What are the Best IT Certifications for Advancing Your Career?

For the time, money and effort spent studying, taking tests, and maintaining certification status, one of the biggest considerations is “will it help?” Of course there is no definitive answer or process that guarantees results, but here are some factors to consider when determining which is the best IT certification for you. 

Not all certifications are created equally. The harder the certification is to earn, the more valuable it is. Consider the rigor—what is required of you to qualify as a candidate to earn the cert and what it takes to pass the exam. If it’s easy to get or everyone seems to have it, it’s likely less valuable, although it may be a requirement for more an advanced certification.

Which certifications are in demand? Whether you are looking to advance in your field or switch specialties, take a look around and see what employers demand. By “looking around, I mean that there are specific places you should haunt:
  • Job listings
  • LinkedIn company and industry groups
  • Professional societies

You want to know what they require. Compare it against what you have and figure a path to get where you want to be. If you are seeing a request for a particular certification repeatedly, chances are that earning that certification is a safe bet for career advancement.

Start where you are—certifications that matter for your current career—and advance from there. As I mentioned, low-level certifications can be valuable—especially if they feed into the advanced certifications you’re eyeing. The value increases if they apply directly to your job description and they demonstrate your interest and willingness to continue your professional education. They are the foundation on which you build your career.

Certification may help you get a better job as long as you make your selections carefully. The bottom line is that the certifications you will start with are highly dependent on your career interests and the path you select to achieve your goal. There are financial and time commitment factors to consider. If you are happy with your company, talk to your manager to see if continuing education is part of your benefits package. It may be that your employer decides that it’s in their interest to pay for training to build or expand your skills. If you are looking for a change, training and certification become an out-of-pocket expense. Make sure that you invest wisely and are meeting job market demands so that you can convert the certification investment into a job opportunity.   

If you are new to the field, keep in mind that the plum jobs take a lot of time, effort and experience to work up to. Make a plan and keep one eye on the prize. Keep the other fixed squarely on the market, because saying that IT develops and changes “rapidly” is an understatement. The low-level certs you start out with will eventually take you to an exciting career, but that will take time. Don’t shy away from them—they can act as a differentiator, a steppingstone to greater things, and have the power to demonstrate your commitment to ongoing education and the field.

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