You can make an excellent salary with the right IT certification.For today’s IT professionals, having an advantage over competitors can make the difference in getting that raise, promotion, or a better job. It’s not just a matter of textbook knowledge — anybody today can attend an online university and obtain a degree in information technology. What counts in the end is that you can apply real-world knowledge with what you’ve learned through formal classes and exams.

This “experience advantage” comes by working as an IT professional and, of course, picking up some useful certifications along the way. True, it may mean a lot of long nights studying after work, but the effort will pay off in the end. Your extra effort shows potential employers that you are dedicated to your improving your IT skills, and willing to put in the time to learn the most recent developments and technologies in your domain.

While earning a certification in cybersecurity remains the “hottest” thing right now, there are other areas and functions of IT equally in demand (and equally lucrative) as well. These include networking, virtualization, network design and visualization, project management, risk management, and systems auditing.

In this article, I’ll provide insight into three top certifications for the Indian IT industry. If you want to take your career and salary to the next level, then consider earning the following certifications:

VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization (VCP-DCV)

The Cloud is changing everything. It allows wonderful advancements in business. Small- to medium-sized companies can now easily outsource all their IT needs to a trusted internet service provider while saving time and money.

A close cousin to the Cloud is “virtualization.” This particular branch of IT deals with the creation of virtual servers — servers which you can rent inexpensively from a cloud services provider. There is also a very strong demand for IT professionals skilled in this area.

To set you apart from the crowd, VMware (probably the best known and most popular virtualization vendor) offers a unique type of certification: Data Center Virtualization (VCP-DCV). While VMware offers multiple certification tracks in this area, VCP-DCV remains the most popular, and the most in-demand. This certification demonstrates to potential employers one’s knowledge and ability to deploy and administer the “vCenter” and the “ESXi.”

Requirements for obtaining the VCP-DCV include:

  • Attendance at an authorized VMware course: Mware vSphere: Install, Configure, Manage; VMware vSphere: Troubleshooting, VMware vSphere: Advanced Fast Track, and VMware vSphere: Optimize and Scale;
  • Demonstrable work experience using VMware vSphere software platform.

According to Certification Magazine’s 2014 Salary Survey, certified individuals will earn an average annual salary of $81,830 (U.S.). While this amount may be less in India, it is still a very well paid and prized certification. Certificate holders are required to retest every two years.

Project Management Professional (PMP)

While PMP is a traditional certification commonly attained by business professionals, demand for it has increased dramatically over the last three years. One of the primary reasons is that the network engineers and software developers are now being regularly called upon to manage teams of people as well as multiple projects.

PMP is administered and maintained by the Project Management Institute (PMI) and remains the “gold-standard” project management certification in the Industry. Presently, there are more than 630,000 certificate holders worldwide.

The PMP certification exam covers five areas of IT project management: Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitoring and Closing of projects.

To sit for the PMP exam candidates must possess a secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or a global equivalency), have at least 35 hours of project-management-related training, a minimum of five years of project management experience, with 7,500 hours leading and directing projects.

Candidates possessing a four-year degree, or global equivalent, can sit for the exam if they have three or more years of project management experience, with 4,500 hundred hours leading and directing projects, along with 35 hours of related education. For a more complete listing of the eligibility requirements check out the PMP Handbook.

Average annual compensation for PMP credential holders is very good, at $100,040 (U.S.). Certified individuals must earn 60 professional development units (PDUs) every 3 years and pay a renewal fee to keep their current. PDUs can be earned by completing additional education and/or “giving back to the profession.” For more information on certificate renewal click here.

Certified In Risk and Information Systems Control Certification (CRISC)

You can make an excellent salary with the right IT certification.With the ever growing threat of cyber based attacks, CRISC is very hot right now, in India and across the world. Risk management is fast gaining everyone’s attention. It’s no longer enough for IT professionals to stop a threat, they are now expected to take appropriate steps to mitigate any possibilities of it recurring in the future. Doing so requires lots of work, planning and knowledge. CRISC gives an IT professional the requisite tools to meet these needs.

CRISC is offered by the ISACA (formerly the Information Systems Audit and Control Association), and is designed for IT professionals involved with the identification and management of the various risk controls in an entire IT infrastructure.

The CRISC exam cover two primary areas:

  • Risk management methodologies
  • IT controls

CRISC is relatively new, introduced in 2010, and currently has more than 17,000 credential holders. Due to high demand and the relatively small number of credential holders, CRISC commands an excellent salary.

The examination is only offered three times a year. To check out 2015 dates, click here.

Candidates are required that you have at least three years of experience in two out of the four knowledge domains covered by the exam:

  • Risk Identification
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Response and Mitigation
  • Risk and Control Monitoring and Reporting

Preparation time for CRISC can take a couple of years. But the required patience and hard work will pay off handsomely in terms of compensation — the average annual salary in 2014 was $110,470 (U.S.). Candidates best suited for this certification are IT professionals primarily involved with managing risks (both physical and logical) for IT infrastructures, and other cyber security professionals.

India’s IT Industry is growing fast. Foreign companies increasingly send their employees here to train, and more international companies are looking to us meet their IT needs. While the salaries listed above are in U.S. dollars, and they may be a bit lower in India, they are still going to be very high. These three certifications will provide lots of opportunities for dedicated IT professionals to improve their skills and open up new job opportunities.