I highly recommend that anyone pursue a degree at some point, to expand their learning and thinking, but having it is not necessary for an IT career; neither is it a guarantee. Whether you choose to go the path of education or certification to achieve your career goals, one thing remains the same between them: you need some general education.
In a degree program, general education includes math, English, science and more. When you focus your career training in IT, your general education includes some basic applications, hardware, operating system, networking and security knowledge. Additionally, some of the certifications are necessary just to get past the door of HR and into the interview. Here are the top five skills worth pursuing for 99% of IT careers:
- Applications (MOS): I choose to use Microsoft Office because a majority of businesses still use it without fail, as well as many home users. Having a Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certification or two shows that you are ready to take on the business side of the IT job. No matter what field you pursue, you will likely be using Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint extensively. It helps if you have more than a basic knowledge of these applications.
- Operating Systems (MCTS): Along with Office, most companies also use Windows since it comes pre-installed on the majority of business machines. Taking classes and pursuing a Microsoft Certified Technical Specialist in Windows 7 Configuration (the most current OS) shows that you are smarter than the average bear and have basic configuration and troubleshooting skills.
- Hardware (A+): CompTia’s A+ certification is one of the first certifications people pursue, and one of the hardest; but it is also the only well-respected, non-specific hardware certification on the market. It reflects a thorough understanding of hardware elements, including troubleshooting and upgrading, as well as elements of network and security.
- Networking (Network+): Some people may think they do not need CompTia’s Network+ because they do not plan to be network technicians. On the contrary, fundamental networking knowledge is essential to most IT jobs. The baseline knowledge gained in this certification applies not only to networking, but also servers, programming, databases, security and more.
- Security (Security+): Everything today revolves around security. While other certifications exist that are better, this CompTia Security+ certification is a great essential to have to understanding everything from concepts to security threats. Show that you are security-minded, this will apply to every field.