Top 5 In-Demand IT Certifications for 2014

Information Technology (IT) is a wide-open field that's full of career opportunities in just about every industry out there, whether big or small business, healthcare, government or any organization that employs the use of computers. While getting a college degree is an important step in helping you get your foot in the door, the proven method for distinguishing yourself in the industry, advancing your career and opening up multiple opportunities is earning various IT certifications.
Typically, employers are looking for individuals who have shown their diligence and determination by obtaining one or more well-regarded IT certs. Obtaining a certification in a particular subject validates your knowledge and skill level in that area and demonstrates to a potential employer that you have gone the extra steps necessary to hold yourself above the rank and file in your industry. Here's a quick look at the top five in-demand IT certifications for 2014 and reasons why any of these five may be important for you to consider obtaining.

1.    CompTIA A+
As the oldest, best-known and most respected computer hardware certification out there, CompTIA A+ is a vendor-neutral credential that's now more than 20 years old. It's accredited by both ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and holding this certification demonstrates your competent capabilities as a computer technician. A+ is recognized by the Department of Defense and is a mandatory certification for service technicians working at companies such as Dell, Lenovo and Intel.

Earning the A+ credential requires successfully passing two exams, 220-801 & 220-802, each of which contains 90 questions. Passing grades for the two exams are 675 and 700 respectively. The 801 exam focuses primarily on questions regarding computer hardware (40%) and networking (27%). An additional 11% each is spent on the following three categories:
  • Laptops
  • Printers
  • Operational procedures
Exam 220-802 concerns itself with questions regarding the following four topics:
  • Mobile devices – 9%
  • Security – 22%
  • Operating Systems – 33%
  • Troubleshooting – 36%

2.    CCENT
The CCENT (Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician) credential is the first step in obtaining Cisco Systems certifications and is a required step for those on their way to becoming a CCNA® (Cisco Certified Network Associate). Earning a CCENT credential demonstrates that you have the necessary talent and expertise to handle an entry-level network support job requiring the installation, management, maintenance, troubleshooting and security of smaller-sized enterprise branch networks. CCENT training covers basic networking fundamentals, including:

  •  WAN technology
  •  Routing & switching
  •  Basic security concerns
  •  Simple network configurations

It does not deal with the more intricate and technical details concerning Cisco routing & switching or network design.

3.    SQL Server
Earning an MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert) credential is a qualifying step that demonstrates your success in understanding and applying the knowledge and skills necessary to becoming a database developer or analyst. As a Certified Expert of Microsoft's SQL Server, you are providing credentialed validation of your ability to design, build and maintain detailed information and database solutions. SQL, which stands for Structured Query Language, is a special programming language used for relational data management systems and a holder of this SQL Server certification is highly regarded in the industry. SQL is the standard for both ISO and ANSI and, as such, is used in a wide variety of data management systems worldwide.

4.    Oracle Database
Similar to the Microsoft SQL Server Expert Certification described above, Oracle Corporation also offers its own expert certification in database design and management. The first step in earning an Oracle Database Administrator certification is to successfully pass any one of the following three exams:
  • 1Z0-007 Intro to Oracle9i SQL
  • 1Z0-047 Oracle Database SQL Expert
  • 1Z0-051 Oracle Database 11g: SQL Fundamentals
All three are two-hour timed exams and must be passed with a 71%, 66% or 60% grade (respectively) to qualify for advancement. Again, only one of these three tests must be passed. Once completed successfully, the last step is to take and pass exam #1Z0-052 Oracle Database 11g: Administration. This is a 90-minute exam with a passing grade of 66%.

5.    Linux

While Windows has been and remains to be the operating system (OS) for most desktop computers, the Linux Operating System, first released in 1991, is found on nearly half of the world's servers and more than 80% of all supercomputers. Because many IT professionals deal mainly with server computing in their daily activities, they find themselves working with the Linux Operating System much of the time and are motivated to learning more in-depth information about this particular OS than others.

Earning Linux certifications can be done in a variety of ways and through a wide range of levels, such as Junior, Senior and Advanced Linux Levels. Highly valued and widely recognizable Linux certifications are available through CompTIA, Oracle, Linux Professional Institute, Novell and others.

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