A Beginner's Guide to Certification
The following points are discussed
I. Benefits of certification
II. Leading vendor certifications
from Microsoft, CompTIA, Cisco, Prosoft, and CheckPoint.
III. Certification FAQ
I. The benefits of being certified include:
Recognition and increased job
opportunity - Certifications such as A+, MCSE, etc. are widely recognized.
Attaining a certification ensures that the candidate has an established
level of competency for doing a given job. These days, a relevant
certification is seen more as an essential part of qualification criteria,
rather than a preferred optional qualification.
Proficiency in Related
Technology - Usually, the
certification vendors develop the content for certification exam carefully,
and up to the date. By achieving a certification, one develops proficiency
and in depth knowledge in related technology, and products. This in turn
results in efficient utilization of time on the job.
Equipping a fresh out of college
candidate to face a job - The certification process tries to fill the
knowledge differential between the college degree and that of an industry.
In other words, though a candidate may have enough domain knowledge to fit
job, he still lacks the essential product knowledge that may be required to
effectively carryout the job function. A certification in appropriate field
(if available) narrows this gap.
Increased job security, and
remuneration - Customer satisfaction reports have shown that the certified
candidates perform better and enjoy increased benefits, and job security.
According to CertMag.com study, certified candidates enjoyed salary increase
from 10% to as high as 23%. It is also shown that more the number of
certifications (higher the skill level) more the amount of compensation. See
the article here.
II. Leading vendor certifications
from Microsoft®, CompTIA®, Cisco®,
CheckPoint®, and Prosoft®:
Cisco®, CheckPoint®, and Prosoft® are among
the leading vendors of IT Certifications. Each vendor, in turn may have
different certification tracks. For example, Microsoft has MCSE (For Networkers)
track, and MCSD (for Developers) track. Usually, each track has
different levels of certification aimed at the beginner, the pro, and the expert. As often said, certification is a journey, and not a destination. In
fact, many certifications require re-certification after a pre-determined period
of time (usually 2-3 years) to remain certified. Therefore, it is important that
you choose your certification track after careful consideration of your career
plan. Though there are wide range of certifications available, we confine to a few
leading certification tracks: MCSE/MCSA, CCNA/CCNP, A+/Network+, CIW, and
A+, Network+, Server+ Track: These
certifications are offered by CompTIA® organization (comptia.org). Some
important features of CompTIA certifications are that they are vendor neutral,
and the certifications never expire (though CompTIA recommends certified candidates
to get re-certified when next revision is made available). A+
certification is awarded after passing two individual exams, namely A+ Core
Hardware exam, and A+ Operating Systems exam. A+ certification is highly
recommended for PC technicians, whose job is to install, or troubleshoot PC
hardware/software. The certification is not very tough to achieve, and
provides a good starting place for individuals desirous of furthering their
goals to include Server+, and Linux+. Find more about A+
Certification. Server+ is one step ahead of A+, and
is considered essential for individuals involved with configuring,
installing, and troubleshooting servers. One need to have achieved A+
getting Server+ certified. Linux+ exam aims toward Linux operating system, and
getting increased popularity. It is often true that technicians are not only
involved with Computer hardware/OS, but also the networking of computer
systems. This is where Network+ certification comes into play. If you are involved with
networking of computers, it is recommended to pursue Network+ certification.
There are several other certifications that are available from Comptia,
but not discussed here at this point of time. The certification training
depending on the individual requirements. If you have sufficient time on
hand, and appropriate tools, the recommended option is to self learn. There
are enough books and resources available on the Internet for successfully
acquiring several of Comptia certifications. If you are new to
certifications, and pressed for time, the preferred option would be
classroom based training. However, this would be more expensive option. You
can find some books for CompTIA certifications
MCSE™: Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer
MCSA™: Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator
MCSE/MCSA certifications are most widely recognized among Microsoft
Note that Microsoft MCP/MCSE/MCSA certifications are not vendor neutral. These
certifications are specific to Microsoft technologies. If you are involved
with (or planning to use) Microsoft products, then these certifications are
for you. MCP is relatively easy to obtain. However, if you want to achieve
MCSA/MCSE, sustained effort is required. It is very essential to have
hands-on practice when attempting these exams. For recommended books, checkout
this our MCSE/MCSA books section here.
Microsoft updates the certification track as new
versions of the software is released from time to time (For example, MCSE certification exams got revised from NT 4 to Windows 2000, and again to .NET).
Microsoft recommends that the certified candidates update their skills to the
newest available version. Microsoft
certifications are indispensable, especially when you are involved with
Microsoft technologies. Several other certification tracks are available including MCSD,
CCNA™ - Cisco Certified Network Associate
CCNP™ - Cisco Certified Network Professional
CCIE™ - Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert
Cisco certifications are highly regarded
among networking certifications. The reasons include Cisco was a very early
entrant into the field of networking, and consistently high standards of
certification exams over a period of time. If you are involved with wide area networking, especially
with intranets, extranets, or Internet, then Cisco certification path is for
you. Again, Cisco certifications are vendor specific. The certified candidates are
required to re-certify after a specified number of years (usually 3 years).
Achieving next level of certification automatically renews the earlier
certification. CCNA is the entry level certification, and is a pre-requisite for
pursuing CCNP, an intermediate level certification. CCIE is the expert level
certification and regarded very highly in the internetworking industry. If you
are involved with or planning a career in networking , Cisco track is a good
place. You can find some recommended books for
CCNA, and CCNP here. It is important to
have hands-on practice for passing Cisco exams.
CIW™ track: CIW stands for Certified
Internet Webmaster. These certifications are awarded by Prosoft® (prosofttraining.com). CIW track of certifications are reputed and widely
followed by web professionals or candidates desirous of developing a careen
in web design and development. With the ever expanding pace of internet
evolution, sure these certifications are going to carry more weight. There
are several levels of certifications aimed at beginner, mid-level, and
expert level professional. View some
recommended CIW books here. There are other tracks available from
Prosoft. These include CCNT™, CTP™, and jCert™.
CheckPoint® certifications: CheckPoint
certifications are again vendor specific certifications. The entry level
certification is called CheckPoint Certified Security Administrator (CCSA™).
The next level is called CCSE. Several other certifications are available
from CheckPoint. CCSA™/CCSE™ certifications are basically aimed toward configuration,
troubleshooting, securing, and maintaining CheckPoint's FireWall-/VPN-1 product line.
View some recommended CCSA, CCSE books here. Most of the questions in
the exam are said to be drawn from the official
course book. It helps quite a lot if you can obtain the official course books
while preparing for these exams.
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