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. Nevertheless, 68 percent of IT hiring managers regard these labels as a medium or high priority, according to CompTIA, the largest vendor-neutral certifying group.
In this guide, we'll examine which of these certifications matter, and which technical skills a given certification implies.
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, CompTIA says, businesses will typically pay a 10 percent premium for someone who has earned one of its entry-level certifications, and individuals with higher-level certifications can command a 40 percent mark-up.
But are those credentials worth the extra cost? Though pay rates vary widely, they normally range from $100 an hour to $300 an hour for consultants who possess specialized knowledge.
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 $875 test. Median pay for an IT manager with MCSE certification is $77,000, according to PayScale.com.
MCITP requires two years as an IT pro, and passing marks on one to five exams, priced at $125 each. There are 12 MCITP tracks, and pay for an IT specialist or consultant ranges from $47,000 to $70,000.
MCTS accreditation requires two years of background in troubleshooting specific technology.
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.