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IT Certification 101

Discussion in 'Training & Development' started by Arroryn, Oct 15, 2008.

  1. Arroryn
    Honorary Member

    Arroryn we're all dooooooomed

    I hope this "little" article will be of use by drawing together information from existing CF articles and giving an overview of the IT certification world, for the new and the experienced both.

    Please note, any opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and not of www.certforums.co.uk or its staff​

    What is "IT Certification"? What will it do to help me?

    Certifications in the IT field can be either vendor-neutral (covering a range of technologies) or vendor-specific (specialising in a certain techology or element of IT).

    Certifications should not be confused with academic qualifications. Despite sitting at specific levels on the NQF, the application of learning and the execution of the exam for a certification is completely different to learning in what many would consider as a traditional classroom environment.

    You are able to obtain certifications in IT at any stage of your IT career; many (myself included) start studying for some certain IT certifications before even entering the IT field - but this will be discussed later (and has been covered in depth in other articles). You are also not necessarily obliged to ever obtain a certification to progress your career - but they sure do help!

    Check out Zimbo's article - How to Start Studying for Certifications - for more ideas on preparation.

    IT certifications range in their complexity, and some providers offer complex certs under the guise of an easy career. IT is a complex industry, and the path to certification is just as tough, challenging and rewarding as with any professional career.

    Which certification is right for me?

    There are several things that can be considered under this heading.

    If you are new to the IT field, then I would strongly recommend browsing CF for general advice, as well as checking out the articles "The Guide to Self Study"; "Studying with Training Providers"; and "Questions to ask when Considering a Training Provider".

    I say there are several things to consider, as the articles above have brought the 'dreaded' phrase "training providers" homing into view. I will cover these shortly.

    If, indeed, you are new to the IT field, then most on CF recommend very strongly that you start with the A+ Certification by CompTIA.

    CompTIA are perhaps the best-known provider of the 'vendor neutral' certifications I mentioned earlier.

    CompTIA's certifications are theoretically aimed at people that are perhaps new to the IT field or to a particular discipline in IT, who want to get their 'feet wet' with regards to required knowledge in the field. Please note there that I said required knowledge. Just because you have a degree does not mean than an entry level IT certification is beneath your range of interest. The A+ introduces and then reinforces a lot of necessary information to allow you to suceed on later certification tracks.

    If you are keen on a career in technical support, or if you have seen in neon lights on a TV screen that you could be a 'network engineer' then if you're new to IT, CompTIA's certs are still the ones you should start with.

    If you're in any doubt as to the depth of the A+, then pick up Mike Meyer's hallowed tome, the All In One Sixth Edition - it's an excellent desk reference for anybody, and when you finally retire from IT in your late eighties, it will make a great door prop :biggrin

    Methods of Studying

    Training Providers vs Boot Camps vs the Braindump vs Self Study

    I'll cover braindumps first, as I have 'kind of' fibbed. Whilst a lot of people have seen them and used them as a method of study, they are not a valid method of study. They are immoral, illegal, and use of them can get you decertified for life. Not a great way to establish a worthwhile IT career.

    Some people try to argue the validity for braindumps but at they end of the day, they are a stolen list of questions and answers. Memorising them shows you can do no more than steal and memorise a list.

    Braindumps are devaluing to yourself and to the IT industry as a whole. I won't rant too much on here - just do a brief CF search to get more info on them. But needless to say; don't use them. Otherwise I'll hunt you down and poke you in the eye with a pointy stick. If you are uncertain as to whether you are being offered braindumps instead of genuine material, then verify the provider at www.certguard.com - a website dedicated to reviewing and verifying certification sites and materials.

    This then takes us to boot camps.

    A 'boot camp' is a training session that is instructor led, and crams a number of certifications into a rather short space of time.

    I would steer clear of any boot camps that offer qualifications from A+ through to MCSA. These are certs for those at the start of their IT careers (with the exception of the MCSA), and if you don't have them I would assume you have little to no relevant IT experience. It would be much more beneficial for you to self study and take the time to appreciate the new technologies you are acquainting yourself with. Anyone without corporate IT experience should not attempt a boot camp, and even those with experience should choose them carefully and wisely.

    Boot camps, as with most businesses (ie, not colleges) providing instructor-led training, come at a juddering cost. You can expect most boot camps to cost you in the region of £1K to £9K, depending on what they are offering.

    If your work is offering to pay for it, and you are competent and experienced with the technology, then seriously consider it. If this isn't the case, then seriously consider buying some books. :biggrin

    Next we have training providers.

    Training providers are more prevalent, in the respect that they aim their products specifically at those who are not in the IT sector. This is a marketing ploy, and one we almost beg people at CF to wise up to.

    Check out the articles cited above, as well as doing some searches on CF, to get some comprehensive information on training providers.

    In short, the more popular-mentioned providers are Skillstrain (aka Scheidegger); Advent; Computeach; Joskos.

    Again, they offer certification tracks that normally consist of all (or a mix of) the A+ and the N+ (CompTIA), the MCSA and the MCSE (Microsoft) and the CCENT, CCNA and CCNP (Cisco).

    Apart from the A+ and the N+, none of the other certs mentioned should be attempted by those with little or no relevant industrial IT experience. It is shooting yourself in the foot for your entry-level job hunt - the effect of over-certifying is covered in the article The First Rung - Getting a job in IT.

    As all training providers are a business trying to make money, the amounts they charge for their courses can vary wildly, normally between £3K to £7K.

    Because of the entry level nature of the courses these providers first offer, it is far more beneficial for you to buy the books needed to study the objectives and book the exams for yourself.

    Which takes us neatly to the much CF-lauded method of study - self studying. Buying the books, sitting in your study, and doing what geeks do best - playing on computers :biggrin

    CompTIA is the first site you should visit to check out your entry level certifications.

    If you are more interested in entry level vendor specific certification, then maybe you want to consider Microsoft's MCDST. Although it is technically aimed at desktop support technicians with around six months corporate experience, it has a lot of relevance and useful material for those new to the field.

    For starters, here are some useful sites...

    www.certforums.co.uk - bookmark us! :biggrin

    www.google.com - no - seriously



    www.bcs.org - the British Computer Society


    www.amazon.co.uk - buy your books here!

    www.ebay.co.uk - buy IT stuff to play with here!

    Enjoy :biggrin
    Certifications: A+, N+, MCDST, 70-410, 70-411
    WIP: Modern Languages BA
  2. UKDarkstar
    Honorary Member

    UKDarkstar Terabyte Poster

    Excellent guide for newbies ! :thumbleft

    Rep given
    Certifications: BA (Hons), MBCS, CITP, MInstLM, ITIL v3 Fdn, PTLLS, CELTA
    WIP: CMALT (about to submit), DTLLS (on hold until 2012)
  3. SimonV

    SimonV Petabyte Poster Administrator

    Great article, thanks for contributing. :)
    Certifications: MOS Master 2003, CompTIA A+, MCSA:M, MCSE
    WIP: Keeping CF Alive...
  4. NightWalker

    NightWalker Gigabyte Poster

    Nice work Arro' 8)
    Certifications: A+, Network+, MCP, MCSA:M 2003, ITIL v3 Foundation

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