Computer information systems (CIS) is a broad field that has a number of specialization options, including database administration, network engineering, network security, software development, web development, and programming.
Certifications are offered by several organizations and software companies, such as Microsoft, Cisco, CompTIA, Apple, Oracle, and Adobe. Certification is not required for most careers in computer information systems; however, some employers may prefer to hire those who have earned certification in the product that they use, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Many community colleges, technical schools, and universities offer full degree and certificate programs that include coursework specifically designed to prepare students for certification exams. IT professionals not looking for a full degree program can also find short-term certificate programs or courses that specifically prepare students for certification. After completing a prep course or program, individuals typically need to pass one or more exams to earn the certification.
Some of the more common certifications offered by Microsoft include the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) and Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) credentials. Each credential requires a different number of exams and prep courses. The MCSE credential, for example, requires applicants to pass seven exams, and the prep courses may take two years to complete. These courses cover Windows programs, servers, network infrastructures, security, and networks in order to prepare students for the certification exam.
Cisco offers around 50 certifications for computer professionals, including the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA). The CCNA credential is one of the most common options for computer professionals, and is relevant for those who install, repair, manage, and configure computer networks. CCNA prep courses may be administered by the Cisco Academy Program even though they may be offered through a school. CCNA prep programs can be completed in about six months and are typically divided into four or five courses that cover network fundamentals, network security, routers, switching technology, wireless networks, and a test review. Additional certification prep courses are available for the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) and Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) exams.
The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is a non-profit organization that offers a variety of certifications that are not specific to one product or manufacturer. Many schools offer courses that prepare students for their A+, Network+, Linux+, or Security+ exams. Prep courses for the A+ exam can be taken either online or on campus and may take 18-24 weeks to complete; some accelerated programs may be completed in about six weeks. These prep programs include 2-4 courses that cover troubleshooting for computer hardware and software.
CIS certification comes in many forms from several different organizations. Many job opportunities present themselves to successful graduates, especially for those with specialized training in a specific aspect of computer information systems.