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May 27, 2008

Get Certified

A+, CCNA, MCSE: You’ll often find these IT certification acronyms attached to tech job postings, and the skill sets they represent are important for all kinds of IT careers.

Experienced IT workers can add a certification to their resume by simply passing an exam, but beginning IT workers can get certified as well. Many facilities offer IT certification programs where tech-savvy workers can take a deep-dive into a discipline like database administration, networking, or Windows Server management to prepare for a certification exam.

While many IT workers can benefit from a certification or two, deciding whether to get certified (and which certification you should get) isn’t easy. Keep these tips in mind:

  1. Watch for Certification Lifecycles
    Many IT certifications, such as those covering the various versions of Windows Server, are tied to the lifecycle of that specific product. Other certification paths have a built-in lifecycle that forces certification holders to retake exams every X number of years. If you’re on a budget, take care to find certifications that will remain current for a substantial time.

  2. Get a Real Education with Your Certification
    If you’re getting started in technology, don’t fall for quick-prep classes geared to help you pass an exam without knowing the technology involved. Spring for a lengthier class where you actually have time to learn the tech you’ll be tested on.

    If that means commuting somewhere for lab work instead of buying a book or working exclusively online, so be it. Remember that while certifications can boost your pay or help you get a job, your performance in that position will ultimately have a much larger influence on the jobs you’ll be able to get in the future.

  3. Be Sure to Specialize
    The IT industry encompasses a number of diverse career paths, from hardcore networking to Web design and scripting. Nobody’s capable of excelling in all those areas, so if you’re starting an IT career, you’ll want to find a discipline you like and work to own it.

    If you’re already established in IT, you’ll want to target one or two certifications that open doors to new positions or allow you to command a higher salary. Research firms such as Foote Partners conduct regular surveys that can help you determine which specific certifications currently hold high value.

For more IT certification advice see:

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