As for making the transition most effectively, certifications may not be the most useful or expeditious mechanism to employ (they take time, require effort and cost money) unless they're the only way to get a foot in the door in your new chosen work life. Your best bet, if possible, is to talk to your current employer and see if they're open to letting you make a lateral move within the organization. That's probably the best way to...
keep your pay as high as possible and to get as much support as you can in making the switch. Otherwise, you'll have to claw your way into a new job situation and compete against others who may have the difficult combination of lower salary requirements and more relevant work experience than you currently possess.
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