If you are interested in pursuing a career in the growing and lucrative IT industry, you may have already gained some technical skills through courses or practical experience.
Even without formal IT education or experience, obtaining an IT certification can effectively demonstrate your capabilities to potential employers.
There are many options available for IT certifications at the entry-level, so you can find one that aligns with your interests and goals.
Why is it important to pursue IT certifications?
Obtaining certifications is a way to verify your level of expertise and abilities to potential employers. Certification exams typically include performance-based questions that require you to complete tasks related to a specific job role, which helps confirm your ability to do the job. Certification exams can be expensive, ranging from $100 to $600 per exam, and may require at least six months of intense study to pass.
However, they can be a worthwhile investment. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Dice 2021 Tech Salary Report, entry-level IT positions typically pay around $50,000 to $55,000 per year. Choosing the right certification can increase your chances of obtaining these positions.
When deciding on the best certification to pursue, reviewing the job descriptions of the positions you are interested in is important. Many IT professionals start their careers in help desk roles before moving to other specialties, such as cybersecurity or cloud computing.
Therefore, when searching for positions, focus on job titles such as help desk specialist, help desk analyst, help desk support technician, technical support specialist, or IT technician or assistant. From there, identify which certifications are most commonly required or preferred for those positions. Ultimately, choose a certification that aligns with your career goals.
1. CompTIA IT Fundamentals
The CompTIA IT Fundamentals+ (ITF+) certification is suitable for individuals interested in starting a career in IT or exploring a new career path. The exam is designed to validate your foundational knowledge in IT and give you a taste of what it is like to work in the field. It covers essential IT skills and knowledge, such as the functions and features of common operating systems, establishing network connectivity, security best practices, and identifying common software applications. The certification exam covers networks, infrastructure, IT concepts and terminology, applications and software, security, database fundamentals, and software development. While the ITF+ certification is a good starting point for those interested in further CompTIA certifications, it is not a requirement for other certifications.
2. CompTIA A+
The CompTIA A+ certification is geared towards support specialists, field service technicians, desktop support analysts, and help desk support professionals. If you want to start a career in a related field, this entry-level certification is widely recognized and respected in the industry. The certification tests your ability to troubleshoot and solve problems related to networking, operating systems, mobile devices, and security. The exam consists of two parts: one covers mobile devices, networking technology, hardware, virtualization and cloud computing, and network troubleshooting; the second covers installing and configuring operating systems, expanding security, and troubleshooting software and operational procedures. The CompTIA A+ certification can demonstrate your technical skills and knowledge to potential employers.
3. CompTIA Network+
The CompTIA Network+ is an entry-level certification covering a range of networking concepts, troubleshooting, operations, tools, security, and IT infrastructure. It suits junior network administrators, network field technicians, junior system engineers, IS consultants, and network field engineers. While it is recommended to have your CompTIA A+ certification and at least 9 to 12 months of networking experience before taking the exam, it is not required. The exam tests your knowledge of configuring, managing, and maintaining network devices; designing and implementing functional networks; network troubleshooting; and network security. If you are interested in working closely with IT networks, the CompTIA Network+ certification is a widely recognized and valuable credential that can set you apart from other entry-level candidates.
4. CompTIA Security+
The CompTIA Security+ certification is an important entry-level credential for anyone in a technology role, as it demonstrates your understanding of security principles. It is suitable for network, system, and security administrators; security specialists; junior IT auditors; security consultants; and security engineers. A new exam was launched in November 2020 that meets ISO 17024 standards and is approved by the US Department of Defense (DoD) to meet specific security requirements. The 90-minute exam covers threats, attacks, and vulnerabilities; risk management; architecture and design; technology and tools; cryptography and PKI; and identity and access management. By earning your Security+ certification, you can show employers that you have the skills to install and configure security systems by compliance laws.
5. AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam is an entry-level certification offered by Amazon that covers the fundamentals of IT services and their application on the AWS cloud platform. The exam covers coding, cloud architecture design, cloud security, troubleshooting, implementation, migration, load and performance testing, and business applications. While this certification is suitable for beginners, it is recommended that you have at least six months of exposure to the AWS cloud and knowledge of core AWS services, use cases, billing, pricing models, security concepts, and the impact of the cloud on business before attempting the exam.
6. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification is another popular certification from Cisco that demonstrates your knowledge and skills in working with networking systems. Cisco describes this entry-level certification as a "first step" in preparing for a career in IT technologies. It provides you with flexible skills that can be applied across the industry. The CCNA exam is a 120-minute test covering network fundamentals, network access, IP connectivity, IP services, security, automation, and programmability. Cisco offers a range of resources to help you prepare for the exam, including webinars, videos, and reading materials for each topic. If you are considering a career in network support, systems administration, or network administration, the CCNA certification is a valuable way to show potential employers your expertise in networking systems.
7. Microsoft 365 Certified: Fundamentals
"The Microsoft 365 Fundamentals certification covers the fundamentals of the Microsoft 365 suite of products and services. It demonstrates your understanding of the options available in Microsoft 365, the benefits of adopting cloud services, and the software as a service (SaaS) cloud model. The certification was updated on October 25, 2021, to include new information about the licensing options for Azure Active Directory Premium P1 and Premium P2. The exam will evaluate your knowledge of cloud concepts, core Microsoft 365 services and concepts, security, compliance, privacy, and trust in Microsoft 365. You will also be tested on your understanding of Microsoft 365 products, services, and pricing structures."
8. Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate
The Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate (200-201 CBROPS) is a highly regarded entry-level certification in the field of cybersecurity. It demonstrates your knowledge and understanding of basic cybersecurity concepts and skills in detecting and mitigating security threats. Familiarity with IT operations and networking principles are the only prerequisites for this exam. Obtaining this certification can enhance your resume, boost your confidence, and set you apart from other candidates in job interviews. It is also recognized globally as a professional credential. The exam covers security concepts, security monitoring, host-based analysis, network intrusion analysis, and security policies and procedures. If you want to jumpstart your career in cybersecurity, the Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate certification is worth considering.
9. Cisco Certified Technician (CCT)
The Cisco Certified Technician (CCT) certification demonstrates your ability to troubleshoot and repair Cisco networking and system devices on customer premises. This certification has two options: data center or routing and switching. This credential verifies your skills in diagnosing, restoring, and replacing critical equipment in these areas.
The Cisco Certified Technician (CCT) Data Center certification demonstrates your knowledge and ability to support and maintain Cisco Unified Computing systems and servers. This certification is intended for field support engineers who work with Cisco data center system devices and software. To be eligible for the exam, you must complete the Supporting Cisco Data Center System Devices (DCTECH) v2.0 course. This course covers essential topics such as data center networking fundamentals, field servicing, equipment replacement, and identifying Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) component models, accessories, cabling, and interfaces.
The Cisco Certified Technician (CCT) Routing and Switching certification demonstrate your expertise in supporting and maintaining Cisco routers, switches, and operating environments on-site. This credential is suitable for on-site technical support personnel and other support staff who work with Cisco Data Center Solutions. To be eligible for the exam, you must complete the Supporting Cisco Routing and Switching Network Devices (RSTECH) course. This online self-paced course covers fundamental networking concepts, different models of Cisco routers and switches, Cisco IOS software operating modes, and the Cisco command line interface (CLI).
10. PMI – Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
Project management is a rapidly expanding field, and companies worldwide are increasingly seeking trained and certified project managers to ensure successful and efficient project delivery. The Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) is a widely recognized certification that assesses an individual's ability to manage a project independently or as part of a team. By earning the online exam, you can demonstrate a thorough understanding and proficiency in project management in line with global standards. If you want to develop your skills and advance your career in project management, obtaining the CAPM certification is a valuable investment.
The final words
Obtaining one of the top 10 entry-level IT certifications can give your resume a competitive edge and help you advance your career more quickly. These certifications demonstrate a strong foundation in the field and can help you stand out from other candidates.