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The Top IT Certifications
There are many reasons people seek IT certifications. Some people are looking for a way to get started in the IT field while experienced IT professionals may be pursuing a better job with higher pay. Some feel that certifications result in more job security. There is a lot of debate among IT professionals about which certifications are the most valuable.
The certification one pursues should be based on one’s career goals and current experience. Those entering the IT field should focus on entry level certifications like the ones offers by CompTIA and Microsoft. People who already have experience have a wider range of choices. No matter the level of experience or career goals, vendor neutral certifications like CompTIA’s Network+ or Security+ can be helpful to one’s career because they encompass technologies that do not change rapidly. Security and network skills are relevant to any job in the IT field because all companies need to be concerned with security and all companies use networks.
The best certification for those beginning a career in IT is CompTIA’s A+ certification. A+ certification covers the basics about computer hardware, operating systems and troubleshooting. It provides a solid foundation to build upon and lets potential employers know the candidate is prepared for a job as an entry level technician. Network + would a logical choice for an additional certification as this provides foundational knowledge of networking. Security + is another great entry level certification to pursue after completing A+. Security + provides a good foundation in computer security that many IT professionals lack.
Microsoft offers some excellent certifications for those with some experience in IT. The Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) is achieved by passing any Microsoft exam. Most companies have systems running Windows on the desktop and in the data center, so having a good understanding of Windows is important. The MCTS certification is a good way to demonstrate an intermediate skill level with Windows. The Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCTIP), which usually requires passing between three and five exams, shows an advanced level of expertise with a particular Microsoft product such as Windows Server 2008 or SQL Server 2005.
Cisco offers the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) as their entry level certification. The CCNA however is not an entry level certification. It requires intermediate knowledge of Cisco networking equipment and is a good certification to pursue after completing Network+ certification. Two exams are required to complete the certification. The next higher level of Cisco certification is the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP), which requires passing three additional exams. Both CCNA and CCNP certifications are well respected in the industry.
IT Security professionals are in high demand now. Security+ is the best certification for gaining entry into this field. The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) by the ISC2 is the most sought after certification in this field and is one of the most sought after certifications in all of IT. CISSP requires two years of experience in IT security that must be verified by the candidate’s employer. It can be a great career boost for those already in the security field.
Why Get Certified?
Studying for a certification exam will broaden ones knowledge of a topic. For example, studying for a Windows Server 2008 exam requires knowledge of every feature available even though one may use less than half of the features on the job. Getting certified is not a substitute for real-world IT experience. Certifications provide knowledge, but experience teaches one how to apply that knowledge on the job. Certifications combined with real-world experience is the best way to advance ones career in the IT field.