Entry Level IT Certifications and beyond

Discussion in 'Training & Development' started by SimonD, Apr 9, 2013.

  1. SimonD
    Honorary Member

    SimonD Terabyte Poster

    One of the things that people come here and ask is what entry level exam should I take, they then proceed to mention exams that simply put, entry level.

    Here are a few exams that I class as entry level, along with a list of exams that aren't.

    Entry Level Certifications - (ie, if you're new to IT, probably better off taking one of these).

    CompTIA A+ - The A+ exam is intended to give you a basic understanding of hardware maintenance and software troubleshooting, OS installations, basic networking configuration and mobile devices. The certification requires you to sit two exams (220-801 and 220-802) and is now only valid for 3 years.

    CompTIA Network+ (N+) is aimed more towards vendor neutral networking technologies, it gives you a decent understanding of various networking devices and doesn't lock you into a particular vendor, Exam N10-005 is the current exam number as is valid for 3 years

    Microsoft MTA's - Microsoft have jumped on the bandwagon and released the MTA (Microsoft Technology Associate) track, the aim of this track is to give you a better insight into various Microsoft technologies without requiring you to sit the MCTS\MCITP or MCSA\E. The reason for this is that Microsoft don't want to cheapen off the MCITP or MCSE, in days gone by the MCSE for NT4 and 2000 was viewed as a simple paper certification, anyone with 2 brain cells was taking the exam and thinking themselves decent engineers, hiring managers started viewing the MCSE as worthless and that hurt a lot of engineers who did actually earn their certifications the hard way and actually knew their stuff.

    The MTA exams are currently broken down to three different tracks, Infrastructure (Exam 98-349: Windows Operating System Fundamentals, Exam 98-365: Windows Server Administration Fundamentals, Exam 98-366: Networking Fundamentals, Exam 98-367: Security Fundamentals), Database (Exam 98-364: Database Fundamentals) and Development (Exam 98-361: Software Development Fundamentals, Exam 98-362: Windows Development Fundamentals, Exam 98-363: Web Development Fundamentals, Exam 98-372: .NET Fundamentals, Exam 98-373: Mobile Development Fundamentals, Exam 98-374: Gaming Development Fundamentals, Exam 98-375: HTML5 App Development Fundamentals).

    *** VMware VCA - Like everyone else VMware have jumped on the Associate program and introduced the VMware Certified Associate track, unlike the VCP exam I talk about later on the VCA doesn't have a classroom requirement, furthermore the VCA exam can even be taken in your own home, this unfortunately does mean that the VCA isn't as well regarded as other associate level exams due to the fact that this can be rather easily passed.

    Currently VMware have three different VCA tracks out there with a fourth one due out shortly. The three current VCA exams are :-

    VCA-DCV - The basic Data Center Virtualisation exam introduces you to the basic concepts of VMware virtualisation.

    VCA-Cloud - The Cloud exam introduces you to the concepts of Cloud computing using the VMware Stack (vCloud Director, vFabric App Director, vCloud Automation Center etc).

    VCA-WM - The Workforce Mobility exam introduces you to the world of VMware Horizon View and the suite of products that make up the EUC products from VMware.

    VCA-NV - The Networking Virtualisation exam is coming shortly and will focus on the Nicira\NSX product suite.

    Intermediate Level Certifications - (ie, you now know a little more about the industry and want to take your career into a particular direction).

    CompTIA Linux+ is aimed at the entry level Linux engineer, CompTIA have partnered up with the LPI (Linux Professional Institute) to allow you to also register your certifications with LPI. This requires two exams (LX0-101 and LX0-102). I would stress that this is moving more towards an established engineer and not someone new to the IT Industry

    CompTIA Security + - Giving you a better understanding of the following :- Network security, Compliance and operational security, Threats and vulnerabilities, Application, data and host security, Access control and identity management, Cryptography

    This would be the starting point in my opinion for a career in Security but it by no means makes you a security engineer.

    ITIL Foundation - This is a hard one to choose the right area because in all honesty this could be classed as an entry level exam as well because it gives you the reasoning and understanding of why things are done the way they are in companies that adopt the ITIL Framework. I would have to stress that this is an extremely dry subject and can be very boring but it's worth having the knowledge in the work place.

    Prince 2 Foundation - Prince2 Foundation is the pre-requisite for the Prince2 Practitioner certification that's used for Project Management, I should stress at this time that Prince2 is not the only Project Management methodology so do check to see which methodology you use in your own company (Agile, and PMP are two other Project Management methodologies).

    Microsoft MCTS - The MCTS is a single exam that can be used to develop your skills on a certain product or help towards the MCITP and\or MCSA\E certifications. Taken on their own they can help to prove your subject matter knowledge. The depth and breadth of exams under the MCTS banner is too large to list here so have a look at the link at the start of this paragraph, needless to say it covers more than just Operating Systems and Applications.

    Cisco CCENT - Is Cisco's entry to the entry level certification market, however the reason I haven't put this into the Entry Level area is quite simply you shouldn't expect to walk into an entry level role and start using Cisco hardware, the CCENT is the first step in getting your CCNA and as such expects you to already have some exposure to various IT Technologies and have an understanding of binary math, know what routers, hubs and switches are and know about protocols.

    Advanced Level Certifications - (You know your stuff and can prove it).

    Microsoft MCSA\MCSE\MCITP - This is it, the MCSE\MCITP, certainly not an entry level exam, Microsoft advise that people attempting these certification tracks have at least 18 months experience with the technologies before attempting this. I will stress here, THIS IS NOT AN ENTRY LEVEL EXAM, no, not even the Windows 7 MCITP. These are multiple exam certifications that require knowledge and dedication and aren't there to get you an entry level exam, people with these exams are expected to be Enterprise level engineers with multiple technology specialities (Messaging (Exchange and Lync), DBA, SharePoint etc).

    VMware Certified (Advanced) Professional (VCP \ VCAP) - The VCP is the VMware certification that shows a level of knowledge in the use and administration of VMware vSphere environments, it's usual for VCP certified engineers to have moved across from a Systems Admin type role where they would have experience in Windows and or Linux Operating Systems. The exam can be taken without attending an accredited VMware Training course but the certification won't be awarded until you do successfully attend said training. VCP Certifications don't expire but they do tend to get replaced every couple of years when new versions of the vSphere suite come out. It's also important to note that rather than a single VCP certification there are now two more tracks to go down, the Cloud route and End User Computing, please also note that the old VCP is now called VCP - DCV (Data Center Virtualisation). The VCAP Track is again broken down into DV, Cloud and EUC
    and take the form of different VCAP exams, the Data Center track requires you to sit two VCAP exams (Data Center Administrator and Data Center Design), whilst the Cloud and EUC tracks only require a single VCAP exam). These are not entry level exams and as the name implies these are advanced exams, you're expected to really know your stuff and I have known experienced VCP's fail the DCA\DCD exams more than once. These are not for the faint hearted and will eat into your personal time.

    Cisco CC*A \ CC*P - The Cisco Associate and Professional Tracks are there to show an increased knowledge in Cisco products and like the VMware tracks offer more than just Routing and Switching, there are Voice, Wireless, Data Center and Security Tracks available so spend some time looking at the area you want to specialise in.

    God Level Certifications (Really, you are the font of all knowledge and people really do stop and listen to you talk).

    There are a few exams in this tier that really do fall into the God level category.

    VMware VCDX - As far as VMware Virtualisation goes, this is it, you really are at the pinnacle of your VMware Virtualisation career because you have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that you do know what you're talking about, this isn't a simple walk in the park, this is designing a complete Data Center, presenting it to a panel of experts and answering their questions on your logic and design decisions. It has the pre-requisites that you have to have the VCAP certifications, have to offer your design in for consideration and then attend the panel, oh and the panel is made up VCDX's so there is no pulling the wool. This is the heart breaker as well because people fail this.. alot. And as a side note, there are just over 100 VCDX's in the world (I believe about 110 but there could be more now). Like the VCP and VCAP this isn't restricted to just the Data Center track as you can also have the Cloud and EUC VCDX certifications as well.

    Cisco Expert - The Cisco Expert is as the title suggest the Expert level certification from Cisco, like the other vendors this doesn't restrict you to a single subject as there are exam tracks for various other Cisco technologies (CCDE, CCIE Data Center, CCIE Routing & Switching, CCIE Security, CCIE Service Provider, CCIE Service Provider Operations, CCIE Storage Networking, CCIE Voice, CCIE Wireless).

    Microsoft Certified Solutions Master - The MCSM is the replacement for the old MCM (Microsoft Certified Master) and is the pre-requisite for the Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA). These exams are the pinnacle of Microsoft Certifications and prove beyond any doubt that you are an expert in your chosen field, like the VCDX the MCA is a Board Lead certification where you have to present and defend your designs.

    Please note that obviously this is not a full and final list of exams in all of the tiers I have listed here, for a start I have missed off various Linux\Unix certifications as well as Citrix mainly because I don't have as much experience with those technologies or exams as I do with those mentioned in this post. Obviously people are more than welcome to offer feedback and comment so please do.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2013
    Certifications: CNA | CNE | CCNA | MCP | MCP+I | MCSE NT4 | MCSA 2003 | Security+ | MCSA:S 2003 | MCSE:S 2003 | MCTS:SCCM 2007 | MCTS:Win 7 | MCITP:EDA7 | MCITP:SA | MCITP:EA | MCTS:Hyper-V | VCP 4 | ITIL v3 Foundation | VCP 5 DCV | VCP 5 Cloud | VCP6 NV | VCP6 DCV | VCAP 5.5 DCA
    WIP: VCP6-CMA, VCAP-DCD and Linux + (and possibly VCIX-NV).
  2. rocdamike

    rocdamike Byte Poster Gold Member

    Great post! This will be a great reference for myself and I'm sure others in the distant future. Thanks a lot :D
    Certifications: F5 CTS, LTM | F5-CA | CCNA: Sec | CCNA: R&S | ITIL Foundation
    WIP: AWS Solutions Architect
  3. ade1982

    ade1982 Megabyte Poster

    Pin this!!!!!
  4. GSteer

    GSteer Megabyte Poster

    Well written Simon. Should be read by all.
    Certifications: BSc. (Comp. Sci.), MBCS, MCP [70-290], Specialist [74-324], Security+, Network+, A+, Tea Lord: Beverage Brewmaster | Courses: LFS101x Introduction to Linux (edX)
    WIP: CCNA Routing & Switching
  5. nXPLOSi

    nXPLOSi Terabyte Poster

    Great post Simon, solid reference for people at any level. 8)
    Certifications: A+, Network+, Security+, MCSA 2003 (270, 290, 291), MCTS (640, 642), MCSA 2008
    WIP: MCSA 2012
  6. ade1982

    ade1982 Megabyte Poster

    Should maybe pin this to the top of every board?

    - - - Updated - - -

    It might also be worth saying in that post things like if you pass the CCNA, it revalidates your CCENT for 3 years (I think that's the case, if it's not then please delete this post, or change it and delete it anyway!)

    Isn't one of the Cisco exams part-practical as well? Could be worth putting that in.
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2013
  7. ad

    ad Bit Poster

    Many thanks for this. It's very useful, if not critical, for people wanting to get into I.T work for the first time, to know exactly what entry level courses and exams there are to take, broken down and simplified.

    When graduating I felt I needed something extra on my CV, to just get a job interview. I contacted one training provider who sent a "course advisor" to my house. He was a salesman. He asked me to turn on my PC, visit jobserve and search for Cisco engineer. I wanted to know more about the Java and .Net courses, but he said "no, Cisco is where the jobs are, just look at all those vacancies".

    I declined, I'd never thought of becoming a Network engineer before, and he wanted me doing the CCNA and CCNP online courses and exams after doing A+ and N+ exams. I had no industry experience what so ever, I had just graduated. The A+ and N+ he described, was in just one sentence waving his hand, saying it was just a formality to pass but which you need to get out the way to do the CCNA and CCNP. Thanks to certforums for informing people first before making regrettable and expensive decisions.

    I echo that people need to see your post, also research the courses and exams suited to them and then look at various training providers to see what materials they will offer you and for what price. I was very naive and could have been easily duped by the salesman to commit to doing the CCNA and CCNP when I had no industry experience.

    Just as a side note, perhaps school leavers who either don't want to go to university or can't afford to go to university, may well find benefit in doing entry level certs instead, if they enjoyed doing I.T or Computing at A-Level. Either from self study or a reputable course provider, they can take their time to learn the material and book the exams when they feel ready. University for me was basically self study anyway for 3 whole years, and most of the lecturers and Graduate Teaching Assitants had no industry experience themselves.

    It's good to see some entry level MTAs in Development, I was previously unaware of them. I have downloaded Visual Studio 2012 and Java NetBeans to teach myself programming and testing, and hopefully create some working cross platform apps. In terms of certs, to enhance my CV I was going to do MCTS exams but I know better now that the MTAs would be for my level.
  8. Adegilio

    Adegilio Bit Poster

    Great post! Helps me get some ideas on where to look next after my Net+ :]
    Certifications: A+
    WIP: Net+
  9. Alex_xelA

    Alex_xelA New Member

    Awesome post! kind of answers my other question in your other thread but still any feedback on my situation is more than appreciated if you get the chance Simon :D
    Certifications: None at present
    WIP: Comptia A+
  10. Scimac

    Scimac Bit Poster

    Awesome information Simon. I'll be starting from the beginning of the A+ again after a change in circumstances meant that I put my studies on the shelf last year. I had been considering easing into the study by completing the Strata certification first but from the posts that I've read and the information here it seems wiser just to get going with the A+.
    WIP: CompTIA A+
  11. SimonD
    Honorary Member

    SimonD Terabyte Poster

    I have added information about the VMware VCA exams to the main post.
    Certifications: CNA | CNE | CCNA | MCP | MCP+I | MCSE NT4 | MCSA 2003 | Security+ | MCSA:S 2003 | MCSE:S 2003 | MCTS:SCCM 2007 | MCTS:Win 7 | MCITP:EDA7 | MCITP:SA | MCITP:EA | MCTS:Hyper-V | VCP 4 | ITIL v3 Foundation | VCP 5 DCV | VCP 5 Cloud | VCP6 NV | VCP6 DCV | VCAP 5.5 DCA
    WIP: VCP6-CMA, VCAP-DCD and Linux + (and possibly VCIX-NV).
  12. scarruth31

    scarruth31 New Member

    Ok, so I've read this post and it is very informative but I have a few questions still about certifications. First off about me, I just retired from the Army and I'm a helicopter mechanic, but I'm doing a career switch to IT. I look at jobs for Network Administrators and they talk about experience with servers. Should I pursue certificates in servers as well to make myself more marketable or will I just look like an over school sucker with no experience?
  13. SimonD
    Honorary Member

    SimonD Terabyte Poster

    The thing with being a Network Admin is that you usually don't walk straight in to that role from something completely new, going straight in to a Network Admin role without some sort of prior experience is going to be hard (pretty much most of the Network Admins I know came from a Support back ground so that they had some experience of what's running on the network, it gives you a better understanding of why you're doing what you're doing).

    I am not saying you can't get a role in Network Admin with no experience but most companies won't give you the time of day if you don't have any experience (after all you're supposed to be working on equipment that if configs are wrong can bring down the entire infrastructure if you're not careful).

    Good luck with what it is you want to do.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014
    Certifications: CNA | CNE | CCNA | MCP | MCP+I | MCSE NT4 | MCSA 2003 | Security+ | MCSA:S 2003 | MCSE:S 2003 | MCTS:SCCM 2007 | MCTS:Win 7 | MCITP:EDA7 | MCITP:SA | MCITP:EA | MCTS:Hyper-V | VCP 4 | ITIL v3 Foundation | VCP 5 DCV | VCP 5 Cloud | VCP6 NV | VCP6 DCV | VCAP 5.5 DCA
    WIP: VCP6-CMA, VCAP-DCD and Linux + (and possibly VCIX-NV).
  14. ade_b

    ade_b Bit Poster

    This is a great post, thank you for sharing this information I will be subscribing to this one and using it for future reference :)
  15. RTuck

    RTuck New Member

    I currently want to switch careers. I have a BS degree in Business Administration. I want to attend an online school named WGU in the future. Most of my credits will transfer. I may have to go to school for two years tops. I do not have much experience in computer networking, therefore they are requiring me to get A+ certified before I start school. I recently started studying for A+ certification. After studying, some study materials are saying that I should have at least 12 months of hands on experience before I take the test. How should I go about getting this experience? Should I try to build my own lab and practice, pursue an entry level job? I would just like to get some more insight on how I should approach this.

  16. Shadi

    Shadi New Member

    This is a wonderful post thank you very much! I have a question, I studied IT engineering and graduated in 2012 but have never worked in IT sector and I am planning to get my masters hopefully in computer science or something that is relevant to IT. What would be a proper master degree and considering I have IT bachelor's degree, should I start getting a certificate in Entry level or Intermediate level?
    Thank you so much :)
  17. johnripley

    johnripley New Member

    Great post!
  18. Alex2958

    Alex2958 New Member

    Great post Simon8)

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