Top IT Certifications That Matter

Information technology is a booming field. With companies becoming more wired, more networked, and more technology-focused every day, there’s a huge demand for workers with IT certification. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts the IT workforce will grow by double-digit percentages over the next eight years. Entry-level employees will make significantly more than most others starting out at new jobs. Whether you’re just starting out in information technology or you’re an IT or computer specialist looking to sharpen your skills, there are a wide variety of IT certifications to choose from. The big question is, which one should you choose? Looking at the list of choices can feel intimidating. Instead of feeling lost or confused, use this guide to figure out the very best information technology certifications for you, including the most in-demand certifications and how to prepare for IT exams.

Which IT Certifications Are Most In Demand?

Though all of IT is hot, there are certain certifications that are seeing the biggest demand. Microsoft courses are always hot prospects. A majority of businesses use the company’s software, and Microsoft certifications can also help with troubleshooting Windows issues, especially since the latest Windows update. Some non-IT professionals even take Microsoft courses in order to boost their resumes, hoping to prove they are tech savvy. Microsoft certifications may include training in Access, Server, Windows, Excel, Office, Project, SharePoint, and Web Development. Another popular area for certification is security. Security is a huge concern for all businesses. Protecting valuable information from hackers and viruses can be a full-time job in itself. Companies look for people with proven experience in the latest forms of security monitoring. Certifications in Cisco, Linux, and Java also remain in high demand. Cisco focuses on networking; Linux is an operating system; and Java is a programming language. While all three have been around for years, there are constant changes that require proper certification in order to troubleshoot when using these systems.

The Best IT Certifications

Here’s a more in-depth look at eight of the top IT certifications. All of these programs are offered at Vista College. Most of them are convenient online programs that allow you to learn in the comfort of your home.


1. CompTIA Linux+


What it is: CompTIA Linux+ certification prepares IT professionals for installing, configuring and maintaining Linux operating systems. They will also learn how to secure the system. Who it’s best for: Those who want to become systems administrators or web administrators, as well as junior Linux administrators or Linux database administrators. Linux is used by top American businesses including IBM, Google, Dell and Lenovo. What you’ll learn: You’ll be working toward taking the LX0-101 and LX0-102 exams.



It’s recommended that those taking the course have at least a year of experience working with Linux systems. How to prepare for the CompTIA Linux+ exam: The best courses will include a practice exam. You can also go online to find quizzes and tests that will prepare you for your exams. There are some excellent study guides available online that also include practice questions. Be sure your study materials are geared toward the latest version of the test, as there are dated guides that will be no help to you. Pay particular attention to the real-world examples provided in your studies, as you’ll be asked to handle similar situations on the exam.


2. CompTIA Security


What it is: CompTIA Security certification teaches how to implement the right networking strategies to protect your company from hackers and viruses. It provides both training and simulations to help identify threats, and how to combat them. Who it’s best for: Those who want to become security architects, engineers, specialists or administrators, as well as those IT professionals who simply want to refresh their security skills. This certification is widely recognized across a number of industries. The U.S. Department of Defense actually requires IT military personnel and contractors to earn CompTIA Security certification. What you’ll learn: You’ll be working toward taking the SY0-401 exam.



How to prepare for the CompTIA Security exam: The exam is updated frequently to reflect changes in network security practices and advancements such as cloud computing. Make sure that you are not using an old study guide or looking at dated information online. The most important areas of study include identity management and access control, as well as cryptography. Questions about bring your own device (BYOD) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system are also covered on the exam.


3. Java Programming Certification


What it is: Java Programming Certification teaches basic techniques for Java, the programming language first developed by Sun Microsystems in 1995. The Java platform runs on most computer systems and it’s used on everything from mobile to gaming consoles to datacenters. Who it’s best for: Those with some computer certifications or background who have little experience with Java but recognize its utility for information technology. To enter a career in computer development or programming, you must be certified in Java programming. What you’ll learn: You’ll be working toward taking a Java SE exam.



How to prepare for the Java Programming Certification exam: Become familiar with the Oracle standards of testing. Java is updated frequently, so make sure you are learning about the most recent version and that what you memorize for the test tracks with the current upgrade. Java programmers are very free with sharing their knowledge. Check out programmers’ forums, such as Code Ranch, where you can post questions about the test or about things you’d like to get more insight on. Programmers also say the exam is a lot easier if you get real-world experience with Java before you sit for the exam.


4. CISCO CCNA Certification


What it is: CISCO CCNA Certification focuses on CISCO networking concepts and how to implement them at businesses both big and small. It also lays the foundation for the exploration of bigger concepts, such as networking theory. Who it’s best for: Those at the entry level with experience working for big companies that employ CISCO, as well as IT professionals with a couple years of experience who want to improve their networking skills. CISCO systems are used by hundreds of thousands of corporations to network, but small businesses and individuals use them as well. What you’ll learn: You’ll be working toward taking the 100-101 ICND1 or 200-101 ICND2 exams. The focus of the course will include:
  1. Installing CISCO networks
  2. Configuring CISCO networks
  3. Operating CISCO networks
  4. Troubleshooting medium-size networks
  5. Routing and switching networks
How to prepare for the CISCO CCNA Certification exam: The CISCO web site has a great wealth of information geared at helping people study for the certification exam. This includes videos and other e-learning resources. It’s worth perusing, especially if there’s a topic you need some extra help with. It’s important to understand applications of theory in real-world scenarios, and sub-netting is a topic covered during the exam. There are tons of online study guides, but a handful of them quite costly. If you are trying to save money, you can also find a handful of free guides, though they usually lack interactive testing.


5. Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate: Server 2008


What it is: Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate: Server 2008 aims to teach an IT professional how to support Windows 2008 networks, including installing and configuring Windows 2008 servers. It also offers instruction on how to design security frameworks for different-sized networks. Who it’s best for: Those who have advanced network administration skills, including at least two years of experience or CompTIA A+ and Network+ training. If you want to earn the MCSA: Windows Server 2008, you’ll need to complete this certification first. What you’ll learn: You’ll be working toward taking the Microsoft 70-640, 70-642 and 70-646 exams.



How to prepare for the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate: Server 2008 exam: Of the many IT certifications online, Microsoft ones are perhaps the most widely known and discussed. The Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) site has very useful Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about all of its programs and they can help you narrow down which areas you should be studying the hardest. Microsoft Press publishes a training kit for the three exams, a great resource for students.


6. Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate: Windows 7


What it is: Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate: Windows 7 certification consists mainly of learning how to install and upgrade Windows 7. Students also learn how to troubleshoot the operating system, which was released in 2009 and remains in use at many companies. Who it’s best for: Those with limited experience in information technology. You need some understanding of a desktop operating system, and ideally you’ll have up to a year of experience as an IT professional. What you’ll learn: You’ll be working toward taking the Windows 7-Configuring (70-680) and Windows 7-Enterprise Desktop Support Technician (70-685) exams. The focus of the course will include:
  1. Configuring and installing Windows 7
  2. Migrating and upgrading Windows 7
  3. Troubleshooting Windows 7 to keep networks moving smoothly
  4. Supporting mobile usage of the system
  5. Identifying networking and security issues
How to prepare for the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate: Windows 7 exam: The exam focuses on the ability to achieve technical tasks covered in the certification training. Students should have a firm grasp of how to resolve issues such as logon problems, printer issues, and loss of connectivity. Though configuring mobile computing right now is a relatively small portion of the first exam, it’s increasingly important in these smartphone-heavy times to learn about those operating systems. It’s a skill employers will value.


7. Microsoft Excel 2010 Certification Training


What it is: Microsoft Excel 2010 Certification Training provides an intensive primer on Microsoft Excel 2010, the most recent version of the spreadsheet application, which has been around for decades. It’s a more specialized class than the Microsoft Office certification, which covers a number of different programs. Who it’s best for: Those looking to get ahead in fields such as healthcare, technology or other businesses where numbers are a key focus. Limited computer skills are required for this course, yet it’s a good way for IT professionals to gain a greater understanding of Microsoft and its software. What you’ll learn: You’ll be working toward taking the Microsoft Certification Exam 77-882: MOS, Microsoft Office Excel 2010 or Microsoft Certification Exam 77-888: MOS, and Microsoft Office Excel 2010 Expert exams.



How to prepare for the Microsoft Excel 2010 Certification Training exam: The exams will touch on lots of different areas, but it’s most important to focus on sharing workbooks, applying various functions, finding the best way to share data visually and mastering macros.


8. Microsoft Web Developer Certification Training


What it is: Microsoft Web Developer Certification Training requires a high degree of computer skill and is geared toward developing pages by using the .NET Framework 4.0. Who it’s best for: Those experienced IT professionals who want to design web pages with a background in Java, Visual Studio Web Developer Edition and MDSN Express Library. This is an advanced-level certification and should not be undertaken by those with little or no computer experience. What you’ll learn: You’ll be working toward taking the Microsoft 70-515 exam.



How to prepare for the Microsoft Office 2010 Master Certification Training exam: The largest portions of the exam will focus on web forms, pages and controls, as well as displaying and manipulating data. So, focus your study efforts on those areas. Experiment with what you learn so that you have experience with practical implementation of your knowledge, too. As with all Microsoft certification exams, there’s a good breakdown on the MCSA page that includes resources to follow on Twitter and suggestions for instructor-led training you can talk to your teacher about.

The Top IT Certifications and Programs

To get ahead in information technology, you’re smart to continue your education. Vista College can help get you prepared to earn any of these vital certifications and boost your chances of getting a promotion and continuing down this promising career path.

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