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 These posts contain previously unpublished Certification Survey data.
For many skilled tech professionals, working in computer support is the first step toward working in IT as a whole. It’s a solid all-around entry path that improves familiarity with a broad array of tech disciplines and helps individuals polish valuable soft skills, such as one-on-one interaction and communication, that are increasingly prized by employers.
Computer support professionals also become skilled at troubleshooting and problem solving, and are frequently called on to remedy the after-effects of low- and middle-grade security incidents. In many ways, a handful of years spent doing computer support work really is an excellent means of preparing oneself to eventually master a variety of IT specializations.
That being the case, then, it’s worth asking what offers the best preparation to work in computer support. Certification is obviously only one of many options, but the right IT credential can provide anyone with a solid footing from which to proceed. So we asked certified computer support professionals to tell us which of more than 30 different certifications was their first computer support credential.
Not surprisingly, the popular A+ credential offered by tech industry association CompTIA is a clear favorite. A solid 38 percent of those surveyed got A+-certified before turning in any other certification direction, and a shade more than half of respondents have a current A+ cert.
The next most popular credential is the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Routing & Switching cert that is one of the cornerstones of the Cisco certification pyramid. Roughly 15 percent of respondents started their certification journey with CCNA Routing & Switching in their back pocket.
There’s less of a consensus after the top two, though two more entry-level certs, CompTIA’s Security+ (3.3 percent) and the Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA): IT Infrastructure (5.4) made notable showings, as well as two unusually high-level credentials. The Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) Desktop Infrastructure credential was a point of entry for 5.4 percent of respondents, and (ISC)²’s CISSP opened the certification door to 2.2 percent of those surveyed.
Those last two would seem to indicate that at least some computer support professionals found a different path to employment (and work experience) than certification. Indeed, for some, certification comes along at a point in time where it probably seems like more of a graduation achievement than an educational entry point.
We also asked survey respondents to tell us how long they worked in computer support before turning to certification. Here’s what we learned:
Question: How many years did you work in computer support before obtaining your first certification?
Less than 1 year — 24 percent
1 year — 6.1 percent
2 years — 12.8 percent
3 years — 9.7 percent
4 years — 7.7 percent
5 years — 7.1 percent
6 years — 2 percent
7 years — 3.1 percent
8 years — 3.6 percent
9 years — 1.5 percent
10 years — 3.6 percent
More than 10 years — 18.9 percent
More than half (52.6 percent) of those surveyed worked in computer support for three or fewer years before getting a cert, and 24 percent weren’t even in the game for an entire year before seeking certification. And at the other end of the spectrum, we see a not insignificant number of those who clearly entered the field by other means, and only got around to certification gradually.