5 IT Certifications That Will Get Your Foot in the Door

Job: noun \jäb\ The work that a person does regularly in order to earn money.

Career: noun \kə-ˈrir\ A profession for which one trains and which is undertaken as a permanent calling.

Most of us know the feeling of working a job simply to make ends meet, but eventually there comes a time when you’re ready to exchange that job (or jobs) into a fulfilling career. And once you realize what you want for your future, suddenly your future can’t come soon enough.

If you have hopes of becoming a lawyer or a surgeon, your future will inevitably be postponed a few years to acquire the proper education. But if you believe you’re destined for an information technology (IT) career there are opportunities to get started much sooner!

There are a handful of entry-level careers in the technology field that you can land simply by acquiring the proper IT certification, says Justin Denton, head of the personal support center at Chicago-based Collegis Education. To assist you in your quest to launch your career as soon as possible, we used real-time market intelligence to identify the top IT certifications in the industry.

Get certified to get started

Many IT positions deal with specific technical procedures or software, so becoming certified in a specialized area proves to employers that you have the precise skills needed to succeed. Denton explains that most certification programs are self-study, meaning you have the ability to set your pace.

Earning an IT certification is the fastest way to get your feet wet in the field, Denton says. Landing an entry-level job is the first step to gaining the experience and further education necessary to advance your tech career.

5 IT certifications in demand

If you’re curious about which IT certifications will provide the most job opportunities, look no further! We used real-time job analysis software to analyze more than 136,000 entry-level IT job postings from 2013 in order to identify the top five IT certifications employers are seeking from candidates without a college degree.*

Here’s what we found:


1. Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)

What is it? This is an intermediate-level certification that recognizes advanced skills in computer networking, with a special focus on the support and installation of LAN/WAN networks. Individuals with a CCNP certification specialize in routing and switching scalable networks such as intranets and campuses.

Certification process: To become CCNP certified you must pass three exams that cover routing, switching and troubleshooting IP networks. The fees for these exams add up to approximately $500.

Available jobs in 2013: 10,179

Most common job titles:


2. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

What is it? The CCNA is a lower-level certification that assures employers you are able to install, operate and configure enterprise level switches and routers. CCNA certified individuals can also detect and solve common network problems and have the option of specializing in security, voice or wireless networking

Certification process: You can become CCNA certified by passing a single 90-minute written exam which costs around $295.

Available jobs in 2013: 8,368

Most common job titles:


3. CompTIA A+ Technician

What is it? CompTIA A+ is an entry-level certification and is a basic starting point for an IT career. Certified A+ technicians handle the maintenance of PCs, printers, operating systems, mobile devices and laptops.

Certification process: You must pass two exams in order to receive the CompTIA A+ certification—one multiple choice and one performance-based. The exam costs approximately $188.

Available jobs in 2013: 6,318

Most common job titles:

4. Project Management Professional (PMP)

What is it? Those who have earned a PMP certification have proven themselves capable of leading and directing project teams. This the most globally-recognized credential for project managers and is valuable in several industries—not just technology.

Certification process: You must pass a 200-question, multiple-choice test in order to earn your PMP certification. The exam fees range from $250 - $600 depending on your preferred membership status.

Available jobs in 2013: 5,542

Most common job titles:


5. Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE)

What is it? The MCSE is a mid-level certification that validates an individual’s ability to build innovative solutions across multiple technologies. MCSE certification is offered in the following specializations: server infrastructure, desktop infrastructure, private cloud, data platform, business intelligence, messaging, communication and SharePoint.

Certification process: The steps to become certified will vary depending on your preferred concentration, but the exam is a five-step process that incorporates various question formats such as multiple choice, drag-and-drop and simulation problems. The exams typically cost $150 regardless of the specialization.

Available jobs in 2013: 4,905

Most common job titles:

Why wait?

Earning one of these top IT certifications may be all that’s standing in the way of your future, so what are you waiting for? If you’re ready to leave behind your job in order to launch your career, there’s no better time than now to join the IT industry.

Not only can you get started sooner than you thought, you might also have the potential to make more money than you expected. Take a look at these 10 impressive entry-level IT salaries—odds are you’ll like what you see!

*BurningGlass.com (Analysis of 136,117 entry-level IT jobs, Jan. 1 - Dec. 31, 2013)


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Callie is a Content Marketing Specialist who writes helpful and encouraging career-focused content on behalf of Rasmussen College. Her eagerness for helping others combined with her creative writing passion makes her a great asset to past, present and prospective learners...

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