Five High-paying Professional Certifications

Professional Certifications

If you are looking to advance your career or readying for your next startup, professional certifications can be a great way to do it. There are many different types of professional certifications available, and they can provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to succeed in your field.

In this blog post, we will discuss six high-paying professional certifications that are popular among professionals today. We will provide an overview of each certification and discuss the benefits that come with obtaining it. So if you are thinking about pursuing a professional certification, read on!

Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)

The Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification is one of the most popular professional certifications designed for those who are new to project management or do not have enough experience to qualify for the PMP exam. To be eligible for the CAPM exam, you must have at least 23 hours of project management education and a secondary degree from an accredited institution.

The CAPM certification is valid for three years and can be renewed by completing 15 professional development units (PDUs) in this timeframe. The average salary for a Project Manager with a CAPM certification is $98,000 per year.

To obtain your CAPM, you will need to sit through a three hour, 150 question exam covering the following items:

  • Introduction to project management: process groups and processes, typical project lifecycle, tailoring for different projects, relationship between project, program, portfolio, and operational management
  • Project environment: impactful factors and assets, organizational systems, Project Management Office activities, hierarchy of projects, programs, and portfolios
  • Role of the project manager: primary functions, sphere of influence, PMI triangle, leadership vs management
  • Project integration management: relevant processes, related concepts and procedures, recognizing key documents, input, tools, techniques, and outputs
  • Project scope management: relevant processes, scope management for adaptive/agile projects, purpose and elements of a work breakdown structure (WBS), input, tools, techniques, and outputs
  • Project schedule management: relevant processes, network diagrams and scheduling calculations, considerations for agile projects, input, tools, techniques, and outputs
  • Project cost management: relevant processes, input, tools, techniques, outputs, key concepts, basic forecasting and earned value
  • Project quality management: processes, input, tools, techniques, puts, adapting quality management, qualities and tools for continuous improvement
  • Project resource management: processes, input, tools, techniques, outputs, tailoring and agile, developing a team, managing conflict, components of a resource management plan
  • Project communication management: processes, input, tools, techniques, outputs, key documents, risk calculations, adjusting risk based on project environment
  • Project procurement management: processes, input, tools, techniques, outputs, key concepts and tailoring considerations, identification of contracts and source selection methods
  • Project stakeholder management: processes, input, tools, techniques, outputs, key stakeholders and needs, key concepts and benefits

Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO)

The Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) certification is designed for those who are responsible for the product vision and strategy in their organization. To be eligible for the CSPO exam, you must have completed a two-day Scrum Alliance certified course.

The CSPO certification is valid for two years and can be renewed by completing 20 continuing education credits (SEUs). The average salary for a Product Owner with a CSPO certification is $113,000 per year.

If you intend on sitting for the CSPO exam, you’ll need to study the following:

  • Product owner core competencies: fundamentals of the product owner role, working with stakeholders, product ownership with multiple teams
  • Describing purpose and strategy: the creation of a product vision, components of a product plan, forecast with stakeholders, how to plan a product release, identifying small, valuable, and releasable Product Increments
  • Understanding customers and users: approaches for segmenting customers and users, prioritizing among conflicting customer needs, aspects of product discovery, user and customer description methods, connecting the Development Team directly to customers/users, benefits of Development Team direct interactions
  • Validating product assumptions: how Scrum supports validating assumptions, attribute of a Product Backlog item
  • Working with the Product Backog: differentiating outcome and input, defining value, creating and refining items

Full curriculum for this and other Scrum professional certifications can be located here (last updated January 2020).

ITIL 4 Foundation

The ITIL 4 Foundation certification is designed for those who want to learn about the ITIL framework and how it can be used to improve IT service management. To be eligible for the ITIL Foundation professional certifications, you must have completed a two-day accredited course.

The exam consists of 40 multiple choice questions that you must complete in 60 minutes. It is a closed book exam requiring at least a 65% correct score to pass.

Topics covered on the ITIL 4 Foundation exam include:

  • Key concepts of service management: recalling definitions, key concepts of creating value with services, and key concepts of service relationships
  • Adopting and adapting service management: nature and interaction of guiding principles, and explaining the use of guiding principles
  • Four dimensions of service management: organizations and people, information and technology, partners and suppliers, value streams and processes
  • ITIL service value system: describe the ITIL service value system
  • Service value chain: describe the connections between the service value chain links, describe how value streams are supported, and describe the purpose of each activity in the chain
  • Purpose and key terms (15 practices): covers management of information security, relationships, suppliers, IT assets, monitoring and events, release, service configuration, deployments, changes, incidents, problems, service requests, SLAs, service desks, and the purpose of continual improvement
  • Understanding (7 practices): explain continual improvement, change management, incident management, problem management, service request management, service desks, and SLAs

The ITIL 4 Foundation certification is valid for three years and can be renewed by taking the ITIL Foundation exam again. The average salary for an IT professional with an ITIL Foundation certification is $95,000 per year.

Six Sigma Green Belt

The Six Sigma Green Belt certification is designed for those who want to learn about the Six Sigma methodology and how it can be used to improve quality in their organization. Different institutions have different requirements for obtaining their professional certifications, and this situation is no different.

One of the more popular institutions is the American Society for Quality. The ASQ requires all Six Sigma Green Belt candidates to have 3 years of full-time, paid work experience. They do not grant waivers for educational equivalency.

Topics covered on the Green Belt certification exam include:

  • Six Sigma and the organization: organizational goals, Lean principles, and design for Six Sigma (DFSS) methodologies
  • Define phase: project identification, voice of the customer, project management foundations, management and planning, business results, and team dynamics
  • Measure phase: process analysis and documentation, statistics, statistical distributions, collecting and summarizing data, measurement system analysis (MSA), and process and performance capability
  • Analyze phase: exploratory data analysis, hypothesis testing, and additional analysis methods like gap analysis and root cause analysis
  • Improve phase: design of experiments, implementation planning, and Lean tools
  • Control phase: statistical process control, sustaining improvements, and Lean tools for process control

The Six Sigma Green Belt certification is valid for three years and can be renewed by taking the Six Sigma Green Belt exam again or by completing a professional development program. The average salary for a Six Sigma Green Belt certified professional is $96,000 per year.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

The Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification is the gold standard for accounting professionals and is one of the most well known professional certifications. It is a little more accessible than some other professional certifications on this list, but there are still requirements. Here’s what you need to sit for the exam:

  • Citizenship: most US states allow anyone to become a CPA regardless of citizenship. North Carolina is an exception to this.
  • Identification: you’ll need a Social Security number unless you’re in Illinois, Montana, New York, South Dakota, or Wisconsin.
  • Age: state dependent
  • Education: check with your state. In our home state of Florida, you must have either a bachelor’s degree or 120 credit hours of higher education logged through an accredited institution. There’s a requirement of 24 credit hours covering auditing, cost accounting, financial accounting, and taxation. You’ll also need 24 hours of micro/macroeconomics and statistics and three hours of business law.
  • Work experience: none

The CPA certification is valid for three years and can be renewed by completing 40 hours of Continuing Professional Education (CPE). The average salary for a CPA is $83,350 per year.

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

The Chartered Financial Analyst certification is the highest paying of all our professional certifications, but it takes years to complete and has a high cost. To be eligible to sit for the level one exam, you must have a bachelor’s degree (or have less than 11 months to go until graduation), have 4,000 hours of professional experience, or a combination of the above two requirements.

In order to actually be a CFA charterholder, though, you need to continue on after passing the first exam. CFA charterholders must have all three levels of the exam completed as well as 4,000 hours of investment-related work experience.

The quickest you can obtain your CFA is 12 months because the CFA institute places a six month mandatory wait time between exams. If you took your first exam in July, second in January, and third the following July, you would be adhering to requirements. This 12 month path assumes you pass each exam the first time, of course.

Back to salary. According to the Corporate Finance Institute, the average CFA charterholder base salary is $180,000 yearly. With bonuses and stock options, the CFA Society claims its CFAs make the rough equivalent of $300,000. Again, this is the highest paying certification on our list, but it is also one of the most challenging to obtain and maintain.


There are many professional certifications that can lead to a high paying career. The ones we’ve listed here are some of the most popular and in-demand. With hard work and dedication, you can obtain any one of these certifications and reap the rewards.



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