Computer networks are integral to business and demand for employees in the field of Information Technology is expected to increase as firms continue to invest in new technologies. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook employment of computer network, systems and database administrators is expected to grow by as much as 30 percent by 2018 – much faster than the average for other occupations.
Want to stand out from the competition when pursuing an IT position? Look to certifications. “The job market today is highly competitive even in higher demand areas like information technology and networking,” says ATETV Advisor Gordon Snyder, Director of the National Center for Information and Communications Technologies at Springfield (MA) Technical Community College. “An effective way to distinguish yourself from others is to earn certifications in computers and networking, in combination with a degree. These certifications compliment academic work, showing a potential employer your knowledge, skills, ability and ambition.”
Certifications are offered through product vendors, computer associations and other training institutions, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics today, many employers regard certifications as the industry standard – and may even require employees to be certified. Certifications are also important for advancement.
We asked Gordon Snyder to recommend certifications that can help employees launch their IT careers – and advance their careers. Here are three he suggested, two entry-level and one advanced.
A+ Certification (entry level)
The A+ certification is globally recognized as the mark of a skilled entry-level technician and is a mandatory hiring requirement for a variety of entry-level IT jobs. An A+ certification demonstrates that an employee has acquired entry-level skills in the essential IT domains: hardware and PC repair, software and operating systems, network administration, information security and desktop troubleshooting. A+ certified technicians also develop customer service and communications skills to help in their day-to-day interactions with both technical and non-technical employees.
What skills that are measured by A+ certification?
• Understanding the fundamentals of computer technology, networking and IT security;
• Understanding of the operating system functionality and troubleshooting methods;
• Ability to identify hardware, peripheral, networking and security components;
• Ability to categorize various types of storage devices and backup media;
• Ability to explain the types and features of motherboard components; knowledge of how to perform proper computer safety procedures and best practices;
• Possession of practical interpersonal communication skills;
• Ability to install, configure, upgrade and maintain PC workstations, the Windows operating system and SOHO networks;
• Ability to install and configure input devices, such as mouse, keyboard, biometric devices and touch screens;
• And ability to use a variety of troubleshooting techniques and tools to effectively resolve PC, OS and network connectivity issues.
What jobs are available for candidates with this certification? An A+ certification can help job-seekers who are looking at positions as an IT Support Specialist, a Help Desk Technician, a Desktop support Specialist, a position in PC and Hardware Repair, or a Field Service Technician.
Network+ Certification (entry level)
Another certification that demonstrates competence as an entry-level network professional and provides an IT professional’s expertise in managing, maintaining, troubleshooting, installing and configuring basic computer networks. Network certification is the gateway to numerous career credentials and a key step toward a career in networking and telecommunications.
Which skills are covered in Network+ certification?
• Management and troubleshooting a basic network infrastructure
• Installation, operation and configuration of a wired or wireless network
• Ability to identify and explain common networking protocols and parts
• Ability to identify and troubleshoot performance and connectivity issues
• Ability to install, configure and differentiate between common network devices
• Ability to describe networking technologies and basic network design principles
• Acquisition of the knowledge to adhere to wiring standards and utilize network testing tools
CCNA Certification (Advanced)
The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) is an advanced certification to enable employees in the IT field to broaden their skill sets in the management and optimization of network systems. CCNA is globally recognized as the mark of a competent and qualified network technician and can be an important step forward toward a career in network administration or network engineering.
CCNA shows employers that workers have gained abilities in the installation, configuration, operation and troubleshooting of routed and switched networks. CCNA-certified professionals also have the abilities to make connections to remote sites via a WAN (wide-area network, a network of computers within a very large area such as a state or country), can deal with basic network security threats and can understand fundamental wireless networking concepts and terminology.
For more information on IT certifications and the IT field, check out the following resources:
IT Career Finder
PC World Magazine
ICT Center, Springfield Technical Community College