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The Ultimate Guide to IT Certifications

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A complete guide to IT certifications 

The tech industry is rapidly expanding, and the demand for IT skills in the workforce is growing. A career in IT can be rewarding and has longevity. In order to thrive in a tech career, it is important to stay uptodate with the ever-changing world of technology by earning certifications. With many options like security, networking, cloud, sys admin, and dev, it can be challenging to know how to get started or what the next step in your certification path is. Here is the ultimate guide to IT certifications.  

Why get certified?  

According to CompTIA, 91% of employers say certifications are critical for hiring the right talent, and that IT certifications are a reliable predictor of a successful employee. 

Getting certified is the best way to launch your IT career, increase your salary, or stay competitive in the industry. Certification in IT is a testimony to your knowledge and skill in that particular field. Employers seek out applicants with certifications and many give promotions or incentives to their current employees who pass certification exams. Whether you’re just starting out or are midlevel and looking to advance in your field, a certification is right for you. 

Do I need a bachelor’s degree?  

Going through academia can be costly and time-consuming, it is more common in the IT industries to have informal (what about non-traditional training) trainingAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,  around 25% of IT workers in the United States do not hold a bachelor’s degree. A degree is a benefit to many IT careers paths, but not a necessity. You can still earn big in IT without a degree  

What is the best certification for IT newbies? (What certifications are needed to get an entry-level job?)  

  1. CompTIA IT Fundamentals: If you’re interested in tech, but not sure what career path to take, the CompTIA IT Fundamentals+ certification is a great place to start.  It serves as a pre-career certification that will determine if you have competency in information technology. The exam covers basic knowledge across all IT fields so you can get a broader understanding of the different careers in IT. This certification will help you learn basic skills in IT concepts and terminology, infrastructure, applications and software, software developments, database fundamentals, and security. After completing this exam, you will have a better idea of what concepts interest you. ITProTV offers its entire IT Fundamentals+ course for free. 
  2. CompTIA A+: Another certification to kick-start your IT career is CompTIA A+The A+ will give you a deeper understanding of a broad range of topics, and you will learn more hands-on skills than what CompTIA IT Fundamentals+ covers. It is a great credential to have for those looking for a technical support or IT operational role.  
  3. CompTIA Security+: If you know you are interested in security, the best place to start is a CompTIA Security+ exam. CompTIA Security+ is a vendor-neutral certification that deals with several key concepts in IT security, including networks, data and host security, threats and vulnerabilities, compliance, access and identity control, and cryptography. This certification demonstrates that you have basic knowledge necessary to implement security best practices.  You can find out more about a Security+ certification here
  4. Cisco CCNA and Cisco CCENT: CCENT is a good starting certification for someone interested in networking. CCENT is an entrylevel certification for Cisco and will give you the knowledge and skill to install, operate, and troubleshoot a small enterprise branch network. CCNA is an associatelevel certification, but has no prerequisites so you can start with this certification. CCNA is more challenging and is recommended for someone with some experience. 

A one-on-one meeting with the ITProTV learning coach can provide personalized insight on the best steps to take to achieve your IT career goals.  

What is the difference between vendorspecific and vendor-neutral certifications?  

Another thing to consider when getting an IT certification is whether the certification is vendorspecific or vendor-neutral. Vendorspecific certifications show expertise for a specific tool created by that vendor. For example, a Microsoft Azure certification shows a knowledge base of that particular cloud computing platform and services. A vendorneutral certification shows a broader understanding and skill base of technologies and products that is universally applicable.  

Vendor-neutral certifications include: 

  • All CompTIA certifications (A+, Security+, Network+, ect.)
  • Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC)
  • (ISC)2 Systems Certified Practitioner (SCCP)
  • EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
  • ITIL®
  • PMI®
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
  • Certified Information Systems Manager (CISM)   

What does the process of getting IT certified look like?  

So, you’ve decided what certification you want to obtain. Next, it’s time to get down to work. In order to pass the examyou will require some training. You can get your IT training in a classroom environment or through and online training site. Online training is typically more affordable and allows you to move at your own pace.  After spending the time to learn the objectives for the exam and studying them, you can book a time and place to take your certification exam. After taking and passing your exam, the certification vendor will send you a certificate of completion. Don’t forget to celebrate your success, post your certification to your LinkedIn resume or online study group 

Where can I get training for my IT certification exam? 

Training for IT certifications is available online or in a classroom. Online IT training is a more affordable way to receive quality training that’s available to you at any time.  

What is accredited v. nonaccredited training? 

Accredited training means that the course materials have been reviewed and approved by the certification vendor. Non-accredited training has not been validated by the certification vendor.  

What should I know before taking my IT certification exam?  

There’s a few things you should check before getting ready for a certification exam.  

  1. Are there any changes coming to that certification? 

Make sure that the certification you wish to earn does not have any upcoming changes. Vendors can retire exams or create new certification pathways. Microsoft certifications, in particular, are ones to be cautious of because of Microsoft’s history of retiring exams just months after rolling them out. Take Microsoft AZ 100 as an example

2. Are there any prerequisites to getting certified?  

When going for a higher-level certification, there is often a recommendation or sometimes requirement of other certifications before you can obtain the next level. For example, it’s recommended that you obtain CompTIA Security+ certification before sitting the CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner exam. Some certifications require a particular amount of classroom training or on-the-job training as well. For example, CISSP candidates are required to have a minimum of five years cumulative paid work experience in two or more of the eight domains of CISSP CBK.  

How do I prepare for my IT certification exam?  

  1. Set a date

Don’t let procrastination get the best of you, go ahead and set a date to take the exam. Setting a deadline for yourself will help you be more accountable for your study time and keep you on track to getting certified.  

2. Review the exam objectives

On the course vendor’s website, they will have a list of objectives to learn for the exam. These are the main focus for the course material, and you should expect all objectives to appear on the exam. Use these as a study guide to make sure you know the material listed in all the objectives.  

3. Practice, practice, practice

Taking practice exams and practicing in a lab environment is a great way to prepare for your exam and test your skills. ITProTV includes practice labs in the premium subscription. These labs allow you to test commands and spin up servers with no risk. These can be crucial for those who learn best with hands-on training.  

4. Join a community

Find others who are preparing for the same exam as you or have already gotten certified. You may find local groups or online communities such as forums, wikis, Facebook Groups, or websites that allow you to collaborate and share knowledge with others. Engaging in communities can help you learn from others mistakes or ask questions about topics you’re having difficulty understanding.  

5. R&R

It’s finally the day of the exam and your nerves are on edge. Try to relax and set yourself up for success by arriving for your exam testing location early and double-checking that you bring all the required documentation with you.  

How much does an IT certification exam voucher cost 

Pricing of exam vouchers vary. The most expensive exam is the Cisco CCAr Board Exam that costs $15,000 total. However, the price of that exam far exceeds most. Exam vouchers prices typically vary between $150 to $1,000. It’s important to remember that the price of an exam is an investment in your future that will likely increase your salary.  

How do I schedule my IT certification exam? 

Most exams are taken in person at a certified testing center. However, many vendors are starting to allow proctored exams you can take online. In order to schedule your exam, you must go to the certification vendor’s website to purchase an exam voucher. From there, the vendor will guide you to schedule a date and time to take the exam. Vendors have specified testing delivery partners. Through the testing vendor’s website, you can find the closest test taking center and schedule a time to take your test.  

How long will it take me to get IT certified?  

The pacing of obtaining a certification is dependent on you. Training for and earning your certification could take anywhere from a few weeks to months depending on your prior level of knowledge of the course material. To avoid procrastination and burn out, it is recommended that you set a deadline for yourself by setting a date for your exam from the beginning. For most exams, we recommend taking around three to six months to study and take your certification exam.   

What are the highest paying IT certifications in 2019?  

The top paying certifications according to a report from Global Knowledge are : 

  • Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect — $139,529 
  • PMP® – Project Management Professional — $135,798 
  • Certified ScrumMaster® — $135,441 
  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate — $132,840 
  • AWS Certified Developer – Associate — $130,369 
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Server Infrastructure — $121,288 
  • ITIL® Foundation — $120,566 
  • CISM – Certified Information Security Manager — $118,412 
  • CRISC – Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control — $117,395 
  • CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional — $116,900 
  • CEH – Certified Ethical Hacker — $116,306 
  • Citrix Certified Associate – Virtualization (CCA-V) — $113,442 
  • CompTIA Security+ — $110,321 
  • CompTIA Network+ — $107,143 
  • Cisco Certified Networking Professional (CCNP) Routing and Switching — $106,957 

Technology jobs that have an average salary in the 6-digit range, according to this report from ITProTV, include: 

  • Big data engineer 
  • Data security 
  • Data scientist 
  • Network security engineer 
  • Database developer 
  • Software engineer 
  • Network security administrator 
  • Network engineer 
  • Software developer 
  • Web designer  

Which IT certifications will increase my salary? 

Earning a highly sought-after certification, such as a securityfocused cert, could make your skills more valuable to an employer or open the door for new opportunities. For example, if you’ve earned your Cisco CCNET cert and are looking to increase your salary, you may want to consider Cisco CCNA Security as your next step. For more security certs that will boost your salary, check out this blog

What IT certifications do I need for Government jobs? 

To get IT training for Government jobs, the training needs to be compliant with requirements from the Department of Defense (DoD). The set of requirements created by the DoD is known as Information Assurance Workforce Improvement program which is an umbrella term for two separate categories called Information Assurance Technical (IAT) and Information Assurance Management (IAM). The IAT and IAM are guidelines for the training, certification, and management of all government employees. Check out this list of DoDDapproved 8140 (also known as DoDD 8570) baseline certifications. (link)   

Do IT certifications expire?  

Expirations on certifications depend on the vendor. Many vendors such as VMware and Microsoft are adjusting to make certifications good for life, while some expire after just two years of getting certified. For example, your Cisco CCIE certification expires after two years and requires you to re-certify in order to keep an active CCIE status.  

How do I recertify after my IT certification expires? 

It’s important to keep your IT certifications active to show your current or potential employers that you are dedicated to maintaining your skillset and are uptodate on current technologies.  

The re-certification process varies across vendors. For CompTIA, each certification requires a certain number of Continuing Education Units or CEUs. CEUs are activities that show you are staying current with the skills needed for your certification. These activities can include teaching, earning or requalifying for a non-CompTIA industry certification, or gaining work experience.  

Some vendors require you to take an exam in order to recertify. For example, AWS requires you to take the Cloud Practitioner Exam to recertify or by pass any Associate-level or Professional-level certification. 

 Best of luck on preparing for you certification exam! If you are looking for binge-worthy learning for your IT certification exam, check out ITProTV’s course library with over 4000 hours of online video courses for IT professionals.  

OR Are you looking to get your first or next CompTIA certification? As CompTIA’s official video training partner, ITProTV is your one-stop-shop for CompTIA exam prep training.