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Confused on What IT Certifications Are Right For You?

Confused on What IT Certifications Are Right For You?

Most people, even some of those in IT, get confused and/or overwhelmed by the whole Certification process. Well, I am here to sort it out for you. First, you have to assess your situation- i.e. current documentable work experience, products/applications you work with, educational background, your particular job market and what kind of connections you have already in IT positions. Notice I said current documentable work experience, if you have been away from IT for more than 6 months you need to be realistic with yourself. A lot of changes occur in 6 months(you get duller and rounder and IT gets sharper and more streamlined). Here is a question to consider: Are the products and applications you are familiar with mainstream? Microsoft, UNIX, Cisco, Oracle, Adobe or are they Industry specific applications? What kind of education do you have? Have you been exposed to particular technologies? Do you have a good understanding of Networking, Scripting, or Querying? How are your people skills? In your job search, what skill sets have you found companies are looking for? What are the requirements? Experience level? Do they require Certifications?

Once you know where you are in the big scheme of things, you need to decide what fits your current situation. If you are a green IT person looking for work, do not waste your time or the companies’ time by applying to a Network Security Administrator position for which you are not qualified. That is a good lofty goal, but grab the low hanging fruit first – everyone has to start somewhere. Aim for the entry level PC Tech, IT Support, Bench Tech, or Help Desk positions to get your feet wet.

Research jobs to find out if you meet requirements and can perform listed job duties. The majority of entry-level positions require an A+ Certification. Even if they do not require an A+, it is still an excellent way to get noticed ahead of your competition. CompTIA A+ certification validates one’s skills and abilities to perform PC/Laptop upgrades, hardware/software installation and troubleshooting. Microsoft uses A+ and Network+ as prerequisites for other, more technical certifications. Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician Certification (MCDST) is also a relevant path to pursue. The MCDST will teach a beginning IT Professional how to manage users running Windows desktops and applications, which could be close to 100% of the end-users in your market.

Are you a new college grad with an A.S. or B.S. in Computer Networking Systems? Or Information Technology Security? Are you ready to tackle something new and to work in your chosen field? Do you want to have more than an expensive piece of paper hanging on the wall? The best way to get yourself noticed is to earn a Certification because it will make you stand out among all other applicants. While the A+ is always the initial Certification for most, IT professionals pass it up. This is not an practice I would recommend.

One can look into obtaining the CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+, Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), or Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP); these will take a little bit more effort. Network+ teaches skills enabling you to set up a network for a small to medium business. It covers topics such as: OSI model, TCP/IP Protocols, troubleshooting, fault tolerance, remote and wide area network (WAN) connectivity. Security+ will provide understanding into the field of network security and how it relates to other areas of information technology by covering topics such as: Intrusion detection, Cryptography, Security baselines and Computer Forensics. You should earn an A+ and Net+, or at least the equivalent knowledge of the content covered in A+ and Net+ before taking the Security+. Security+ lays the foundation leading to specialized security certifications. CCNA is a highly respected, sought after certification; Cisco maintains about an 80% market share in the routers and switches arena and plans to add 1.7 million CCNA’s by 2010. The CCNA validates the ability to install, configure, operate, and troubleshoot medium-size routed and switched networks, including implementation and verification of connections to remote sites in a WAN. The Microsoft Certified Professional or MCP certification is designed to help the future Network/System Administrator get familiar with the Windows Server environment and explains how to manage and maintain Windows Server 2003.

If you are a seasoned IT Professional with a lot of chops, but still feel you want more knowledge, need to update your skill sets, or better position yourself in future negotiations regarding promotions and salary increases, you can look beyond some of the entry-level certifications I mentioned above. Ask yourself the questions and assess where you are currently and what career goals are you looking to accomplish? What does your current job entail? What are your job duties and responsibilities? If you are looking for advancement the best way to validate your abilities and knowledge is to earn a certification in your particular discipline. Certifications validate your knowledge of best practices, skills, and your familiarity with the tools to make your network and IT department run at its optimum level. The payback for your and your employer is include higher morale, less stress, a pleasant work environment, and higher wages.