What are the Different Types of IT Certification?

Jennifer Voight
Jennifer Voight
Man holding computer
Man holding computer

Information Technology, known commonly as IT, is an industry that uses computers to process, manage, and disseminate information. There are a wide range of careers available in IT, from entry-level help desk positions to project managers with decades of experience overseeing complex projects. IT certifications show knowledge and skills and imply a certain amount of job experience to achieve the level of competency required for certification. Although there are hundreds of different IT certifications available, they can be broken down into two types: vendor specific, which show knowledge of a specific manufacturer’s product, and vendor neutral, which show broad-based knowledge of a general technology.

Microsoft, Cisco, and Novell are some of the top companies offering vendor-sponsored certifications. In fact, two of the most widely recognizable certifications are the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and Cisco Certified Network Associate. If a company uses a particular Microsoft product, for example, the company will be more likely to trust and hire a professional who holds an IT certification relating to that product. In the same manner, a company that provides IT services will be more likely to hire a potential employee whose certifications match the products it sells.

Although vendor-sponsored IT certifications continue to dominate the IT field, vendor-neutral certifications are more frequently being offered by IT trade organizations such as the Computing Technology Industry Association. Vendor-neutral certifications require a well-rounded knowledge of a type of technology, rather than a specific product. These certifications range from CompTIA’s A+ entry-level IT certification to Project Management Institute’s Project Management Professional, which requires a bachelor’s degree and at least three years of project management experience.

Regardless of whether a certification is vendor-sponsored or neutral, there are several reasons certification is so popular in the IT field. Employees obtain IT certification to showcase skills and polish resumes. Certifications help potential employers categorize and evaluate a job-seeker’s areas of expertise and amount of experience. Employers who want current employees to learn a specific product or technology may require certification and frequently pay for the training process and exam fees.

To prepare for an IT certification, many vendors offer training classes, textbooks, practice tests, and other study materials. The candidate must pass an exam with a certain score. Sometimes, the candidate must possess a certain amount of job experience before the IT certification will be issued. A few organizations, such as the British Computing Society, offer the Chartered IT Professional certification, which does not require a written exam. Instead, the candidate compiles a portfolio and goes before a board of his peers for approval.

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