Why IT Certifications are Important for Your Professional Career

IT is a highly dynamic and ever-changing field. As the industry develops, new types or sets of certifications proceed to crop up. Because of the quite number of certifications, certification paths, specializations and providers out there, it is simple for someone new to IT to be confused about where to begin. Even people who are certified might be unsure of the next steps.

Let walk you through the basics of certification, including how to create your certification path and some tips on how to ace certification exams.

The following points are discussed here

1. The Benefits of being certified include:

  1. Increased job opportunity: Earning the Certifications such as MCSE, A+, etc. are widely recognized. Achieving a certification ensures that the candidate has an established level of competency for doing a given job. These days, a relevant certification is seen more as an essential part of qualification criteria, rather than a preferred optional qualification. 
     
  2. Proficiency in Related Technology: Usually, the certification vendors develop the content for the certification exam carefully, and up to the date. By achieving certification, one develops proficiency and in-depth knowledge of related technology, and products. This, in turn, results in effective utilization of time on the job. 
     
  3. Equipping a fresh out of college candidate to face a job: The certification process tries to fill the knowledge differential between the college degree and that of the industry. In other words, though a candidate may have enough domain knowledge to fit in a job, he still lacks the essential product knowledge that may be required to carry out the job function effectively. A certification in the appropriate field narrows this gap. 
     
  4. Increased job security and remuneration: Customer satisfaction reports have shown that the certified candidates perform better and enjoy increased benefits, and job security. According to some study, certified candidates experienced a salary hike from 10% to as high as 30%. It is also remarked that more the number of certifications more the Salary.
     
  5. Marketability: Certain certifications are appropriate for wherever you are at in your career. For example, it may help new graduates land entry-level positions if they continue basic certifications such as Microsoft Certified Professional, CompTIA A+, Certified Internet Webmaster Associate, Sun Certified Java Programmer, and Cisco's CCNA. 
    These certifications prove the skills they learned in school and can improve make up for not holding the right work experience for the job. No matter where you are in your IT career, certifications will almost always give you an edge over non-certified IT professionals. Certifications do more than prove your skills and experience. It also presents potential employers that you are committed to the IT field by paying the money and time to obtain your certifications. IT certifications also make career progression more likely. The plain fact is that, in general, IT certifications can benefit you get a reward raise or a promotion.
     
  6. Personal and Professional Development: IT is a very effective field, and new technologies are entered every single day. Certifications are essential to ensure that you are on top of these developments and that your skills are updated. Certification training can help you cover new fields while also strengthening the skills you already have. Think of it as a refresher course that can benefit you recognize and overcome your problem areas. 
    Certification can also benefit you to network with other IT professionals. Your next job, project or endorsement could very well come from someone you met at a study group or technical conference related to a specific certification exam. Certification can help you achieve IT professionals who have related interests and specialties as you. Sliding a certification path will also give you access to resources that would not be available otherwise. This covers access to online forums and other learning resources that are given by certification providers such as Microsoft and Cisco. There's also somewhat to be said about the personal comfort that comes with acing an exam that validates your expertise. Go ahead, put your certificate on your wall or add those letters after your name. 

2. ​Leading vendor certifications from CompTIA, Microsoft, Cisco, CIW, and CheckPoint

Microsoft, CompTIA, Cisco, CheckPoint, and CIW are among the leading vendors of IT Certifications. Each vendor, in turn, may have different certification tracks. For example, Microsoft has an MCSE track and MCSD track. Usually, each track has various levels of certification aimed at the beginner, the pro, and the expert. As often said, certification is a journey, and not a destination. Many certifications require re-certification after a pre-determined period to remain certified. Therefore, it is important that you keep your certification track after careful consideration of your career plan. Though there is a wide range of certifications available, we confine to a few leading certification tracks: MCSE/MCSA, CCNA/CCNP, A+/Network+, CIW, and CheckPoint CCSA/CCSE.

  • A+, Network+, and Server+ Track: These certifications are offered by CompTIA organization (comptia.org). Some important features of CompTIA certifications are that they are vendor-neutral, and the certifications never expire (though CompTIA recommends certified candidates to get re-certified when next revision is made available). A+ certification is granted after passing two individual exams, namely the A+ Core Hardware exam, and A+ Operating Systems exam. A+ certification is highly suggested for PC technicians, whose job is to install or troubleshoot PC hardware/software. The certification is not very difficult to obtain and provides a good starting place for individuals desirous of furthering their goals to include Server+ and Linux+. Find out more about A+ Certification. Server+ is one step ahead of A+ and is considered essential for individuals concerned with configuring, installing, and troubleshooting servers. One needs to have achieved A+ certification, for getting Server+ certified. Linux+ exam aims toward the Linux operating system and gaining increased popularity. It is often true that technicians are not only involved with Computer hardware/OS, but also the networking of computer systems. This is where Network+ certification comes into play. If you are involved with the networking of computers, it is recommended to pursue Network+ certification. Several other certifications are available from CompTIA, but not discussed here at this point. The certification training procedures differ depending on the individual requirements. If you have sufficient time on hand, and appropriate tools, the recommended option is to self-learn. There are enough books and other resources available on the Internet for successfully acquiring several CompTIA certifications. If you are new to certifications and pressed for time, the preferred option would be classroom-based training. However, this would be a more costly option. You can find some books for CompTIA certifications here.
  • Microsoft MCP/MCSE/MCSA: 
    • MCP: Microsoft Certified Professional
    • MCSA: Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator 
    • MCSE: Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer 

      MCSE/MCSA certifications are most broadly recognized among Microsoft certifications. Note that Microsoft MCP/MCSA/MCSE certifications are not vendor neutral. These certifications are specific to Microsoft technologies. If you are involved with Microsoft products, then these certifications are for you. MCP is relatively easy to get. However, if you want to complete MCSA/MCSE, continued effort is required. It is very essential to have hands-on practice when attempting these exams. For recommended books, check out this our MCSE/MCSA books section here. Microsoft updates the certification track as new versions of the software is released from time to time (For example, MCSE certification exams got revised from NT 4 to Windows 2000, and again to .NET). Microsoft recommends that the certified candidates update their skills to the newest available version. Microsoft certifications are indispensable, especially when you are involved with Microsoft technologies. Several other certification tracks are available including MCSD, MCAD, MCDBA.

  • Cisco CCNA, CCNP, and CCIE Certification track:
    • CCNA - Cisco Certified Network Associate
    • CCNP - Cisco Certified Network Professional
    • CCIE - Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert
      Cisco certifications are highly valued among networking certifications. The reasons include Cisco was a very early entrant into the field of networking and consistently high standards of certification exams over a period. If you are connected with wide area networking, especially with intranets, extranets, or Internet, then Cisco certification path is for you. Again, Cisco certifications are vendor specific. The certified candidates are required to re-certify after a specified number of years. Achieving next level of certification automatically renews the earlier certification. CCNA is the entry-level certification and is a pre-requisite for attempting CCNP, an intermediate level certification. CCIE is the expert level certification and regarded very in the internetworking industry. If you are involved with or planning a career in networking, Cisco track is a right place. You can find some recommended books for CCNP, and CCNA here. It is necessary to have hands-on practice for passing Cisco exams.
  • CIW track: CIW stands for Certified Internet Webmaster. CIW track of certifications is reputed and widely followed by web professionals or candidates desirous of developing a career in web design and development. With the ever-expanding pace of internet evolution, sure these certifications are going to carry more weight. There are different levels of certifications aimed at the beginner, mid-level, and expert level professional. View some recommended CIW books here.
  • CheckPoint certifications: CheckPoint certifications are again vendor-specific certifications. The entry level certification is called CheckPoint Certified Security Administrator (CCSA). The next level is called CCSE. Several other certifications are available from CheckPoint. CCSA/CCSE certifications are primarily aimed toward configuration, troubleshooting, securing, and maintaining the CheckPoint's FireWall-/VPN-1 product line. View some recommended CCSA, CCSE books here. Most of the questions in the exam are supposed to be pulled from the official course book. It helps quite a lot if you can obtain the official course books while preparing for these exams. 

3. Certification frequently asked questions

1. Are there any basic educational qualifications required for appearing for any IT certification exam?

No. IT certifications, including MCSE, MCSA, A+, Network+, CCNA, CCNP, and others do not require any necessary college degree. However, one needs to choose the appropriate certification track depending on one's requirement and background. But note that the vendor may impose a specific condition for taking a given certification exam. For example, if you desire to pursue Cisco CCNP certification, you need to have already completed CCNA.

2. Do we need an instructor or classroom training to prepare for any certification?

It depends on your background, and availability of time, and preferences. In general, most of the people self-learn with the help of books, and other available resources. Check if you need access to labs, course material, and other online references. If the answer is 'yes,' it is recommended that you prepare yourself. This would save a lot of money that could be better spent in furthering your certification goals.

3. Are the certifications are permanent? In other words, do they have permanent validity?

Yes and No. That depends on the certification vendor. For example, CompTIA certifications have indefinite validity. Though CompTIA recommends that you re-certify when the revised syllabus is made available, it is not mandatory to retain the certification title. On the other hand, Cisco requires that you re-certify within three years. Otherwise, the certification becomes invalid. It is also possible to renew the certification by achieving the next level of certification.

4. Where do we take the certification exam? And how an exam is conducted?

Usually, the exams are computer-based. VUE (vue.com) and Prometric conduct most of these exams. However, be informed that not all exams are computer-based. Some like CCIE have lab exam. Check with the appropriate vendor website for the mode of exam and exam centers.

5. What would be the exam fee?

Normally, the exam fee ranges from US$ 89 to US$900. If certification has 'n' number of exams, you will have to spend nX100 dollars, assuming that one exam costs 100 dollars. Also, note that there wouldn't any refund of fee if you fail an exam. You require to pay again to take the failed exam.

6. Is there any restriction on the maximum number of certifications that I can hold?

No. There is no restriction. However, it is limited by the need, and the ability to grasp the material.

7. Which are the most popular certifications available today?

The following are among the most popular certifications available:

8. Will a Certification Ensure a Job?

It depends on one's background, experience, and market requirement. If you have the appropriate knowledge, and expertise, attaining certification in a relevant field will undoubtedly improve the chances of getting a job. It also depends on the level of certification. For example, if you have an entry-level certification, it may not add enough weight to your resume to get a job. It is essential to improve upon the initial accreditation and be able to keep up with the current technologies. After all, don't forget that hands-on experience and product knowledge are most important.

Lastly, certifications are a must in certain sectors within IT. Consultants and people who are self-employed would be wise to obtain certifications so more clients will trust them. Additionally, most government IT positions require certain certifications for you to be eligible for hiring.

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