Careers after Military: 8 key I.T. certifications

Battle-tested I.T. credentials remain in high demand.  

Maintaining up-to-date information technology certifications — especially advanced credentials — is the best way to show civilian employers you’re keeping up with progress in this ever-changing field.

Experts say getting certified will raise your chances of landing a great I.T. job after the military for two reasons: You’ll have industry-recognized proof of your skills, and you’ll be a more likely match for hiring managers searching résumé databases for keywords such as CompTIA A+ and Certified Business Intelligence Professional.

“Most I.T. professionals take it for granted that what they need to know for their jobs will change rapidly,” said Martin Weissflog, Director of Aspire Business Consulting IT division and 21+ year computer-industry veteran.  “You’ll see that most certifications require their holders to update every two to three years anyway, so if you want to keep a credential current, you need to keep taking courses, keep taking exams, or do some sort of continuing education,” Weissflog said.

Civilian companies that employ people in information technology are placing increased emphasis on what hiring managers call “soft skills,” the experts say.

“The technology skills alone simply aren’t enough anymore,” said Weissflog.  Soft skills are personality traits and interpersonal skills such as the ability to interact effectively with others, writing skills, and organizational and management experience.

“Employers are also placing a greater emphasis on business skills,” Weissflog said, “including the ability to understand products and goals and how information technology fits into the business scheme”.

Companies also want their I.T. professionals to be able to translate technology into a language that’s easy to understand.  The good news is that many service members possess at least core soft skills and business savvy by virtue of their military training. Weissflog recommends college-level courses in business or communications to further develop skills in these areas.

Worried about how to emphasize soft skills on a résumé? Don’t be.

“Those are the kinds of things employers pick up on in an interview,” Weissflog said.   “I have assisted thousands of candidates by enabling them to restructure their resumes and professionally showcase their talents.”

8 of the key certifications today are:

SYSTEMS ADMINISTRATION

Systems administrators maintain a company’s computer systems and servers. Certifications include:

  1. Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator: Candidates must pass four exams, including two that test core knowledge of networking systems, one on client operating systems and one elective exam.
  2. Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer: Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer: Candidates must pass seven exams including four that test core knowledge of networking systems, one on client operating systems, one on design and one elective exam.

NETWORK ADMINISTRATION

Network administrators maintain computer network infrastructure. Certifications include:

  1. CompTIA Network+: This vendor-neutral certification doesn’t require prior work experience, but CompTIA recommends some experience in a networking environment along with CompTIA A+ certification.
  2. Cisco Certified Network Professional: A valid CCNA certification or any CCIE certification plus a ROUTE, SWITCH and TSHOOT exams.
  3. Cisco Certified Network Associate: The single exam required for this certification covers extending switched networks, determining IP routes, managing IP traffic and establishing point-to-point connections.
  4. Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert: Fewer than three percent of the people who hold Cisco networking certifications achieve this elite title. The hands-on exam is conducted in a lab.

TECH SUPPORT

Tech-support professionals are responsible for help-desk-type functions, answering computer users’ questions and doing troubleshooting. Certifications include:

  1. CompTIA A+: This test verifies proficiency in basic installation, configuration, preventive maintenance and networking, as well as security, safety and environmental issues.
  2. Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician: This credential proves you can troubleshoot Microsoft’s Windows operating system. It requires two exams: one on the Windows XP operating system and another on desktop applications.