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IT Certification FAQ

Can Certification Help Me Move Into Something New?

Most definitely. Although certification can't completely replace experience, it can effectively serve as a bridge to a new specialty. Suppose you are an experienced intranet or Internet developer and want to get into systems security consulting. Although it might be possible for you to talk your way into a first, entry level security-related position, it would be difficult at best. But if you first complete one of the applicable certification programs, suddenly you will have something exactly on target to add to your resume. Not only that, but there are several programs to choose from, depending on the depth of knowledge you seek and the time and money you are willing to invest.

For example, you could enroll in Learning Tree Internationals System Security Certified Professional program, which promises that by the time you graduate you will able to design and implement an organizations security strategy, expound upon threats from Internet hackers, secure an operating system, implement firewalls, and perform other security tasks. You will have to complete five courses (averaging four days each) and their related exams. Most of the courses are hands-on, so you won't just read about configuring a firewall, you will do it. Other possibilities include the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) program overseen by the International Information Systems Security Consortium (ISC2), the USWeb Certified Internet Security Specialist certification from USWeb, or several designations sponsored by Check Point Software.

Want to slide into a Java opening? You can go right to the source and become an Oracle Certified Java Programmer or Developer. Learning Tree offers a Java certification, too.

Technical training is another hot area that you might aspire to. Again, there are several certifications to choose from, depending upon your goals. Many vendors, including Adobe, Cisco, Corel, Microsoft, and Novell will certify you to teach their products. Or, you can go with a vendor-independent certification like the Certified Technical Trainer (CTT) from Educational Testing Service. The possibilities for this kind of bridging are many.

It's true that there are classes you could enroll in to learn new software or hardware skills, but a single course listed on your resume is much less impressive than a completed certification. And if you go with individual courses, you will have to figure out which classes appear best suited to your goals, which can be difficult when moving into an area you are less familiar with. Certification programs offer a complete curriculum developed with the intent of providing skills that have been identified as critical to success in a particular area. That is not as rigid as it sounds, because most programs include a choice of electives in addition to core courses. Why build your own bridge when you can cross one a cadre of expert architects has already constructed?

Certification programs offer a good way to learn a new area and obtain a credential at the same time. That's a hard to beat combination.

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