5 Best Entry-Level IT Certifications
Here are the five best entry-level IT certifications for newcomers:
1. CompTIA A+
The Computing Technology Industry Association (or CompTIA) is a non-profit association that is dedicated to furthering the education and validating experience with its full line of vendor-neutral certification exams. The best IT certification to start with if you are a newcomer is CompTIA's A+ certification. This will be your initial building block.
CompTIA A+ covers the fundamentals of computer technology, installation and configuration of PCs, laptops and related hardware, and basic networking.
CompTIA A+ covers the skills required to install and configure PC operating systems, as well as configuring common features (e.g. network connectivity and email) for mobile operating systems Android and Apple iOS.
The best way to get started is to grab an old desktop PC, open the case and start taking things apart and learning each piece. Begin to figure out what each piece does and where it goes on the motherboard. You'll be ahead of the curve once you set up your A+ certification training class.
The Network plus certification is the clear choice for the second best certification for newcomers in the IT industry. While the A+ certification does touch on a few of the physical networking aspects of IT, it doesn't cover it in depth enough to gain the understanding you would need to obtain an entry -level networking job.
If you want the best return on your training investment, and a much better looking resume, you should think of A+ and Network+ as a package deal. Most newcomers will take the combination A+/Network + training in order to save on the individual cost. With both of those certs on paper, your resume will be much strong in a pool of candidates
Security plus training is an absolute must for any newcomer to the IT field. There are countless security threats in today's world, so much so that companies pine after a candidate with any security background or certifications. You don't necessarily have to have a CISSP, CASP or CEH training at first but are something you’ll want to look into as you progress in the field. CompTIA Security+ not only ensures that candidates will apply knowledge of security concepts, tools, and procedures to react to security incidents; it ensures that security personnel is anticipating security risks and guarding against them.
CompTIA Security+ certification designates knowledgeable professionals in the field of security, one of the fastest-growing fields in IT. CompTIA Security+ is an international, vendor-neutral certification that demonstrates competency in:
- Network security
- Compliance and operational security
- Threats and vulnerabilities
- Application, data and host security
- Access control and identity management
This may be the most important certification you, as the IT newcomer could obtain. There are several mistakes that newcomers could make if they don't entirely understand the basics of IT security. On top of that, the government has the DoDD directive 8570 that requires government and contracting personnel to have certain certifications that deal with information assurance and security and CompTIA Security+ is one certification that satisfies the 8570 directive.
4. Cisco CCENT
If you have the Network plus certification under your belt already, or already hold entry-level knowledge of networking, great! Cisco Systems offers the Cisco Certified Entry Network Technician or CCENT which dives deeper into networking, specifically focused on Cisco's proprietary hardware and software. To obtain the CCENT certification you have to pass the Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 1 or ICND1 exam. This exam covers everything from installation, operation, and troubleshooting of network devices as well as a few security concepts and the basics of routing and switching.
The CCENT certification will be much more in depth than Network+, but it’s also much more involved. Getting your CCENT and having it on your resume will give you an advantage over the competition, especially if they only have the Network+ certification.
5. Cisco CCNA
Although the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) exam has no official prerequisites, the Cisco Certified Entry Network Technician (CCENT) certification is a great starting point to prepare for the slightly more advanced CCNA certification.
Cisco CCNA assures employers you are able to install, operate and configure enterprise-level switches and routers. CCNA certified individuals can also detect and solve common network problems and have the option of specializing in security, voice or wireless networking.
CCNAs typically have some common key skills, including communication skills, troubleshooting skills, organizational skills, customer service skills, analytical skills, familiarity with Microsoft Office Suite and Cisco, and the ability to use industry-specific tools. Aside from that, they make a pretty decent median salary as well: In May of 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics identified that Network and Computer Systems Administrators earned a median annual salary of $82,200.
Certifications are a great way to validate what you've learned in the classroom, as a newcomer and since IT is and always will be a constantly changing field; IT certifications are the place to start. This should give you a better idea of what to look for in entry-level certifications. Now all you have to do is choose a path and get started!