Professional Development

These are the top 10 national security certifications for that next salary bump

According to a report from ClearanceJobs, certifications from Cisco, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft can bring top dollar.

Maryland is home to cybersecurity hubs like the National Security Agency.

(Photo by Flickr user CreativeTime Reports, used under a Creative Commons license)

Wondering if you should take the plunge and go for that next certification in national security? It might be time, according to a new survey.

The 2022 Security Clearance Compensation Survey, produced by Iowa-based recruiting company ClearanceJobs, examined the top certifications that employers want and how that dynamic impacted salaries. The ClearanceJobs report surveyed national security workers between September 2020 and December 2021 and saw a 14% increase in responses in 2021. The study measured 24,089 workers making between $18,000 and $300,000 in the industry.

Here are the top-earning certifications, according to their respective average salaries:

  1. Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert: $155,671
  2. Certified Information Systems Security Professional: $139,005
  3. Project Management Professional: $138,986
  4. GIAC Certifications: $135,906
  5. ScrumMaster:$134,770
  6. Cisco Certified Design Expert: $132,752
  7. Amazon Web Services: $130,629
  8. Certified Information Security Manager: $130,178
  9. VMware Certified Professional/VMware Certified Advanced Professional: $125,659
  10. Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: $124,561

While all of these certifications should get you over the six-figure mark (depending on experience), it’s worth noting the nearly $25,000 difference between the top certification and #10. All in all, the report found that the pay difference between a certification and not having one amounts to about $13,043 in annual salary.

“Certifications help employers know a bit more of the piece of what they’re getting when they hire a candidate and can help individuals level set into the next stage in their career,” ClearanceJobs’s founder and president Evan Lesser said in a statement. “As contractors look to compete, knowing an individual has the right certification for the job can really be a level-setter.”

That said, ClearanceJobs noted that the certification itself isn’t everything; Instead, having that certification in conjunction with a degree or experience can make a huge difference. According to the report, a national security professional with less than 10 years of experience, a bachelor’s degree or less and no certifications can make about $81,030 on average. Meanwhile, someone with a decade of experience or more, graduate work and certifications can make $145,791.

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