Getting Started In IT
So, you’ve just finished school, or maybe your current job isn’t what you hoped it would be, and you’re ready to move on. Either way, you’ve heard all about the exciting and lucrative opportunities available working with computers and you want in, but you’re not sure if it’s a good fit, and you’re not sure where to start.
Here’s the good news – TrainACE has been working with people like you since 2001. We know a thing or two about what you need to succeed in IT. We’ve helped thousands of people launch their IT, cybersecurity and project management careers. What follows are our recommended steps to getting started in IT, in what we hope will be a long, exciting and rewarding career.
1. Identify Your Strengths, and Personal Interests, then Set a Career Goal
As with all significant undertakings, having a long-term goal for your career will help guide your job search, training plans, and help you stay the course, even when you meet challenges along the way.But how do you determine your goal?
One way to do this is to identify what you enjoy doing and also what you are good at. These are two distinct things - what you are good at in your current role may not always be in line with what you really enjoy spending your time doing. Make a list your interests, and another list of the things that you are good at. Pay particular attention to where there is a crossover between the two.
Armed with your lists determine which area within IT you are most suited to. It could, for example, be in cybersecurity, network administration, system administration, or programming. Don’t worry that your lists seem very niche, with technology reaching into every corner of almost every industry; you are sure to find openings that will fit your interests.
2. Join the Web Community and Start Building Your Network
With your goal in mind seek out related technology communities you can get involved in. These can be online forums, blogs, LinkedIn and other social networking sites, but don’t overlook in-person networking opportunities with local meet-up groups and associations. Keep in mind that while most folk still find their next career move through job sites like Indeed.com, often the best opportunities are found through personal and business connections. Be sure to seek connections related to your goals actively.
3. Start your Job Search
It’s never too early to start researching potential jobs. Finding a great job can take time, particularly if you are entering a new industry. Once you have set a goal, start looking for those entry-level jobs in the niche you are interested in. Most likely, initially, you will not have all the experience and qualifications you need to apply for many roles, but you will be starting to get a feel for what is available and which organizations are hiring. Also, you never know when an opportunity might present itself. Even with limited IT experience and certifications, you may find a company that is willing to help you get the training and certifications you need.
Starting your job search early gives you the opportunity to get your resume and interview skills up to speed while you build your network and get your starting certifications. Job searching is a process with many parts, and the more you hone your resume and interview skills the better prepared you will be when you do have the certification and experience to back them up.
If you are entering the IT Industry for the first time, you will want to look for entry-level jobs. These will primarily be in IT Support and will have titles like:
- Desktop Support Technician
- IT Technician
- End User Support Technician
- Help Desk
4. Build Your Skill Set, Get Trained and Get Certified
Having started your job search one of the most important things to know about a successful IT career is that you will need to keep your skills up to date. In a fast-moving industry having the right certifications and keeping them current is essential, particularly if you decide to move into DoD related careers.
Entry-Level Training and Certification
The IT Industry is awash with training and certification programs, so where should you start?
There are two standard certifications that almost all entry-level IT roles require. If you have limited experience with computers, these are where your IT journey begins:
- CompTIA A+
- CompTIA Network+
CompTIA, or the Computing Technology Industry Association is one of the best known IT certification authorities in the world. Having these two certifications proves your competence in handling necessary computer hardware, software and networking maintenance. They lay the foundation for the rest of your career. A+ and Network+ will prepare you for entry-level jobs, particularly in IT Support and Help Desk roles.
CompTIA A+ training and certification
Covers the fundamentals of computer hardware and software, how components work together and how to troubleshoot and fix technical issues. It also covers basic computer networking skills. Topics you will learn include:
- Configuring, installing and upgrading operating systems
- Installing and imaging virtual machines
- Setting up and troubleshooting peripheral devices
- Assembling and disassembling computing hardware
- Setting up and supporting basic home and small office networks
- Implementing cybersecurity controls appropriate to help desk and technical support roles
- Troubleshooting and supporting end-user access to applications and data
Takes your skills to the next level, introducing you to networks fundamentals, how to secure, troubleshoot and maintain them. You will learn:
- Designing and implementing functional networks
- Configuring, managing, and maintaining essential network devices
- Using devices such as switches and routers to segment network traffic and create resilient networks
- Identifying benefits and drawbacks of existing network configurations
- Implementing network security, standards, and protocols
- Troubleshooting network problems
- Supporting the creation of virtualized networks
Be aware that completing these qualifications is not a breeze, they require personal commitment and the ability to learn new skills. But anyone with a basic understanding of computers and a willingness to learn can, and often do, pass these.
For those who aren’t sure about their basic computer skills, CompTIA Fundamentals is an online course that starts with the very basics. Taking this training would be an excellent primer for anyone who has had minimal experience using computers but wants to move into an IT career. It would also help you prepare for the CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+ training.
Where and How to Get IT Training
When it comes to learning the skills you need to get your IT certifications, there’s a vast range of options, whether it’s online training or instructor-led. Online training tends to be cheaper (or even free in some cases) and gives you more flexibility concerning time, but in-class, instructor-led training is often more effective in helping students retaining knowledge and skills. Instructor-led training also gives you physical, real-world experience, when it comes to handling components and setting up networks.
Regardless of your style of learning, find a quality training company and if they give you excellent service, price and training, stick with them. If you are just starting on your IT journey, our recommendation would be to find a local IT training company with a good reputation and attend instructor-led classes. You will find that the personal attention you get from an instructor, the collaboration you will have with other students and the ability to handle and configure actual components, will be invaluable.
Taking the Exam
Once you have your training down, you need to take the certification exams. Where you take certification exams varies from vendor to vendor. Many vendors allow students to take exams at a PearsonVUE center, which are widely available but some require you to attend dedicated vendor testing centers, which can be less easily accessed.
The good news is that for beginners like you, CompTIA certification exams can be taken at a Pearson VUE center.
5. Get Started in IT Support
Having attained your certification your best first move is to look for IT Support roles. Starting out supporting desktops, hardware and networking will give you a solid foundation in computing as you decide which branch of IT you wish to specialize in. Even if your longer-term plan is to move into programming or database administration, having a sound understanding of IT fundamentals will benefit you greatly.
Attaining an IT Support role will likely require you to get CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+ certification. These are generally considered the baseline qualifications for getting into entry-level IT careers and often go together. If you are looking to jump quickly into one of these roles, some training companies offer a combined course, which brings the training for both A+ and Network+ together in a shorter period and at a cheaper cost.
Having obtained these certifications, you are going to find it much easier to find that first job. IT Support job titles vary depending on the size of the company, the hardware they use and industry they are in but generally you should be looking for job titles such as:
- IT Technician
- Junior Network Technician
- Entry Level Help Desk Support Specialist
- It Support Technician
In these roles, you will be expected to perform duties such as:
- Field incoming help requests from employees/customers
- Support desktop and application issues
- Set up computers, install and configure software/hardware/peripherals
- Install printers
- Troubleshoot PC workstation and peripheral problems
- Take corrective actions and escalate issues appropriately to achieve timely recovery with minimum impact on customer
- Installation, customization, and maintenance of IT equipment
The job outlook for Computer Support Specialist has an average pay of $52,810 per year and an expected growth rate of 11% Bureau of Labor Statistics
6. CompTIA Security+ Comes Next
Having obtained your CompTIA A+, Network+ and your first IT role, you should start thinking about the area of IT you want to end up in. Do you want to stay in systems support and then step up into System Admin or Network Admin roles? Or would you rather step into cybersecurity or programming?
If your answer is to step into cybersecurity, then you should look at taking CompTIA Security+ as your next move. This certification will build on your basic IT knowledge and experience and develop your understanding of IT Security. Regarding cybersecurity, the Security+ certification will set you up nicely for the EC-Council CEH qualification.
If you plan to stay in System Administration or Network Administration, you should consider taking Cisco CCNA and Microsoft Windows 10 certification. Considering the wide install base owned by Cisco and Microsoft, these certifications will give you broad appeal across many organizations when applying for promotions or new jobs.