HIGH DEMAND-DRIVEN ENTRY-LEVEL IT CERTIFICATIONS AND CAREER NICHE IN 2024

Introduction

According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, the number of Jobs in Computer and Informational Technology will grow faster than the average for all Jobs in the decade of 2022 and 2032. Also, about 350,000 new jobs are projected each year in IT (in the US alone). This blog post will explore some of the demand-driven Entry-level IT Certifications and careers that are pushing these numbers. Which of the different IT careers will fit you and which certifications can help propel you towards them?

It is important to note that careers in IT are constantly evolving as society adapts to new challenges. You will love to take advantage of fields that are receiving a lot of attention presently and gain the right certification to advance in them. We will explore these shortly.

Importance of staying current with in-demand certifications

We grow as a society technologically by replacing old or redundant technologies with newer and more efficient ones. That means some tech skills, technologies, or certifications that were once relevant a decade ago may be useless in today’s industry. For reference, Cisco alone has over 200 IT certifications that have now been retired(deprecated) or completely replaced. See list here

New certifications are also being created every time to address specific skill shortages. Various Cloud Certifications like (AWS, Google Clouds, Microsoft Azure, etc.,) were introduced with the evolution of Cloud technologies. AI is gaining much significance currently, and we may see the emergence of some new AI certifications soon as a direct response to the growing trend.

It is important to stay updated on in-demand IT skills, validated by the IT certifications. Stay with the trends or you become redundant.

The section below describes some core tech areas in the industry that is gaining a lot of attention and some of its high in-demand certifications to help you pursue a career in them.

1. Cloud Computing Certifications

Cloud Computing : Demand-driven IT certifications
Cloud computing certifications

The Cloud Computing Industry has evolved rapidly in the last decade. It compasses technologies that are used to access or deliver computing resources or services over the internet. Such computing resources or services may include networking, storage, computing power, software, etc., and are used to support businesses and organizations. You rent these resources from Cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services, Google Clouds, Microsoft Azure, etc.

The Cloud Computing Industry continues to grow as more businesses are moving more of their resources to the Cloud. The current market size is about $700 Billion, with a projection to reach about $2.43 Trillion by 2023 (According to Fortune Business Insights). The key market players are the Cloud Services Provisions from Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.

Career Description

The field of Cloud Computing will require you to learn Cloud technologies. They will require you to learn skills to design, deploy, manage, or secure cloud solutions to solve problems – for example, to help support business operations. Usually, it will require that you use some specific products (depending on your area of interest) from any of the major Cloud service providers.

There are opportunities for Remote work since you do not need to work with physical equipment. Everything is in the Cloud, accessed over the internet. The opportunities in this field are diverse and may even include less technical job roles such as sales; for example; Selling cloud-based solutions to organizations. And the jobs in this field also cuts across many industries like finance, healthcare, technology, manufacturing, retail, etc.

Some Job Titles in Cloud Computing

There are various roles within the Cloud computing field, some of these include;

  • Cloud Engineer
  • Solution Architect
  • Cloud Architect
  • System Administrator
  • Cloud Support Associate
  • Business Development Manager
  • Cloud SysOp Engineer
  • Cloud DevOps Engineer
  • Cloud Security Specialist
  • Cloud Operations Manager

Demand-Driven Cloud Certifications

1.1 AWS Certified Solution Architect- Associate

This is one of the most widespread Cloud certifications. It lays the foundations for the concepts of Cloud computing and introduces you to various AWS products and solutions. It is an associate-level exam, the exam cost is $150. The exam itself consists of 65 multiple-choice or multiple-response questions for 130 minutes. On average it takes about 3 months to prepare for the exam.

This certification will prepare you for entry-level cloud computing jobs such as Junoir Cloud Engineer, Cloud Administrator, Technical Cloud Account Manager, Junior Solutions Architect, Cloud Support Engineer, etc. The average salary for holders of this certification is $123,000/year(according to payscale.com)

Details are available at https://aws.amazon.com/certification/certified-solutions-architect-associate/

1.2 Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate

This is a beginner-centered/associate-level certification for Cloud Computing. Covers foundational concepts in cloud computing using the Microsoft Azure cloud environment. It equips you on stills to deploy, manage, and monitor Azure computing, networking, and storage resources. It trains you to become an administrator of Cloud resources.

The exam cost for the Azure Administrator Associate certification (AZ-104) is $165. The exam typically consists of about 60 questions, the duration is 120 minutes and the passing score is 700/1000. This certification prepares you for jobs like Azure Administration, Cloud Consultant, Junior Cloud Engineer, Cloud DevOps Engineer, Azure Technical Support Specialist, etc. The salary range for holders of this certification is $88,927/year

Details of the Azure Certification are available here

1.3 Google Cloud – Associate Cloud Engineer

This is similar to the AWS and Microsoft certifications mentioned above. The focus is on Google Cloud products and services. You will learn the cloud skills to deploy, configure, and manage applications in Google Cloud. Some of the common jobs available with this certification include Junior Cloud Engineer, System Administrator, DevOps Engineer, etc.

The exam format is 50-60 questions for 2 hours. It costs $125. The average salary is about $114,166/year in the US. Other details about the certification are available here

2. Cybersecurity Certifications

HIGH DEMAND-DRIVEN ENTRY-LEVEL IT CERTIFICATIONS And CAREER NICHE - CYBERSECURITY CERTIFICATION
Online Interactions Need to Be Secure

Cybersecurity is a field in IT that is gaining a lot of attention. We are dependent on electronic devices for our personal and business needs. These devices and the systems they run on use and store our data and leave us vulnerable when some unauthorized persons gain access to such data about us or our businesses. Cybersecurity is the discipline that helps keep our devices and systems safe from malicious compromise.

According to a report by Grand View Research, the Cybersecurity market is currently worth over $222.3 Billion. It has a cumulative annual growth rate (CAGR) projection of 12.3 percent for 2023-2030. The current demand for cybersecurity professionals outruns the number of qualified available security professionals.

Career Description

A cybersecurity career will require that you learn skills that are relevant to keep devices, systems, processes, networks, applications, etc safe from malicious attacks. Understand the security landscape, the threats that are inherent in every system, and how to mitigate against them, recovery from security breaches, etc.

Some other crucial aspects of cybersecurity include having an understanding of the Regulations and Policies that govern the industry, the documentation, audits, reporting, etc. There are indeed many flavors and roles within the Cybersecurity domains and these roles can vary widely and cut across different industries.

Some Job Titles in Cybersecurity

Some common Cybersecurity job roles are

  • Security Analyst
  • Security Auditor
  • SOC Analyst (SOC is Security Operation Center)
  • Ethical Hacker
  • Security Engineer
  • IT Security Specialist
  • Security Specialist
  • Virus Technician
  • SOC Manager
  • Threat Hunter
  • Network Security Administrator
  • IT Security Architect
  • Cloud Security Architect
  • Incidence Responder
  • Governance Compliance & Risk (GRC) Manager
  • Cybercrime Investigator
  • Bug Bounty Hunter
  • Cryptographer etc.

Demand-Driven Cybersecurity Certifications

The following are some of the widely demanded Cybersecurity certifications you can use to kickstart your cybersecurity career.

2.1 CompTIA Security+ (SY0-701)

The CompTIA Security + validates skills that are required to perform core security functions and related roles in IT. The certification prepares you for entry to intermediate Cybersecurity roles. Ideally, you should have some basic knowledge (although not a requirement) such as those taught by the CompTIA A+ or some industry experience.

Some of this certification covers include skills and understanding of general security concepts, security operations, Security Architecture, threats, vulnerability, and mitigations. Other aspects include Security Programme Management which reflects the reporting and communication skills for a Cybersecurity job role.

The CompTIA Security+ SY0-701 exam voucher costs $392. You are tested on 90 questions for 90 minutes. Some jobs you can get with this certification include Junior Security Auditor, Security Specialist, Security Consultant, Security Adminstrator etc. The mean pay for the certification is $81,000/year.

Other details about this certification are available here

2.2 Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

The CEH Builds on the essential knowledge of Cybersecurity and it is for persons who have had some industry experience. The goal is to understand hacking and even ethically hack systems, to test the security of organizations to know the vulnerabilities and thus help improve it. You will learn to use hacking tools and technologies with this certification.

The CEH is a mid-level cybersecurity certification, however, for absolute beginners interested in it, there are free courses that can help you learn the foundations. Some of the jobs accessible with the certification include Ethical Hacker, Vulnerability analyst, Pentester, Security Auditor, etc. The average salary for the CEH in the US is $121,871 per year.

The exam is a 4-hour exam, consisting of 125 multiple-choice questions. The cost of the exam is $1199, with an additional $100 for remote proctoring.

Other details of the certification are available here.

2.3 Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

The CISSP is not an entry-level certification but it is one of the most renowned Cybersecurity certifications. It is required for many high-profile security jobs. It is ideal for experienced security practitioners, managers, and executives with a minimum of 5 years of industry experience.

The CISSP exam costs $749 or 665 euros. Other details are available here

3. Networking Certifications

HIGH DEMAND-DRIVEN ENTRY-LEVEL IT CERTIFICATIONS - Networking certification
Various Networking Devices

Networking is one of the core traditional IT careers that will always remain relevant. It describes how devices communicate or “talk” to each other. Without networking, businesses and organizations will not function properly as communications will be hampered. The Networking Infrastructure market alone is currently worth about $198 Billion (2024) and is dominated by vendors such as Cisco, Juniper, Aruba, etc.

Demand for Networking professionals is ever increasing as more businesses, people and devices are connecting more in ways that were previously not possible. It creates a lot of employment opportunities for networking professionals.

Career Description

Networking career will typically be related to deploying, configuring, maintaining, troubleshooting, etc networking infrastructure. It will require you to work with various networking types of equipment- physical and virtual, to understand communications protocols, IPs, etc. The job roles can be diverse, from industry to data centers, cloud, Wi-Fi systems, Clouds, etc

Some Job Titles in Networking

  • Network Administrator
  • Network Engineer
  • Systems Administrator/Engineer
  • Network Technician
  • Data Center Engineer
  • Network Architect
  • Wireless Network Engineer
  • Data Center Technician
  • Systems Analyst
  • Service Desk Analyst
  • IT Coordinator etc.

Demand-Driven Networking Certifications

The following are some of the most demanded certifications for you to pursue a career in Networking.

3.1 Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

The CCNA is one of the most popular IT certifications industrywide. It is one of the best certifications for a Networking career. Suitable for both entry and mid-level networking certification. Although it is vendor-specific (from Cisco), the knowledge gained in the CCNA can be applied to other vendors. Also, Cisco is the largest vendor of networking equipment.

The CCNA exam costs $300 and consists of about 92-104 questions for 120 minutes. The average salary for a CCNA certificate holder in the US is about $81k/year (Glassdoor, 2024).

Other details are available here. For CCNA study resources, check here

3.2 CompTIA Network+

The CompTIA Network+ is a vendor-neutral networking certification that teaches the core networking fundamentals, implementations, operations, security, and troubleshooting. It is ideal even for absolute beginners.

There is a comparison to be made between the CCNA and the CompTIA Network+. The CCNA tends to be wider in scope but very specific to Cisco devices (which are found almost in all enterprises), the CompTIA on the other hand is not specific to any vendor.

The CompTIA Networking exam costs $358. It is ideal for many entry-level jobs, including IT support and Helpdesks. The average salary for professionals who hold this certificate is about $73,000/year (in the US).

Other details about the CompTIA certification are available here

3.3 Juniper Networks Certified Internet Associate (JNCIA)

Juniper Networking devices are also common in some enterprises and the JNCIA is an associate certification (like the CCNA) that helps you learn the core Networking technologies using Juniper devices. Enterprises that use such devices will show a preference for professionals who are familiar with Junos OS for Juniper Networking devices.

The JNCIA exam costs $200. 65 questions for 90 minutes. ZipRecruiter puts the average salary for JNCIA certification in the US at $74,553/ year

(Note HPE Aruba has an agreement to acquire Juniper Networks, in a bid to acceleration to accelerate AI-driven Network Innovations, not sure how this will affect the Juniper Certifications, details of the acquisition here)

Conclusions

The demand-driven entry-level certifications that you can use to begin your IT career in 2024 in different IT niches are as follows; Cybersecurity – CompTIA Security+, CEH and CISSP(for advanced professionals), Networking – CCNA, CompTIA Networking+, JNCIA. Cloud- AWS Solution Architect- Associate, Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate, and Google Cloud – Associate Cloud Engineer.

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