Guest Blog: Focus on the Future: Certifications That Propel You to a Successful Career


By Travis Adams

As an information technology professional, you know that your work is about more than bits and bytes, despite stereotypes perpetuated by movies

and popular television shows. As technology takes an ever more prominent role in everyday life, possessing the skills and knowledge necessary to maintain computers and computer systems becomes increasingly essential. In many instances, specialized training is necessary to perform the functions necessary to keep systems up and running.

In this respect, earning advanced IT certification is definitely a smart career move for IT professionals who wish to progress in their careers. But which certifications are regarded as the best? Should you attempt to study for the examinations on your own or through programs such as Countrywide Training? While the decision ultimately rests with each IT professional, there are general principles to consider when deciding to pursue advanced IT certification. There are also advanced IT certification credentials that are widely regarded as representing the gold standard in IT certification.

What Skills Do You Presently Possess?

It seems simplistic to state, but any consideration of whether you should pursue advanced IT training, let alone which specific certifications you should acquire, should begin with an assessment of the skills and experience you already possess. Compare your skills, education and other qualifications with the requirements to pursue the specific certifications that you are considering. If you are not a good match already, is it feasible for you to obtain whatever qualifications you need to fill the gaps? Making these kinds of candid assessments can save you both money and time, not to mention the frustration of futilely pursuing a credential which you will never be able to attain.

What Are Your Career Interests?

On the other hand if you adopt an attitude of being willing to do whatever it takes to qualify for the certification you want, you face fewer constraints. In this instance, you are free to consider whatever career interests you have, and then match them to the certification that will get you through the door of the IT sector you desire. Bear in mind that many IT specialties have more than one level of certification, and that earning a basic level of certification is a totally legitimate strategy to put yourself on a path to obtaining higher-level and more lucrative positions within a given specialty.

General or Vendor-Specific?

One area of controversy within the IT arena is whether professionals should focus on generalized training that is applicable across platforms and manufacturers or specialize in training sponsored by a particular manufacturer. Of course, if your dream job is located in a strictly-Cisco company, it makes sense to pursue Cisco certification. On the other hand, if you are casting a wide net of possibilities, you may be better off seeking more generalized training. This is one instance where conducting research and performing due diligence are essential before choosing a certification program.

Choose the Right Certification Program

There are far too many IT certification programs available to list in one place. The selection below is not intended to be exhaustive. Instead, the capsule descriptions included are intended to provide an idea of the options for certification that are available for professionals at different stages of their careers.

Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP)

If you are an IT professional who intends to specialize in working with Microsoft products earning the MCP is the gateway to other MS credentials such as Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) certification. Passing any Microsoft examination is sufficient to earn basic MCP certification.

Cisco Certified Network Administrator (CCNA)

CCNA certification provides a solid qualification for early to mid-level IT professionals and IT professionals seeking positions in small to mid-size operations. Earning CCNA credentials also provides a solid foundation for moving up to more advanced Cisco certifications, including the coveted Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE).

IBM Certified Specialist

Obtaining IBM Certified Specialist status demonstrates to prospective employers you are capable of basic configuration, administration and maintenance of all IBM products. This basic certification features a broad spectrum of specializations you must choose from based on the specific area where you intend to concentrate your efforts.

A+ and Server+

Not just an outstanding grade in school, A+ represents arguably the most popular entry level certification for IT professionals, especially PC technicians. Server+ certification represents the next step and is designed for IT professionals who wish to obtain advanced hardware certification. Server+ certification deals specifically with Industry Standard Server Architecture (ISSA) issues, such as multiple CPUs.

Project Management Professional (PMP)

Project Management Professional certification is obtained through evaluation by the Project Management Institute, the nonprofit organization that serves as a primary membership organization for project managers. This exam tests candidates on their knowledge of planning, budgeting and executing technology projects. To obtain the highly regarded PMP credential, you must have five years of direct project management experience or three years of project management experience plus an additional thirty-five hours of related education.


While Windows continues to be the dominant operating system, with Mac OS running a distant but significant second, Linux has continued to make inroads, especially among open source practitioners. The Linux certification exam, administered by CompTIA, is vendor and distributor neutral. Instead, the emphasis is on evaluating candidates' grasp of basic Linux skills on both the client and server side. Candidates should have at least six to 12 months of experience with Red Hat, SUSE or Ubuntu systems before attempting the Linux+ certification examination.

Oracle Certified Associate (OCA) and Oracle Certified Professional (OCP)

Oracle Certified Associate certification focuses on fundamentals of Oracle databases. Candidates must pass two exams. Oracle Certified Professional certification is intended for Internet operators, but only requires one exam.

Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) and CompTIA Trainer (CTT+)

Two of the most advanced certification programs for IT trainers are Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) certification and CompTIA Training (CTT+) certification. In order to obtain advanced MCT, CTT+ or any other advanced IT certification training, you must hold advanced certification in the relevant subject matter you intend to train in and maintain continuing education in training.

Travis Adams is passionate about IT career training. He enjoys writing about his years of industry experience to help novices become professionals.