IT Certification Roadmap: A Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

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

Woman looking up IT certifications

Information technology (IT) certifications can be an effective way to demonstrate your abilities and experience to potential employers. By earning certificates, you can gain new skills, practice working with industry-standard tools, and qualify yourself for a new role or promotion. In the following article, you'll learn about different IT certification paths and how to use them to advance your IT career.

Ready to start building job-relevant IT skills right now? Consider enrolling in Google's IT Support Professional Certificate to get job-ready for entry-level IT roles in as little as six months.

Read more: 7 IT Career Paths and How to Get Started in 2024

IT certification paths

The next few sections organize popular IT certifications by job title or specialization. Remember that the certifications you earn don't need to come from the same provider. Depending on your career goals and the skills you'd like to obtain, you may benefit from a combination of certifications from different providers. In general, IT certifications can be categorized into one of the following types:

  • Foundational certifications. Certifications listed as foundational are generally those labeled by providers as entry-level or for early career professionals. If you're a recent graduate or someone who is trying to break into the field, foundational certificates can be an excellent starting point.

  • Professional certifications. Professional certifications vary in experience level. Often, they begin with entry-level concepts and work up to more advanced subject matter. Some are designed for those who already have experience and are looking to advance to the next stage of their career.

  • Advanced or specialty certifications. Advanced certifications demonstrate a high level of mastery in a specific subject. They are geared towards mid-to-advanced level professionals who want to gain additional skills or demonstrate their competency in a specialized focus area.

Help desk and IT support 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.

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
Help Desk Institute Cusomter Service Respresentative (HDI-CSR), HDI Support Center Analyst (HDI-SCA)HDI Desktop Advanced Support Technician (HDI-DAST)

Interested in building the skills you'll need to start an IT career?

Consider enrolling in the Google IT Support Professional Certificate to build the skills you'll need to succeed in an entry-level IT Job. While the program is not a certification by itself—though you’ll receive a Professional Certificate from Google upon completion— it 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.

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

Learn network automation with Cisco

Wnt to expand your understanding of network automation? Cisco's Network Automation Engineering Fundamentals Specialization takes mid- to expert-level network engineers through the primary topics of network automation and programmability and prepares them for the NetDevOps environment.


Read more: 6 Network Certifications for your IT Career

Cloud certifications

Cloud computing is one of the most in-demand IT skills of recent years, according to a survey conducted by Skillsoft's Global Knowledge [1]. The following certifications can get you acquainted with the basics and prepare you for more advanced roles in cloud computing.

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
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

Learn AWS cloud technology from AWS

Amazon Web Service's AWS Cloud Technology Consultant Professional Certificate teaches course takers how to create the conceptual, logical, and physical design for cloud-based solutions.


Read more: 5 Cloud Certifications for Your IT Career

Cybersecurity certifications

Cybersecurity, along with cloud computing, is also one of the most in-demand IT fields [1]. 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.

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

Develop your cybersecurity skills with IBM and ISC2

Cybersecurity is integral to IT. In IBM and ISC2's Cybersecurity Specialist Professional Certificate, you'll learn in-demand skills like cryptography, network security, and security risk assessment. No prior experience required.


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.

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

Prepare for Microsoft's Azure Data Fundamentals Exam

Who better to help you prepare for Microsoft's Azure Data Fundamentals certification exam than Microsoft itself?

In the Microsoft Azure Data Fundamentals DP-900 Exam Prep Specialization, you'll learn the fundamentals of database concepts in a cloud environment, get basic skilling in cloud data services, and build your foundational knowledge of cloud data services within Microsoft Azure.

Upon completion of the Specialization, you'll even be offered a discount on the Microsoft Azure Data Fundamentals Certification Exam at Pearson Vue, Microsoft's proctor exam site.


Which IT certification should I earn?

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.

Start working toward your IT certification today

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

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Article sources


Skillsoft's Global Knowledge. "IT Skills and Salary Report 2023," Accessed February 13, 2024.

Keep reading

Updated on
Written by:

Editorial Team

Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact...

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.