As new technologies come online and existing ones grow more complex, the world of information technology expands and grows.

If you’re a specialist in the IT field, you already know how critical it is to keep pace with new developments and advances. Learning more also makes you more competitive: By growing your skills and knowledge base, you become more adept at what you do—and more valuable to a current or future employer.

Earning a certification or getting a degree are both excellent ways to expand your abilities and boost your earning potential. If you’re looking for quick results, certification may be the best first step. Here’s a rundown of 4 common IT certifications that may help you get ahead.


1. CompTIA A+ (Computing Technology Industry Association)

Overview: Two multiple-choice tests cover maintenance of PCs, laptops, printers, operating systems, and mobile devices. Developed in 1993, the CompTIA A+ certification is officially “vendor neutral,” encompassing technologies and operating systems from numerous vendors, including Microsoft, Apple, Linux, and others.

Required Work Experience: None.

Potential Career Moves: CompTIA A+ certification equips entry-level professionals with basic IT skills. Potential applications include work as a field technician, support administrator, support specialist, and more.

Advanced Certification: Where you go next depends on your specialty. Information security specialists can benefit from CompTIA Security+ or the GIAC Security Essentials certifications. Storage experts often go on to become Oracle Certified Associates or Cisco Certified Network Professionals.


2. MCSA (Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate)

Overview: As the name implies, MCSA training prepares you to deal with various aspects of Microsoft environments. It demonstrates to employers that you have the skills needed for a system administrator and support specialist positions (certifications available for Windows Server, Windows, SQL Server, and Office 365). The three-part exam, a prerequisite to obtaining a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) certification, is offered online and via campus-based training centers.

Required Work Experience: None.

Potential Career Moves: The MCSA is a great entry-level certification for someone looking to make a career change into IT.

Advanced Certification: The MSCA foundation provides IT specialists with the basis for going on to become a MCSE, which covers server infrastructure, private cloud, messaging, SharePoint, data platform, and business intelligence.


3. CCNA® (Cisco Certified Network Associate)

Overview: Cisco recently revamped its networking certifications to include several programs, such as collaboration, data center, security, video, voice, and wireless. The basic courses on the essentials of routing and switching provide an excellent backbone for IT work. Associates can specialize and advance to professional, expert, and architect levels after attaining their CCNA.

Required Work Experience: None.

Potential Career Moves: Learning the basics of routing, switching, scaling, and connecting networks will prepare new IT professional for careers in networking, such as network administrator.

Advanced Certification: Depending on where you want to steer your career, you may wish to pursue the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) certification in routing, wireless, security, or data. Or a Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP) program may equip you with network design skills.


4. PMP® (Project Management Professional)

Overview: Created and administered by the Project Management Institute, this certification is applicable to overseeing any kind of project. The exam probes five areas: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, and closing.

Required Work Experience: Requires a secondary degree (high school diploma or associate’s degree) and at least 5 years of project management experience, with 7,500 hours leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education; OR a 4-year degree and at least 3 years of project management experience, with 4,500 hours leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education.

Potential Career Moves: PMP can be used for managing projects in software development, information technology, and even non-tech-related fields.

Advanced Certification: Advancing in project management usually requires a Program Management Professional (PgMP®) certification, which demonstrates your competency at overseeing multiple business-driven projects.


Staying current in your field not only ensures you can successfully meet your job requirements, it also strengthens your resume as you compete for higher-level positions—and the salaries those jobs bring.


Earn up industry certifications from CompTIA, Cisco, and Microsoft while you work toward your bachelor’s in information technology degree. Once you have the skills and knowledge you need to take the certification exam, Capella University will give you the voucher to take it for free.