There are a variety of advantages to becoming an IT professional. As a computer support and security administrator, you can find work in all kinds of organizations, whether you prefer a government agency or the private sector. You can assist these organizations in various capacities, which includes managing hardware, software, and the network, as well as troubleshooting any potential IT issues. And, according to the most recent job outlook from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, network and computer systems administrators have the potential to earn $82,050 as a median salary (which equates to $39.45 per hour).
Whether you’re starting a career or looking to make a career switch, working to become an IT professional offers a promising path. In fact, there are so many IT job and certification options, it can be overwhelming. So today we’ll provide an IT certification roadmap, mostly so you understand the core certifications, as well as the two distinct career paths.
A Quick Guide to Online IT Certifications
You can go to college and take courses to become an IT professional, but getting your IT certifications online has some advantages, which starts with time and money. This is especially the case if you’re switching careers since IT training courses are less expensive and take weeks instead of years when compared to the cost and time it takes to achieve a four-year degree.
Once you decide to go the online IT training route, you’ll work to get the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) certifications, which build on each other as you keep obtaining them. Here are the key certifications to consider if you’re planning to become an IT professional.
CompTIA IT Fundamentals (ITF+)
With this certification, it’s all in the name. Knowing IT fundamentals will ensure you can perform key IT-related tasks, which includes having a command of common programs, applications, and operating systems; various computer hardware components and peripheral devices; basic network designs; sharing and storage; wireless vs. wired connections; basic security threats; and security best practices.
This is a must-have for computer support technicians and is considered an important first step for anyone interested in a long and prosperous IT career. Upon completion of this training program, you’ll have an understanding of operating system (OS) functionality and troubleshooting methodology; hardware, peripheral, networking, and security components; proper computer safety procedures and best practices; and how to install, configure, upgrade, and maintain PC workstations, Windows OS, and SOHO networks.
With this certification, you’re taking a step up to assess security risks and identify potential threats to hardware, software, and physical location. Also, you know to conduct risk mitigation for systems, hardware, and peripherals; implement best practices and procedures for host and OS hardening; utilize best models for authentication, identity management, and access control; and implement disaster recovery procedures and security contingency plans.
This certification allows you to become a Network Technician, which means you’ll be managing, configuring, and troubleshooting basic network infrastructure. Specifically, you’ll have the expertise to use common ports and networking protocols; understand and apply networking technologies and basic network design principles; install, configure, and differentiate between common network devices; install and manage wired and wireless networks; adhere to standards; and use modern testing tools.
CySA+ certification is the most up-to-date security analyst certification. This certification prepares professionals for a career in cybersecurity with a focus on “defensive” strategies to protect an organization at risk. People holding this certification can perform data analysis and interpret the results to identify vulnerabilities, threats, and risks to an organization; configure and use threat-detection tools; and security and protect applications and systems within an organization.
CompTIA PenTest+ is a certification that prepares current and future IT professionals for a career in cybersecurity, with a focus on “offensive” strategies to protect an organization at risk. With this certification, you can perform a vulnerability scan and analyze scan results; explain weaknesses related to specialized systems; summarize physical security attacks related to facilities; exploit wireless and RF-based vulnerabilities, application-based vulnerabilities, and local host vulnerabilities; analyze tool output or data related to a penetration test; and recommend mitigation strategies for discovered vulnerabilities.
From There, Choose Your IT Career Pathway
Another nice benefit of pursuing a career in IT is the option to follow distinct career paths. There are a variety of roles in IT security, which allows you to protect your organization’s (and their customers’) data from breaches. In today’s world, competent IT security experts are in demand, and potential jobs include Security Architect, Security Administrator, Security Software Developer, Cybersecurity Analyst, and Information Assurance Technician, among others. Depending on the role, you might need additional certifications, such as CompTIA PenTest+, CompTIA CySA+, and/or CompTIA CASP.
If you’re interested in supporting and managing data center and network operations, then IT infrastructure might be a better fit for you. In this pathway, you’ll be helping to manage your organization’s servers, machines, equipment, and more. There are also plenty of jobs in this field, which includes Computer Support Specialist, Network Architect, and IT Implementation Support Specialist, among others. To climb the ladder in this pathway, you might need to go after specialized certifications like CompTIA Linux+, CompTIA Server+, and/or CompTIA Cloud+.
In IT, It’s All About Following Your Interest
When becoming an IT professional, the earlier you determine your area of interest, the earlier you can figure out your area of expertise. Then you can plan out which certifications you need to help you gain upward mobility within your respective organization, or perhaps in a new organization altogether. One of the most appealing aspects of getting into IT is that there are plenty of different jobs to choose from. All that’s left for you is to take the first step, which is getting your core IT certifications.