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Which IT Certification is Right for Me?

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The IT job market is larger and more varied than most people realize. In fact, there are around 5 million IT professionals in the US alone, and that number is expected to grow by 11% in the next ten years.

There are multiple specialties within the world of IT, and each of those specialties requires different certifications. It all depends on what you choose to specialize in.

IT Specialties to Explore

Before you can determine what steps to take to build your career in IT, you need to know what you want that career to be. Most IT jobs fall within two key specialties: networking or systems administration.

Network Specialist

A networking specialist is someone who specializes in managing the internal network within an office. For example, you’ll be responsible for the connections between employees’ computers and the printers and other machines in the office as well as shared storage drives throughout the office. You’ll be responsible for installing, updating, and troubleshooting software around the office and you’ll be an expert in both wired and wireless networks.

There are five key certifications that will pave the way for this IT path: A+, Network+, Security+, Linux+, and Cisco CCNA. A+ is a professional certification that covers an overview of many IT topics. It focuses largely on hardware but it covers some software support as well, and it includes a working knowledge of networking and security.

Network+ and Security+ are a bit more specialized. Network+ tests your knowledge of networking tasks like network configuration and support, while Security+ focuses on multiple aspects of cybersecurity so you can keep your network safe.

Linux+ is all about the Linux operating system. The certification tests your knowledge about how to use Linux to manage cloud infrastructure, maintain security, and operate web and mobile applications.

The Cisco Certified Network Associate exam, or CCNA, focuses primarily on Cisco’s networking ecosystem. The certification covers the fundamentals of networking as well as IP connectivity, network access and security, IP services, and network automation.

Systems Administration

A system administrator is often the person you think of as an office’s IT specialist. They handle all the IT systems within the office, from hardware to software. This includes managing the complex hardware of servers, switches, and routers in addition to essential cybersecurity and software troubleshooting.

For a career in systems administration, there are three primary certifications you should have: Network+, Security+, and Microsoft MCSA.

Network+ is an essential certification from the CompTIA catalog because not all employers have a networking specialist available. As a systems administrator, you may be the only IT staff member available, making you responsible for the network administration as well.

Security+ is also critical because cybersecurity is such a top concern among companies today. In fact, 63% of businesses say their data may have been compromised in the past 12 months and no one wants to be the next big data breach victim in the news.

On top of these two CompTIA certifications, a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (or MCSA) certification will be important for building your career. This certification focuses on the Microsoft ecosystem, from the Windows operating system to Microsoft’s networking technology.

How Do I Choose My IT Specialty?

Launching your IT career starts with narrowing down your specialty, but that’s easier said than done. The fact is that both network specialists and systems administrators have excellent salary expectations and job outlooks. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, these professionals earned a median salary of over $83,000 last year and the field is expected to grow by 4%.

With similar job and salary outlooks for both specialties, it comes down to personal preference. The good news is that ICOHS College offers two well-aligned programs: IT Network Specialist and IT Systems Administrator.

Based on the two career paths above, consider which specialty most appeals to you. As you get further into the program and learn more about the skills and tools you’ll be using in your career, you’ll be able to see whether you’ve made the right choice.

In fact, some people decide their specialty as they learn about the basics of IT. For instance, as you’re studying for the A+ certification, you’ll learn the essentials about networking and systems administration. Pay attention to which topics interest you more and you’ll be on your way to finding the perfect career path.

Starting Your IT Certification Training at ICOHS College

ICOHS College’s two IT certificate programs are designed to prepare you for everything you’ll need in your IT career. Our programs train you based on the IT certification exams you’ll need to pass, setting you up for success from the start. To get started, learn more about our IT training programs.

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