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Cisco CCNA and AWS cloud networking rank among highest paying IT certifications

Nov 30, 20237 mins
CertificationsNetwork SecurityNetworking

Cloud expertise and security know-how remain critical in building today’s networks, and these skills pay top dollar, according to Skillsoft’s annual ranking of the most valuable IT certifications. Demand for talent continues to outweigh supply.

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Cloud expertise continues to be in high demand and attract the highest compensation. Networking and security credentials are also financially fruitful, according to Skillsoft’s ranking of the 20 top-paying IT certifications going into 2024.

At number one on this year's list is Google Cloud-Professional Cloud Architect with an average annual salary of $200,960. Last year this certification ranked third, and Skillsoft expects that "developments in cloud - particularly the reliance on and maturation of the technology - have led many in the industry to entrust providers like Google with their data." Google recommends professionals have at least three years of experience before taking the $200 online or in-person exam for this certification, which lasts two years.

"Cloud and cybersecurity certifications remain longstanding perennial favorites. What's interesting is the rise in importance and value of Google Cloud's Professional Cloud Architect certification, which ranks number one on this year's list with an average annual salary of $200,900," says Greg Fuller, senior director of tech & dev at Skillsoft. "Last year, this certification ranked third with an average annual salary of $161,371. This is a significant 25% year-over-year bump. As Google’s Cloud Platform gains momentum and the overall reliance on and maturation of cloud evolves, cloud architects are increasingly necessary for all organizations." 

Networking and security certs make the list

The salary data shows the importance of cloud networking expertise and security know-how in building today's sophisticated networks. In addition to several cloud certifications, there are five security, networking, and system architect certifications on Skillsoft's top 20 list:

  • ISACA Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
  • ISC2 Certification Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • ISACA Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
  • AWS Certified Advanced Networking-Specialty
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)


The Information Systems Audit and Control Association's (ISACA) Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) certification made the list again this year, falling from the second spot to number five. Average annual salaries for those with CISM certification is $167,396, a slight increase over last year's 162,347 salary. Skillsoft says this certification deserves to make the list and earn the pay because "cybersecurity continues to remain a top priority for organizations who must protect data from ceaseless threat actors. CISM validates the ability to manage, design, and assess an enterprise's information security." To earn a CISM, IT security professionals must have five years of experience in the required domains and pay $575 for ISACA members and $760 for non-members.


The International Information System Security Certification Consortium's (ISC2) Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) consistently delivers an average annual salary of $156,699 and is often compared to earning a master's degree in IT security, according to Skillsoft. To achieve this certification, candidate must have five years of paid, relevant work experience in two or more of the CISSP security domains, which include: Security and Risk Management, Asset Security, Security Architecture and Engineering, Communication and Network Security, Identity and Access Management (IAM), Security Assessment and Testing, Security Operations, and Software Development Security. The exam costs $749 and will refresh in April 2024. According to Skillsoft, "earning the CISSP certification ... proves professionals have what it takes to effectively design, implement, and manage a cyber security program."


ISACA's Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) certification earns professionals an average annual salary of $154,500, an increase over last year's $142,336. In existence since 1978, the CISA is one of "the oldest and most respected credentials" on Skillsoft's list. This certification validates audit, risk, and cybersecurity skills specific to these domains: Information Systems Auditing Process; Governance and Management of IT; Information Systems Acquisition, Development, and Implementation; Information Systems Operations and Business Resilience; and Protection of Information Assets. The exam costs $575 for ISACA members and $760 for non-members, and there will be an updated exam starting in August 2024. "CISA-certified professionals can serve as the conduit between technical, legal, and compliance teams and ensure organizations protect privacy and manage risk in an efficient, cost-effective way," the Skillsoft report says.

AWS Certified Advanced Networking-Specialty

This certification is meant for those IT professionals who want to prove their experience working with complex networks. With an annual average salary of $153,031, this certification consists of 65 questions, costs $300, and lasts 170 minutes. Candidates for this certification must have knowledge of networking architectures, interconnectivity options, developing automation scripts and tools, and network security. According to Skillsoft's IT Skills and Salary survey, "more than half of IT leaders say their team's networking skills fall somewhere between good and bad (or ranked as 'medium' in the survey. That's to say, relatively few [IT leaders] feel very confident in their teams' abilities in this area, creating an opportunity for specialists."

Cisco CCNA

The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification helps IT professionals demonstrate their ability to navigate the "evolving IT field by covering networking fundamentals, security, automation, and more." According to Skillsoft, IT professionals with a CCNA cert gain the skills in managing and improving advanced networks. With an average annual salary of $128,651, the CCNA is like Cisco's Certified Network Professional (CCNP) certification, which didn't make the list this year due to only 19 respondents having this certification. (Skillsoft looks for 50-100 professionals to report the salary figures reliably.) The CCNPs responding earned an average salary of $160,399. The CCNA typically appeals to network administrators or engineers who can pass an exam focused on: network fundamentals, network access, IT connectivity, IP services, security fundamentals, automation and programmability. CCNAs must complete their exam though one of the Pearson VUE testing centers. The exam costs $300 and testing time runs about 120 minutes, and the certification is valid for three years.

Looking ahead to AI

While this year's survey shows cloud and security as the top earning roles, Skillsoft expects artificial intelligence expertise to debut on its list in the coming year. Among those certifications that just missed the cut is Microsoft Certified: Azure AI Fundamentals. With an average annual salary of $126,517, this certification validates a basic understanding of machine learning, AI concepts, and Azure services.

"Looking at IT talent and skills as a whole, demand far outweighs supply right now. And, with the current AI wave, we'll likely see IT salaries surge even higher next year," Fuller says. "Earning certifications is a win-win scenario for talent and organizations alike, with the former able to increase their value and proficiency and the latter seeing improved quality of work, increased engagement, and faster performance across their IT workforce. On both ends, investment in professional development is an investment in future success." 

The 20 most valuable IT certifications today

Skillsoft polled nearly 2,000 IT professionals between May and September 2023 for its salary ranking. Some average annual salaries exceeded $200,000 this year, and many on the list surpassed $150,000. Here is the full list of 20 top-paying certifications plus their salaries, according to Skillsoft.

  • Google Cloud-Professional Cloud Architect: $200,960
  • Google Cloud-Professional Data Engineer: $193,621
  • Project Management Professional (PMP):$176,116
  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect-Professional: $174,137
  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM): $167,396
  • AWS Certified Security-Specialty: $167,449
  • Google Cloud Professional-Cloud Database Engineer: $163,193
  • Google Cloud Associate-Cloud Engineer: $161,075
  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect-Associate: $160,052
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): $156,699
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA): $154,500
  • AWS Certified Advanced Networking-Specialty: $153,031
  • AWS Certified DevOps Engineer-Professional: $150,546
  • BTA Certified Block Chain Security Professional: $129,185
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA): $128,651
  • AWS Certified Developer-Associate: $127,259
  • AWS Certified Database-Specialty: $122,677
  • CompTIA Security+: $121,653
  • CompTIA CYSA+ (Cybersecurity Analyst): $121,043
  • Microsoft Certified-Azure Administrator Associate: $120,622