Certification Survey Extra is a series of periodic dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our most recent Certification Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Certification Survey data.
There have been many, many movies and television shows where a character is visited by their future self, who drops in to let them know that a key decision they are about to make will dramatically affect the course of their life. It's clear, if nothing else, that a lot of TV and movie writers wish they could chat with a future self who explains, or at least hints at, what they need to do next.
Unfortunately, it's exceedingly rare, bordering or "has never ever actually happened before and never will actually happen," to get a helpful self-assessment check-in with one's own older, wiser self. This can make it difficult to determine, among many other conundrums, what you should do to prepare for your next IT certification exam.
The range of available certification training and preparation options can cause even experienced IT professionals to become flustered. Even when one has a preferred mode of study, it isn't always the case that training suitable for the next certification exam on one's personal agenda is readily available in that form or fashion. Even your future self might struggle to advise you.
Certification is an ongoing pursuit, of course, so you aren't likely to enter the IT industry, whatever your specialization, with every cert you'll ever need already in hand. For our recent Computer Technician Certification Survey, we asked certified computer support professionals how they get the best results when a new certification exam comes along.
Survey respondents rated the effectiveness, per their most recent certification experience, of various IT support certification study materials. As always, those surveyed had the option to mark "Does Not Apply" for study approaches that are foreign to their experience.
Here's what we learned:
It almost certainly isn't the case that all training and study materials are helpful and produce excellent results. When you concentrate on the "Poor" column in the table above, however, it would seem that certified IT support professionals almost never have a bad experience.
It could be the case that everyone who participated in the survey already knows what they like and avoids methods of exam preparation they would find frustrating. There are certainly types of training that large numbers of those surveyed steer clear of altogether.
As often happens when we look at this sort of question, it's clear than many many certified computer technicians are go-IT-alone types. (See what we did there?) They have a strong belief that they learn best and profit most from using learning solutions that are self-guided, self-paced, and don't require interaction with others. This would account for the excellent ratings given to options such as self-study books, practice exams, and computer-based training or simulations.
The workplace is a key arena of learning for many, as demonstrated by the fact that roughly 64 percent of survey participants chose a rating of either "Excellent" or "Very Good" for on-the-job training. If you know enough to get a job in IT, then you can do work, get paid, and enrich your skill set all at the same time.
Another strong option — at least for those who use it — is instructor-led training. Community college courses, boot camps and online mailing lists/forums are apparently beneath the notice of many certified information security professionals looking to study up for a certification exam.