Choose your language:

Hong Kong
New Zealand
United Kingdom
United States
IT manager

5 certifications to help you break into IT management

March 27, 2018

By Anastasia Anderson

You’ve worked hard to get where you are and are ready for the next step in your IT career: management. Past blogs in our certifications series have focused on honing and verifying your IT knowledge and talent to move up in the industry and increase your salary. But IT management involves so much more than IT skills—you must be adept in guiding people, organizing projects, meeting tight deadlines and making tough decisions for your company.

We’ve gathered a set of certifications to help you to move from individual contributor to in-charge leader or from mid- to senior-level management. These certifications—some IT-specific, others broader—will validate your ability to lead a team and prepare you to become an attractive management candidate.

[Search IT manager jobs]

Lean Six Sigma

Developed at Motorola and popularized in the 1990s by General Electric’s legendary CEO Jack Welch, Six Sigma is a system widely used by organizations to avoid errors and increase work production. Increasingly, this methodology is being combined with the Lean approach and applied in the IT sector, helping create continuous progress and allowing for uninterrupted innovation—the highest priorities in IT today.

The Lean Six Sigma certification program offers four tiers of mastery from Green Belt to Black Belt. It’s important to note that there’s no official standard for this certification; different vendors offer different training and certification paths—at different levels of quality.

Lean Six Sigma Green Belt

As a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, you will focus on managing the data-driven improvement cycle used to drive Six Sigma projects called DMAIC: Defining goals; Measuring problems; Analyzing causes; Improving processes; Controlling improvements. This is the perfect certification if you’re looking to break into lower- or middle-management roles.

  • Career level: Entry to mid-level
  • Prerequisites: None
  • Exam: Varies
  • How long the certification lasts: Lifetime
  • Annual potential salary increase: $14,076
  • Notes: There is no official standard for this certification; many vendors offer it

Find an accredited list of training providers

Lean Six Sigma Black Belt

Achieving Lean Six Sigma Black Belt status will prepare you to become a full-time project leader spearheading complex projects. You will gain the utmost understanding of the Lean Six Sigma methodology and will be equipped to assess all aspects of the challenge at hand and deliver excellent results for your company.

  • Career level: Mid to late
  • Prerequisites: None
  • Exam: Varies
  • How long the certification lasts: Lifetime
  • Annual potential salary increase: $17,350
  • Notes: There is no official standard for this certification; many vendors offer it

Find an accredited list of training providers

Project Management Professional (PMP)

The PMP certification is widely recognized and respected across many industries, including IT. Comprising a rigorous curriculum and exam, the PMP shows employers you have the experience, knowledge and skills to effectively and efficiently manage IT projects from beginning to end. By achieving this title, you can become more bankable to employers and have the validation to go after positions of higher responsibility and pay. According to the PMI Earning Power Salary Survey, project managers with PMP certifications pull in 20 percent higher salaries on average than those without the certification.

  • Career level: Mid to late
  • Prerequisites: 4,500 hours of project management (PM) experience and a 4-year degree—or 7,500 hours of PM experience with a high school degree—and 35 hours of PM training
  • Exam: $555
  • How long the certification lasts: Lifetime, but you must earn 60 professional development units every three years to maintain the certification
  • Annual potential salary increase: $13,282

Learn more about the PMP

Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)

A ScrumMaster manages teams in fast-paced Scrum projects to ensure they stay focused, organized, communicative—and on time. As a CSM, you will have demonstrated your understanding of Agile project management and the ability to manage a team through complex IT projects while adhering to the Scrum framework. With IT manager showing up as one of the fastest-growing jobs of 2017—with 104 percent increase in job openings from 2016—CSM is a great certification to prove your value.

  • Career level: Mid to late
  • Prerequisites: None
  • Exam: Approx. $1,000 for mandatory 2-day, in-person training and exam
  • How long the certification lasts: 2 years
  • Annual potential salary increase: $13,500
  • Notes: Does not currently require continuing education credits

Learn more about the CSM

Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) Expert

If you’re in a supervisory or management role, you’ve likely cultivated a wealth of knowledge in IT service over the course of your career, and want to validate these achievements. An ITIL Expert certification can set you apart and send you to the top of the stack for high-level management positions.

  • Career level: Late
  • Prerequisites: ITIL Foundation (or Bridge equivalent) and MALC certifications
  • Exam: Varies; approx. $250
  • How long the certification lasts: Does not expire
  • Annual potential salary increase: $30,517

Learn more about ITIL Expert

Masters of Business Administration (MBA)

At the end of the day, a technology-focused MBA may be the strongest step toward IT management roles. Top schools from MIT to Carnegie Mellon to University of Maryland now offer IT-specialized degrees for those who seek to advance their careers in the IT field. While an MBA is a significantly larger investment than the above certifications, the ROI can far outweighs the others—some studies suggest you could reasonably expect to earn 50 percent more immediately post-graduation. In addition to the general management courses required of an MBA candidate, schools offer a wide variety of specialized tracks, such as information systems, operations management, business analytics and intelligence, and global sourcing management.

  • Career level: Entry to mid
  • Prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree, often paired with GMAT/GRE and high undergraduate GPA
  • Tuition: $25,000-$65,000 per year (based on institution and in- or out-of-state status)
  • How long the degree lasts: Lifetime
  • Annual potential salary: $95,000-165,000

If you’re a driven IT professional with a desire to continually enhance your career, these credentials can help you prepare and position yourself for a wealth of opportunities in IT management.

Related content

Is project management a dead-end career?

Blog Archive