Information technology (IT) is a dynamic industry and a great place to start building a vibrant, exciting, and long-lasting career. As communications technology continues to evolve and spread, new IT roles crop up in its wake, from designing the latest apps to internet security to helping companies integrate new technologies into their workplace.
What’s more, the trend towards automation that is destroying many blue collar and low-skill jobs is simultaneously creating opportunities in IT. There may be less manufacturing jobs available, but there is increasing demand for automation engineers to create and implement efficient systems. Likewise, self-serve checkouts in supermarkets mean fewer cashier positions, but IT workers are needed to develop, install, maintain, and troubleshoot the self-serve interfaces.
1. Essential starting point
Whether you already know a lot about computers or are starting your IT journey from the beginning, getting IT certification is a fantastic way to start. Not only will you get practical and theoretical knowledge, but you will also get a competitive advantage in the job market, especially for entry-level positions where employment history is less relevant. There are three key reasons to seek certification before you start applying for entry-level IT jobs: credibility, marketability, and personal development/networking.
2. Boost your credibility
Whether you learned a lot about computing in school, have relevant experience from past jobs, or have undergone IT training recently, a certification is a tangible testament to your skills.
For example, if your resume includes Microsoft’s Operating System Fundamentals certification this will communicate to hiring managers that you have a range of specific skills. They’ll know that you can configure Microsoft systems, install and upgrade systems, manage application, files, devices, and so on.
Rather than having to rely on your word that you have a particular skill-set, certifications are concrete proof that you have demonstrated these abilities well enough to earn the certificate.
3. Market yourself effectively
Certifications will help you sell yourself as the best candidate for any position. This is important for entry-level positions, of course, but even as your career progresses certification remains important. Employers don’t want staff who are content to sit on their laurels; ongoing certification shows that you are interested in maintaining and upgrading your IT skills.
No matter where you are in your IT career, certifications will give you an edge over non-certified competitors, and it’s more than just validating your skills and experience. Spending your own time and money shows employers that you are committed to your IT career.
Certifications also increase the chance you’ll get a higher paying position when starting out, as well as pay raises and promotions as you continue in your career. What’s more, many IT positions actually require particular certifications, even if you have mountains of experience. Freelance IT consultants who aren’t certified will be lucky to land a single client, and most government IT jobs require certification before you’ll even be considered.
4. Create a professional network
Undertaking IT training so you can get certified is a fantastic opportunity to meet people in the field, make connections, and start to build a professional network. The importance of knowing people in your field personally is massive – according to LinkedIn 70% of professionals hired in 2016 had at least one connection to the company!
Getting certified will also give you access to resources you wouldn’t have otherwise. Microsoft provides online forums, training materials, and other learning resources to everyone who undertakes one of their certifications. These will help you in your ongoing professional development and make a huge difference to your networking potential.
Because IT is such a dynamic field, it also pays to stay on top of new developments by regular undertaking new certification courses. This will help you do a better job and give you access to more career options. It will also show potential employers direct evidence of your professional commitment and passion.
5. Let your career goals be your guide
There are a vast amount of IT certifications out there and choosing among them isn’t always simple. The more specific you can get about the IT future you want, the clearer an idea you can get about which certifications to start with and why, and future certifications you should be aiming towards. You need to think about where you are now, where you want to get, and which certifications will best serve as stepping stones along the way.
For example, if your dream is to end up running an IT security firm, you’d want to include Microsoft’s Security Fundamentals amongst your entry-level certifications. Beyond that, you’d want to be thinking about a whole range of certifications to move you forward, starting with:
- CCNA Security (CISCO)
- Microsoft Certified IT Professional
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert
- CompTIA Security +
Then you could progress to:
- Wireshark Certified Network Analyst
- Certified Ethical Hacker
- Certified Professional Penetration Tester
- Offensive Security Certified Professional.
The certification path you choose should reflect your career path, so understanding the latter will ensure you make smart choices in the former.
Over the next few weeks we will be looking at the companies that provide IT certification training and the types of certification they offer, starting with Microsoft and CompTIA. To start your IT career today, fill out the form at the top of this page and we’ll send you more information.