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The good thing about IT certifications is that they are not difficult to obtain from various service providers. Just because you are starting with a certification from one provider, it does not mean that you are stuck with that provider. Sure, some of the more advanced programs require previous certification from this provider, but many of them simply have experience requirements.
Another reason why there is such a good choice of degrees in the IT industry is that there are so many certifications for a particular technology. You are not limited to one certificate if you are a software developer. Network engineers have different certifications that they can obtain, just as information security experts, database administrators, and support personnel.
For these reasons, I believe there are a variety of paths you can take, for whatever role in the IT industry you are in.
Should I stay with single provider certification paths?
There are many certification providers in the IT industry. CompTIA, Microsoft, and Cisco are some of the big players in this field. All of them offer several certifications that appeal to all types of IT professionals. It also allows you to follow the certification path they set and recommend.
For example, the recommended certification path from Microsoft includes MCTS, MCITP, and possibly MCM. This may have changed with the recent introduction of MCSE and other certifications, but overall there is a hierarchy and path for Microsoft technologies. Alternatively, Cisco offers a similar certification path, which begins with CCENT, then CCNA, CCNP, and possibly CCIE.
Of course, there are more than these three or four certifications for each provider. Each of them has its own technology specialty – which means that even if you want to stay with one certification provider, you totally have a choice. There are many technologies for which Microsoft provides certification, in addition to Cisco.
More specialist companies also offer a certification pathway and a range of certifications. Both Oracle and Red Hat offer valuable certifications to database and Linux professionals, respectively.
Obtaining certificates from various service providers
The common path for people in the IT industry is to obtain certifications from different providers. This is possible and is recommended in some cases for those who have certifications. For example, a common certification path for those working in the networking field is to get the A+ and Network+ certifications from CompTIA, and then get the CCNA from Cisco. This combination works well together and is a great way to kickstart your networking career.
This is not always possible. Many higher-level degrees require certification before they can be earned. Many MCITP certifications from Microsoft require an MCTS certification. CCIE certifications usually require a CCNP certification. Don’t let this deter you though – getting certifications from multiple providers is a good way to enhance your knowledge of a subject and improve the way you do business in the field.
What is the right certification path for me?
We’ve outlined some points about certification pathways and how different providers work. Now, you might be wondering, which one is right for you? We can answer this by answering a few questions:
What field of IT do you work in, or what field would you like to get into? This will limit, or at least narrow down your choices for certificates and the resulting path.
What is your level of expertise? Some certifications are aimed at new beginners, while others are aimed at experts – with many of them out there.
How much do you want to get the certificate? Some IT professionals want all the certifications they can get, which can be as high as 20. Others are content with just one or two. This will determine the path you wish to take.
Answering these questions about yourself and your career in IT will help you understand which certification path is right for you.
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