The field of Information Technology is one of the fastest-growing sectors, offering diverse opportunities – quick employment, good salaries, room for career advancements, and for many parts, no strict requirement for a university or college degree. An IT Certification in many cases will suffice, and that will in part be the focus of this blog post. We will explore some of the top IT certification programs that are in high demand, basic information about them, and help you understand what they are suitable for.
In a world where we are increasingly becoming much more connected and businesses relying more heavily on technology, the growth projection in the Information Technology Industry is likely to even more in the coming years. The challenge however is that it can be confusing, particularly for a beginner, on how to navigate the space and make a suitable choice. The skillset required for many of the sub-niches in IT can be very specific and as such there is a need to be informed on the right certification program.
The focus will be on entry-level certifications in high demand that will help you get a foothold in the tech industry, as in beginner or entry-level jobs. While there is a myriad of certification choices to choose from, the selection below is based on how popular the Certifications are, the demand for them, and the ease of advancing your career with them. It is also worth mentioning that having a certification alone may not guarantee a job placement but they do validate your skills and demonstrate your commitment to your chosen career path – something that hiring managers find very attractive. They help you to kick-start your career in IT.
The Benefits Of IT Certifications
Certification shows you what you do not know and validates what you do know. It is one of the ways to get the attention of the hiring manager and give you the opportunity to show your skillset to a prospective employer. Certs offer you the quickest route to get the training you need to become an IT expert and at a very reasonable cost. Many IT jobs will specify Certification requirements for Job roles these days and you will need to have them to be considered for the job. This is in part the reason for the surge in the number of Certs. Some of the benefits of Certifications are as follows;
- Skill Validation – Certification tells the prospective employer that you are knowledgeable in a specific skill set.
- Competitive Advantage – Certification puts you ahead of those who lack the same, making you the preferred candidate.
- Global Mobility – Most certifications are globally recognized, the same standard is used in assessing candidates, unlike University/College degrees from different parts of the world.
- Salary/Career Advancement – You will earn more with a certification, than without it. It has real monetary value to it and is worth your investment of time and resources.
- Industry Recognition – If you want to work for Microsoft, Google, or Microsoft (or their associated partner firms) for example, you will need their certification to work for them.
- Specialization – IT Certification programs often cover specific areas of technology or expertise and therefore allow you to become an expert in a niche that resonates with your interests and career goal.
- Networking – You get to meet people -online and offline in the course of a certification program. This can prove to be invaluable in getting employed.
FACTORS TO CONSIDER BEFORE CHOOSING A CERTIFICATION PROGRAM
It may be worthwhile to consider some of the following factors before choosing a certification program.
1. Your Personal Interests and Career Goals
What do you hope to achieve? What are your interests and what are your career goals? You must consider these. The Industry is broad and the niches vary widely. You also want to choose a niche you will enjoy and will likely excel at. Something that suits your personality. Do you enjoy working alone or as part of a team?
A Cloud Architect for example will spend a lot of time in business-related meetings, as opposed to a Cloud Engineer who will spend more time troubleshooting and building a system. One is more of an outgoing personality while the other is more of a technical guy. A network Administrator will a lot of time diagnosing network performance. Choose something that resonates with you.
2. Available Time
You will need a substantial amount of time to devote to your studies, especially if you are new to IT. Maybe you already have a day job but want to make a career change to IT, You should consider the amount of time you have at your disposal and how much of it are willing to devote to the cause. Some certifications are more demanding than others,
3. Your Location
Not all Certifications are equally useful in all environments. Since the ultimate goal of taking a certification is to get you employed, you should consider options that will maximize your chances of being employed. For example, If Google Clouds is the predominant Cloud Service Provider for most companies in your location, it will make little sense for you to take an Amazon Web Service (AWS) in this regard.
4. Your Budget
Certification exam and training costs can be substantial, so you will need to consider your budget. It may not always be the best option to quit your day job (if you currently have one ) as it may take a while for you to get a job with your Certificate.
5. Market Demand And Relevance
Choose something that there is demand for and that is relevant to the job market. We will explore some high-demand IT Certification in below
Best IT Certifications For Beginners
These are some of the best IT certifications suitable for you to get an entry-level (sometimes,mid-level job), as mentioned earlier, they are based on their popularity, demand, and how they can help you rank higher in your IT career. You do not need a degree to get these certifications. They are specific to certain job types.
1. CompTIA A+ Certification – Helpdesk
Helpdesk is a common entry-level job for many IT professionals. It is easier to get into IT through this path and CompTIA A+ is the certification most suited for this role. An IT helpdesk interacts directly with customers, listens to customers’ complaints, and provides technical support and assistance. The average salary for a helpdesk job in the US (according to Glassdoor) is about $55k/annum. Reasonable, because it takes only a few months to get the CompTIA A+ certification.
The CompTIA A+ Certification comprises two exams (Exam 1 and 2) each costing about $226. You can study for the exam on your own. The CompTIA A+ is a vendor-neutral certification covering the basics of Networking, Operating Systems, Security, and Mobile devices. The official Study Guide is here
2. CCNA – Networking
The Cisco Certified Network Associate Cert. (CCNA 200-301) is by far the most popular Networking Certification (Cisco’s market share for networking devices is about 45 percent). It is an excellent cert for entry-level (to mid-level) networking jobs. The certification course covers all the major aspects of Networking, it is broad in the range of concepts it covers but is specific to Cisco networking. It is the number one course for Networking. The CCNA prepares you for all the major Job roles in networking such as being a Network Administrator/Engineer, IT support, Network Consultant, etc.
The knowledge of the CCNA is also useful in the advancement of other IT niches such as Cloud Engineering, Cybersecurity etc. The CCNA exam is broad, you will need some reasonable time to prepare for it. It costs $300 Some recommended free course materials can be found here. The salary for Entry-level is about $60k in the US.
3. CompTIA NETWORK+ – Networking
The CompTIA Network+ is much like the Cisco CCNA above. It is designed for those who want an entry in the field of Networking. The difference here however is that it is a Vendor Neutral Certification (unlike the CCNA). CompTIA ranks well as a certification choice in many instances where there is a focus on Vendor-neutrality (although most networking devices are Cisco-based). It validates the knowledge and skill required to troubleshoot, and configure both wired and wireless networks. It is suitable for entry-level jobs such as Network Administrators, helpdesk, computer technicians, Network Support Specialists system engineers.
The exam costs $358 You will find some training resource guides here
4. CompTIA Security+ – Cyber Security
Security + is designed to give you a good foundation for a career in cybersecurity or security-related roles. It prepares you for more advanced security roles like Ethical hacking and Penetration Testing. It ranks high among hiring managers for entry-level security jobs. The salary for entry-level is about $75k/annum in the US (according to Glassdoor, 2023)
The exam cost is $392. You can explore some training materials here
5. AWS Solution Architect (Associate) – Cloud
Amazon Web Service is the largest Cloud platform. The Associate level cert is excellent for cloud roles and a good introduction to cloud services to get you a job working in the cloud. It teaches you the basics of deploying cloud solutions. With more companies moving their on-premise resource to the cloud, having this cert opens the doors to a wide range of opportunities. The certification exam is $150 (you get a 50 % discount voucher if you take the introductory Cloud Practitioner Certification which costs $100). Entry-level salaries are $70k-90k
There are a lot of useful study materials and hands-on labs here
6. Pentest + For Ethical Hacking
Pentest + is another high-in-demand certification offered by CompTIA. The focus is on Penetration Testing. The salary is about $60k-90k in the US. Although this is an entry-level Certification for Pentesting, having prior knowledge in A+ security+ is a good recommendation.
The certification Exam costs $382.
Helpful Tips For Taking A Certification Exam
Learning a new skill can be very challenging, it is very easy to get discouraged and abandon the journey altogether. It is much like learning to ride a bicycle, you will need to be committed to the process, setting your eyes on the road ahead and not on the pedals. Having a strong mental picture of what you want to achieve with the certification will help you have a more positive attitude in learning the technology, you won’t want to cut corners and engage in unwholesome practices. You must show commitment to studying and learning the technology. The following are helpful.
- Start by gathering materials you will use to study for the certification. It may include paying for some online courses, books, or YouTube channels (You will be amazed at how much you can learn from such)
- Design a study plan and try as much as possible to stick to it. An hour of study in a day can quickly add up to something significant in a short while.
- Join a discussion forum or interact with people with similar goals as yours or those you are in the field to guide you. Having a personal mentor helps.
- Do not neglect lab work, although it can sometimes be boring they do give you the best learning experience and deeper insights into technology. Practical skills are invaluable these days.
- Use exam simulations to increase your chances of passing the exam.
A career in Information Technology offers some of the best opportunities. Certification programs offer excellent learning and earning opportunities. For entry-level jobs, there are many Certs to choose from – The CCNA and CompTIA Networking + for Networking Roles, AWS for Clouds, CompTIA A+ for Helpdesk, CompTIA Security for CyberSecurity and Pentest + for Ethical Hacking. Ultimately, the choice of certifications should be based on your career goals.