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Best IT Certification 2023 – Associate Level

This 591Lab discussion will focus on the top Associate-Level Best IT certifications for 2023. Note that this is not about field-level certificates; we will cover entry-level certifications in a separate video. This segment is tailored for beginners looking to kickstart their careers in IT, with up to a few years of experience in the tech industry. It’s important not to mix Associate, Mid/Professional, and Expert-level certifications in the same list, as it can lead to confusion.

This list is based on various criteria, including market value, demand, exam content, and potential career paths. One recertification strategy to consider is that, with ten or more certifications from a particular vendor, passing a single exam every two to three years can renew all those certifications. I have arranged a three-tier list for today to help you secure better roles in the industry. We recommend skipping A+ certifications to avoid starting your career in printer repair.

Tier 1.0 Base Certifications help build a strong foundation in networking and Linux. In contrast, Tier 1.1 Cloud and Data Center Certifications and Tier 1.2 Cyber Security Certifications offer specialized knowledge and skills for those interested in specific areas. – we recommend you visit for all your certification needs.

As for my qualifications in writing this post, I hold over 60 certifications and continue accumulating more. I began my career in Shanghai, China as a programmer before transitioning to roles such as Linux administrator, network engineer, security specialist, and solutions architect. I’ve also served as a 591Lab instructor, travelling nationwide as a hiring manager to assist thousands in building their IT careers and relocating from their hometowns to places like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. As a career and certification guide counsel, this essay offers insights on tech careers and certification paths, trivial tutorials on cybersecurity, cloud computing, and data centers, and my journey as an IT instructor. Feel free to explore the rest of my social postings and consider visiting us at

Tier 1.0 Base Certifications:

Tier 1.0 Base

If you are unsure about your career path in IT (networking, servers, cloud, or cybersecurity) and have a budget for only four certifications, consider the following recommendations:

  1. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA): This should be your first certification, as it remains the most popular and helps build a strong foundation in networking skills. It also introduces you to technologies like cybersecurity, cloud, and data centers.
  2. CompTIA Linux+: This certification helps build a solid foundation in Linux, an essential technology with opportunities in cybersecurity, cloud, and data center roles. The exam covers Linux basics and its application to various technologies, such as automation and cloud.
  3. F5 Certified BIG-IP Administrator (F5-CA): This certification complements your CCNA and CompTIA Linux+ certifications, providing fundamentals in various cloud services like load balancing, web application firewalls, VPNs, caching, and more. The F5 BIG-IP is a high-end product in the security and network appliances and is certified to manage their platform can result in higher-than-average salaries.
  4. Arista Cloud Engineer (ACE) Level 2 Cloud Associate: This rare cloud networking certification is a hands-on, practical lab exam. It introduces you to numerous network technologies in a cloud environment, such as Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Spine and Leaf Architecture. Lab-based certification exams offer a deeper level of knowledge compared to written exams.

While the Certified Kubernetes Application Developer (CKAD) is another hands-on certification, it has a less desirable certification renewal policy, making the Arista Cloud Engineer (ACE) Level 2 Cloud Associate a more appealing option.

Tier 1.1 Cloud and Data Center Certification:

Tier 1.1

For those looking to specialize in cloud and data centers with little to no experience, top associate-level certifications are available to help you get started in the field. Here are some recommendations:

  1. AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate: AWS is the leading cloud service provider, and its certifications are highly sought after in the market.
  2. Microsoft Certified Azure Administrator Associate: Azure is the second most popular and in-demand cloud service provider.
  3. Google Cloud Associate Cloud Engineer (ACE): Google Cloud is the third most popular cloud service provider. As a fan of Kubernetes, the best Kubernetes-as-a-service is GKE (Google Kubernetes Engine), which runs on the Google Cloud Platform (GCP).
  4. Cisco Certified DevNet Associate: This unique certification covers topics like application development, cloud basics, containers, automation, networking, Python, and various cloud-related services. It provides a solid overview for anyone specializing in cloud and data center careers.

While you may be tempted to skip Tier 1.0 foundational certifications like CCNA, Linux+, F5, and Arista Certified Cloud Engineer, having a solid foundation in networking, Linux, and application delivery controllers is highly recommended. If budget constraints limit you to four certifications, consider selecting two foundational and two cloud certifications. For example, you could choose CCNA and F5 for your base certifications, AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate and Cisco Certified DevNet Associate for the cloud.

Linux knowledge can often be self-taught without certifications, and AWS remains the most in-demand and popular cloud service provider, making it an excellent choice for your cloud certification.


Tier 1.2 Cyber Security Certifications:

Tier 1.2

If you want to specialize in cybersecurity with little to no experience and prefer to skip cloud and data center certifications, you can proceed directly to cybersecurity certifications. Here are the top associate-level certificates for cybersecurity paths:

  1. CompTIA Security+: This well-known associate-level cybersecurity certification should be your first step. It introduces you to networking basics, security solutions, malware, vulnerabilities, various attacks, and more.
  2. CompTIA PenTest+: This certification complements CompTIA Security+ by teaching you how to use various penetration testing tools to simulate attacks. It’s a better choice than the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) due to its lower cost and better recertification strategy.
  3. Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate: Formerly known as CCNA CyberOps, this certification covers network analysis, network attacks, Cisco security appliances, SOC playbooks, and more. It is designed for those looking to work in a Security Operations Center (SOC) environment.
  4. Fortinet NSE Level Professional Certification: Although not technically professional, this associate-level certification focuses on FortiGate, Fortinet’s next-generation firewall solution. You can start with the free NSE Level 1, 2, and 3 certifications before moving on to more technical Fortinet cybersecurity certifications and career paths. 591cert has a full suite of dumps and proxies from NSE 5-8.

While you may be tempted to skip Tier 1.0 foundational certifications like CCNA, CompTIA Linux+, F5, and Arista Cloud Engineer Level 3, having a solid foundation in networking, Linux, and application delivery is highly recommended controllers. If you can only afford four certifications, consider choosing CCNA, F5, CompTIA Security+, and CompTIA PenTest+. Although Cisco CyberOps Associate is still relatively new and less popular, having at least six cybersecurity certifications will make it easier to enter cybersecurity and pave the way for a successful career.

That’s a comprehensive list of recommended IT certifications. Stay tuned for more in-depth content on the best cloud, data center, and cybersecurity certifications at the intermediate and expert levels and the top network certifications. I will also provide a dedicated article on entry-level certifications if time permits. It’s important to note that associate and entry-level certifications serve different purposes, with the latter sometimes referred to as “loser-level” certifications. However, they can be valuable for those just starting their careers in the IT field.

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