Certified IT Professional
Information technology (IT) professionals can pursue certification, like the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) credential, to demonstrate an advanced capability in designing, optimizing, and installing various products. Professionals working toward this distinction could also seek other IT credentials relevant to their experience level. Earning a high-level MCP designation generally requires significant preparation and experience.
Certified IT professionals have various levels of education ranging from some college courses to a bachelor's degree, depending on their prospective position.
|Degree Level||Varies by position; postsecondary education|
|Degree Field||Computer systems, information science or a related field|
|Certification||Voluntary certification is available|
|Experience||Varies by position; at least five years of IT experience common|
|Key Skills||Familiarity with a variety of computer programs including web platform development, business process automation, programming, back-up and archival, configuration management, and operating system software; ability to use related computer equipment such as servers, network analyzers, and hard disk arrays|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)*||$48,620 (for computer support specialists)|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net Online
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Steps to Becoming a Certified IT Professional
Step 1: Complete a Postsecondary Education Program
Students interested in a career in IT can find many schools that offer certificate, degree, and professional training programs in a variety of disciplines, such as computer science, programming, networking, computer security and systems engineering. Coursework in these programs may include system analysis, database management, statistics, programming, mathematics, and network security.
To get the most out of your education, get involved with student organizations. Many colleges and other institutions offer student-run computer science associations, which offer ways to enrich students' studies of computer science, such as presentations and events. Some also feature opportunities to strengthen computer skills through programming competitions and other contests.
Step 2: Gain Work Experience
Credentials like the MCP generally require experience with the technologies, such as computer programming, database management, and developing networks. IT professionals may also need a background in server administration, including experience with Microsoft SQL, Exchange, or Lync servers. Employers also look for professionals with several years of experience. IT professionals may consider entry-level computer support or technician positions to gain this experience.
Step 3: Become Certified
Microsoft offers test preparation options on its website for each exam required for an MCP credential. These options include practice exams, information on locating live classes, online courses, books, and other resources. Most options are self-paced, allowing candidates to prepare for the MCP certification exams without interfering with school or work schedules. Community and technical colleges also offer specific preparatory certificate programs that offer preparation specific to the MCP credential.
Additionally, keep current with any requirements for maintaining certification. Some professional IT certifications expire and must be renewed periodically, while others are valid as long as a technology exists. For example, the MCP designation remains current as long as Microsoft supports a particular technology. It's important for certified IT professionals to be aware of how current their certification is and upgrade as new software versions are released.
Step 4: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Some college courses or an associate's degree may be sufficient to gain an entry-level IT professional position, while those who aspire to management or supervisory positions should earn bachelor's degrees.
To review, with a higher education in computer systems, several years of experience, and certification, a certified IT professional can earn about $48.620 a year to design, optimize, and install various products.