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First Steps into IT: Recommended Certifications

First Steps into IT: Recommended Certifications

Warren Wyostek / InformIT

When asked for a recommendation on a current certification path for someone wanting to enter IT, Warren Wyrostek initially thought, “That is easy.” But when he started to think about the most cost-effective certification, one that had merit, offered earning power, and provided career advancement, he had to pause and revisit the first steps one can take to begin a career in IT.

Seven years ago, as part of the “Now What?” series I wrote an article discussing the first steps someone should take if they wanted to enter the IT sector. That was seven years ago; think of it—2001. Think of how much we have all changed, and how much IT has changed, and how much IT certification has changed. (Last week I looked at the top 10 problems with IT certification in 2007/2008.)

In the 2001 article, I encouraged readers to jump into IT through several certification paths that were popular, had a great deal of merit, and promised good earning power. Two of the certifications that I focused on were CompTIA’s A+ and Network+ certification. They were and are good starting points for a career in IT.

However, today I do not have the same faith in them to be a gateway into an IT career or provide someone with ample earning power to justify recommending them. I still think everyone should have the skills that A+ and Network+ quantify, but I do not think the certifications are as significant a carrot as they were in 2001.

Why? The whole landscape has changed. I would now expect students coming out of high school/secondary school/technical school to have those same skills without having the certifications. Those skills are almost as fundamental as reading, writing, and arithmetic in this day and age. Those skills are not as much a money-maker or a career path.

I came to this realization a few weeks ago when a friend of mine asked me for a recommendation on a current certification path for someone wanting to enter IT. My initial reaction was, “That is easy.” But when I started to think about what the most cost-effective certification would be, one that had merit and earning power and provided career advancement, I had to pause. A+ and Network+ definitely did not fit the bill.

So, now that we are in 2008, what are the first steps one could take to begin a career in IT? If not A+ and Network+, then what?

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