Finding the Right Certification for Your Resume

You may know that IT certifications can make you more desirable to hiring managers, but which certifications will help you the most? In a time when industry analysts say IT hiring is about to pick up, our Datamation columnist says these may be critical questions to answer correctly.
Posted February 26, 2004

Drew Bird

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You may know that IT certifications can boost your resume and make you more desirable to hiring managers, but which certifications will help you the most? And which ones should you avoid?

In a time when industry analysts say IT hiring is about to pick up, these may be critical questions to answer correctly.

Back in the late 1990's, when the IT industry was booming, companies and organizations of all types scrambled to create certification programs that would satisfy the needs of a qualification-hungry workforce. Even though the past few years have been tough on the certification industry, today, with the economy poised on the cusp of what is being forecast as a long and healthy recovery, many IT professionals are once again looking to certification as a means of verifying and validating their skills.

The only problem is that the sheer variety of certification programs now available makes it difficult to know what pieces of paper are worth the investment required to attain them. So to help you sort the wheat from the chaff, we set out to identify what's going to be hot in IT certification over the coming year.

As in years past, the traditional mainstays of the IT certification industry are expected to continue their success in 2004. Certifications like A+ and Network+ from CompTIA, the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) and Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), and the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) will form the cornerstone of many individuals' certification strategy.

But while these foundational IT qualifications are easily identified by those starting out, for those already certified, or those looking for an edge over their counterparts, how to proceed is less clear.

Focusing on Security Without doubt, the hot topic of 2004 will be security.

As if security issues were not already a headache for IT managers, problems like the recent MyDoom virus outbreak serve as a timely reminder that every organization needs to have suitably skilled personnel on staff. In a survey by CompTIA of more than 600 IT professionals, 80 percent of respondents cited a lack of IT security knowledge and training as the cause of most security issues. Almost one in four respondents said they were recommending security certification for their IT staff.

But while IT managers recognize the need for IT security skills, many lack the knowledge required to determine if a prospective candidate has the ability to fulfill the role of a security expert. As it has in the past, certification serves acts as a guide, proving that a candidate has attained and demonstrated a certain level of knowledge.

Therefore, if companies will have an increasing need for security savvy professionals, it stands to reason that people with security related certifications are likely be in high demand over the coming year.

The ground level certification in the security arena is Security+ from CompTIA. Designed for people with two-years experience in networking, the Security+ certification covers a broad range of security related issues, such as cryptography, access control and authentication. Anyone familiar with CompTIA exams and testing methods will not find too many surprises in the Security+ exam.

And employer awareness of CompTIA certifications is very high, due largely to the popularity of other programs like A+ and Network+. These two factors alone make Security+ a wise choice for anyone looking to answer the call for security-minded IT pros in 2004.

As good as Security+ is, though, it is not your only option when it comes to security-related certifications.

There are a number of other entry-level security certifications worth considering, such as GIAC's Security Essentials Certification and TruSecure ICSA Certified Security Associate. Also worth checking out is the Security Certified Network Professional (SCNP) certification.

All of these certifications, like Security+, offer a vendor-independent perspective of security, though most include discussion of skills related to securing common operating systems.

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