10 Essential IT Certifications for 2024

Written by Coursera Staff • 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 sits at a desk with a laptop and book and considers which entry-level IT certification to get.

An IT certification is a qualification that shows your competency in a specific field of information technology (IT). You typically need to pass an exam that tests your capabilities to earn a certification. Certifications aren’t the only way you can get a job in IT. However, the right certification can benefit your career in many ways. A certification is an excellent option to consider if you’re looking for a structured way to learn new skills and earn a credential.

Are IT certifications worth it?

Potential benefits to getting a certification may 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.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 various skills and credentials that will equip you with more specialised 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 specialise in a specific field, like networks, security, or cloud computing, either by building experience or gaining relevant certifications.

  • Cost: £146 [1]

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

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

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

2. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

The CCNA certification is an associate-level certification that covers the fundamentals of IT networking issues. It includes topics like 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: £267 [2]

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

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

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

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. If you’re interested in becoming an IT security specialist, you can take more advanced security certifications. Examples include the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) or the advanced Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

Security is a growing field—(ISC)² found that demand amongst employers was high for security professionals, with an estimated 1.8 million cybersecurity jobs in 2022 [3]. 

  • Cost: £233 [1]

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

  • Requirements: Requires one certification exam with no prerequisites. 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. If you’re interested in working with Microsoft products and looking for a certification appropriate for someone with entry-level qualifications, this could be a good option. 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 exam in various specialised areas that fall under security, Azure (Microsoft’s cloud solution), AI, data, and software like Power Platform, Microsoft 365, and Dynamics. 

  • Cost: Varies 

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

  • Requirements: One exam is required for each certification, with no prerequisites.

  • Certification path: After a Microsoft Fundamental certification, candidates may go on to receive other certifications in various specialisations 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 an entry-level option. 

The AWS Cloud Practitioner certification helps 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: £129.95 [4]

  • 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.

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 thinking of changing careers, 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: £79 [1]

  • Requirements: No prior experience necessary

  • 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. Many consider the Network+ credential 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: £212 [1]

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

  • Requirements: There are no formal requirements, but having the CompTIA A+ and 9 to 12 months of network experience is 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 and those who can benefit from cybersecurity knowledge, including system administrators and non-IT security managers. 

  • Cost: Varies

  • 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: Varies

  • Potential jobs: Job-role independent

  • Requirements: No formal requirements

  • Certification path: After the Cloud Digital Leader, candidates can advance 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 prepares 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 USD for non-PMI members (£269.74), $225 USD (£202.30) for PMI members [5]

  • 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 they mention frequently.

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 learn 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. Check any requirements a day or two before the exam to ensure you don't forget important artefacts, like a valid ID. 

IT professional salaries and career paths

The average salary for an IT professional in the UK  is £44,773, according to Glassdoor. That number goes up with experience. For example, a senior information technology specialist earns an annual average salary of £51,299 [6].

Many IT professionals get their start in help desk positions, gaining experience in the field before choosing a narrower path to specialise 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 specialise in, such as:

  • Cloud computing

  • Network

  • Security and compliance

  • Management

Next Steps

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.

Article sources


CompTIA. “Exam Prices, https://www.comptia.org/testing/exam-vouchers/exam-prices#aplus.” Accessed July 27, 2023.

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.