Explore these truly relevant IT industry certifications
If you’re an IT professional or someone wanting to break into the glamorous world of IT, then you’ve probably considered certification. Perhaps your employer wants you to certify or maybe you think it’s time for a career move and you want to explore IT certifications. It’s confusing because there are so many certifications out there and not all of them are valued by employers or other IT staffers. This guide will help you identify the relevant certifications and why they’re relevant.
Almost every major vendor has some sort of certification plan for its products. I want to caution you against those. If a certification has a vendor label on it, I suggest that you pass it by unless you work with that product exclusively. There are, of course, exceptions. Cisco is one of those exceptions. Cisco certifications, such as the CCNA, CCIE, and CCNP are valuable, valued, and the most sought after in the business. The reason? They’re hard to pass. But that is only one reason. Other reasons include: There are jobs in the network administration field, you have to have significant experience to pass them, the jobs available for individuals who hold those certifications pay well. But exercise a bit of caution here. They’re expensive to take. The training is expensive too. The fail rate is very high, so unless you’re 100 percent dedicated to it, don’t waste your money and your time.
CompTIA certifications are highly valued in the IT business too. After Cisco, these are the ones that everyone wants. The reason? They’re vendor neutral. Certifications such as Security+, Server+, Network+, Linux+, and A+ test your knowledge of the topic while remaining vendor agnostic and that’s only a sampling of CompTIA’s certifications. Training sources are up to you and not required. You can register, pay, and take a CompTIA exam any time you wish. Your life experience can be your training. Other reasons why CompTIA exams are so valuable is that they test every aspect of a topic in considerable depth. If someone has, for example, passed the A+ exam, there’s a body of knowledge you know that individual has at his or her disposal and there’s no question about it.
ITIL Foundations certification is an extremely valuable certification, especially with larger companies, because of policies and regulations centering around change control. ITIL Foundations classes are relatively expensive and the test is rigorous, although many trainers boast a very high pass rate. My suggestion is that you focus during the three-day long class and study until you’re bored for the exam.
Microsoft certifications are a whole different animal unto themselves. Some of the certifications are very difficult to pass, while others require no experience and very little study in order to achieve success. During the late 1990s, certain Microsoft certifications were shunned by the IT community because there were so many newbies entering the field who we dubbed, “Paper MCSEs.” It was true. A person with no experience could attend a class and pass the MCSE exam. It was this exam that turned many IT professionals against certification programs and against those who were certified. Microsoft has revamped its certification program considerably since those days and the number of Paper MCSEs has dropped significantly in response to those changes. These days an MCSE is a good place to start, but only if you couple it with another vendor neutral certification or two, such as the CompTIA ones.
The Microsoft Developer certification program is excellent as is its database certification track. If you have aspirations beyond tech support, check those out.
VMware certifications are another exception to the vendor certification smackdown that I gave earlier. VMware certifications for its core products are highly valued. The VCP is an honored and honorable certification. The training is expensive and the test is rigorous. Take the plunge if you have some experience and the training behind you. Couple it with another vendor neutral certification for better value.
Project Management certifications are absolutely essential in gaining any kind of momentum behind your career as a project manager. The PMP is the gold standard in the industry for project management professionals. There are too many related certifications to mention here, but these are widely recognized and considered required for positions in the industry.
Fortunately in some jobs, you can negotiate IT training that leads to certification, plus the testing fee which can be quite high in some cases. Be prepared to sign a contract for payback if you leave the job in less than a year of service after such training.
A word of caution about certification. When you certify on a product, be aware that when the new version of that product hits the market, you’ll have to certify on the new product as well. In some circles, we call this the “certification money racket.” This means that even if you are certified on Product X version 6.0, when Product X version 7.0 is released, you’ll have to take a new class and pay a new testing fee to certify. And most certifications, vendor-oriented or vendor neutral have an expiration date.
Most professionals who I know who are “certification junkies” (The ones who have several certifications behind their names) consider new certifications as continuing education and part of the cost of being an IT professional.
If you’re interested in becoming a certification instructor, the exams are the same, but you’ll have to achieve near perfect scores on the exams to attain instructor status.
No certification is worth the price if you don’t have experience, although many newcomers believe (falsely) that certification without experience helps them break into the business. My best advice is to get some real world experience (at least one year) and couple that with your certifications. If you’re serious about the IT business, especially in large companies, this approach will give you the highest return on your investment. If you can’t acquire an entry level job in which to gain some skills, buy or lease some computer equipment and learn on your own. If you are lucky enough to get an interview, there will be a team of skeptical IT professionals who will test your knowledge and they might not be nice about it, so lose the attitude and show that you know something practical as well as having the certification. Best of luck to you in your pursuits. Feel free to contact me for further information and pointers.
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