This one’s for the Computer Systems students. What our college doesn’t offer in IT certifications, it makes up for with comprehensive courses culminating in a degree. Despite all that, students have a hard time finding jobs when they graduate because more and more employers want their potential entry level techies to have more under their belt than just a degree.
One of the most basic certifications you can get in IT, the A+ certification is mandatory for Dell, Intel and Lenovo technicians and is held by over 900,000 IT Professionals. The A+ certification consists of 2 exams- covering topics like PC hardware, networking, operation procedure, operating systems, security, mobile devices and basic troubleshooting skills. This test has a little bit of everything, but IT hopefuls who can pass this exam will feel right at home in a help desk or support position while they figure out what they want to specialize in.
For more information, see: http://certification.comptia.org/getCertified/certifications/a.aspx
CCENT / CompTIA Network +
Both of these are entry level networking certifications. The CCENT exam stands for Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician and “validates the ability to install, operate and troubleshoot a small enterprise branch network”. In English, you’re qualified to be a network support technician. The exam focuses heavily on routing and switching, but students in the Networking module (CST 3507/607/707) should have no problem passing the exam. The same goes for the CompTIA Network+ certification. Where the CCENT is focused on routing and switching, the Network + certification covers basic networking concepts, installations and configurations, media and topologies, network management and network security. Which certificate you pursue depends on what you want to do. If you want to have a career as a network technician, you should consider taking both exams, making sure to pick up the CCENT. It is a prerequisite for the CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate), something any mid-level IT professional is expected to have. Whether you have the skills or not, like a college degree, if you don’t have that piece of paper, higher paying companies are much less likely to consider you.
For more information, see:
Microsoft Technology Associate
The MTA is recommended for most IT professionals. Like it or not, the world runs on windows – from help desk to CIO, you’re expected to know how to use it. The MTA certification can be earned by passing an exam in one of five areas: Windows Operating System Fundamentals, Windows Server Administration Fundamentals, Networking Fundamentals, Database Fundamentals and Security Fundamentals. This certificate is a prerequisite to become a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate a.k.a. someone certified to work with and troubleshoot for Windows 7 and 8. If you’re interested in specializing in the Windows OS, you should also look into becoming a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist.
For more information, see: https://www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/windows-certification.aspx
Apple Certified Technical Coordinator
There’s also a need for people with the skills to troubleshoot Apple products. The Apple Certified Associate certification is for entry level tech support and lower level system administrators. Obtaining it proves that you can (at least on paper) provide support for Mac OS X users and maintain Mac OS X Server. It requires two exams (Mac OS X Support Essentials & Mac OS X Server Essentials). Like the Cisco and Microsoft Certifications, this certificate is a prerequisite for something more advanced. Having an Apple Certified System Administration Certificate verifies that you are a system administrator capable of managing large multi-platform networks utilizing Apple products.
For more information, see: http://training.apple.com/certification/osx
Red Hat Certified System Administrator
This isn’t necessarily an entry level certificate, but it will definitely earn points when you put in a resume. Very few people bother learning to use Linux or UNIX but having the RHCSA tells employers you’re capable of doing everything in Linux you can do in Windows. This includes: Understanding essential tools, working in a command-line environment, booting into different run levels, controlling virtual machines, configuring system files, deploying and maintaining systems, services and installations, managing user groups and managing security in a Linux environment. Unlike almost every other certification on this list, the RHCSA is a performance based exam. You aren’t just given a question on a hypothetical situation – you’re given a live system and are judged on your ability to accomplish a task in a timely fashion.
For more information, see: http://www.redhat.com/training/certifications/rhcsa/
Depending on whom you ask, certifications may or may not be necessary for starting on your path to a career in IT, but it’s a double edged sword. Yes, you run the risk of being overqualified for a position if you go grabbing up certifications. You could also have someone unexpectedly test you on topics from the certification you‘ve earned during an interview. However, outside of internships, students are not always luck enough to get a job in their field. Certifications are essential for job seekers in IT trying to get a foot in the door, especially when they don’t have the 6 months to a years’ worth of experience most employers want. To test or not to test – is it really a question?