October 4, 2010 2:43 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
basic IT skills and knowledge
, building a solid IT foundation
, IT knowledge for entry-level candidates
Nelson Velez at Certification Magazine has penned a nice little article entitled “Tips to Build a Solid Foundation in IT” (10/4/2010) that aims solidly at aspiring IT professionals seeking to gain entry into this field.
Nelson Velez muses on establishing street cred it IT
He recommends the A+ as a good starting point for IT certification, and goes on to prescribe learning and experience in the following areas:
- Networking with a strong emphasis on the OSI network reference model and basic IP and networking hardware skills and knowledge (unsurprisingly, the Network+ cert also comes in for mention here, too).
- Operating systems skills, with mention of Windows, Linux, and Unix, and a reminder that server skills are important for those seeking IT employment, as well as desktop skills.
- Mention of IT specialties call out routing and switching (Cisco’s CCNA gets singled out here), wireless networking (CWNA makes the grade in this category), and information security (no certs come up for discussion, but a number of topics that include OS hardening, firewalls, ACLs, IDSs, and endpoint security are all tossed out for consideration).
This information is all well and good, but it cries out for more detail and coverage for what it doesn’t say, as well as for what it covers. For one thing, it’s worth noting that entry level certifications like A+, Network+, and CCNA are all well and good but that these seldom suffice to land aspiring candidates in positions they seek without more education and a modicum of experience to back them up. Entry-level certs are best viewed as stepping stones to more advanced credentials, in fact, where those more advanced certs (such as CCNP or CCDP to follow up on CCNA, or advanced OS-specific networking crendentials for Windows, Linux, Solaris and Red Hat to follow up on Network+) can indeed help employability and open additional job options.
I’ll wax eloquent and occasionally profane over these subjects in blogs to come, but for now let me observe that an associate’s or bachelor’s in any of computer science or technology, management information systems, or data management/processing is also designed to provide a basic understanding of the principles and processes of IT as practiced in business, academia, government, and industry nowadays, and that aspiring professionals will be well-served to pursue academic credentials as well as IT certifications.
September 29, 2010 1:25 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Born To Learn blog asks hiring managers about certs and software versions
, hiring managers mostly OK with newer certs for positions based on older tech
Deborah Gauer of Microsoft Learning recently posed an interesting scenario to its IT Manager Advisory Council, to wit:
You are the hiring manager in an organization that is running an older version of Microsoft software (eg. Windows Server 03, Visual Studio 2005, etc.).
Would you be more or less likely to hire a candidate if they hold a certification on the newer version of the same Microsoft software (Windows Server 08, Visual Studio 2010, etc.)?
Do newer certs count for older, related tech?
Her blog “What Matters to Hiring Managers – Certification and software versions” (9/27/2010) then goes on to recap responses to this question from 8 different managers on the council. Interestingly, 5 of those 8 answered “Yes” to the question, from the standpoint that back-rev technologies are likely to advance with time, and that all other things being equal, it’s better to have a person in the job who’s already familiar with the latest MS technologies (or at least, their certifiable versions anway). The other three basically answered “That depends…” where their experience obviously showed them that some versions of MS software and tools can change substantially between versions, and that when major functionality switches occur, it’s important to make sure the candidate can do the job that’s needed, irrespective of the value of the newer certification (changes to AD from Windows Server 2003 to 2008, to SQL Server 2000 versus 2005/2008, and .NET 2.0 versus .NET 4 all came in for specific mention in this context).
This pretty much accords with my own experience in talking to employers about certification, and the relative merits of current credentials as compared to certs on older versions of the same or similar technologies. If you want to learn more, read the blog: it’s got some great quotes to share.
September 27, 2010 4:11 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
11/8/2010 ushers in new CCDA and CCDP exams
, CCDA and CCDP exams get updates
, Cisco CCDP ARCH and CCDA DESGN exams refresh on 11/8/2010
As of November 8, 2010, Cisco will be offering updated versions for some of the exams for its Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA) and Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP) certifications. There’s only one exam for CCDA (640-863 DESGN), but the exam that’s changing for CCDP is “Designing Cisco Network Service Architectures” (642-873 ARCH). Although the exams are being refreshed, neither their ID numbers nor designations are changing, which indicates only modest alterations in exam coverage and content are in the offing.
Would-be CCDA and CCDP candidates must use the following exam objectives if they want to take either of these on or after November 8, 2010:
The most current versions of exam prep materials from Cisco Press should remain accurate for the updated exam materials, though you may want to keep your eyes peeled for updated versions.
September 22, 2010 1:42 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
CCNA is not cert enough for a job guarantee
, mid-range Cisco certs more likely to lead to gainful IT employment
, no obvous connection between Cisco certification and Chemical Engineering degrees
This morning I took a couple of minutes to clean out my Outlook folders, and found an interesting email in my spam folder where it had been mis-classified, probably because the message sender had crafted some text that made it look like a solicitation of sorts. In reality, the message originated from my Website and formulated a number of interesting questions — to which I also append my answers, before ruminating on a an entirely understandable but not always practical impulse that the questions clearly contain:
- Is a CCNA by itself enough certification to provide an entree into the job market?
Alas, no: the CCNA is really just a stepping-stone to other, more advanced Cisco credentials, as the author’s next question shows that he or she understands pretty well already.
- Must I go on to earn a CCNP or some other more senior Cisco certification to gain any employment benefits?
Alas, yes: a CCNP represents something between a checkbox item (something everybody needs to qualify for certain positions) to an outright differentiator (something somebody can use to gain an edge on otherwise similarly qualified job applications) when it comes to going after lots of various networking jobs (obviously, those with a strong focus on Cisco infrastructure elements).
- I’m also pursuing a Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering. Is there some way I can combine my Cisco certs with my degree?
Uhhh…gee…I dunno if this even makes sense, unless you’re going to get involved in the manufacture of networking equipment and even then the connection is more in the eyes of its pursuer than in any kind of obvious or even overt synergy. Without conducting deep research, or spending a lot of time in pondering this, my immediate impulse is to say “Here’s a case where you must go one way or the other, because there’s no obvious or easy way to do both together.”
But gosh, I certainly do “get” my interlocutor’s obvious wish that various aspects of one’s professional life interlock together, and that the resulting whole be at least equal to, if not more than, the sum of its constituent parts. All I can say, in chewing on this wish in light of the combination proposed — and lots of others I can think of, turning first and foremost to my own early-career transition from anthropology to computer science, once I realized the chances of gainful employment were much higher if I worked in the latter field, no matter how interesting and absorbing the former one might have been — is that sometimes our wishes for coherence and useful combinations of truly different and disparate things exceed our abilities to put those things together in workable fashion.
People invariably have lots of different interests, both personal and professional. Sometimes, we can reconcile and combine those interests to create something that pulls various things together, and sometimes we can’t. Honestly, I’m a bit stumped as to how one might really and truly go after a combination of chemical engineering and Cisco certification (ideas anyone?). And thus, because I can’t see a connection, I’m also bound to float the possiblity that it may be difficult or impossible to find such a connection and make it work.
That doesn’t mean my writer shouldn’t try; it only means that in asking me for advice on how to pursue such a connection I really can’t offer much useful information to help that process along. Maybe I’m overlooking something, whether obvious or otherwise, and in that case I hope my readers will post comments to help me remedy that deficit. I’d love to have grounds to offer better input than I have currently formulated, which is to say that it looks to me like the person must go down one path or the other — in other words, to bag the ChemE side and do (Cisco) networking, or to drop the (Cisco) networking and do ChemE instead.
Life is full of choices, and not all of them are easy ones. From my current vantage point, this is a branch in a decision tree, not a shared pathway. What do you think?
September 20, 2010 1:18 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
jobless recovery continues
, jobless recovery in the US likely to persist for years
, stuck between modest economic growth and miniscule job creation rates
If you’re willing to accept the conflation of jobs and observation into the word that appears in this blog’s title, you’ll also grant that such things have not been overly rosy since 2008, when the recession took real hold in the US and elsewhere. Here’s what one of my favorite news publications (The Economist) has to say about the current state of our recovery from that recession in an editorial entitled “Are we there yet?” dated 9/16/2010:
…history suggests that although nascent recoveries often wobble for a quarter or two, they rarely relapse into recession. For now, it is most likely that America’s economy will crawl along with growth at perhaps 2.5%: above stall speed, but far too slow to make such difference to the jobless rate…
And indeed, the problem with jobs right now is that while they’re growing very little by very little, that little is so small that it can’t begin to make a dent in the 8 million or so jobs lost since the recession began, not to mention the 1-2 million or more new would-be jobholders who enter the job market each year. No wonder jobs are such a major preoccupation for the general population and for the politicians who serve them (and who also face re-election at regular intervals, especially this November).
Unless the current administration can wrestle sufficient cooperation from the Republicans (like that’s going to happen) to push through some kind of major government-backed jobs program, we may be stuck in this situation of modest/minor economic growth without a real increase in jobs (the famous “jobless recovery”) for another two years or longer. In that same time, the number of jobless could grow further, not just because of the lack of new jobs being created, but also because of the numbers of new job-seekers that enter the workforce — or that try to enter the workforce, anyway — each and every year.
September 17, 2010 3:25 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
cost of IT certification
, lifetime IT cert costs may be higher than you think
, six figures for lifetime IT certs may not be that high
In a recent posting to one of my blogs here, a reader indicated that he or she had spent “six figures” on obtaining numerous certifications over the course of a professional career of some standing. At first, I was staggered to read a number of this magnitude, but then upon reflection it occurred to me that if broken down or compared to other kinds of educational or career development costs, it is neither terribly shocking nor too extreme.
Ponder these items, as you seek to digest the news that the costs of certification can indeed add up over the course of a professional career in IT:
- The average cost of a bachelor’s degree in 2009 was $25,143 per year at a private college and $6,585 at a public institution. Over four years this adds up to $100, 572 and $26,340 respectively at relatively current cost levels. Then, recognize that it takes more than 4 years for most undergrads to finish their degrees nowadays (at least an extra semester, sometimes two or more).
- The average cost of a master’s degree runs from $10-15,000 on the low end to just under $100,000 on the high end (such as an MBA from a top-flight school like Harvard, Stanford, or Wharton).
- A mid-range certification like the MCITP, CCNP, or CISSP can easily cost $500 to $1000 for exams, $500 for study prep materials and practice exams, and up to $5,000 for classroom training to prepare for the exam. Out-of-pocket costs usually range from $1,000 to as much as $6,500 to earn the credential to begin with, and another $300-500 a year to maintain (for exam retakes or continuing education costs) currency after the cert has been earned. Factor in the time involved at even a modest $25 an hour, and in most cases you’ll add $5,000 to $10,000 to the cost of each certification earned.
- A high-end cert like the CCIE can cost a lot more: $350 for the written exam and $1,400 for the lab exam (which also requires travel and lodging costs as well, unless you’re lucky enough to live in one of the handful of cities or metro areas around the world where a CCIE test lab is located). Most people take the exam two times, many may even go to three times, so it’s not at all unusual for out-of-pocket costs for the CCIE to run from $10,000 to $20,000, including lab access and lab test costs, but not costs for time spent preparing (again, add another $10-20K to cover this if you must).
- Certifications age out of the mix over time, and must be replaced with newer ones. So, although you need earn a degree only once, keeping certs current adds an ongoing source of out-of-pocket expense plus time and effort. Over the years this can add up. Even an individual who keeps only two or three certifications current can easily spend over $100K over the course of 20 or more years working in IT.
So maybe “six figures” is to be expected, rather than to be marveled at, or shied away from. When I look at what I’ve spent to buy materials, take exams, and conduct research for the many certification topics I’ve written about, it certainly makes sense for me — and then some. How about for you? Do some back-of-the-envelope calculations and post your lifetime cert outlays here, too.
September 16, 2010 9:46 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
MCDST and upgrade exams retire on 3/31/2011
, MCDST to retire on 3/31/2011
, older Microsoft desktop certs headed for retirement
Some recent issue of the MCP Flash newsletter must have shared this news, but I’ll be darned if I can find the actual word that the exams for the Microsoft Certified Desktop Technician (MCDST) would be retired on March 31, 2011 anywhere. You can see the “exam retires” news for both 70-271 and 70-272 on the MCDST page and the Discontinued Exams list from MS Certification Exam Development page also indicates that the MCITP upgrade exam to the MCITP (70-621) will be retiring on 3/31/2011 as well.
Thanks to Anne Martinez for bringing this to my attention in her latest “Certification Watch” newsletter (Volume 13 #14). Clearly, this means it’s time for those supporting Vista or XP to move ahead to Windows 7, and to start targeting relevant MCTS and MCITP certifications instead. Don’t delay: jump on the new platform now!
September 13, 2010 6:37 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Global Knowledge offers good mix of infosec classes
, Global Knowledge seeks to prepare customers for 8570.1 compliance
, Global Knowlege infosec training catalog
Heh! I get phone calls from telemarketers all the time because I often have to register for downloads that I want to write about for this blog and other Websites and publications. I’m sure I’ve got another phone call from Global Knowledge coming, thanks to what I’m about to tell you here (in fact, I got a call from a reasonably savvy telemarketer for the company just last Friday, who immediately understood that when I told him I taught the occasional certification class and was the creator of Exam Cram that I probably wasn’t a member of his target audience).
GK Current Infosec Catalog
Nevertheless, for those interested in information security training and certifications the recent Security Training Catalog is probably worth a visit. A quick list of its contents will help explain why I make such a possibly outrageous claim:
- Elements to meet 8570.1 Compliance requirements
- Security+ Overview/Prep Course (Course #9829)
- CISSP Prep Course (Course #9840)
- CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker) Prep Course (Course #9844)
- Foundstone Ultimate Hacking Course (Course #9810)
- Check Point Secuirty Administration R70 Course (Course #9881)
- Other courses: Blue Coat Certified Proxy, Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator, F5 Big-IP Local Traffic Manager, McAfee Firewall Enterprise System Admin
- Implementing Cisco IOS Network Security (IINS; Course #5241)
- Cisco Security Monitoring, Analysis, & Response System (MARS; Course #5731)
- Cisco Security Networks with ASA Fundamentals (SNAF; Course #5698)
- Implementing Cisco Intrusion Prevention System v6.0 (IPS; Course #5702)
- Microsoft Defening Windows Networks (Course #6128)
- SonicWALL Network Security Essentials Admin Training (Course #0400)
- Secure Remote Access Admin Training v10 (Course #0402)
It’s a great mix of courses that is sure to contain elements of interest for most medium- to large-size businesses and organizations. Download your own copy and check it out (but watch out for follow-up phone calls!)
September 10, 2010 3:04 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Emmett Dulaney at CertCities reports that Windows 7 questions will be integrated into A+ exams
, next A+ revision not likely until late 2011 or early 2012
, Windows 7 content slated for next A+ revision
In a story for CertCities dated 8/31/2010, veteran Cert-guy Emmett Dulaney scoops the news that Windows 7 coverage will be included in an as-yet-unscheduled future release of the CompTIA A+ exams. Because of the time lag between new OS releases and exam updates, this kind of thing is inevitable, but it’s nice to see CompTIA responding to a major and successful new OS release from Microsoft as fast as their internal development cycle allows.
The current version of the A+ includes exams 220-701, CompTIA A+ Essentials, and 220-702, CompTIA A+ Practical Application, together also known as “the CompTIA A+ 2009 Edition.” Given CompTIA’s usual development cycles (it takes them at least 22 months to revise an exam from the point at which they begin work, because of their rigorous and painstaking employer interviews, job task analyses, and question development and qualification processes), it’s going to be a while before we see these changes slipstreamed into the next edition of an A+ exam, however.
In his story, Dulaney reports that “…Windows 7 questions will be integrated into the two existing A+ exams” (which would presumably then be numbered 220-801 and 220-802). CompTIA isn’t talking about dates just yet, but I’d be suprised if the exam appeared sooner than a year from now (September 2011) and wouldn’t be surprised at all if it didn’t appear until Q1 2012 or later. The current exam still includes some Windows 2000 questions, so Dulaney’s speculation that the Windows 7 materials may supplant those questions seems entirely reasonable to me, but only time and the sometimes mysterious inner workings of CompTIA will tell!