Why the Right Certification is Key to Getting an Entry Level IT Job
The US labor market has been in an unusual season of upheaval during the past couple of years. The “Great Resignation” has resulted in millions of workers looking to begin a new job and often a new career.
One great option? The IT sector, which is expected to continue to expand solidly over the years to come. In fact, the number of information technology jobs is projected to grow by 13% in the present decade. Moreover, IT positions are often remote, which has become increasingly attractive as the post-pandemic economy has moved forward.
Whether you’re transitioning from another career or just beginning your career journey, IT certification is an important first step in helping you get your start in an entry level IT job.
What is IT certification? And is it a smart first step for entry-level IT jobs?
For employers, candidates with certifications solve a problem. Hiring someone requires a risk - whether you will be the right person with the right skills to answer that particular need. To lower the risk, those involved in hiring will want to see some evidence that you have what it takes to do the job well. A certification shows you can do the job and do it well. A potential employer may not be sure what you have gained from your experience or education, but a certification signals you have the specific skills and know-how they need.
Here’s how certification sets you above the competition:
It makes you stand out from the crowd: There will be plenty of others applying for that same entry-level job. Having a certification will give the hiring manager an excellent reason to select you over a competitor who lacks one.
It provides an objective measure of your skills and knowledge: This is true even if you have a college degree or relevant experience. Those things are great but are much harder for a potential employer to assess. With a certification, the hiring manager knows for sure what you are able to do.
It lets employers know you are up to date: Things in the IT world change quickly. The right certification will signal that you are familiar with the latest trends and best practices.
Now that you understand the role of a certification and why having one is a significant asset in landing an entry-level position in IT, let’s consider how to choose the best certification to have.
So. What is the best certificate program for you?
Once you start researching the subject you’ll see that there is a wide variety of certificate programs that you can invest in. The question is - how do you choose? Keep in mind the purpose of the certification in the first place: it acts as evidence of your skills and knowledge to give a company confidence in hiring you.
To make your choice, first, you’ll want a certification that is widely recognized and respected.
Just as a degree from a prestigious university is more impressive to a potential employer than one from an obscure, unaccredited college, employers will be looking for a certification they know and trust.
Second, you should identify a certification that assesses the skills and knowledge that are most important to potential employers. If a certification is well designed, it will cover the areas that are in demand in today’s marketplace. This won’t just give your employer reassurance; it will also help you to have the confidence that you know how to do the job.
The CompTIA A+ Certification
With this as your criteria, the CompTIA A+ certification has proven a smart, effective program for entry-level career advancement - in fact, it’s become the industry standard as a foundation for a career in IT.
According to CompTIA, this certification is part of the hiring process for 9 out of 10 tech organizations. This includes companies like Apple, Intel, and Dell. Almost two million IT professionals have a CompTIA certification. This is a certification, in other words, that is widely known and trusted.
In addition, the exams for the certification are created by a team of industry experts and updated every three years. It assesses those areas of skill and knowledge that are most in demand for jobs today.
What areas does the CompTIA A+ certification cover?
The certification is designed to ensure you’ve got the essential core knowledge you need for a robust career in IT. This includes an understanding of computer hardware, operating systems, networking, working with mobile devices, and security. No matter which career path you are considering within IT, a basic understanding of all these areas is crucial.
Which entry-level IT jobs will it qualify me for?
The CompTIA A+ certification shows you have the qualifications to understand hardware and software in order to diagnose and solve common user problems with things like operating systems and network connections. You’ll also know how to configure user devices and get software and networking set up and functioning properly. You will have a basic understanding of security best practices to safeguard data for individuals and organizations.
These are the kinds of skills needed in positions like IT Specialist, Help Desk Technician, Field Service Technician, and Technical Support Specialist. There are a variety of positions like these that focus on helping others get the most out of computing technology by setting it up, managing it, and solving problems when they arise.
According to the State of the Tech Workforce report, tech jobs are projected to grow at about double the average of other jobs over the next decade. That means the skills you demonstrate with a CompTIA A+ certification will continue to be in demand.
How do I get certified?
CompTIA A+ certification is awarded after successfully passing the certification exam. The exam has two parts of 90 minutes each and consists of questions that test your knowledge as well as performance-based elements that assess your skills. It is offered in testing centers or online.
Once you pass, your certification will give you:
A powerful signal to potential employers that you have the knowledge and skills needed for entry-level IT jobs
A way to stand out from other job applicants—even those with experience
Confidence that you’re equipped to begin an exciting career in information technology
How can I prepare for certification?
The certification exam is designed to assess what you know and can do. Before taking it, then, you need to make sure you have the appropriate skills and have mastered the information it covers.
There are several routes to getting there, including:
Self-paced online learning resources
Specialized, in-depth training.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these approaches and you’ll need to carefully consider which makes the most sense for you.
Many have had success by preparing through CompTIA Tech Career Academy. It offers a program that prepares you for an entry-level position in IT that includes real-time instruction with individuals who have actual experience in the field. The program culminates in the CompTIA A+ exam.
It is designed to offer a lot more than just preparation for the CompTIA A+ exam, however. It includes a focus on developing the soft skills, like communication, that are another important element of success in the workplace. Plus you’ll get support to help you prepare for and land your first job.
If you’d like to learn more, have a look at the IT-Ready Technical Support program overview. You may also be interested to see how our program compares to other training options.
IT is a booming industry and all signs indicate it will continue to expand in the future. Getting your CompTIA A+ certification will give you what you need to launch your new career in this exciting field.