Choosing a professional to manage your company’s network, hardware, and software is no easy task. How can you tell whether the skills listed in a person’s résumé reflect the tech expertise your business needs?
To the uninformed, the hundreds of tech-related certifications that IT pros use to sell their services amount to an alphabet soup of incomprehensible acronyms.
Most computer certification programs don’t require a college degree, and they can give help-desk professionals and network managers a competitive advantage and an earnings boost. For example, businesses will typically pay a 10% premium for someone who has earned one of its entry-level certifications, and individuals with higher-level certifications can command a 40% mark-up.
But are those credentials worth the extra cost? Though pay rates vary widely, they normally range from Php 5,000.00 an hour to Php 15,000.00 an hour for consultants who possess specialized knowledge.
Below are the most common IT Certifications. I did not include here Six Sigma and ITIL for they are more focused on the business and processes side, not on IT.
Microsoft (MCSE, MCITP, MCTS)
Few businesses get along without a hearty helping of Microsoft-powered equipment, and the company offers a raft of specialized training programs for those who service its products. Among Microsoft’s most popular certifications are Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS), and the relatively entry-level Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP).
The requirements for MCSE certification are one to two years of experience in designing, installing, configuring, and troubleshooting network systems, and a passing mark on an the test which costs around Php 40,000.00
CompTIA (A+, Network+, Security+, Linux+)
The nonprofit Computing Technology Industry Association offers popular vendor-neutral certifications–a good option if you’re seeking a consultant who has a mix of experience beyond a single brand. Among the certification options, the basic A+ requires 400 hours of hands-on experience.
Cisco (CCNP, CCNA, CCiE)
Among the most popular certifications in the industry, the basic Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) covers installing and managing medium-size networks. It requires a passing mark on a Php 15,000.00 exam, and certification lasts for three years.
Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (CISSP)
If your company deals with proprietary information and has deep security needs, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification is known to be rigorous. People who qualify for it must have worked for at least five years in areas such as security architecture and design, and then must pass a Php 30,000.00 exam and pay an annual renewal fee.
Apple (ACSP, ACTC)
A help-desk pro with Microsoft skills may not know how to manage Macs. For shops that rely on Apple products or use a mix of operating systems, Apple Certified Support Professional (ACSP) and Apple Certified Technical Coordinator (ACTC) cover basic support skills as evidenced by passing marks on tests. I still have not encountered such certification here under Apple in the Philippines as of this time, so I really do not have any idea on how this goes.
Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA)
This advanced certification is reserved for IT security consultants and auditors with five years’ experience.
Project Management Professional (PMP)
This well-respected certification is for people with some college education and at least three years of project management experience.
Certified Ethical Hacker (C|EH)
For individuals who are responsible for securing (or testing the security of) computer networks. Covers common exploits, vulnerabilities, and countermeasures. You must pass the Certified Ethical Hacker exam, which costs around Php 15,000.00 and record two years of information security related work experience endorsed by your employer. A corresponding 5 day course is available, though not required. Before you can attend the course you will have to sign an agreement stating that you will not use the newly acquired knowledge for illegal or malicious purposes. Only students attending training conducted at EC Council Accredited Training Centers and EC Council approved self study applicants are eligible for the CEH certification.
Certified Hacking and Forensics Investigator (C|HFI)
For individuals who wish to demonstrate their expertise in detecting hacking attacks and properly extracting evidence to report the crime and conduct audits to prevent future attacks. Computer forensics is simply the application of computer investigation and analysis techniques in the interests of determining potential legal evidence.
You must pass the CHFI exam (around Php 15,000). A corresponding course is available and recommended, though not required. If you do not take the associated training from the EC-Council, you must complete an eligibility form before you can take the exam.
Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE)
For individuals who configure networking services and security on servers running a Red Hat OS. RHCE is an advanced-level Linux certification for experienced Linux professionals. You must pass a 3.5 hour hands-on exam (around Php 40,000.00). A passing score of 70% is required. Training is available but not required.
Which Do You Need?
If 90% of the tech tools that your office uses come from a single vendor, it makes sense to seek an IT pro with certification from that brand. But as more companies use technology from an array of vendors, and as more employees bring and use their own smartphones and tablets to work, that scenario is becoming less common.
“One of the challenges people run into is the circle of finger-pointing,” “Was it the HP printer or the drivers on that Apple machine?”
Complicating matters, the certification programs for major brands are often run by a marketing arm of the company. Some programs require examinees to jump through multiple hoops, such as real-world testing and years of experience in the field, but others ask little more than mastery of a pass-fail exam.
A credential alone doesn’t guarantee real-world job skills, but it increases the odds that the person is competent. Look for a well rounded consultant with a deep Rolodex of contacts in the tech world; knowledge of multiple systems and brands can be better than a deep understanding of Windows alone.
As more companies try to do more with smaller budgets, the research firm finds, they turn to cloud computing and other technologies that reduce the need for IT staff. As a result, the market for IT professionals now emphasizes hybrid skills. Not only must they understand the equipment, but they must solve business problems creatively.
Don’t take someone’s experience, training, and certification at face value. Ask what they had to do to get a certification. Hands-on lab work in addition to an exam is a good sign.
When reviewing a person’s education, whether it culminated in a nursing degree, a food technology degree, or a business degree, ask about the curriculum. If you’re unsure about credentials, read between the lines. Lay out a real-life IT problem that you recently encountered, and ask how the candidate would solve it. If the task is too daunting, you can hire a consultant to interview IT job candidates.
The classic mistake most people make is they’re looking for somebody to solve the crisis. You’re looking to manage a relationship over time. The best time to do this is when you’re not having problems.