solutions architect makes only $121,471 per year according to PayScale.
Keep in mind, however, that not all computer science certifications are equally valuable. If you’re looking to break into the computer science industry, certifications are only as good as their reputations. Make sure to do your research before deciding on your certification path.
Is a Computer Science Certification Worth It?
Yes, a computer science certification is worth it, no matter where you are in your career. Any certification will show an employer that you have mastered a particular skillset, and the best certifications for computer science are renewable, which means you can easily prove that you know the most up-to-date information and earn your way into the next pay grade.
Given the ever-changing landscape in the tech industry, your education shouldn’t stop with a computer science bachelor’s degree. Those who complete certification programs are lifelong learners who can adapt more quickly than those with no certifications. Any professional who is serious about career advancement will find a computer science certification worth it.
Computer Science Certifications FAQ
With a computer science certification, you can make yourself more competitive for jobs in information technology, database administration, and cloud architecture. There are early-career and late-career certifications, and the ones for more experienced tech workers are arguably more valuable. In general, computer science certifications are a ticket to career advancement.
How much are certifications in computer science and engineering?
Engineering and computer science certifications are between $99 and a few thousand dollars, with most priced at a few hundred bucks. The cost of certification consists of the exam price, membership dues, and renewal fees. Optional training courses cost extra. Generally speaking, the more valuable the certification for your career, the higher the cost.
How difficult is it to get a computer science certification?
It is not very difficult to get a computer science certification, especially if you’re already working in tech. The best certifications for computer science come with proprietary study programs, with everything you need to pass the exam at your fingertips. If you meet all the prerequisites and have a solid study plan, you can get any computer science certification you want.
Where do you earn certifications for computer science?
You can earn computer science certifications through specific tech companies or third-party organizations. Ultimately, where you earn certifications for computer science depends on the type of credential you want. While companies like Microsoft and IBM offer vendor-specific certifications, organizations like CompTIA and EC-Council offer vendor-neutral certifications.
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