12 Certifications To Kickstart Your IT Career

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated July 23, 2021 | Published September 10, 2020

Updated July 23, 2021

Published September 10, 2020

When you're first starting your information technology (IT) career, it can be helpful to distinguish yourself as a candidate that is motivated, committed and talented. Certifications are a great way to highlight these attributes and grow your skills and knowledge, making them an incredible addition to any entry-level resume. In this article, we explain the benefits of basic IT certifications and provide a list of some of the most beneficial entry-level certifications for those starting in the IT field.

Why is it important to pursue IT certifications?

One of the benefits of earning IT certifications is that they can enhance your resume and improve your employability. Formal education and experience are certainly important qualifications in the information technology industry, but certifications show employers the level of your expertise and abilities.

Basic IT certifications also supply beginners with valuable knowledge and confidence that can help them succeed. Here are 12 of the most popular IT certifications for beginners:

Please note that companies mentioned in this article are not affiliated with Indeed.com.

1. Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)

The CAPM is an entry-level certification offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). It recognizes proficiency in the fundamental knowledge, processes and terminology associated with effective project management.

Prerequisites include:

  • At least a bachelor’s degree

  • At least 23 hours of project management education

The 150-question exam covers project management basics and skills needed for an IT project management position. Candidates have three hours to complete the proctored test. The exam costs $225 for PMI members and $300 for non-members. Renewal requires 15 personal development units every three years.

2. Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

The CEH certification demonstrates you have the training necessary to search for and identify vulnerabilities in computer systems, a skill that is widely sought after in the industry. It is offered by EC-Council. This certification teaches students to think and work like a hacker, enabling them to better identify, evaluate and mitigate possible vulnerabilities.

Prerequisites include:

  • At least 18 years old

  • At least two years of experience in the information security domain

  • Hold a previous CEH certification

  • Or attend an EC-Council training program

For the proctored certification exam, you have four hours to complete 125 multiple-choice questions. There is a $100 application fee.

3. Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP)

The CISSP from (ISC)² is a prominent certification in the IT industry that verifies your competence in information security, specifically when it comes to protecting an organization from a cyber attack. This certification also highlights the technical and managerial skills needed to succeed in this area to develop and maintain information security programs. It is often a requirement for positions like security analyst, IT auditor and information security analyst. The program covers the following topics:

  • Security and risk management

  • Asset security

  • Security architecture and engineering

  • Communication and network security

  • Identity and access management (IAM)

  • Security assessment and testing

  • Security operations

  • Software development security

Prerequisites include:

  • At least five years of experience in two or more of the domains (above)

  • Relevant college degree or approved credential may satisfy one year of work experience

  • (ISC)² membership

After you have completed the training courses, you must pass a 250-question exam within six hours. Renewal is $125 for an annual membership.

Related: The Top Highest-Paying IT Certifications

4. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

This is associate-level networking certification offered by Cisco and replaces the CCNA Routing and Switching Certification. The CCNA credential demonstrates that you know the basics of how to run a
network. It tests your knowledge of routers, switches and software.

Prerequisites include:

  • One or more years of experience implementing and administering Cisco solutions

  • Knowledge of basic IP addressing

  • A good understanding of network fundamentals

After taking a self-paced online course, you can take the proctored exam focusing on network fundamentals, network access, IP connectivity and services, security fundamentals, automation and programmability. Five levels of exams are offered; the cost is $325 to $600. Your certificate must be renewed every three years. Additional exams or up to 120 continuing education credits are required depending on your credential level.

Related: 10 Top IT Certifications To Explore

5. Cisco Certified Technician (CCT)

The CCT certification by Cisco highlights abilities to diagnose, repair, restore and/or replace Cisco system and networking devices. It is available for multiple technology tracks, including Cisco data center, collaboration and routing and switching.

There are no prerequisites for the routing and switching certification. You must possess data center certification, however, before you take exams for either of the other two credentials.

The exam has 60 to 70 questions to be answered within 90 minutes. The exam cost is $125. Your certificate must be renewed every three years. Additional exams or up to 120 continuing education credits are required depending on your credential level.

6. CompTIA IT Fundamentals+ (ITF+)

If you're switching career paths or beginning your IT career, this CompTIA IT Fundamentals+ certification is ideal for you. It is designed to verify your fundamental understanding of IT basics. Though the ITF+ isn't a prerequisite for other CompTIA certifications, it is a useful place to start.

The exam takes 60 minutes and includes 70 multiple-choice questions focusing on software development, database basics, security, software, applications, IT terminology and concepts, infrastructure and networks. It costs $126 and does not require renewal.

Related: 15 IT Certifications to Enhance Your Credentials

7. CompTIA A+

The CompTIA A+ certification is considered one of the most popular in the field and may be a hiring prerequisite for support-related positions at a service center or help desk. It verifies your ability to troubleshoot and solve problems with networking, operating systems, mobile devices and security.

Prerequisites include:

  • At least nine months of work experience (recommended, but not required)

You must pass two exams that validate nine major IT skills. Each has 90 questions to be completed in 90 minutes. Each exam costs $232. Certification must be renewed every three years with 30 hours of continuing education units.

8. CompTIA Network+

The CompTIA Network+ is an entry-level certification that covers networking concepts, troubleshooting, operations, tools, security and IT infrastructure. It verifies your ability to design, manage and troubleshoot a variety of wired and wireless networks. It is designed for network field engineers, information security consultants, junior system engineers, network field technicians and junior network administrators.

Recommended prerequisites include:

  • CompTIA A+ certification

  • At least nine months of networking experience.

The exam has 90 questions to be completed in 90 minutes. The cost is $338. Certification must be renewed every three years with 30 hours of continuing education units.

9. CompTIA Security+

Because security is such an essential aspect of most IT jobs, this certification is a valuable addition to an entry-level resume. A CompTIA Security+ certification verifies that you have the skills to configure systems, ensuring that devices, networks and applications are secure and in compliance with laws and regulations. It can help prepare you for roles, including network, system and security administrators, security specialists, junior IT auditors, security consultants and security engineers.

The exam addresses things like identity and access management, public key infrastructure (PKI), cryptography, design, risk management, vulnerabilities, attacks and threats. It has 90 questions to be completed in 90 minutes. The cost is $370. Certification must be renewed every three years with 30 hours of continuing education units.

10. Microsoft 365 Fundamentals

The Microsoft 365 Fundamentals certification covers all the basics of the Microsoft 365 suite of products and services. It verifies that you have foundational-level knowledge on the considerations and benefits of adopting cloud services in general and the Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud model.

No prerequisites are required. The exam cost is $99.

11. Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA)

Designed to be an entry-level certification for those switching careers or beginning a career in IT, specifically programming, the Microsoft Technology Associate certification covers IT basics, like software development, databases, HTML programming and infrastructure. It is considered beneficial for anyone interested in becoming an IT auditor or a systems, network or security administrator.

The MTA certification has no prerequisites and it is the foundational certification for many of Microsoft's other credentials.

12. Systems Certified Security Practitioner (SSCP)

The SSCP from the International Information Security Certification Consortium (ISC)² certifies your skills in implementing, monitoring and administering IT infrastructure. It demonstrates technical skills and knowledge in security best practices, policies and procedures. It is designed for:

  • Network security engineers

  • System administrators, engineers

  • Security analysts, consultants, administrators

  • Systems and network analysts

  • Database administrators

Prerequisites include:

  • At least one year of experience in one or more security-related areas

  • Or at least a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related program

  • (ISC)² membership

The exam covers seven security-related topics with 125 questions to be answered in three hours. Renewal is $125 for an annual membership.

Jobs for beginner IT professionals

If you're interested in getting started working in information technology, there are a variety of jobs for you to consider. Here are 10 jobs for beginner IT professionals:

1. Help desk analyst

2. Front-end web developer

3. Quality assurance analyst

4. Software developer

5. Computer operator

6. Web designer

7. Digital project manager

8. Database administrator

9. Computer technician

10. IT support analyst

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