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No Degree, No Problem! IT Certifications Can Help

No Degree, No Problem! IT Certifications Can Help
Credit: ESB Professional/Shutterstock

A young, entry-level IT professional earnestly seeks to work his way out of a tech support position through elbow grease and an investment in IT certifications. We steer him toward a combination of Cisco, Linux, and information security credentials, in keeping with his professed interests and with still-active hiring areas on the IT job landscape.

With only one year of college completed, Sergej is looking to IT certifications to offer the validation to prospective employers that he knows his stuff. If you're in a similiar situation, start by building a certification plan that will complement your work experience. Choose certifications that are widely recognized and considered "evergreen," such as Cisco's CCNA and CCNP, in the networking arena. Once you have your plan in place, start building your personal certification portfolio while at the same time, obtaining valuable work experience to match your credentials.

Dear Sergej:

While your academic background is incomplete, it sounds like you've established a good certification foundation with CompTIA's A+ and Network+ certs. Working towards the Routing and Switching version of the CCNA is also a good foundation move, but it's something you'll want to follow up with a CCNP to help establish and document your networking skills and knowledge.

My advice would be to build a personal certification ladder for yourself in one or two areas (Linux and security seem like your best options to me, assuming you also stick with Cisco, and pursue the CCNP after you finish up the CCNA), and then start working away at building your personal certification portfolio over time.

After you get your CCNA, you should be able to find an entry level network admin job of some kind. At that point you can start growing expertise in Linux and information security, to complement your Cisco networking expertise. Over time, this will help you advance into middle and senior level positions, with more responsibilities and pay to match.

Ed Tittel

Ed is a 30-year-plus veteran of the computing industry, who has worked as a programmer, a technical manager, a classroom instructor, a network consultant and a technical evangelist for companies that include Burroughs, Schlumberger, Novell, IBM/Tivoli and NetQoS. He has written and blogged for numerous publications, including Tom's Hardware, and is the author of over 140 computing books with a special emphasis on information security, Web markup languages and development tools, and Windows operating systems.