Entry Level PC Certifications

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Certifications When You are New to IT

In today’s IT world, there are so many IT certifications to choose from. If you are new to the industry it’s easy to get confuse or overwhelmed by the shear number of choices available to you. This article discusses what I (and the industry) think are the five best PC/IT certifications to start with.

Those that have been in the Information Technology industry sometimes forget that there thousands of new people, both young and old waiting to enter the field. For most of the young ones high school and college, it will be much easier, simply because they are young and may still live at home. This buys them time to refocus their studies on technology or change their majors to IT related fields if they are in college.

However, if you are older, you don’t quite have as much time because you may have a family to feed and need to get up and running in the IT field fast or you may have recently been laid off, don’t have money to waste and therefore cannot afford to miss on the wrong certification.

Top Five (5) Entry Level Certifications for Newbies

Listed below and in order you should obtain them, are the best PC certifications for newbies:

  1. CompTIA A+
  2. CompTIA Network+
  3. Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS)
  4. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
  5. CompTIA Security+

1. CompTIA A+

The CompTIA A+ certification is the first step toward a successful information technology career and will immediately make someone eligible for entry level repair and technician jobs. Typically, the A+ certification is obtained before the Network+ exam is attempted.

The CompTIA A+ certification is comprised of two tests. The CompTIA A+ Essentials test measures the applicant’s competency in computer technology, networking and security, while the CompTIA A+ Practical Application evaluates how well the applicant can apply that knowledge to troubleshoot and resolve certain scenarios. Each test has 100 questions and lasts 90 minutes. On a scale of 100 to 900, an applicant must score 675 on the Essentials test and 700 on the Practical Application to pass. CompTIA recommends but does not require that applicants have 500 hours of hands-on experience or an equivalent amount of training before attempting the exams.

2. CompTIA Network+

This certification proves to the IT industry that you at least have mastered the basics of networking. It is specifically designed for network technicians, network administrators, or network installers, the CompTIA Network+ certification is also very beneficial to career changing and new information technology job seekers.

The Network+ examination last about 90 minut and includes 100 questions about networking equipment, installation, topology, management, configuration and security. The seven-layer open system interconnection (OSI) model is a major focal point of the test. A minimum score of 720 (out of 900) is required to pass the exam.

Note: Many people suggest that you obtain this certification before getting the CCNA. In fact, It’s pretty much a vendor-neutral beginner’s version of the CCNA certification and when you do have it you’ll be well on your way (knowledge-wise) towards being prepared for the CCNA exam.

3. Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS)

Microsoft offers many specific certifications for IT professionals, all of which fall under the umbrella known as the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist, or MCTS. Note: This is a fairly new set of certifications. With MCTS certification you are given the opportunity to demonstrate your skills and ability for a specific Microsoft technology. I highly recommend that you choose the Windows clients track initially (e.g. Windows Vista and Windows 7). These will help quickly gain an understanding of what goes on behind the scenes, during the installation an setting up of these two desktop operating systems.

Microsoft has indicated that the idea candidate for the MCTS is an IT professional with 1 to 2 years of experience. An IT professional seeking to obtain the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) must pass 1 to 2 exams, depending on the product track(s) they have chosen.

4. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

In order to hold a CCNA certification, a candidate has to pass either the Cisco Certified Network Associate Exam or a combination of Introduction to Cisco Networking Technologies Exam and Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Exam. Main topics for these three exams include Planning and Designing; Design and Support; Implementation and Operation; Troubleshooting; and Technology.

The CCNA exam covers just about everything you need to know about setting up, configuring, installing,
administering, and maintaining a network using Cisco hardware and software. This is a more advanced networking certification than the Network+. As a result, you won’t find general networking or basics computing stuff. If you don’t understand the basics, go back to the Network+ exam.

The exams are worth 1000, that’s what you get if you score perfectly. The CCNA exams are a pass or fail test, meaning if you get 755 of the total 1000 points possible, you pass. If you get less than 755, say 754 you don’t pass, it’s that simple.

Getting the The CCNA certification says to the industry, especially employers, that this person has very good (not expert) understanding of inter-networking (e.g. routers, switches, bridges) and how they can be combined to provide the best possible networking environment for a given situation.

5. CompTIA Security+

Security+ is a certification dealing with computer security topics such as cryptography and access control, as well as business-related topics such as disaster recovery and risk management. It was developed in 2002 to address the rise of security issues. A new and updated version was released in 2011 http://certification.comptia.org/getCertified/certifications/security.aspx. Currently and according to CompTIA, there are more than 45,000 people around the world who have earned this certification.[5] It is recommended that candidates have two years of security-related work experience (although not a requirement) and pass the 100 question multiple choice exam.

The CompTIA Security+ certification designates knowledgeable professionals in the field of security, one of the fastest-growing fields in IT. Security threats are increasing in number and severity, and the gap between the need for security professionals and qualified IT personnel is the largest of any IT specialty, according to a 2008 CompTIA study. Even in a troubled economy, most businesses plan to maintain or increase their investment in security.

Note: Although not a prerequisite, it is recommended that CompTIA Security+ candidates have at least two years of technical networking experience, with an emphasis on security. The CompTIA Network+ certification is also recommended.

(Seccurity+ write-up is courtesy Wikipedia)

What kind of entry level IT Job can I get?

Even in the recession-ridden economy, job growth in the Information Technology field is expected to grow by 15-18 percent. Many of those jobs will go to new technologists. So hopefully if you are still thinking about the IT field, this should give you some comfort.

There used to be a time when all that was needed to secure a decent entry-level job in Information Technology was to obtain a certification such as the MCSE. Unfortunately it did not take long for the word to get out and all of a sudden everyone was doing it. Before long the market was saturated with what the industry started calling “Paper MCSE’s“, meaning they had the piece of paper (the MCSE Certification) but few had teh actual experience to really add value to an organization, because almost all of them lacked any real PC troubleshooting skills other than what they had learn in an MCSE boot-camp lab.

Once employers became aware of this, they started bing very cautious about who they hired, often requiring proof of experience and actual skills. Eventually, this forced the market to correct itself and begin to restore balance to the MCSE certification.

Word of Caution About Costs

There are any companies and for-profit colleges offering boot camps and traing courses on which they say will greatly improved your chances of obtaining one or all of the above IT certifications. Some of these corses can be awfully expensive, costing thousands of dollars.

There are many examples of people spending thousands of dollars at a for-profit college for a certification, when they could have received the same certification at the local community college for considerably less.

My advice to you is to first purchase a certification book ($25-$50) and study that. you can also purchase a self-pass kit for around $150-$250. Either of theses options will be much less than a class. Also, this website has links to several free or low-cost online training options that may work for you.

Final thoughts

I’ve worked in IT for nearly 20 years. In all that time, I’ve never seen an IT position advertised that didn’t require previous experience. Most of the people I have worked with feel that the certification don’t mean much without the ability to apply the knowledge, and the experience that goes along with the practical application. My second bit of advice to you is to practice. construct your self a small lab and practice

Good Luck!

More Information on My Top IT Certifications for Beginners

Top Five Entry-Level IT Certifications for 2013

A Plus Certification

Network Plus certification

Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS)

Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

CompTIA Security+