For years you have dedicated yourself to a traditional trade - electrical contractor, plumbing, HVAC installation, roofing - all honorable and highly skilled jobs, but for any number of reasons you find yourself looking to change careers. Bad boss, bad pay, bad work/life balance, you name it, everyone has a breaking point. Maybe a fresh start in Information Technology is just the change of careers you are looking for.
The good news is that if you live in Maryland, Washington or Virginia there are thousands of opportunities waiting for someone with your hands-on, practical experience and get-it-done mentality. If you are willing to devote a little time and money to expand your skill set with some IT Training, a change of careers may not be as difficult as you imagine.
Why Get Into Information Technology?
I have been in and around the technology field for a long time, in all kinds of roles and industries. Many of the best network technicians, IT support staff, and programmers that I have worked with, started their careers in other fields. Engineers, land surveyors, plumbers, contractors, HVAC installers, all fall into this group. There seems to be something about the practical application of basic engineering skills, mixed with the need for a logical, step-by-step approach that lends itself to the Information Technology industry.
So, if you have an engineering or trade background, with a curious mind and a practical approach, you will do well in Information Technology. In addition to your particular skill set, there are other reasons to consider IT as a career:
- Technology is a growth industry in the Washington Region, with new business parks being built throughout Washington, Maryland, and Virginia
- There is a notable skills shortage, with businesses unable to fill specific Technology industry jobs due to lack of qualified applicants
- IT is a forward-looking industry as more and more traditional roles are being replaced by computers
- There are lots of resources available to you to get IT Training in Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC
- And of course, it is common knowledge that IT jobs tend to command better salaries than most career paths. Let's be clear on this though. Your entry level job into the field will not have you retiring early, but as your experience grows more lucrative opportunities will open up.
This sounds too easy – what’s the catch
We’ve established that having a trade background can be a natural fit for an IT Career. We have also established that there is a growing market for people with IT skills in and around Washington, Virginia, and Maryland. So what’s the catch?
In one word – Certification.
The growing market for IT careers is largely based on a shortage of qualified applicants. Take a look at any of the big job sites like Monster.com or Indeed.com and you will find any number of job openings for IT support staff, network technicians and cybersecurity experts but they all require very specific certifications - CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, CEH, Linux+.
The list can seem daunting, but the truth is that many of these certifications can be obtained through local IT Providers who offer in-depth training and exam preparation.
And do keep in mind that these are intensive technical qualifications. They require a high level of commitment, and a willingness to learn technical skills. Given the right attitude and application, you get what you need to get started in an IT Career far more quickly than going back to school for a four-year degree. Many of these training centers provide flexible courses be it instructor-led or online, and during the week or at the weekend.
So, How Do I Get started in IT?
If you are looking to make the leap into an IT Career from a trade, there are two primary certifications that are very helpful - CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+.
These certifications evaluate an applicant's skill and knowledge of foundational information technology subjects. By earning these certifications, you will show potential employers that you have the knowledge and skills necessary to fulfill their job description.
The CompTIA A+ certification is the first step toward a successful information technology career and will immediately make someone eligible for entry-level repair and technician jobs. Typically, the A+ certification is obtained before the Network+ exam is attempted.
The CompTIA A+ certification comprises of two tests:
- CompTIA A+ 220-901 covers PC hardware and peripherals, mobile device hardware, networking and troubleshooting hardware and network connectivity issues.
- CompTIA A+ 220-902 covers installing and configuring operating systems including Windows, iOS, Android, Apple OS X, and Linux. It also addresses security, the fundamentals of cloud computing and operational procedures.
Each test has 100 questions and lasts 90 minutes. On a scale of 100 to 900, an applicant must score 675 on the Essentials test and 700 on the Practical Application to pass.
CompTIA recommends but does not require that applicants have 500 hours of hands-on experience or an equivalent amount of training before attempting the exams.
Specifically designed for network technicians, network administrators, or network installers, the CompTIA Network+ certification is also very beneficial to a change of careers and new information technology job seekers. The 90-minute Network+ examination includes 100 questions about networking equipment, installation, topology, management, configuration, and security. The seven-layer open system interconnection (OSI) model is a major focal point of the test. A minimum score of 720 (out of 900) is required to pass.
How Can I Optimize My Training and Certification?
By obtaining the CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+ certifications, you will prove you have the essential knowledge and skills required to be successful in the information technology industry. Since obtaining these certifications takes hard work and dedication, candidates who obtain them also demonstrate their commitment to success in the information technology field.
The exams are known to be slightly tricky and carefully worded. With the level of study required and the degree of difficulty of the exams, they are known to be able to weed out people who may not have the desire to further their Information Technology skill set down the road.
The A+ and Network+ certifications are also gateway certifications to almost all other sub-industries within IT. Some of the more popular sub-industries within the IT industry include networking, systems administration, and security. The A+ and Network+ certifications enable students to make a path in each of these directions by providing a solid and well-rounded foundation in IT concepts, terminology, and practical application. One will be equipped with the fundamental knowledge to do well in each category, as well as know which direction may be of interest to them, as each field is distinct in job duties and day to day operations.
Choosing the right training center is critical to your success. You need to find a school that offers a quality experience:
- Skilled and engaging instructors
- A practical, hands-on approach, that compliments book learning
- A classroom environment that is conducive to learning
So, What Are You waiting for? Go Get your CompTIA certification
Changing career paths is hard. Being willing to let go of what is familiar, even though it no longer fits your needs or makes you happy, takes courage. Getting trained and certified in the field you chose, before you make that leap will give you skills and confidence to apply for new jobs and ace the interviews.