IT certifications are the credentials offered by leading technology companies and vendor-neutral certifying institutions to validate knowledge or skills within an area of information technology. Students and professionals alike can take courses, study, and practice to earn any number of IT certifications that boost their value as employees as well as value to clients in the managed service provider (MSP) space.
Having the right IT certifications can be a huge benefit for your MSP business. Certifications demonstrate that you have the knowledge and skills necessary to provide quality services to your clients, and they also show potential customers that you’re up to date on the latest technologies, trends, and best practices in the industry. In addition, certifications give you access to exclusive resources from vendors like AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and VMware. This can give you an edge over competitors and help you stay ahead of the curve when it comes to providing services.
It’s important to choose the right certification for the services you provide or want to start offering. Below, we’ve listed the top courses for MSPs and explained how to identify the best one for you, and we’ve also gone into further detail on the key benefits of MSP certifications in general.
Best MSP Certifications for IT Skills
The best IT certifications for MSPs to take are offered by the companies below:
- AWS (Cloud Solutions Architect)
- Axelos (Information Technology Infrastructure Library)
- Cisco (Certified Cisco Network Professional)
- CompTIA (Cloud+ and Security+)
- Google Cloud (Cloud Architect)
- (ISC)2 (Certified Information Systems Security Professional)
- ISACA (Certified Information Security Manager)
- Microsoft (Azure Administrator Associate)
- PMI (Project Management Professional)
- VMware (Data Center Virtualization)
We examine each course in detail below, including what each certification is and who it’s best for, along with what it teaches you and how much it costs.
AWS: Cloud Solutions Architect
The AWS Cloud Solutions Architect certification is a professional-level credential designed to validate an individual’s expertise in designing and deploying cloud-based solutions on the Amazon Web Services platform.
This certification is best for MSP professionals looking to advance their careers in cloud computing, or those who want to showcase their knowledge of AWS technology across the AWS service menu. With this certification, you will learn how to design and deploy secure and robust applications on AWS platforms, as well as how to use the various tools and services offered by AWS.
The cost of this certification is $150. It takes approximately eight hours of study time to prepare for this exam. The exam consists of 65 multiple choice or multiple response questions with a time allocation of 130 minutes and is delivered via Pearson VUE testing center or an online proctored exam.
Axelos: Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL)
The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a set of best practices for IT service management that helps organizations improve their service delivery processes. The Axelos ITIL Foundation Certification is designed to provide individuals with a basic understanding of ITIL principles, processes, and terminology.
This certification is perfect for IT professionals who want to broaden their knowledge and insight of essential concepts in IT and digital service delivery, all while enabling them to help their organization transition into a new service management culture. Whether you’re just beginning your journey with ITIL 4 or only searching for ways to enhance what you already know, this program will provide immense value.
Accredited training organizations offer ITIL certification courses in a variety of formats, ensuring that everyone can find the perfect solution for their individual needs. The cost of this certification, therefore, varies depending on your training organization but an instructor-led training program with an exam retake option typically costs about $1,000. It takes approximately 10 to 15 hours of study time to prepare for this exam.
The 60-minute examination contains multiple choice 40 questions with a 65% pass mark required to earn certification. An exam voucher with a retake option costs an average of $500.
Cisco: Certified Cisco Network Professional (CCNP)
The Certified Cisco Network Professional (CCNP) certification is designed for networking professionals who have experience working with Cisco products and technologies. This certification validates an individual’s ability to configure, troubleshoot, manage, and maintain enterprise networks using Cisco products and technologies.
There are currently seven CCNP certifications, each dealing with a specific aspect of Cisco products and technologies as follows:
- CCNP Enterprise
- CCNP Data Center
- CCNP Security
- CCNP Service Provider
- CCNP Collaboration
- Cisco Certified CyberOps Professional
- Cisco Certified DevNet Professional
Each certification leads to a different career path and will often have different levels of certification. The cost of each certification varies depending on the certification path, training program, and country of residence but typically ranges between $300 and $1,600. Each CCNP certification is valid for three years.
CompTIA: Cloud+ & Security+
CompTIA’s Cloud+ certification is designed for IT professionals with 2–3 years of working experience who want to demonstrate their skills in deploying and automating secure cloud environments and infrastructure management. Meanwhile, Security+ tests a learner’s core knowledge of cybersecurity and establishes readiness for intermediate-level cybersecurity jobs.
The cost of Cloud+ certification is $358, and $392 for Security+. Examinations run for 90 minutes with multiple-choice and performance-based questions. A score of 750 on a scale of 100 to 900 is required. It takes approximately 10–15 hours of preparation time before taking each exam. Examinations are conducted via Pearson VUE Testing centers or online testing.
Google Cloud: Cloud Architect
Google Cloud’s Cloud Architect Certification is designed for experienced cloud architects who have at least three years of experience designing solutions using Google Cloud Platform products and services such as Compute Engine, App Engine, and BigQuery.
With this certification, you’ll learn how to design and plan secure solutions that leverage Google Cloud Platform technologies while also gaining an understanding of best practices when it comes to deploying applications on the Google Cloud Platform environment. This certification is ideal for experienced developers or system architects looking to demonstrate their expertise in designing and planning solutions using Google Cloud Platform products and services.
The exam registration fee is $200 and comprises 50 to 60 multiple-choice and multiple-select questions. There are also two case studies that candidates must grapple with and demonstrate that they can apply theory to realistic business situations. The exam is administered via an online-proctored exam from a remote location or an onsite-proctored exam at a Google testing center.
(ISC)2: Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
ISC2’s Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) credential is designed for experienced information security professionals with at least five years of experience working with information security systems. With this credential, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of information security concepts, principles, standards, practices, procedures, tools, and techniques.
This credential is ideal for experienced information security professionals looking to demonstrate their knowledge of information security systems. Typical job titles ideal for this certification include:
- Chief Information Security Officer
- Chief Information Officer
- Director of Security
- IT Director/Manager
- Security Systems Engineer
- Security Analyst
- Security Manager
- Security Auditor
- Security Architect
- Security Consultant
- Network Architect
Learning can be classroom-based, online instructor-led, online self-paced, or private onsite. Exams are administered via Pearson VUE Testing Centers. The cost of training and the exam varies depending on your training option. For example, the training and exam package for private online self-paced learning costs $941.45. There are annual maintenance fees (AMFs) ranging from $50 to $125 to maintain certification.
ISACA: Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
ISACA’s Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) credential is designed specifically for experienced information security managers looking to demonstrate their knowledge about managing enterprise information security programs.
With the CISM credential, you’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of risk management strategies, governance frameworks, incident response plans, compliance regulations, and other information security–related concepts and practical skills. This credential is ideal for experienced information security managers looking to demonstrate their knowledge about managing enterprise information security programs.
The cost associated with earning CISM credentials is $575 for ISACA members and $760 for non-members. ISACA’s CISM certification exams are delivered via computer at authorized PSI testing centers, given remotely under proctor supervision, or both. You can register for the exam anytime you want — no need to wait around for predetermined dates. Once you’ve made your payment, simply book an appointment and you’re ready to go within 48 hours.
Microsoft: Azure Administrator Associate
Microsoft’s Azure Administrator Associate Certification validates an individual’s ability to manage cloud services that span storage, networking, and compute capabilities within Microsoft Azure environments and hybrid environments consisting of both Azure and other clouds.
Those seeking this certification should be knowledgeable in the use of operating systems, networking, servers, and virtualization. Furthermore, professionals in this role are expected to have experience with PowerShell, Azure CLI, the Azure portal, and ARM templates along with Microsoft Entra’s very own Azure Active Directory (Azure AD). This certificate program would be beneficial to those seeking roles Azure administrators or cloud administrators for any organization that makes use of the Microsoft Azure platform as part of its cloud solution.
The cost of the exam is $165 in the US and learners can prepare for the exam on a self-paced basis or in an instructor-led environment.
PMI: Project Management Professional
PMI’s Project Management Professional Certification tests and establishes an individual’s ability to plan and execute projects efficiently by applying project management principles across different industries. This certificate program helps individuals develop skills related to developing project plans, estimating costs, scheduling tasks, monitoring progress, controlling risks, coordinating resources, communicating effectively, and leading teams.
This certificate program would be beneficial to those seeking roles such as:
- Project Managers
- Program Managers
- Business Analysts
- Product Owners
- Scrum Masters
However, this certification has very specific and rigid qualification criteria that include:
- Four-year degree
- 8 years of leadership experience with 36 months devoted specifically to managing projects
- CAPM® certification or 35 hours of project management education/training
Alternatively, you can attain certification if you meet the following prerequisites:
- Associate’s degree or high school diploma
- 60 months of experience leading projects in the past eight years
- CAPM® certification or 35 hours of project management education or training
There are two ways to prepare for the exam. You can choose to do a self-paced study program or take part in an instructor-led course. The cost for the exam is $405 for PMI members and $555 for non-members.
VMware: Data Center Virtualization
Earning the VMware Data Center Virtualization certification demonstrates your expertise in utilizing best practices to implement, manage, and diagnose vSphere infrastructure. The certification offers several paths for vSphere V6.7, including the VMware Certified Professional 6 – Data Center Virtualization (VCP6-DCV) and the Data Center Virtualization 2023 (VCP-DCV 2023).
To become certified in either of these paths, candidates must attend one of the authorized training courses offered by VMware or an authorized training partner. In addition, they must gain experience with vSphere 7 (minimum six months recommended) and pass one of the associated exams. Earning either of these certifications demonstrates a deep understanding of virtual infrastructure technologies and provides recognition for IT professionals who are experienced in deploying and managing the infrastructure.
The cost of the VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization (VCP-DCV) certification varies depending on the type of training and exam you choose. The cost for the VCP-DCV 2023 certification is approximately $450 USD for the exam, plus any additional fees associated with training courses or materials.
Honorable Mention IT Certifications
The certifications below didn’t make our list of the top MSP certifications, but they’re still good for most MSPs to consider. Read through the vendor-specific and vendor-neutral lists to see if any could be right for your business.
- Nutanix: Nutanix offers certifications for developing enterprise cloud solutions for hybrid and multi-cloud environments.
- Salesforce: Salesforce certification programs provide training courses and exams designed to help MSPs learn how to customize, configure, and implement Salesforce services.
- Apple: Apple offers certifications in various areas including networking, hardware, software development, IT support, iOS apps development, macOS support, and more.
- Citrix: The Citrix certification program is divided into three levels based on job role — administrator, engineer, and architect.
- EMC: Dell EMC provides multiple certification tracks that cover various aspects of their platform such as installation, configuration, security management, and more.
- HPE: HPE offers multiple certification paths in areas such as storage systems administration, network infrastructure administration, server maintenance, upgrade, troubleshooting, and more.
- IBM: IBM certifications are available for all major IBM products including AIX systems administration, Cloud Computing, Databases, Data Science, Linux Systems Administration, Mobile Application Development, Storage Solutions, Web Development, and more.
- Oracle: Oracle provides several certifications related to its database products such as SQL Database Administrator Certification (OCA), Oracle Database 11g Administrator Certified Professional (OCP), and several more.
- Red Hat: Red Hat offers various Linux-related certifications focusing on system architecture and design, installation and configuration, security and compliance, virtualization and cloud computing, and more.
- SAP: SAP offers multiple certification tracks focusing on different areas of their product line such as business intelligence and analytics, application management and development, enterprise mobility solutions, and others.
- ICCP: The ICCP offers vendor-neutral IT certifications to demonstrate a high level of mastery in various fields of technology and computing. Certificates are recognized around the world as a mark of proven excellence and dedication to the industry.
- EC-Council: The EC-Council provides globally-recognized cybersecurity certifications and training to individuals looking to boost their careers in the field of information security.
- Scrum Alliance: The Scrum Alliance is a vendor-neutral IT Certification that provides credentials for professionals looking to demonstrate their knowledge and expertise in the field of Agile. Examples of certifications offered by the Scrum Alliance include Certified ScrumMaster, Certified Product Owner, and Certified Scrum Professional.
- GIAC: Global Information Assurance Certification offers more than 40 information security–related certifications. Examples of GIAC certifications include the GSEC (Security Essentials) and GPEN (Penetration Tester).
- Help Desk Institute: HDI offers training, consulting and best practice content for service and support professionals. HDI certifications include the Support Center Analyst (HDI-SCA), Certified Professional in Technical Support (CPTS), and Certified Support Center Manager (CSCM).
- MSPAlliance: MSPAlliance provides accreditation and standards for Managed IT Services Providers. Examples of certifications include the MSP/Cloud Verify Program, the MSP/CSA Security Compliance Program, and the MSPAlliance Accreditation Program.
How to Choose an IT Certification
Because various MSPs serve a multitude of functions for clients, choosing an IT certification first means identifying the track corresponding to the existing service lines. Once identified, adding these credentials solidifies working knowledge of what the firm already does best.
From there, the question becomes “What other services could we offer clients?” and “Where are client needs moving and are we currently prepared to address those needs?”
There’s no shortage, for instance, of security tools that MSSPs can use to extend their service stack. Similarly, MSPs at large recognize the competition afoot and the opportunities additional certifications can offer.
Benefits of IT Certifications to MSPs
Trust is essential for a universe of small and medium businesses to enterprise organizations that use MSPs to conduct critical business. MSPs pride themselves on their expertise for services provided, but extended knowledge and skills for applicable client matters never hurts.
IT certifications offer a clear path to learning new technologies and adding valuable service lines not currently offered to existing clients. By getting certified, MSP leaders and staff validate their expertise and offer prospective clients a competitive advantage in industry knowledge.
Bottom Line: MSP Certifications
These certifications can help build trust with MSP customers as they know that their data is being handled by a team that is knowledgeable and experienced in the field. This trust can lead to more customers and more revenue for the MSP business. To get started with any of the certifications on our list, visit the links to the company websites, learn more about them, and sign up for a course of your choice.