IT Certifications and Employment

So, having left the cable industry with little hope of going back in (and, honestly, little desire due to the insane time/schedule requirements generally necessary), and deciding to finally muster up enough willpower to study something new, I'm enrolling in a program that will pay for one certification out of a list (see below). The problem is... part of this will be geared towards my interest, but mostly this is to attempt a kickstart of a new career in IT. At the ripe old age of 34, I feel like I should have really pursued this 20 years ago, and I'm kicking myself for waiting this long.

Anyways, like I said, the program I'm in will only pay for one test. It's a new program for those that are active duty or spouses, and they don't really allow someone to sign up more than once so that more people get a chance to use it. I will however, from what I've been told, have access to the training materials for them all, which I have every intention of using to my advantage. The class will start in July.

I have no certifications under my belt, and I'm wondering how to do this to get the best bang for my buck. I'm thinking of doing the A+ cert out of pocket, and I'm fairly certain it would only take me a few weeks of study to be ready for that test. I've been troubleshooting, building, and repairing my own PC's for years. The reason for the post was that I started looking up certification test prices, and was thinking of going for the CCENT until I found out it's only a $125 90 minute test... with the A+ being a little over $200, and Network+ being something like $295. And I don't even know if that's a good short term goal, because I don't really have a feel for what certs really stand out to employers.

So my question here is a bit two-fold for those in the industry. First, given my background (also below), what would be good potential jobs to look for? And what certifications would, at least at first, net me interviews quickly?

Certifications Available:


CompTIA A+
CompTIA Security +
Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP)
Information Systems Security Certified Professional (CISSP)
Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC)
Certified Ethical Hacker
CompTIA Network+
Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT)
Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
Java (SE7 Certification)
Java (SE8 Certification)
Java Fundamentals
Full Stack Web Development
CompTIA Cloud+
CompTIA Linux+
CompTIA Server+
Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL)
Oracle 11G Database (Z51 & Z52)
Oracle 12c Database (Z-61 & Z62)
Excel to MySQL
Statistics with R

My personal and professional experience:


Professional: Telecommunications technician for 7 years. I've worked with coaxial cable including drop cables from RG-59 to QR-320, hardline cables from .500 PIII to .875 PIII including two sizes of MC2, and I've spliced fiber a few times. I also have some experience terminating CAT5e cables for phone and data usage (RJ11 and RJ45 connectors). I've got years of experience tracking faults through different cables, shorts and opens, troubleshooting equipment, and using various test equipment to solve problems.

Personal: Avid PC gamer, and I've mostly pieced my systems together over the years from what I can find and scrap. Current system started as spare parts from Robear, but barely resembles that system any more. Just from what I've had to learn to make games work, and make my system work, along with considering my PC my biggest hobby for the past couple decades, I feel I could reasonably score a 70% on the A+ without studying (this also going from practice tests I found online). Unrelated to computers slightly, I also enjoy soldering, and attempting to repair electronics, though I rarely have much success. The only real success that comes to mind one of my wife's old e-cigs that wasn't assembled well.

Any input is greatly appreciated. Going from a career that expected 60+ hours to stay-at-home dad to two kids, then to working full-time with my hours limited to daycare really took it's toll on me in the past 18 months, and hopefully it won't take me long to push through this and get out of the horrible job I'm in now.

To be honest, when I've asked IT people I know this same question for my son awhile back most of them confided that is is more experience that gets them the job vice certification. It may be tough getting a job with JUST a certification.

What about programming? I know we've had a couple of GWJers do programming boot camps and get jobs fairly quickly after that. MWDowns came back from Japan and did it and I think Freyja did as well but I think she had some experience beforehand.

I'm not a great resource on IT certification choices, but did want to chime in to warn you off doing a certification in Full Stack Web Development.

Programming boot camps (or just learning the skills and having sites / applications you can point to) are much better on-ramps to doing web development as a day job.

If that ends up being a path you're interested in, I'm happy to be a resource or sounding board.

[4:10 PM]
@karmajay In my experience, certs matter way less than job experience, but they can be a tie-breaker if you have two equally experienced people.

Having worked IT for...jesus...17 years now! I'll go out on a limb and say CCNA, CISSP, and any programming experience you can cram in during your spare time. A+ and Net+ are very low level certs that aren't really going to get your foot in the door anywhere. With your background CCNA might make a lot of sense, although it's a totally different animal from Comcast. You'll be doing a lot of the same thing, though - probably running a lot cables and setting up switches and routers to start out. CISSP is always in demand. Competent IT security specialists command a premium in the Houston area, and I'm sure it's the same in the NE. Oracle jobs pay well if you're able to wrap your head around it.

Just a quick warning: in my experience employers that let you work from home are few and far between. Most of them want to see you in a cube every day even if you're just staring blankly at a screen.
Deliverables are hard to come by from home when you need to rack and image up a bunch of servers. If you can get some programming training (I guess even Java) you might have better luck finding something with a flexible schedule. IT guys put in a lot of long hours, after-hours work is very common, and down here anyway we don't get time and a half or double time. Instead we get comp time that we rarely get to use.

Good luck!

Just a certification isn't going to do a lot, and, as karmajay pointed out, it's the experience that helps. The thing is, you do have relevant experience with your cable background, and something that ties in with that means the certification and experience with together nicely on a resume.

Also, tech support is Generic IT Entry Job #1. With your background running cable and actually interacting with physical networks, something like a CCNA makes a lot of sense, and that's the kind of thing that can get people into a forward & moving job on a help desk or internal support group. I don't want to be a downer, but I've been involved in lots of hiring processes, and if I saw someone with a software development certification but no experience, I'd see that as a pretty big red flag. That is going to be a really, really hard hill to climb. That being said, you already have a solid background in some network stuff, and that's the kind of thing that people will notice on a resume when it's paired to a formal certification.

Have you considered starting your own company? Just like as a small side project repairing PCs? I, personally, probably don't have the nous to start my own, but it could be a great way into the industry for you.

Sorry, haven't checked on this thread since around the 30th. Programming is something I'd like to learn, but something just completely blocks me from learning it. I have no idea why I can't stick with it. I even have a project id love to code as an app and toss out on the market, but starting over in Java is just... meh. I'll start looking at CCNA.

Seconding the CCNA/CISSP recommendation. The CCNA would probably be the most valuable given your current experience, and network engineers probably aren't going away before you're due to retire.

I'm going a different way. Get a security cert, to show that you are committed to it, and start applying. Security people are so scarce on the ground these days that you should be able to find an entry level position that is willing to train you and *still* pay decently. There are so many people out there with networking certs and the like, and DB stuff is definitely experience based, but cyber security folks are so lacking in the market that the Army is looking at waiving boot camp for experienced recruits...

The work can be boring and perhaps even tedious, but it will be in demand for the next decade at least (pending AI advances that will take all this out of our hands) and pay right now is outstanding.

Get "Enterprise Cybersecurity" by Scott E. Donaldson to get familiar with the topic areas.

I keep hearing ads for this google sponsored IT cert and was wondering if anyone has any experience with it, either getting one or hiring people who have it. As my son approaches school age I'm hoping to find some part-time work from home jobs.

First, since I never actually posted an update to this thread, I did actually go for Sec+ and passed that test back in... June I think. It was pretty rough, and at the end of the test I was genuinely surprised I passed. It's been basically useless since I got hired by an IT company before I took the test, and nothing I do has much at all to do with security.

As far as that Google Cert is concerned... I mean, the later courses look a little interesting, but I've never heard of this before, and by their own marketing speak on that page at best it's going to give a somewhat comparable understanding as the A+, and maybe a little bit of marketing power on LinkedIn. At $50/month for a course they're basically saying is going to take about 120 hours for a beginner to finish, I guess it'd depend on how fast you can get through the coursework.

I think if I were spending $300 (the 6 months they're suggesting at 5 hours a week), I'd just go hit up the library for an A+ study book and take that cert test. If you're a complete beginner, and the concepts in the first course seem like they'd be really helpful, then it's probably worth it. I could see some people who have been stuck in things like retail jobs going for this to help them make the jump into entry level IT. It probably has it's place, but I wouldn't pay for it.

I just noticed that LinkedIn has skill assessment quizzes now. I have no idea how long they've been around, I just logged in recently for the first time in a couple of years. I took the Bash assessment on a whim and was surprised that it was actually not a cakewalk. I passed, although I was starting to worry I might not.

Each question is timed, and if you don't pass, I think it's three months before you can try again. I have no idea if any employers actually use them or not, or if all the answers are already out there somewhere, rendering them useless.

Coursera is offering a subscription service that gives a year of access to "90%" of their courses. $399. Quite a few of the Google certs are covered and I was offered a $150 bribe if I can complete one of their IT Support Certs by August. Tomorrow I find out if this subscription can come out of my work's tuition reimbursement scheme.

Edit: is this the place to complain about convoluted tuition reimbursement policies? I work for a gorram Education Agency. Considering the cost of credits and certifications $500 every two years feels anemic. Am I wrong?

I've actually been running into roadblocks where applications locally won't even let you proceed unless you can provide A+ certification. Even for jobs that seem pretty entry-level tech support positions. Like installing Office or plugging in things.

I guess maybe there's just a glut of applicants and it's another way to gatekeep?

ccoates wrote:

I guess maybe there's just a glut of applicants and it's another way to gatekeep?

As it has been, so it shall be.

I have been A+ certified (let it lapse) but the fact that I took and passed the exam has opened a TON of doors for me in my tech career.

It may be a basic/fundamental course, but I feel it's worth to have.