Where to Start Preparing for IT Certifications
Are you thinking about getting certified and wondering where to start? IT certifications are clearly a useful asset for those wanting to begin a career in IT. A recent survey of hiring managers in tech companies found that 72% said they are more likely to hire someone with a certification.
Earning a certification requires passing an exam, and passing an exam requires getting prepared. So what’s the best way to do so? To help you answer that question, we’ll clarify what you’re actually preparing for and then look at the most common options for preparation.
First, though, we should briefly address the question: Which certification should I pursue?
Which Certification Should I Get First?
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably just getting started in IT and trying to find out the best path forward. An important point to keep in mind is that no matter where you’d eventually like to end up in your career, whether it be cloud computing or cybersecurity, you’re going to have to understand the fundamentals.
That means it is a good idea to begin with a certification that is designed to assess your grasp of the most important areas of IT on which the more specialized areas are built.
There are a few different certifications out there that fit this description, but probably the most widely recognized is the CompTIA A+. It will help open doors to you for entry-level positions in IT. From there, you can pursue further training and certifications to grow into the area that interests you most.
What Are You Really Preparing For?
So let’s assume you want to earn an entry-level certification like the CompTIA A+. What does it mean to get prepared?
It’s easy to give a quick answer here: you’re getting ready to take (and pass) an exam. While that is certainly true, there is probably much more to it than that.
What do we mean? Well, consider what the purpose of a certification is. It signals to an employer that you possess the skills and knowledge needed for a specific job. You are probably pursuing a certification because you want to land a job in IT. If that’s true, then you should be thinking not just of preparing for an exam but preparing for a career.
What will you need to be prepared for that?
There are four key areas in which you’ll want to get ready:
1. Knowing the material
When you were a student in high school, did you ever cram for an exam and get a good grade only to realize a couple of weeks later that you had forgotten everything? If the only thing you’re interested in is passing an exam, you only need to know enough to answer the questions. And you only need to know it until the exam is finished.
When you are preparing for a job, however, you want to know the material on a different level. You want to deeply understand and master concepts and techniques so you’ll have confidence on the first day of the job that you know how to handle the work assigned to you.
2. Having the right soft skills
Employers aren’t just looking for employees who have all the necessary technical knowledge. Other skills are just as important to success in the workplace, like communication, organization, problem solving, and initiative.
According to a report by CompTIA, one of the challenges cited by the HR staff at firms hiring in IT is finding well-rounded workers who possess both the technical and soft skills desired. If you can develop both, you will have a decisive competitive advantage on the job market.
3. Knowing how to find a job
Having your certification in hand is just the first step. You’ll need to know the best strategies for leveraging that credential into an actual job. Learning about the job market, how it works, where you should look, etc. will make the process of landing a position more efficient and more likely to be successful.
4. Preparing for the job market
As you explore the process of finding a job, you’ll learn that you need a professional resume and that it is a good idea to also have a LinkedIn profile. You’ll hear about the importance of networking and the need to practice interviewing skills. Understanding how to excel in these areas is a key aspect of your job search.
In short, when you are thinking about an entry-level certification in IT, you want to prepare for more than just the exam. You want to prepare for the job and the process of landing it. What are your options?
Common Ways to Prepare for IT Certifications
Most people who are getting ready to take a certification exam will prepare in one (or a combination) of the following ways:
Experience - working hands-on with computers and software at home and at work
Self-study - using instructional materials like books, blogs, websites, and video lectures
College - enrolling in a 2-year or 4-year program in information technology, computer science, or a related area
Training - joining a focused program that specializes in preparing students to take a certification exam
Where Should You Start?
Which of these makes the most sense for you? If you think about the four areas you need to prepare for, which we discussed above, you can see that some of these paths might be fine for getting you ready to just pass the exam, but probably won’t help you much with some of the other things you’ll need.
For instance, if you’re self-motivated and have strong study skills, you can probably prepare for the CompTIA A+ certification exam using materials you can find online. Similarly, if you’ve loved tech from a young age and have lots of experience building your own computers and troubleshooting software issues, you might be ready to take the exam now.
However, neither of these routes is going to help you with soft skills, understanding the job market, or getting ready for a successful job search.
A good college program will give you a deep understanding of the technical side of IT and you’ll probably grow in your soft skills during your years of study. You may not receive much guidance when it comes to finding a job, however, and this route requires a significant investment of time and money.
What about training? There are a variety of programs that fit in this category and they differ quite a bit in terms of what they offer. Some are 5-day boot camps that amount to cramming for an exam. Others are more extended and give adequate time for the information to really sink in.
Most training programs, though, are focused on the certification exam and leave unaddressed the other ways you’ll really want to be prepared to enter a career in IT.
Training offered by CompTIA Career Tech Academy, in contrast, is designed to get you ready in all four areas described above. Keep reading to find out how the It-Ready Technical Support works.
Preparing for Your Career with CompTIA Career Tech
Here’s how we help you get ready:
Know the material - You’ll have 300 hours of interactive, online instruction over 16 weeks taught by CompTIA-certified instructors. You won’t just get information; you’ll also have the chance to put it into practice. At the end of the program, you’ll feel confident not just about the exam but about excelling in the workplace.
Develop soft skills - Our program is designed to develop your non-technical abilities as well so you’ll be the kind of well-rounded employee companies are looking to hire.
Understand the job market - You’ll receive instruction and mentoring from professionals who understand how you should approach finding your first position.
Be equipped to land a job - Our career services staff will help you develop your resume, polish your LinkedIn profile, practice in mock interviews, and make connections with employers who hire our graduates.
There are a number of ways to start preparing for IT certifications. But CompTIA Tech Career Academy can help you prepare and pass your CompTIA A+ certification exam and prepare you for your career. Why not see if it’s the right program for you?