Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How Do You Choose Which Certification to Go After?

So many certifications . . . where to start?

When you’re working on your IT education, you know that certifications are an important step, but you may not know where to start. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you?

When I start interviewing for jobs, companies will want me to have certifications. But which ones are most important?
I know I want to be a network engineer (substitute security professional, database administrator, etc.). Which certifications will I need for that?
I’ve been so focused on getting through my college courses that I haven’t had time to think about certifications. Now I’m about to graduate. Where do I start?

Many college IT programs train their students for certifications, but others don’t, leaving students with questions about what certifications they need and how to prepare. Doing some research on your own is the place to start. In an article for Certification Magazine, analyst Howard Nicholson suggested, “One of the most important steps when making a decision about which designation to pursue is to understand the objectives of the certification. Take the time to research as much about the certification as possible, and ensure you understand what the certification is designed to do, what an organization would expect to gain from you having the certification, and what it does for your professional career.”

As you put in the time to research certifications, you’ll understand which certifications will work toward your career goal. Depending on your desired career direction, it may be CompTIA’s A+, Network+, or Security+; Microsoft’s MCTS (Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist); or Cisco’s CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate). Start doing some research on these sites:

CompTIA
Cisco
Microsoft
(ISC)2

Certification Magazine’s Luis Carselle offered useful ideas to further prepare for certifications and careers. He wrote, “At work, volunteer to help on projects that may be only tangential to your main duties; talk to colleagues during lunch breaks and at industry events to learn how they handled different situations; read publications that offer best practices; review award-winning programs; and scan industry magazines and Web sites for the latest tools and solutions.” The more knowledge and experience you gain, the better you’ll understand the certifications you need.

Emily Howard, TestOut

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