While earning a degree will help you get your foot in the door, the average employer requires more from their staff. IT certifications are standard in many job descriptions, and earning yours in tandem with a degree is the best way to distinguish yourself in the job market. The certifications below are among the high-demand, high-paying IT specialties.
Why it works: The CCNA certification allows seasoned IT professionals to improve their skills and advance in the workplace. Its study focuses on the operations and troubleshooting of medium-sized networks and advanced concepts related to LAN and WAN design. It also allows students to polish their skills in IP addressing, routing protocols, VLAN, WLAN and network security management.
Why it works: The MCSA certification is the gateway to understanding, managing and troubleshooting Windows operating systems. MCSA is considered a prerequisite for advanced Microsoft certifications, and most entry-level IT positions require MCSA certification. According to a 2012 Microsoft study, "ninety-one percent of hiring managers consider certification as part of their hiring criteria." MCSA is desired in a variety of IT positions, including network and systems administration, operations analysis and technical support.
Why it works: This certification is the foundation of knowledge in the areas of network security, compliance and operational security, threats and vulnerabilities, access control and identity management, cryptography and application, and data and host security. Security+ certified employees understand how to anticipate and mitigate IT risk within a variety of networks. For those looking to establish a niche within IT security, this certification is a must.
Why it works: The CCNET certification is intended for IT professionals on their way to earning full CCNA certification. The curriculum covers the basics of OSI models, DNS, NAT, router configuration and general routing. CCNET is ideal for IT professionals looking to advance in their field and manage small business IT networks.
Why it works: This certification is perfect for entry-level employees in the roles of network administration, installation, technician and help services. The curriculum covers a variety of network duties, including installation and configuration, technologies, media, management, security and topologies. The CompTIA Network+ certification is an unofficial prerequisite for many advanced certifications, including CCNA and CCENT.
The bottom line: Don't settle for a degree that lacks tangible experience. Find a course of study that allows you to develop your skills through industry-driven certifications. The result will help you solidify your skills in the workplace.