Eye on Certification: Entry-Level Credentials

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Many recent polls and studies on the most in-demand skills and certifications in IT have included security, storage, and network and system design — all the specialties one might expect to find. Professionals in these fields typically have a substantial amount of vocational experience, as well as a few high-level certifications.


Entry-level credentials, however, seldom are included in these lists of hot or lucrative IT credentials. This isn’t all that surprising because by their very nature, these certifications avoid highly technical exposure to a particular area of expertise. Instead, they focus only on the fundamentals of IT.


This hardly diminishes the value of these programs for IT professionals, though, especially those just entering the job market. You’ve got to start somewhere, after all, and these credentials are a sound stepping stone to the next level of your career. In addition, these certifications are ideal for employees in other industries who don’t need to be well-versed in a specific forte within IT but simply want to have a strong foundation of computer skills.


This week, we’ll give an overview a couple of the best entry-level offerings in the certification universe.




Certiport’s IC3 credential is a logical place to start because it’s probably the most rudimentary technical certification today. IC3 is designed to provide basic computer literacy and Internet skills to individuals about to enter the job market, commence a higher-education program or just learn IT basics. Participants can be (and often are) as young as junior high school students or as old as retirees.


The program covers computing fundamentals (computer hardware identification and functionality, general software concepts and how to use an operating system), key applications (common program functions, word processing, spreadsheets and presentation software) and online basics (relationship between networks and the Internet, e-mail, Web browsing and research, and the impact of the Internet and computers on society).


After completing the three exams required for the certification, IC3 holders will have the core skills needed to perform basic computing tasks and possess an IT credential that will look good on any resume. Also, they’ll be better prepared to take on additional certifications — such as the next one on our list.


For more information, see http://www.certiport.com.




Under the previous version of CompTIA’s A+ (which actually will be around until the end of June), there were two exams that covered principles of hardware and software. With the newest iteration, the content of the hardware and software tests have been more or less combined in a single exam: CompTIA A+ Essentials. The other test, CompTIA A+ No. 220-602, deals with the on-the-job application of things such as soft skills, IT security, and safety and environmental issues, as well as the subjects covered in the Essentials exam.


Also, the CompTIA A+ has two additional exams to align it more closely to specific job roles in the IT industry. The two newest A+ exams will deal with remote support and bench support, respectively.


Under the new CompTIA A+ structure, candidates who pass the Essentials exam and one of the other three test options will be designated as CompTIA A+ certified. Their certificate will indicate which of the three exams they passed: IT Technician (No. 220-602), Remote Support Technician (No. 220-603) or Depot Technician (No. 220-604).


Because of CompTIA’s status as an IT industry association, as well as the solid foundational content of the program, A+ is included in the certification tracks of a number of organizations, including Cisco, Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Novell and Symantec. Additionally, several companies (including Best Buy, Compaq, Sears, Xerox and State Farm) preferentially hire or require their employees to hold a CompTIA A+ certification.


For more information, see http://www.comptia.org.


Many vendor-specific programs, such as Microsoft, Sun, Novell and Cisco, offer a hierarchy of certifications that start with foundation-level credentials. To figure out in which ones you should participate, consider your area of interest, your strengths, the products and solutions with which you have the most experience, your employer’s demand and so forth. The routes to the top are numerous — just make sure to grab a strong branch on your climb up the certification tree!

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