| career | career progression - Michael Hess
How Much Do IT Certifications Cost?
IT certifications vary greatly in price. You can sit for an AWS certification for $100. Whereas the most expensive exams, like the CCIE, are $1,500 in exam fees alone. Despite the wide range of exam costs, there are some consistencies. Entry-level certifications are typically less expensive than expert-level ones. It's also true that IT certification costs aren't entirely wrapped in the exam registration fees. Training material, like books, online courses, and boot camps, adds up quickly. We didn't take into account study material for this list — only the exams.
Here's how much it'll cost to earn your next certification.
How Much Do Microsoft Certification Exams Cost?
Microsoft has three tiers of certifications — MTA, MCSA, and MCSE. Microsoft certifications are laid out as a pyramid, with each level of certification leading learners to more specialized — and expensive — certifications.
MCSA Certification Costs
Most MCSA exams cost $165 for test takers in the United States. MCSA exams will cost international test takers from $55 to $165 per exam in their local currency. Because MCSA certifications require either two or three exams, the cost to earn MCSA ranges from $330 to $495 in the United States.
|MCSA: BI Reporting||$330|
|MCSA: Data Engineering and Azure (retires June 30, 2019)||$330|
|MCSA: Machine Learning (retiring June 30, 2019)||$330|
|MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365 (retiring April 30, 2019)||$330|
|MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations||$330|
|MCSA: Office 365 (retiring March 31, 2019)||$330|
|MCSA: SQL 2016 BI Development||$330|
|MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Administration||$330|
|MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Development||$330|
|MCSA: Universal Windows Platform||$330|
|MCSA: Windows 10 (retiring March 31, 2019)||$330|
|MCSA: SQL Server 2012/2014||$495|
|MCSA: Web Applications||$495|
|MCSA: Windows Server 2012||$495|
|MCSA: Windows Server 2016||$495|
MCSE Certification Costs
Microsoft offers five expert-level exams. Each MCSE certification requires passing one additional exam beyond a prerequisite MCSA. Because MCSAs comprise either two or three exams, MCSEs require passing a total of three or four exams. All MCSE exams cost $165 per attempt.
For instance, seven potential MCSAs can serve as the prerequisite for MCSE: Data Management and Analytics. All but the MCSA: SQL Server 2012/2014 require passing two exams at $165 each. SQL Server has three. So, the MCSE will cost either $465 or $650, depending on the preceding MCSA certification.
Here's the full price list of the Microsoft Certified Software Expert (MCSE) exams:
|MCSE Certification + MCSA prerequisite||MCSE Prereq||Total Cost|
|MCSE: Business Applications||$330||$465|
|MCSE: Core Infrastructure||$330||$465|
|MCSE: Data Management and Analytics||$330||$465|
How Much Do Cisco Certifications Cost?
Cisco has five tiers of certifications —- Entry, Associate, Professional, Expert, and Architect. With few exceptions, Cisco has standardized its certification exam pricing structure. However, there are some irregularities.
Cisco's handy pricing guide lists exams costs by code:
|010-XXX Certified Technician exams||$125|
|100-XXX & 200-105 ICND exams||$165|
|200-XXX Associate Level exams (excludes 200-105/125)||$300|
|200-125 CCNA Routing and Switching||$325|
|210-XXX Associate Level – Advanced Technology exams||$300|
|300-XXX Professional Level exams||$300|
|352-011 CCDE Practical exam||$1,600|
|400-XXX CCIE and 352-001 CCDE Expert Level Written exams||$450|
It's easy enough to follow. But, maybe we can break it down a little better.
Entry-level Cisco Certification Costs – $165
Cisco has two entry-level certifications — Cisco Certified Technician (CCT) and the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT). Both the CCT and CCENT are $165.
These two certifications are valuable on their own, but they're often considered the stepping stone certifications for the higher-level CCNA certifications. The CCENT (100-105 ICND1) is the first in the two-exam CCNA. The CCENT can also serve as the prerequisite exam for CCNA Security, Wireless, Industrial, and the CCDA.
|Cisco Certified Technician (CCT)||$125|
|Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT)||$165|
CCNA Certification Exam Costs – $325 to $600
Cisco offers 10 associate-level — or CCNA — exams. Each CCNA certification requires passing at least two exams, which vary in cost.
CCNA Cloud, Collaboration, Cyber Ops, Data Center, and Service Provider each cost $600. These exams have two advanced technologies exams and no prerequisites. Each exam costs $300 per attempt.
CCNA Security, Wireless, Industrial, and the CCDA each cost $465. While most CCNA certifications have two specialized exams, these four certifications only require one advanced technology exam with CCENT ($165) as the prerequisite.
CCNA Routing and Switching is the flagship Cisco exam, and also a potential prerequisite for CCNA Security, Wireless, Industrial, and the CCDA. The CCNA R&S exam costs either $325 or $330. The CCNA R&S is comprised of two exams — the 100-105 ICND1 and 200-105 ICND2.
Because each CCNA R&S exam costs $165, the total cost is $330. There's also the 200-125 CCNA, which combines the material into one composite exam and costs $325.
Here's a full list of the CCNA certification exams:
|CCNA Cyber Ops||$600|
|CCNA Data Center||$600|
|CCNA Routing and Switching||$325 or $330|
|CCNA Service Provider||$600|
CCNP Certification Exam Costs – $900 to $1,200
Cisco offers eight professional-level exams. Each CCNP certification requires passing at least three exams, but most CCNPs require four exams. It's also important to note that each CCNP exam has a prerequisite CCNA. For instance, you must first pass the CCNA R&S to be eligible to sit for the CCNP R&S. Any CCIE certification can also act as a prerequisite.
CCNP Routing and Switching and the CCDP cost $900 each. These two certifications are comprised of three exams, which each cost $300 per attempt.
CCNP Cloud, Collaboration, Data Center, Security, Service Provider, and Wireless cost $1,200 each. These certifications each require four exams, which also cost $300 per attempt.
Here's a full list of the CCNP certification (not including the prerequisite CCNA):
|CCNP Data Center||$1,200|
|CCNP Routing and Switching||$900|
|CCNP Service Provider||$1,200|
CCIE Certification Exam Costs – $2,050
Cisco offers seven expert-level certifications. Unlike other Cisco exams, the CCIE requires a written exam and a practical exam. The CCIE written exam costs $450 each attempt. The CCIE lab exam costs $1,600 per attempt. Each CCIE costs $2,050.
There are no prerequisites to take a CCIE exam.
Here's a full list of CCIE certification exam costs:
|CCIE Data Center||$2,050|
|CCIE Routing and Switching||$2,050|
|CCIE Service Provider||$2,050|
Travel and lodging for the CCIE
The CCIE has many other associated costs. All exams have study material that isn't factored into the exam cost, but few require travel. The lab exam is only available at eight test centers worldwide, which means an added expense of travel, food, and lodging.
It's also important to note that the CCIE is among the most difficult IT certification exams. Most people take the CCIE lab exam multiple times. We recently broke down the total cost of the CCIE in this recent blog post. The most realistic scenarios put the cost of earning a CCIE somewhere between $12,000 to $19,000.
CCAr Certification Exam Costs – $15,000
The Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr) certification is the most difficult and expensive exam available. The initial CCAr board qualification review costs $3,750. The board review then costs an additional $11,250. The total cost of the CCAr is $15,000.
How Much Do AWS Certifications Cost?
Amazon offers four tiers of certifications — Practitioner, Associate, Professional, and Specialty. AWS certifications no longer have prerequisites to take their exams. However, Amazon advises test takers to progress through the certifications according to their familiarity with the platform.
AWS Practitioner Certification Exam Costs – $100
Amazon has one practitioner-level exam that's designed for non-technical professionals who use AWS cloud. The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner costs $100.
AWS Associate Certification Exam Costs – $150
Amazon has three associate-level AWS certifications — Solutions Architect, Developer, and SysOps Administrator. These exams are designed for IT professionals with at least one year of experience with AWS cloud technologies. AWS Certified Associate certificates cost $150 per attempt.
Here's a full list of AWS Associate certification exam costs:
|AWS Associate Certification||Cost|
|AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate||$150|
|AWS Certified Developer – Associate||$150|
|AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate||$150|
AWS Professional Certification Exam Costs – $300
Amazon has two professional-level AWS certifications — Solutions Architect and DevOps Engineer. These exams are designed for IT professionals with at least two years of experience with AWS cloud technologies. AWS Certified Professional certificates cost $300 per attempt.
Here's a full list of AWS Professional certification exam costs:
|AWS Professional Certification||Cost|
|AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional||$300|
|AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional||$300|
AWS Specialty Certification Exam Costs – $300
Amazon has three specialty AWS certifications — Security, Big Data, and Advanced Networking. These exams are designed for IT professionals with deep technical knowledge and experience in a narrow skill set. AWS Certified Specialty certificates cost $300 per attempt.
|AWS Specialty Certification||Cost|
|AWS Certified Security – Specialty||$300|
|AWS Certified Big Data – Specialty||$300|
|AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty||$300|
How Much Do VMware Certification Cost?
VMware has five tiers of certifications —- Associate, Professional, Advanced Professional, Design Expert, and Specialist exams. VMware has largely standardized its cost structure for Associate, Professional, and Advanced certification exams.
VMware Foundation Certification Exam Costs – $125
VMware has two Foundations exams that serve as a prerequisite for most professional-level certifications.
|vSphere 6 Foundations||$125|
|vSphere 6.5 Foundations||$125|
VMware Certified Professional (VCP) Certification Costs – $250
VMware has 15 professional-level certifications in five tracks — Data Center Virtualization, Network Virtualization, Cloud Management and Automation, Desktop and Mobility, and Digital Workspace. Each VMware Certified Professional (VCP) certification exam costs $250 per attempt.
In most cases, one of the two Foundation courses serves as the only prerequisite certification for the professional-level exams. However, there are exceptions. The VCP-DTM 2019 certification requires both a Foundation and the Horizon 7.5 exams. VMware Digital Workspace exams have no prerequisites.
|VMware Certified Professional (VCP) Certification||Cost|
|VCP 6 – Data Center Virtualization (VCP6-DCV)||$250|
|VCP 6.5 – Data Center Virtualization (VCP6.5-DCV)||$250|
|VCP – Data Center Virtualization 2019 (VCP-DCV 2019)||$250|
|VCP 6 – Network Virtualization (VCP6-NV)||$250|
|VCP – Network Virtualization 2019 (VCP-NV 2019)||$250|
|VCP 6 – Cloud Management and Automation (VCP6–CMA)||$250|
|VCP 7 – Cloud Management and Automation (VCP7-CMA)||$250|
|VCP – Cloud Management and Automation 2019 (VCP-CMA 2019)||$250|
|VCP Horizon 7.5||$250|
|VCP 6 – Desktop and Mobility (VCP6-DTM)||$250|
|VCP – Desktop and Mobility 2018 (VCP-DTM 2018)||$250|
|VCP 7 – Desktop and Mobility (VCP7-DTM)||$250|
|VCP – Desktop and Mobility 2019 (VCP-DTM 2019)||$250|
|VCP – Digital Workspace 2018 (VCP-DW 2018)||$250|
|VCP – Digital Workspace 2019 (VCP-DW 2019)||$250|
VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP) Certification – $450
VMware has nine advanced certifications in four tracks — data center virtualization, network virtualization, cloud management and automation, and desktop and mobility. Each VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP) certification exam costs $450 per attempt.
VMware VCP exams serve as the prerequisite for VCAP certifications by track. For instance, VCP6.5-DCV is required to take the VCAP6.5-DCVD.
VMware is fairly stringent with their prerequisites, but the most recent certifications are backward compatible for earlier exams. For example, the VCP6.5-DCV can serve as the prerequisite for all three VCAP exams in the data center track, but not the earlier VCP6-DCV exam. The same holds true for network virtualization, cloud management, and desktop and mobility exams.
When taking into consideration the prerequisites, VCAP exams cost at least $700.
|VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP) Certification||Cost|
|VCAP 6.5 – Data Center Virtualization Design||$450|
|VCAP 6 – Data Center Virtualization Deployment||$450|
|VCAP – Data Center Virtualization Deploy 2018||$450|
|VCAP 6 – Network Virtualization Deployment||$450|
|VCAP 7 – Cloud Management and Automation Design (VCAP7-CMA Design)||$450|
|VCAP 6 – Cloud Management and Automation Deployment||$450|
|VCAP – Cloud Management and Automation Deploy 2018||$450|
|VCAP 7 – Desktop and Mobility Design (VCAP7-DTM Design)||$450|
|VCAP 6 – Desktop and Mobility Deployment||$450|
VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) Certification – $3,995
VMware has five expert-level certifications in four tracks — data center virtualization, network virtualization, cloud management and automation, and desktop and mobility. Each VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) certification exam costs $3,995 per attempt.
The VCDX exam has two parts. The application fee costs $995. Though, to call it just an application fee is an understatement. In reality, aspiring VCDXs submit a design that must be accepted to defend. The in-person defense costs $3,000. A failed defense is eligible to retake for an additional $900.
|VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) Certification||Cost|
|VCDX 6 – Data Center Virtualization (VCDX6-DCV)||$3,995|
|VCDX 6 – Network Virtualization (VCDX6-NV)||$3,995|
|VCDX 7 — Cloud Management and Automation (VCDX7-CMA)||$3,995|
How Much Do CompTIA Exams Cost?
CompTIA has 13 certifications in four series — Core, Infrastructure, Cybersecurity, and Professional. There are no prerequisite certifications for any CompTIA exam.
CompTIA Core Series Certifications – $119 to $319
The certifications in the Core Series are the best-known CompTIA certifications. The A+, Network+, and Security+ are common foundational certifications for entry-level IT professionals. These certifications are included in the DoD Directive 8140 and 8570 framework, which establishes basic IT qualifications for federal employees and contractors.
|CompTIA Core Series Certifications||Cost|
|CompTIA IT Fundamentals||$119|
CompTIA Infrastructure Series Certifications – $219 to $319
The certifications in the Infrastructure Series are vendor-neutral alternatives to Microsoft, Linux, VMware, and Cisco certifications.
|CompTIA Infrastructure Series Certifications||Cost|
CompTIA Cybersecurity Series Certifications – $349 to $439
The certifications in the Cybersecurity Series prepare IT professionals to serve in security roles. The CySA+ and Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) certifications are both approved under DoD Directive 8140 and 8570.
|CompTIA Cybersecurity Series Certifications||Cost|
|CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner||$439|
CompTIA Professional Series Certifications – $119 to $319
The certifications in the Professional Series validate general business skills for technical and non-technical professionals.
|CompTIA Professional Series Certifications||Cost|
|CompTIA Cloud Essentials||$119|
How Much Do (ISC)2 Certifications Cost?
(ISC)2 has seven security certifications that validate skills and knowledge in leadership, security administration, cloud security, authorization, software security, and healthcare security. While there are no prerequisite certifications for these certifications, the (ISC)2 has an involved qualification and endorsement process for certified security professionals.
|CISSP – ISSAP/ISSEP/ISSMP||$599|
The Value of Certifications Outweigh the Costs
If there's anything this post has confirmed, it's that certifications aren't cheap. That becomes even more apparent when factoring study material, prerequisite exams, multiple attempts, and even the time and effort put into studying for them. The CCIE, for instance, can easily cost $20,000.
However, the value of certifying on a technology outweighs the costs in both time and money. Opinion as to whether certifications are even worth it are varied. Some people view certs as a bullet point on a resume. Others collect certifications like Pokémon. Here's the reality: Certifications are valuable even if they're only a bullet on a resume.
Given two otherwise equal resumes, hiring managers and HR pros alike will almost always pick the person with the certification. That's because certifications don't just validate knowledge. They also show that you're willing to put the time and effort into your career.
In many other cases, like working for the federal government, certifications are required for many IT positions. That's the stronger case for spending the time and money to earn certifications. If you already know your stuff, it's best to validate that fact in an industry-approved way. Otherwise, you're potentially disqualifying yourself from a number of opportunities before you even have a chance to show your stuff.
As long as IT certifications are accepted as the standard by employers, they'll remain necessary, relevant — and worth the cost.