15 best entry-level IT certifications to launch your career

Barbara Merkley

Certifications give your resume more credibility and can make you more marketable to recruiters and hiring managers. And at the entry-level, they’re a great way to stand out from other candidates — and even boost your pay.

As you grow in your career, you’ll want to consider more advanced certifications to continue your professional development. By then, you’ll know what specialties to focus on and what skills you need for your desired career path. But at the entry level, it’s better to stick with more generalized certifications that will help get your foot in the door.

Here are 15 IT certifications to launch your career, whether you have recently graduated or have decided to make a career change.

15 entry-level IT certs to jump-start your career

  • Apple Certified Support Professional (ACSP)
  • AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
  • Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
  • Cisco Certified Technician (CCT)
  • Comp TIA A+
  • CompTIA IT Fundamentals+ (ITF+)
  • CompTIA Network+
  • CompTIA Security+
  • ITIL 4 Foundation
  • Linux Essentials Professional Development Certification (PDC)
  • Microsoft 365 Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA)
  • PMI Certified Associate in project Management (CAPM)
  • Systems Security Certified Practitioner

Apple Certified Support Professional (ACSP)

The Apple Certified Support Professional (ACSP) certification validates your abilities as a help desk professional, technical coordinator, or technical support professional for Mac users. The certification demonstrates that you have a strong understanding of macOS core functionality and that you can “configure key services, perform basic troubleshooting, and support multiple Mac users.” If you’re looking at entry-level IT support jobs, it’s a solid certification that will show employers you have the capabilities to manage Apple hardware and software.

Exam fee: $250

AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner

The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam offered by Amazon is an entry-level cloud certification that covers the fundamentals of IT services and how they are used in the AWS cloud platform. The exam covers topics such as coding, designing cloud architecture, cloud security, troubleshooting, implementation, migration, load and performance testing, and business applications. While this is an entry-level certification, it’s recommended to have six months of exposure to the AWS cloud and knowledge of core AWS services, use cases, billing, pricing models, security concepts, and how cloud impacts the business.

Exam fee$100

Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)

Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) is an entry-level certification to validate your skills and abilities using Scrum, a popular agile development framework. It’s a valuable certification for anyone interested in becoming a Scrum master, but it’s also useful for anyone on the path to becoming a software engineer, business analyst, or project manager. The exam covers topics such as Scrum and agile, Scrum theory, Scrum values, Scrum teams, the Scrum master role, Scrum events, and Scrum artifacts.

For more information, see “CSM certification: What you need to know.”

Exam feeFrom $400 to $1,000, depending on location and whether you choose an online, in-person, or hybrid course

Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

In the past, Cisco offered several individual certifications under the Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification scheme, but it has recently consolidated all CCNA certifications into one single CCNA certification. The new CCNA certification validates your skills and knowledge with network fundamentals, network access, IP connectivity, IP services, security fundamentals, and automation and programmability.

The CCNA certification is designed to cover a “broad range of fundamentals based on the latest technologies, software development skills and job roles.” It’s an entry-level certification designed to get you up to speed on the latest IT fundamentals to launch your career. It’s best suited to those interested in roles such as entry-level network engineer, help desk technician, network administrator, or network support technician.

Exam fee: $300

Cisco Certified Technician (CCT)

The Cisco Certified Technician (CCT) certification verifies your ability to diagnose, restore, repair, and replace critical Cisco networking and system devices at customer sites. There are two CCT paths to choose from: data center or routing and switching.

The CCT Data Center certification covers support and maintenance of Cisco Unified Computing systems and server. It’s targeted at field support engineers working with Cisco data center system devices and software. You’ll need to take the course Supporting Cisco Data Center System Devices (DCTECH) v2.0 before you can pass the exam. The course covers data center networking fundamentals, field servicing and equipment replacement, and how to identify Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) component models, accessories cabling, and interfaces.

The CCT Routing and Switching certification covers on-site support and maintenance of Cisco routers, switches, and operating environments. It’s designed for on-site technical support and other support staff who work with Cisco Data Center Solutions. Before you can take the exam, you’ll need to take the course Supporting Cisco Routing and Switching Network Devices (RSTECH). The online self-paced course covers networking fundamentals, Cisco outer and switch models, Cisco IOS software operating modes, and the Cisco command line interface (CLI).

Exam fee: $125 per exam

Comp TIA A+

The CompTIA A+ certification is targeted at support specialists, field service technicians, desktop support analysts, and help desk support. If you’re interested in landing a job in a related field, it’s a solid entry-level certification that is well-regarded in the industry. The cert verifies your ability to troubleshoot and solve problems with networking, operating systems, mobile devices, and security and consists of two exams: one that covers mobile devices, networking technology, hardware, virtualization and cloud computing, and network troubleshooting; and a second exam that covers installing and configuring operating systems, expanding security, and troubleshooting software and operational procedures.

Exam fee: $232 per exam

CompTIA IT Fundamentals+ (ITF+)

The CompTIA IT Fundamentals+ (ITF+) certification is designed for those interested in starting a career in IT or who want to change career paths. The exam is intended to validate your foundational knowledge in IT and to give you a better idea of what it’s like to work in IT. It covers essential IT skills and knowledge such as the functions and features of common operating systems, establishing network connectivity, security best practices, and how to identify common software applications.

The certification exam covers networks, infrastructure, IT concepts and terminology, applications and software, security, database fundamentals and software development. It’s also a good starting point if you want to continue down the CompTIA certification path, but it’s not a requirement for other certifications.

Exam fee: $126

CompTIA Network+

The CompTIA Network+ is an entry-level certification that covers networking concepts, troubleshooting, operations, tools, and security, as well as IT infrastructure. The certification is designed for junior network administrators, network field technicians, junior system engineers, IS consultants, and network field engineers. It’s recommended to have your CompTIA A+ certification and at least 9 to 12 months of networking experience before taking the exam, but it’s not required.

The exam verifies your knowledge with configuring, managing, and maintaining network devices; implementing and designing functional networks; network troubleshooting; and network security. If you know you want to work closely with IT networks, it’s a well-recognized and worthwhile certification that will set you apart from other entry-level candidates.

Exam fee: $338

CompTIA Security+

Security is a crucial IT skill for any technology role, so it’s a good idea to earn your CompTIA Security+ certification at the entry-level. It’s suited for network, system, and security administrators; security specialists; junior IT auditors; security consultants; and security engineers. A new exam launched in November 2020 that is compliant with ISO 17024 standards and approved by the US DoD to meet specific security requirements.

The 90-minute exam covers threats, attacks, and vulnerabilities; risk management; architecture and design; technology and tools; cryptography and PKI; and identity and access management. Earning your Security+ certification will show employers you have the skills to install and configure systems to keep applications, networks, and devices secure in accordance with compliance laws.

Exam fee: $349

ITIL 4 Foundation

The ITIL 4 framework from Axelos is a popular management methodology designed to improve team efficiency and organizational processes. The ITIL 4 Foundation certification covers the basics of IT service management and the best practices for creating, delivering, and improving tech-enabled products and services. If you plan to work in an IT service management role, it’s a great certification to help you get started on that path. The exam covers the guiding principles of ITIL 4, the four dimensions of service management, and key concepts such as Lean, Agile, and DevOps.

Exam fee: Varies depending on vendor

Linux Essentials Professional Development Certification (PDC)

The Linux Essentials Professional Development Certification (PDC) is designed to demonstrate your understanding of Linux, a popular open-source operating system used in several industries. The exam covers the basic concepts of Linux hardware, software, processes, and programs as well as system security, file permissions, and public and private directories. It also covers topics such as open-source applications, how to work with command lines, creating and resorting compressed backup and archives, and creating and running simple scripts. It’s best suited to those on track to become an IT developer, administrator, or engineer.

Exam fee: $120

Microsoft 365 Fundamentals

The Microsoft 365 Fundamentals certification covers all the basics and fundamentals of the Microsoft 365 suite of products and services. The certification proves that you understand “the options available in Microsoft 365 and the benefits of adopting cloud services, the software as a service (SaaS) cloud model and implementing the Microsoft 365 cloud service.” Microsoft updated the certification on Oct. 25, 2021, to include new details about the licensing options for Azure Active Directory Premium P1 and Premium P2.

The exam will ask you to describe and explain cloud concepts, core Microsoft 365 services and concepts, security, compliance, privacy, and trust in Microsoft 365. You’ll also be tested on your knowledge of the Microsoft 365 products, services, and pricing structures.

Exam fee: $99

Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA)

The Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certification scheme includes several entry-level beginner certifications that cover the fundamentals of IT topics, including mobility, JavaScript, Python, HTML and HTML5, CSS, networking, operating systems, Windows Server Administration, security, databases, and development.

The MTA certifications are designed for entry-level workers just starting out in IT or for those looking to change IT careers. The exam is meant to help you establish your career track in IT, letting you decide what areas you want to focus on. MTA certs are a great place to start for anyone interested in starting a career in desktop infrastructure, server infrastructure, or private cloud computing.

Exam fee: Varies by location

PMI Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)

The Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification is a widely-recognized entry-level certification for project management offered through the Project Management Institute (PMI). You don’t necessarily have to be a project manager to get your CAPM — plenty of IT jobs require project management skills to oversee technical projects.

You’ll need a secondary degree and at least 23 hours of project management education completed before you can take the exam — but you can accomplish that through PMI’s Project Management Basics course. The course is designed by PMI to prepare you for the CAPM certification exam — it covers project management basics and skills you’ll need for an IT project management job.

For more information, see “CAPM certification: Cost, salary, training, and more.”

Exam fee: $225 for members; $300 for non-members

Course fee: $350 for members; $400 for non-members

Systems Security Certified Practitioner

The Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP) certification certifies your skills in implementing, monitoring, and administering IT infrastructure in alignment with the industry’s best practices as established by the (ISC)². The certification is best suited for network security engineers, systems administrators, security analysts, systems engineers, security consultants, security administrators, systems and networks analysts, and database administrators.

To qualify, you need at least one year of work experience in one or more of the seven domains, which includes access controls, security operations and administration, risk identification and monitoring, incident response and recovery, cryptography, network and communications security and systems and application security. If you don’t have the required experience, you can take the exam to become an Associate of (ISC)². If you pass, you will have two years to complete the one year of required experience. You may also qualify to take the exam if you have a related degree from an accredited college or university or the equivalent in computer science, computer engineering, computer systems engineering, management information systems, or information technology. It’s a great place to start if you want to add cybersecurity skills to your expertise.

Exam fee: $249

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