I'm sure most of you have noticed the total forum saturation of questions on certifications and other programs. Everything from "What certs should I get?" "How much will I get paid?" etc etc... It gets rather tiresome to answer these threads on a daily basis, so we have designed a FAQ for all of you that are interested in learning more about IT and your education. First, let's review basic certifications and give you some links of interest. CompTIA A+ Hardware and OS Basics A+ is the basic certification for knowledge and understanding of basic hardware and operating systems. Covers everything from chip types to hardware design and OS basics including DOS, Windows v1-2000, a few basic UNIX-based ideas and concepts, and even some Novell concepts. This cert is managed by CompTIA. After completing both exams for this cert and assuming the individual has no other experience (given that this is the basic entry-level certification program) one could expect to find a help-desk or helper type position with the average pay from minimum wage to $6.50 an hour. (This is just an estimate)] For more information on A+, see CompTIA's A+ Website. Network+ Networking Basics Net+ is the basic certification for knowledge and understanding of network basics including, but not limited to understanding of the OSI model, TCP, UDP, and basics of TCP/IP and IPX/SPX protocols. The Network+ certification validates technical competency in networking administration and support. Those holding Network+ certification demonstrate critical knowledge of media and topologies, protocols and standards, network implementation and network support. This certification is geared toward those with nine months field experience in network administration and support. After completing the single exam and assuming the individual has 9 months experience (what this exam is geared towards) one could expect to find a help-desk or entry-level network support position with the average pay of $8.00 an hour and up. For more information on Net+, see CompTIA's Net+ Website. Server+ Server Basics The Server+ certification credential validates advanced-level technical competency of server issues and technology, including installation, configuration, upgrading, maintenance, troubleshooting and disaster recovery. This certification is geared toward mid- to upper-level technicians. This cert works great when coupled with the Net+ and A+ certs. After completing the single exam and assuming the individual has 16+ months experience, one could expect to hold a entry- to medium-level network support position with the average pay of $10.00 an hour and up. Microsoft There are tons of Microsoft certifications, and tons of great career opportunities given that you know what you are getting into. There are also plenty of ways that Microsoft has designed their elective program so that if you choose your electives properly, your will gain additional certs with little-to-no work at all. Let's review the most common Microsoft certification programs. I'm not going to cover all of them, as some of them are specialized and aren't very common. You can read about all the Microsoft certifications Here. MCP These letters after your name are earned once you have passed one single Microsoft exam. Whether its an exam from MCSE, MCSA, MCDBA, etc you will receive these letters. It stands for Microsoft Certified Professional, and basically means you have begun your path to a Microsoft certification program but have not yet completed it. You can expect no raise or career jump when achieving MCP status. MCSA The Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) credential proves that you have the skills to successfully implement, manage, and troubleshoot the ongoing needs of Microsoft Windows® 2000 based operating environments, including Windows .NET Server. An MCSA candidate should have 12 months of experience working with a desktop operating system, a network operating system, and an existing network infrastructure. MCSA candidates are required to pass three core exams and one elective exam. Taking the A+ and Net+ certifications together may be used as the one elective. If you structure properly, two of the three core exams are core exams for the MCSE. You just need to take one additional (70-215; Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Windows 2000 Server) to complete the certification. The MCSA cert is a fairly new cert to the industry. You can read more on the MCSA cert plus requirements and exam outlines and help Here. MCSE Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) candidates on the Microsoft Windows® 2000 track are required to pass seven exams or the equivalent that include the following: Core Exams (5 Exams Required) Four operating system exams. Candidates must pass one exam from each set of operating system exams client operating system and networking system in the table that follows. Candidates can complete the core operating system exams requirement by passing either four Windows 2000 or four Windows XP Professional/.NET Enterprise Server exams or a combination of both. One design exam. Candidates must pass one exam that provides proof of expertise for design skills for specific Microsoft server technologies. Elective Exams (2 Exams Required) The elective exams provide a valid and reliable measure of technical proficiency and expertise in solution design and implementation. Microsoft recommends MCSE candidates should also have at least one year of experience implementing and administering a network operating system, implementing and administering a client operating system, and designing a network infrastructure. IT managers typically like to see individuals with 5+ years and their MCSE before willing to make an offer. Individuals who earned the MCSE certification on Windows NT® 4.0 by February 28, 2001 remain certified. You can read more on the MCSE cert plus requirements and exam outlines and help Here. MCSD The Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD) for Microsoft .NET credential is the top-level certification for advanced developers who design and develop leading-edge enterprise solutions, using Microsoft development tools and technologies as well as the Microsoft .NET Framework. Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD) for Microsoft .NET candidates are required to pass four core exams and one elective exam. The core exams provide a valid and reliable measure of technical proficiency and expertise in developing and maintaining enterprise applications that are based on Microsoft development tools, technologies, and platforms. The elective exam provides proof of expertise with a specific Microsoft server product. An MCSD for Microsoft .NET candidate should have two years of experience developing and maintaining solutions and applications You can read more on the MCSD cert plus requirements and exam outlines and help Here. MCAD The Microsoft Certified Application Developer (MCAD) credential provides industry recognition for professional developers who build powerful applications using Microsoft Visual Studio® .NET and Web services. Do something new for your career today. MCAD candidates are required to pass two core exams and one elective exam in an area of specialization. See the table below for a complete list of exams and related training resources. If you are not currently building .NET applications, Microsoft recommends getting started with fundamental Visual Studio .NET development skills. Core Exams (2 Exams Required) To fulfill the core certification requirements, pass one exam focused on either Web Application Development or XML Windows Application Development in the language of your choice. Then pass one Web Services and Server Components exam. Elective Exams (1 Exams Required) In addition to the core exam requirements, you must also pass one elective exam that provides proof of expertise with a specific Microsoft server product. You can read more on the MCAD cert plus requirements and exam outlines and help Here. There is often a lot of confusion from IT professionals as to which development certification to go for. We'll outline it all right here. Choose the MCAD credential if you: Develop, test, deploy, and maintain department-level applications, components, Web or desktop clients, or database and network services using Microsoft tools and technologies. Have one to two years of experience building, deploying, and maintaining applications. The MCAD credential was created in response to industry demand for a certification that allows developers to show they have the skills necessary to successfully implement functional specifications and build, deploy, and maintain Microsoft Windows® and Web applications. Achieving the MCAD credential can be a step toward earning the MCSD credential for advanced developers. Related job titles: programmer, programmer/analyst, and software developer. Find out more about the MCAD for Microsoft .NET credential. Choose the MCSD credential if you: Analyze and design leading-edge enterprise solutions with Microsoft development tools, technologies, and platforms. Have at least two years of experience in a lead developer role analyzing business and technical requirements, and defining solution architecture. The MCSD credential is one of the most widely recognized technical certifications in the industry. By earning the premier MCSD for .NET credential, individuals demonstrate that they have the skills necessary to lead organizations in the successful design, implementation, and administration of business solutions with Microsoft products. Related job titles: software engineer, software development engineer, software architect, and consultant. Find out more about the MCSD for Microsoft .NET credential. MCDBA The Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA) demonstrates that the individual has the skills necessary to lead organizations in the successful design, implementation, and administration of Microsoft SQL Server databases. Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA) on Microsoft SQL Server™ 2000 candidates need to pass three core exams and one elective exam that provide a valid and reliable measure of technical proficiency and expertise in the implementation and administration of SQL Server databases. Microsoft is integrating Microsoft Windows® XP Professional and Microsoft .NET Enterprise Servers exams into the MCDBA on Microsoft SQL Server 2000 certification. Individuals should continue to pursue training and certification in Windows 2000, as skills acquired for Windows 2000 will be highly relevant to and provide a critical foundation for Windows XP Professional and .NET Enterprise Servers. MCDBAs on Microsoft SQL Server 2000 will not be required to pass Windows XP Professional/.NET Enterprise Servers exams to retain MCDBA certification. The Windows 2000 exams and the Windows XP/.NET Enterprise Servers exams for the MCDBA on Microsoft SQL Server 2000 certification are expected to remain available concurrently. Core Exams (3 Exams Required) MCDBA candidates are required to pass one SQL Server administration exam and one SQL Server design exam. In addition, MCDBA candidates have the option to pass either one Windows 2000 or one .NET Enterprise Servers exam to fulfill the networking systems core requirement. Elective Exams (1 Exam Required) In addition to the core exam requirements, you must also pass one elective exam that provides proof of expertise with a specific Microsoft server product. You can read more on the MCDBA cert plus requirements and exam outlines and help Here. MCT Microsoft Certified Trainers (MCTs) are qualified instructors who are certified by Microsoft to deliver Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC) and MSDN® training courses. Microsoft certifies professional trainers who have demonstrated expertise on Microsoft technologies and maintain the necessary instructional skill set demanded in today’s learning environment for Information Technology (IT). Certification means these professional trainers meet Microsoft’s high standards for delivering Microsoft training. The Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) credential allows students, training providers, and organizations to identify leading technology trainers who can deliver superior training on Microsoft technologies and products. With Microsoft certification, MCTs have a competitive edge in their career and are a vital resource in today’s technical training community. In addition to industry recognition, Microsoft provides MCTs with a valuable set of trainer resources to aid them in becoming the best technology trainers in the world. Members of the MCT community receive a number of program benefits, including discounts on MCP certification exams, access to courseware support, and direct communication from Microsoft on courseware, certification, and program announcements. Fulfill Program Requirements to Maintain Your MCT Certification Microsoft recognizes and promotes MCTs as Microsoft product and course experts. Because MCTs play such an important role in the training process, it is important that MCTs have the instructional skills and technical qualifications to deliver the best possible training to IT professionals and developers. For this reason, the requirements of the MCT Program ensure that MCTs have broad technical knowledge and up-to-date teaching skills. The requirements for the MCT 2003 Program year (October 1, 2002-September 30, 2003): * Maintain a premier MCP Certification * Deliver at least two Microsoft training courses * Earn 15 Technical Continuing Education Credits (CECs) * Earn five Instructional Continuing Education Credits (CECs) * When you renew your certification in October each year, you will report your CECs and delivery days in the MCT renewal application. Following the renewal period, Microsoft will conduct an audit of approximately five percent of the MCT community. This requirement allows Microsoft to monitor the professional development activities of our trainers You can read more on the MCT cert plus requirements and exam outlines and help Here. There are plenty of other Microsoft certs, but they are more specialized. Cisco Cisco offers a strong, well-known certification and training program all the way from the bottom with the CCNA up to the top and the well-feared CCIE. Cisco also offers a good variety of security and wireless certs as well. We'll just outline the three basic Cisco routing and switching certifications. If you want to read on the rest of them (including VoIP, firewall specialists, telecom certs, etc..) head on over to Cisco's Certification and Path's homepage. CCNA The CCNA certification (Cisco Certified Network Associate) indicates a foundation in and apprentice knowledge of networking. CCNA certified professionals can install, configure, and operate LAN, WAN, and dial access services for small networks (100 nodes or fewer), including but not limited to use of these protocols: IP, IGRP, Serial, Frame Relay, IP RIP, VLANs, RIP, Ethernet, Access Lists. The CCNA certification is geared towards those with 2+ years experience in routing and switching, and can provide to be a very successful cert when coupled with plenty of experience and a degree. The CCNA cert is one exam (640-607) and is 65 questions. You can read more on the CCNA cert Here. CCNP The CCNP certification (Cisco Certified Network Professional) indicates advanced or journeyman knowledge of networks. With a CCNP, a network professional can install, configure, and operate LAN,WAN, and dial access services for organizations with networks from 100 to more than 500 nodes, including but not limited to these protocols: IP, IGRP, IPX, Async Routing, AppleTalk, Extended Access Lists, IP RIP, Route Redistribution, RIP, Route Summarization, OSPF, VLSM, BGP, Serial, Frame Relay, ISDN, ISL, X.25, DDR, PSTN, PPP, VLANs, Ethernet, Access Lists, 802.10, FDDI, Transparent and Translational Bridging. To obtain a Cisco Career Certification, you must read and accept the terms of the Cisco Career Certifications and Confidentiality Agreement. Failure to complete this step will prohibit processing of any Cisco Career Certification application. The CCNP is made up of 4 exams: 640-901 BSCI - Building Scalable Cisco Internetworks (BSCI) 640-604 Switching - Building Cisco Multilayer Switched Networks (BCMSN) 640-605 Remote Access - Building Cisco Remote Access Networks (BCRAN) 640-606 Support - Cisco Internetwork Troubleshooting Support (CIT) You can read more of the CCNP cert Here. CCIE CCIE is one of the most prestigious certifications avilable in the IT and routing/switching world. There are four levels of the CCIE. CCIE Communications and Services CCIE Routing and Switching CCIE Security CCIE Voice The CCIE program is designed to help individuals, companies, industries and countries succeed in the networked world by distinguishing the top echelon of internetworking experts. The program identifies leaders with a proven commitment to their career, the industry and the process of ongoing learning. While individuals inevitably gain extensive product knowledge on their way to certification, product training is not the CCIE program objective. Rather, the focus is on identifying those experts capable of understanding and navigating the subtleties, intricacies and potential pitfalls inherent to end-to-end networking regardless of technology or product brand. True to its mission, the CCIE program evolves in step with the industry, focusing on current technologies and real-world applications to consistently identify candidates with the highest level of relevant internetworking expertise. The CCIE Certification team will employ state-of-the-art testing tools and methodologies to ensure unparalleled program quality, relevance and value for our customers. Here is a great outline of the CCIE R/S cert. Overview and requirements. If you plan on partaking in the CCIE certification, be prepared! The failure rate is 7 out of every 10. The question seems to always popup in the forums, and that is "What can I expect to make as a CCIE?". As once replied by Mikel, the answer is simple. If you need to ask, maybe this cert isn't for you. Those who are taking the path towards the CCIE typically are not looking for just money, but a prestigious career status. Cisco recommends that the individual be at the expert level with 5-8+ years experience in the field plus a degree, and one who fulfills those objectives could expect $70k+ a year. There was a time that this individual could expect 140k+, but I believe this time is over as the market becomes more saturated with CCIE professionals. ---- There are plenty of other certifications available.. thousands, actually. Everything from telecommunications to security, software, and specialized hardware. We could cover all of them, but we'd have a thread 100+ pages long. If you want recommendations on specialization, look into Citrix's CCA, RedHat's RHCE and RHCT, and maybe a Security+ cert. For a good list of certifications, head over to http://www.braindumpcentral.com/allcertifications.aspx .. It's not a braindump site, but it's a site that provides sample questions and answers to help you study. This site is perfectly legal. There is also a great certification forum site http://www.certifyexpress.com/. The most common question that gets asked in the C&P forum is "Are certs worth it?". The answer is different for everyone. If you have no experience, and are wanting to get started in a career in IT work then the first step is to figure out which direction you want to head. A lot of entry-level techs and help-desk analysts typically have no idea that there is such a variety of directions they can go. Anything from basic help-desk/hardware and software support all the way up to CCIE professionals, CIO's, Consultants, etc. Once you have figured out the career path that you wish to go, it wouldn't be a bad idea to meet with an IT manager, consultant, or technology outsourcing firm to get a good idea of what managers look for in the hiring process. Keep an eye on monster.com ads and newspaper ads as well to get a feel for what positions in your neighborhood are requiring. Typically the rule of thumb is simple. If you have no education, a cert can't hurt. You obviously need the foot in the door. If you have an education and you are having a hard time getting a job, then a cert may give you that extra edge. When individuals come to me looking for employment, I typically tell them to specialize in something. Grab something that will put you ahead of the rest. If I place an ad on monster.com, I'll get anywhere from 250-750+ applications and resumes in my email. Obviously I'm going to look for that individual that holds something over the others. If the project I'm working on is going to be deploying a handful of RedHat boxes for firewall or web services, I'll look for someone with RHCE or RHCT certs.. if it's a tele-communications project, I'll need an RCDD. Last but not least: PLEASE! Do not get a cert and join the IT industry thinking that you will become a millionaire. This industry is saturated and ruined by individuals who went and grabbed a paper-MCSE and have no working knowledge of how to run and implement a Microsoft network. This has ruined the industry for those who have strived their whole life to become a successful IT professional. Join this industry because you love the work, you love working with machines, you love technology, and you love to learn something new everyday. DO NOT join to make a quick buck, because if that's why you are joining, then trust me - you won't. I hope this guide has been helpful. It's taken me over an hour to write it. Feel free to discuss everything in here. The point of this thread is to educate all of you and help guide you through your future. You can always PM me with any questions you may have.