What IT certs are worth getting?

I’m looking into getting a job as a either a hardware tech (fixing stuff), a network tech (running around cables, some administration, backups, etc.) or some sort of help desk. I’ve got some decent practical experience and quite a lot of classes that cover a lot of certs. I could easily pass a+ tests, network+ tests, maybe the server+ test (all CompTIA), I have the knowledge for MCPs in 2k pro, 2k server, admin active dir, admin tcp/ip, designing security, designing active dir, designing tcp/ip infrastructure, windows 98 - and there are a few other certs out there that I forget that I could easily acquire.

But I’m not sure what’s worth what in the IT community anymore. Is A+ still considered valuable and looked for by employers, or has a more modern hardware cert come about? What about network+? Anyone care about that?

I’m probably going to eventually get a 2k MCSE (4 core and 3 electives listed above), but what about other certs that will help me?

I’m only making enough to take one or two cert tests a week, so I’m trying to get the ones that will get my foot in the IT door as quickly as possible.

A+ and Network+ certs don’t mean anything. MCSE does not mean much, either. Some good ones include CCNA, Sun admin, Oracle DBA, etc.

A+ isn’t worth much, but alot of employers have it as a requirement for consideration anyway. It’s kinda like a pre-requisite like Algebra is to Calculus. My employer required it of me when I was hired. I am a network technician.

A+ or Network+ could help you if you have absolutely no working experience at all.

Except to the millions of businesses with Microsoft based networks in place.

MCSE is probably your most recognized, and therefore very valuable cert. Seems like you’re about ready to take the tests as well.

Cisco seems wanted as well. Take a scan through hotjobs or dice or monster and use NT (or other certs/platforms) as a keyword.

(quick check, DICE.com, Keyword “NT”, last 7 days, nationwide: 1482 matching)

Sun cert? wouldn’t that be like getting certified on Amiga? :wink:

You can get an MCSE without any actual experience, that’s why it is totally meaningless.

Agree with the MCSE being junk. I’ve known people that pass all of it in two weeks and don’t have any hands on experience. Go for CCIE or CISSP.

At least part of this depends on the specific companies you’re planning on working for.

If it’s a company that works for other companies (either supplying technical support, contract workers, or something similar), there is often likely to be a clause in contracts they have with clients that ensure a minimum level of qualification and certs are an easy way to do this.

It’s also impressive, I suppose, to companies that aren’t particularly tech savvy, and these are the ones who are outsourcing their tech requirements to begin with.

You know people who not only read seven books at ~600 pages apiece for a total of 4,200 pages in two weeks, but were able to retain enough information to pass all the tests? That’s quite impressive.

MCSE gets a fairly undeserved bad rep. And this is coming from a CCNA with no MS certs. I think a lot of it has to do with the ease of the NT4 MCSE and wide availability of cheat sheets for the tests. The Windows 2000 tests are a bit harder than the old NT tests.

IMHO, it’s much easier to pass the CCNA (1 test, 800-page book) without ever touching a router than it is to pass the MCSE without going near a Windows network. Of course, the same cannot be said for CCNP and CCIE (the advanced Cisco tests, of which CCNA is a prerequisite*), but you’d better have access to a few thousand dollars worth of Cisco routers and be able to retain truckloads of details about the various routing protocols and associated commands in the Cisco IOS if you want any chance of passing those.

If you can pass them, though, the rewards are pretty sweet. Various recent job searches I’ve done online put salaries for CCNPs and CCIEs in the $80k-120k/year category. Cisco’s data seems to agree with those figures.

The high demand for Cisco knowledge has not only to do with the fact that their routers move the packets for over 90% of the Internet, but also because Cisco offers discounts on their products to customers who hire Cisco certified people to work on them. AFAIK, Microsoft does no such thing. If they did, I think the value of their certifications would skyrocket, but I’m not going to go off on a tangent about MS’s legendary greed.

*Technically, CCNA is a prerequisite for CCNP, but not the coveted CCIE. You could pony up $1000 and go take the CCIE without any previous Cisco certs if you wanted, but you’d probably fail miserably.

The CCNA did not seem hard at all (of course, I’ve messed with Cisco since 1993 :smiley: ) - as I see it, this is the knowledge level anyone even interested in networking should have. (OK, there were a couple of questions on cable layouts that seemed overly specific to me. And no, those weren’t the ones I didn’t get.)

I just took the CCNP “support” exam (#1 of 4), and, being prepared for the bar to be raised, was chocked at how easy it was. At the time I had walked out of the test center, gotten the result (pass), driven home and phoned Shayna - I still had 20 minutes left of the 75 minutes the test runs. If the other three are at the same level, I shall be sorely disappointed. Still, the CCNP is definitely out of the “paper certification” range - without some hands-on, you’re toast.

The CCIE lab (which I’ve now tried a couple of times) is in a league of its own. I want it so bad I can TASTE it, and I know it’s outside my reach without practice time on a pretty advanced lab. I can ill afford to rig up an ISDN switch in my living room…

The CCIE lab is where they forbid you to use the “best practice” described in the Cisco literature - you need your bag of of illicit tricks. It’s where you need knowledge of technology that’s pretty damn leading edge and some technology that went out of use when the earth’s crust cooled. You do not have the time verify anything properly. It’s not fun. At all. But the rewards are worth it. Plus there’s this cool leather jacket…

An MCSE or A+ is a chicken-and-egg situation, in that an MCSE without experience is generally considered to be of little value, but network techs with experience don’t need the MCSE to get an interview.

Really, all these things do is get you to the interview. Once you’re in the interview, whether you get the job or not is going to depend on how well you can answer the questions and impress your prospective employer.

If you already have several years of work experience in the IT field, and you are current enough to be able to do things like calculate subnet masks on demand or accurately describe the way security privileges propagate through various trust setups, then you don’t need an MCSE, IMO.

I think where an MCSE is valuable would be in helping you get that first, very low-level IT job. If you have no experience at all, any kind of credential will help you get a foot in the door.

So you’re saying certs are a good idea for a college kid who has worked at a bike shop every summer? :wink:

Don’t these tests go out of date fairly often though? I mean, if I get A+ or MCSE (I don’t know what I should take) certified will I need to take an “update” test a year later?

I wouldn’t say that the MCSE is only worthwhile for a low-level job, personally. I have mine, only with some others, and work for a VAR. We do a lot of consulting experience, and without the cert, I wouldn’t be able to bill as much. Also, people that don’t have it won’t second-guess you as much.

As for certs to get, A+ is better for a first job. Proves you at least understand the concepts, and can learn. The company I’m with won’t hire a hardware tech without it. CCIE is the holy grail, but the Citrix certs are starting to get more in demand, at least where I’m at. More and more companies throwing it in, without having anyone that can work on it.

The CompTIA exams (A+, Network+, Server+, etc) are good forever.

MS certs are good for either two or three years, I can’t remember which. I also could have sworn I read something about Cisco certs only being valid for two years, but my CCNA shows an expiration date of 2005, so I guess it’s three.

Urg. That first line should read along with some others. Sigh. Proof the MCSE can’t teach you how to preview.

The OP states:

So the OP has experience, and he wouldn’t be a ‘paper’ MCSE. I have heard of people with no practical experience passing MCSE and then getting creamed when they step into the real world. Any cert (except perhaps the Cisco lab certs) can be passed in the same way. I smell thinly disguised ABM attitude that is probably better suited for zdnets talkback. I had over 6 years real world experience with Microsoft networks before I took the W2K MCSE, and 3 tests had to be re-taken. The tests are a good combination of practical and theoretical knowledge, and are still valued by employers. Proof? Go search the job sites. I have heard that I’m better off without A+ certs, as they have become the joke cert of the day (complete hearsay). A+ really isn’t appropriate for my line of work anyway. As others have said, experience will open many doors, but experience + some good certs (especially MCSE) will open some doors wider. I’m planning on doing the Cisco, and would like to get Citrix under my belt as well (Citrix is awesome).

There are currently about 479,000 MCSEs (source: http://www.mcpmag.com ). There are many Microsoft based networks that need admins, and more are added everyday. Get some experience in Linux. Work with the Cisco router simulators. Everything helps. Good Luck!

Are you referring to the NT4 or Win2k MCSEs? They’re vastly different and the latter is MUCH harder.

Not that much different. W2K is simply NT 5 by another name.

Go ahead and get an Oracle DBA cert without experience. snicker

I’m not saying win2k is different, I’m saying the testing is different. They completely and utterly changed the whole testing scheme.

The 2000 MCSE is quite a bit harder than the NT4. Not as bad as Cisco tests(CCNP and up), but still harder. Especially the Security design exam, which is kinda brutal.