Solid Options for Getting Started Down the IT Trail

There's a well-worn trail for IT newcomers to follow.

People reading these words likely already know that IT workers benefit from certification. It can become a direct ticket to a job, a promotion, higher pay, or as-yet unexplored opportunities.

Many readers may be interested in passing along the bootstrapping exercises involved in getting started in IT, either to somebody moving on over from a different career path, or to somebody getting ready to enter the workforce after leaving school behind. To that end, the first steps down the IT employment trail may not involve employment at all.

No surprise: Those steps may actually start with (or include) certification. That's probably why this 2020 survey compiled by IT industry association CompTIA reports that "91 percent of employers believe IT certifications play a key role in the hiring process" (emphasis mine).

Indeed, I found myself treading familiar, if not hallowed ground as I perused this recent Storage Review article from aspiring certified IT worker Ethan Carter Edwards: "Getting Started in Information Technology."

Embracing A Trinitarian View

There's a well-worn trail for IT newcomers to follow.

Forgive any religious connotations here: The "trinity" I'm referencing is the "beginner's hat trick" for launching an IT career. That means achieving the CompTIA certification trifecta of A+, Network+ and Security+. I had the Bing Chat AI assistant calculate the combined cost of those exams in the United States for me.

Here's what it told me: "As per the CompTIA exam vouchers website, the cost of CompTIA A+, Network+, and Security+ exams in the USA are $246, $358, and $392 respectively. So the combined cost of these three exams would be $996."

As might be expected from an AI response, the Bing bot actually counted only the single-exam cost of A+ certification. Becoming A+ certified requires passing two exams, however, so the correct combined total for A+, Network+, and Security+ is $1,242.

I will also observe from long experience that if you shop around for CompTIA exam vouchers you can usually beat that combined total, which I would consider something like "CompTIA MSRP." It's just like your mama told you: Don't just accept the first offer you come across.

Great Suggestion: Google Career Certificates, Especially Google IT Support

There's a well-worn trail for IT newcomers to follow.

Edwards also waxes eloquent and enthusiastic about Google Career Certificates in his Storage Review story. Indeed, the Google offerings are enjoying strong uptake in both the community college and four-year university environments, and also feature prominently in a lot of retraining efforts from government-based (mostly state and local) retraining programs for laid-off or underemployed workers.

Google is pretty well represented at Coursera (where you can also try the whole shebang out for free for a week, if you like). The list of topics is lengthy and includes: cybersecurity, data analytics, digital marketing, IT support, project management, and UX design.

Google has also partnered with universities to offer a number of "specializations." These add-ons help certificate earners apply their new found IT acumen to such fields as construction management, financial analysis, public sector analytics, sustainability analytics, and healthcare IT. Good stuff.

Says Edwards about the Google IT Support Certificate (which can be combined with A+ certification): "A considerable number of people claim that (getting both) has single-handedly secured them a job. Still, it is unlikely that the certificate was the only factor in the process. This certificate will give you a solid foundation in everything IT, allowing you to specialize and dive deeper into the industry."

A Solid Start

There's a well-worn trail for IT newcomers to follow.

Both options, CompTIA certification and Google Certificates, are great ways to get people started down the IT career path, whether they're coming over from somewhere else, or just getting started in the workforce. I've explained this to a couple of younger family members who are facing the realities of working for a living, understanding that longevity and pay are important now and for the foreseeable future.

So far, I've enjoyed mixed results. But it's important to convey this message, and make sure people understand their options. Happy trails to one and all!

Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.