10 Essential IT Certifications for 2023

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Whether you’re just starting out or are established in your career, IT certifications have their benefits. Here are 10 prominent entry-level IT certifications.

[Featured image] IT learner in a pink blouse site at a desk with a laptop and book and considers which entry-level IT certification to get.

An IT certification typically refers to a qualification you receive that shows your competency in a specific field of information technology (IT). To get a certification, you generally need to pass an exam that tests your capabilities in the field.

Potential benefits to getting a certification can include improved job performance and increased competitiveness in the job market. An IT certification on your resume can also be a quick way for hiring managers to gauge your abilities. And certifications are linked to higher incomes—IT professionals who received a raise due to getting a new certification saw an average salary increase of $13,000 [1].

Certifications aren’t the only way you can get a job in IT. But there is evidence that the right certification can lead to a host of career benefits. If you’re looking for a structured way to learn new skills and earn a credential, a certification may be worth the cost.

10 entry-level IT certifications

These are some common IT certifications designed to prepare you for entry-level positions in IT. The list includes entry-level certifications that are broad enough to expose you to a variety of skills, and certifications that will equip you with more specialized skills.

1. CompTIA A+ 

CompTIA A+ is widely considered one of the go-to certificates for a well-rounded entry-level introduction to IT. Those who pass the certification exams will be qualified to solve basic issues in networking, operating systems, security and mobile devices. The CompTIA A+ certification requires two exams.

The CompTIA A+ provides a general introduction to the IT world. From there, many IT professionals can go on to specialize in a specific field of IT, like networks, security, or cloud computing, either by building experience or gaining relevant certifications.

  • Cost: $232 per exam, $464 total

  • Potential jobs: Service desk analyst, technical support specialist, associate network engineer, desktop support administrator, system support specialist

  • Requirements: Two certification exams required. There are no prerequisites to the exams, but CompTIA recommends having nine to twelve months of hands-on experience.

  • Certification path: After the CompTIA A+, candidates can go on to take other CompTIA certifications like Security+ or Network+, or certifications from other providers like the CCNA.

Read more: IT Certification Roadmap: A Guide

2. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

The CCNA certification is an associate-level certification that covers the fundamentals of IT networking issues. This includes network access, IP connectivity, and IP services. Though it’s not a vendor neutral certification—meaning it’ll test you exclusively on Cisco products and tools—it’s popular among network professionals because of Cisco’s dominance in the networking market. One exam is required to get the CCNA certification.

  • Cost: $300

  • Potential jobs: Network specialist, network administrator, systems administrator, network engineer

  • Requirements: One certification exam is required. There are no prerequisites to the exam, but Cisco recommends having a year of training and experience with computer networks.

  • Certification path: After the CCNA, candidates can go on to take more advanced network certifications, like the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) or the Juniper Networks Certified Associate - Junos (JNCIA-Junos).

Read more: 6 Network Certifications for Your IT Career

3. CompTIA Security+

The CompTIA Security+ certification will equip you with the skills to perform basic security functions. The certification will cover subjects like encryption, physical security, and wireless security. It requires one exam. If you’re interested in becoming an IT security specialist, you can go on to take more advanced security certifications like the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) or the advanced Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

Security is a growing field, employing 4.7 million people globally according to the 2022 (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study. On top of this large global workforce, the study also identified a "worldwide gap of 3.4 million cybersecurity workers" [2]. If you’re interested in cybersecurity, check out other popular cybersecurity certifications.

  • Cost: $370

  • Potential jobs: Security administrator, security specialist, security consultant, security engineer, network administrator, security analyst

  • Requirements: Requires one certification exam. There are no prerequisites, but CompTIA recommends having the CompTIA Network+ certification and two years of experience in IT administration.

  • Certification path: After the Security+, candidates can go on to take other security certifications like the ISC2 Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP) or ISACA Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA).

4. Microsoft Fundamentals

The Microsoft fundamentals certifications test core technology skills, making them good entry-level qualifications for those who are expected to work with Microsoft products. Knowing your way around Microsoft products is likely to be an in-demand skill—over half of surveyed IT decision-makers around the world said their companies would invest in Microsoft technology, Global Knowledge reports. The Fundamentals certifications replaced the Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certifications, which were retired on June 30, 2021.

You can opt to take any one exam in a number of specialized areas that fall under security, Azure (Microsoft’s cloud solution), AI, data, and software like Power Platform, Microsoft 365, and Dynamics. If you’re looking for a certification in an in-demand area, the Microsoft Azure Fundamentals certification will enable you to learn the essentials of Microsoft cloud concepts.

  • Cost: $99 per exam

  • Potential jobs: IT specialist, Microsoft systems administrator, Microsoft server support technician, Microsoft Technician specialist

  • Requirements: One exam is required for each certification. There are no prerequisites.

  • Certification path: After a Microsoft Fundamental certification, candidates may go on to receive other certifications in various specializations like Azure Database Administrator Associate or Microsoft Certified: Security Operations Analyst Associate.

5. Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud Practitioner

Cloud computing, along with security, is one of the most in-demand fields in IT, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) is currently the most-used cloud platform in the world. So learning the AWS platform may give you an edge in this growing industry. The AWS Cloud Practitioner certification is the most entry-level of the AWS certifications.

The AWS Cloud Practitioner certification is designed to help you gain foundational AWS knowledge, and can be great for those just starting out in IT. However, many cloud-related jobs ask for an associate-level AWS certification, which is a level above the practitioner certification. If you already have a year of experience with AWS, the associate-level AWS Solutions Architect, SysOps Administrator, or Developer certifications might better prepare you for entry-level cloud computing jobs. You can also consider other cloud certifications, like Microsoft Azure Fundamentals, or the Google Associate Cloud Engineer certification.

  • Cost: $100

  • Potential jobs: Cloud engineering intern, cloud developer, cloud engineer, cloud architect

  • Requirements: There are no prerequisites to the exam, but Amazon recommends having at least a basic understanding of AWS services and uses, and around six months of exposure to AWS.

  • Certification path: After the AWS Cloud Practitioner, you can go on to get a more advanced certification like the AWS Certified Developer or AWS Certified Solutions Architect.

Read more: 5 Cloud Certifications to Start Your Cloud Career

6. CompTIA IT Fundamentals (ITF+)

The ITF+ is a beginning-level certification designed for those who want to see if IT is the right career path for them. If you’re a student or a career switcher still trying to see if IT is for you, this certification can help you decide. If you’re looking for a certification that will help you gain skills for a job in IT, other certifications like the CompTIA A+ might fit your needs better.

  • Cost: $126

  • Requirements: No prior experience recommended

  • Certification path: After the ITF+, candidates can go on to take the CompTIA A+ or other entry-level certifications.

7. CompTIA Network+

The CompTIA Network+ is a foundational certification in networking principles. Unlike the CCNA, the Network+ is a vendor-neutral certification—meaning it doesn’t test you on any specific device or technology. The Network+ is considered to be more basic than the CCNA, making it a good option for those who are just starting out in networking, or who find the CCNA too comprehensive for their current needs. 

  • Cost: $338

  • Potential jobs: Network administrator, network engineer, system administrator

  • Requirements: No formal requirements, but the CompTIA A+ and 9 to 12 months of experience with networks recommended.

  • Certification path: Many candidates go on to take the CCNA or other networking certifications after the Network+.

8. GIAC Information Security Fundamentals (GISF)

The GISF is a foundational certification for security and related concepts like networking, cryptography, and cybersecurity technologies. GIAC recommends the certification for anybody new to cybersecurity who wants a fundamental introduction to the field, as well as those who can benefit from cybersecurity knowledge such as system administrators and non-IT security managers. 

  • Cost: $2,499 (includes two practice exams)

  • Potential jobs: Cybersecurity analyst, information security specialist, non-IT security manager

  • Requirements: There are no formal requirements for the GISF

  • Certification path: Those who take the GISF may go on to take the GIAC Security Essentials Certification (GSEC)

9. Google Cloud Digital Leader

The Cloud Digital Leader is Google’s foundational cloud certification. The certification exam will test you broadly on basic Google Cloud principles. Though many entry-level Google Cloud jobs request the next level certification—the Google Associate Cloud Engineer—studying the material in the Cloud Digital Leader certification exam can give you a solid foundation in Google Cloud.

  • Cost: $99

  • Potential jobs: Job-role independent

  • Requirements: No formal requirements

  • Certification path: After the Cloud Digital Leader, candidates can go on to take certifications that will equip them with entry-level job skills such as the Google Associate Cloud Engineer.

10. Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)

The CAPM is a certification designed to prepare you for entry-level project management positions. Though not an IT certification, many IT positions and teams value project management skills. The CAPM can be worth pursuing if you have a technical background and are hoping to move into a more project management-oriented role.

  • Cost: $300 for non-PMI members, $225 for PMI members

  • Potential jobs: IT project manager, IT project coordinator

  • Requirements: No formal requirements

  • Certification path: Candidates who want to continue on the project management path may go on to take the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.

How to get an IT certification

Getting an IT certification generally entails picking a certification, preparing for the exam, and passing the exam. If you're thinking about earning a certification, these are the steps you should take:

1. Decide on a certification. Pick a certification based on your interest and needs. If you don't know where to start, take a look at job descriptions of positions you're interested in, and see which certifications are mentioned most often.

2. Prepare for the exam. Preparing for the exam means making sure you meet any requirements, scheduling the exam, paying for it, and studying for it. You could choose to study on your own or sign up for a course designed to prepare you for the test.

3. Take the exam. You'll either take the certification exam online or in person. Make sure you check any requirements a day or two before the exam to ensure you don't forget important artifacts, like a valid ID.

If you're looking for a more detailed explanation, read about how to get an IT certification.

Keep in mind

Exams can cost several hundred dollars to take. But if you know you want to break into the IT field, getting a certification may be a great investment in your career. If you’re already employed and think a certification will be beneficial to you and your company, you might approach your manager to see if the company will cover the costs. Read more about how to decide if IT certifications are worth it for you.

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IT professional salaries and career paths

The average entry-level salary in the US for IT professionals is $49,429 according to Glassdoor as of November 2022 [3]. That number goes up with experience—the average salary for IT professionals across all seniority levels in the US is $121,544 [1]. 

IT jobs are high in demand right now. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that computer and information technology jobs are expected to grow by 15 percent from 2021 to 2031 [4].

Many IT professionals get their start in help desk positions, gaining experience in the field before choosing a narrower path to specialize in. When you’re first on the job hunt, look out for these entry-level job titles, while keeping in mind that many variations can exist:

  • Help desk specialist

  • Help desk analyst

  • Help desk technician

  • Service desk analyst

  • Technical support specialist

  • IT associate

  • IT technician

  • IT assistant

Once you get your foot in the door and gain some experience, you can start to explore an area you’d like to specialize in such as:

  • Cloud computing

  • Network

  • Security and compliance

  • Management

Picking based on earning potential? Cloud and cybersecurity certifications are generally associated with the highest salaries, according to Skillsoft [5].

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Prepare to take the CompTIA A+ Exam

Build the skills you need for an entry-level IT job as you prepare for the A+ exam with the Google IT Support Professional Certificate. Google has teamed up with CompTIA to offer a dual badge of completion—perfect for your resume or LinkedIn profile—for those who complete the Professional Certificate and pass the A+ exam.

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professional certificate

Google IT Support

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Article sources

1

CompTIA. "IT Salaries: Where the Money’s At, https://www.comptia.org/blog/it-salaries." Accessed November 15, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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