IT Certification Roadmap: A Guide

Written by Coursera • Updated on Oct 12, 2021

There are many IT certifications—here's a quick guide to navigating them.

Woman looking up IT certifications

In the information technology (IT) world, certifications can be a good way to signal to hiring managers what you know how to do, and may give your career the small boost that you’re looking for. By getting a certification, you can learn new skills, and may become qualified for new jobs or promotions.

IT certification paths

Here’s a breakdown of some popular IT certifications by different roles. 

Bear in mind that the certifications you get don’t all need to be from the same organization. It’s possible to obtain certifications from different providers, depending on what you want your career to look like, and what skills you’re trying to obtain. This list is meant to be a guide to help you get a sense of what certifications are out there, and isn’t a list of all certifications that exist. There also may be other unlisted certifications that better fit your needs.

  • Foundational certifications: Certifications listed as foundational are generally those labeled by providers as entry-level or for early career professionals.

  • Professional certifications: These are certifications that are designed for those who have some experience under their belt and are looking to move into the next stage of their career.

  • Advanced certifications: Advanced certifications will show a high-level or mastery of the field, or mastery of a specific area within the field.

Help desk certifications

A starting point for many IT careers, help desk support positions support a company’s employees by providing technical assistance and troubleshooting a variety of computer issues. These positions might be called IT support technicians, help desk technicians, IT associates, or something similar. An entry-level certification can make you eligible for one of these roles. From there, you can go on to get a more advanced help desk certificate, but many choose to move into a more specialized field in IT.

FoundationalProfessional
CompTIA A+, CompTIA IT FundamentalsCompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+, CompTIA Server+
Google IT Support Professional CertificateNone at this level found
ITIL FoundationITIL Managing Professional, ITIL Strategic Level
Microsoft 365 Certified: FundamentalsMicrosoft 365 Certified: Modern Desktop Administrator Associate
MacOS Support EssentialsNone at this level found
Help Desk Institute Cusomter Service Respresentative (HDI-CSR), HDI Support Center Analyst (HDI-SCA)HDI Desktop Advanced Support Technician (HDI-DAST)

Note: The Google IT Support Professional Certificate is not a certification by itself—though you’ll receive a professional certificate from Google upon completion—but the course will prepare you for the CompTIA A+ exam should you choose to go on and take it.

Read more: 9 Entry-Level IT Jobs (and What You Need to Get Hired)

Server and network certifications

Troubleshooting and maintaining computer systems, servers, and networks are key to IT work. These certifications can bring you the credentials to get started or further your career in one of these areas.

FoundationalProfessionalAdvanced
Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE), Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE)
CompTIA Server+, CompTIA Network+CompTIA Linux+None at this level found
None at this level foundRed Hat System AdministratorRed Hat Certified Engineer
Linux Professional Institute (LPI) Essentials, LPIC-1LPIC-2LPIC-3 Enterprise Mixed Environment, LPIC-3 Enterprise Security, LPIC-3 Enterprise Virtualization and High Availability

Read more: 6 Network Certifications for your IT Career

Cloud certifications

Cloud computing, according to a survey conducted by Global Knowledge, is one of the most in-demand IT skills of recent years. The following certifications can get you acquainted with the basics, and prepare you for more advanced roles in cloud computing.

FoundationalProfessionalAdvanced
AWS Certified Cloud PractitionerAWS Certified Developer, AWS Certified Solutions Architect, AWS Certified SysOps AdministratorAWS Certified Solutions Architect, AWS Certified DevOps Engineer
CompTIA Cloud Essentials+, CompTIA Network+CompTIA Cloud+None at this level found
Google Cloud Digital LeaderGoogle Associate Cloud EngineerGoogle Cloud Architect, Cloud Developer, Data Engineer, Network Engineer, and more
VMWare VCTA-CMAVCP-CMA, VCAP-CMA Design, VCAP-CMA DeployVCDX-CMA
Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Foundations Certified AssociateOracle Cloud Infrastructure Certified Architect Associate, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Certified Cloud Operations AssociateOracle Cloud Infrastructure Certified Architect Professional, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure HPC and Big Data Solutions Associate
Microsoft Certified: Azure FundamentalsMicrosoft Certified: Azure Developer AssociateMicrosoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert

Read more: 5 Cloud Certifications for Your IT Career

Security certifications

Cybersecurity, along with cloud computing, is marked by Global Knowledge as one of the most in-demand fields in IT. Certifications can come from vendor-neutral organizations like CompTIA or ISACA—meaning what you’re being tested on for a certification exam can be applied to different operating systems. They can also be vendor-specific, like the Microsoft certifications.

FoundationalProfessionalAdvanced
ISACA Cybersecurity FundamentalsISACA Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)ISACA Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
GIAC Information Security Fundamentals (GISF)GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC)GIAC Certified Enterprise Defender (GCED), GIAC Certified Intrusion Analyst (GCIA), GIAC Open Source Intelligence (GOSI)
Associate of ISC2ISC2 Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP)ISC2 Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
CompTIA Security+CompTIA CySA+CompTIA CASP+, CompTIA PenTest+
Microsoft Certified: Security, Compliance, and Identity FundamentalsMicrosoft Certified: Security Operations Analyst Associate; Information Protection Administrator AssociateMicrosoft Certified: Identity and Access Administrator Associate

Read more: 10 Popular Cybersecurity Certifications

Database certifications

Data professionals in the IT realm can be database administrators, database developers, database engineers, data warehousing specialists, or similar roles. Which database certification you pursue will probably depend on which vendor’s database technology you expect to use most heavily. If you’re looking for certifications that will show your competency more specifically in SQL, take a look at a more detailed list of SQL and database certifications.

FoundationalProfessionalAdvanced
Azure Data FundamentalsAzure Database Administrator AssociateNone at this level found
Oracle Database 12c Administrator Certified Associate CertificationOracle Database 12c Administrator Certified Professional CertificationOracle Database 12c Administrator Certified Master Certification
IBM Certified Database Associate - DB2 11 Fundamentals for z/OSIBM Certified Database Administrator - DB2 11 DBA for z/OSNone at this level found

What certification should I get?

The certification you pursue will likely depend on your area of interest in IT,  your experience level, and what the jobs you’re interested in require. If you’re currently in an IT role, you can ask your employer what skills will be most useful for you to learn.

If you’re just starting out in IT, a credential that will teach you the basics in a variety of IT fields can be helpful, such as the CompTIA A+ certification or the Google IT Support Professional Certificate.

Written by Coursera • Updated on Oct 12, 2021

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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