Certifications give your resume more credibility and can make you more marketable to recruiters and hiring managers. And at the entry-level, they’re a great way to stand out from other candidates — and even boost your pay.
As you grow in your career, you’ll want to consider more advanced certifications to continue your professional development. By then, you’ll know what specialties to focus on and what skills you need for your desired career path. But at the entry level, it’s better to stick with more generalized certifications that will help get your foot in the door.
Here are 10 IT certifications to launch your career, whether you have recently graduated or have decided to make a career change.
10 entry-level IT certs to jump-start your career
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
- Cisco Certified Technician (CCT)
- Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
- CompTIA IT Fundamentals+ (ITF+)
- Comp TIA A+
- CompTIA Network+
- CompTIA Security+
- Microsoft 365 Fundamentals
- Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA)
- PMI Certified Associate in project Management (CAPM)
Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification is an entry-level IT security certification offered through the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, known as (ISC)². The certification is accredited under the ANSI standard and has been approved by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) as a requirement for some IT security roles. The certification exam covers topics such as security and risk management, asset security, security architecture and engineering, communication and network security, identity and access management, security assessment and testing, security operations and software development security.
Typically, the (ISC)² requires candidates to have at least five years of work experience in two of the eight domains covered on the exam. However, through the Associate level of the (ISC)² program, you can take the CISSP certification exam without the necessary work experience, which makes it a great option if you’re looking to get a jumpstart on your IT security career.
Exam fee: $699 (KSh76,000)
Cisco Certified Technician (CCT)
The Cisco Certified Technician (CCT) certification verifies your ability to diagnose, restore, repair and replace critical Cisco networking and system devices at customer sites. There are two CCT paths to choose from: data center or routing and switching.
The CCT Data Center certification covers support and maintenance of Cisco Unified Computing systems and server. It’s targeted at field support engineers working with Cisco data center system devices and software. You’ll need to take the course Supporting Cisco Data Center System Devices (DCTECH) v2.0 before you can pass the exam. The course covers data center networking fundamentals, field servicing and equipment replacement and how to identify Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) component models, accessories cabling and interfaces.
The CCT Routing and Switching certification covers on-site support and maintenance of Cisco routers, switches and operating environments. It’s designed for on-site technical support and other support staff who work with Cisco Data Center Solutions. Before you can take the exam, you’ll need to take the course Supporting Cisco Routing and Switching Network Devices (RSTECH). The online self-paced course covers networking fundamentals, Cisco outer and switch models, Cisco IOS software operating modes and the Cisco command line interface (CLI).
Exam fee: $125 (KSh13,500)per exam
Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Routing & Switching
In the past, Cisco offered several individual certifications under the Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification scheme, but it has recently consolidated all CCNA certifications into one single CCNA certification. The new CCNA certification validates your skills and knowledge with network fundamentals, network access, IP connectivity, IP services, security fundamentals and automation and programmability.
The CCNA certification is designed to cover a “broad range of fundamentals based on the latest technologies, software development skills and job roles.” It’s an entry-level certification designed to get you up to speed on the latest IT fundamentals to launch your career.
Exam fee: $299 (KSh32,500)
CompTIA IT Fundamentals+ (ITF+)
The CompTIA IT Fundamentals+ (ITF+) certification is designed for those interested in starting a career in IT or who want to change career paths. The exam is intended to validate your foundational knowledge in IT and to give you a better idea of what it’s like to work in IT. It covers essential IT skills and knowledge such as the functions and features of common operating systems, establishing network connectivity, security best practices and how to identify common software applications.
The certification exam covers networks, infrastructure, IT concepts and terminology, applications and software, security, database fundamentals and software development. It’s also a good starting point if you want to continue down the CompTIA certification path, but it’s not a requirement for other certifications.
Exam fee: $123 (KSh13,500)
Comp TIA A+
The CompTIA A+ certification is targeted at support specialists, field service technicians, desktop support analysts and help desk support. If you’re interested in landing a job in a related field, it’s a solid entry-level certification that is well-regarded in the industry. The certification consists of two exams — one that covers mobile devices, networking technology, hardware, virtualization and cloud computing and network troubleshooting, and a second exam that covers installing and configuring operating systems, expanding security and troubleshooting software and operational procedures.
The certification verifies your ability to troubleshoot and solve problems with networking, operating systems, mobile devices and security. The certification focuses on validating nine major IT skills, including hardware, operating systems, software troubleshooting, networking, hardware and network troubleshooting, security, mobile devices, virtualization and cloud computing and operational procedures.
Exam fee: $226 (KSh28,900) per exam
The CompTIA Network+ is an entry-level certification that covers networking concepts, troubleshooting, operations, tools and security as well as IT infrastructure. The certification is designed for junior network administrators, network field technicians, junior system engineers, IS consultants and network field engineers. It’s recommended to have your CompTIA A+ certification and at least 9 to 12 months of networking experience before taking the exam, but it’s not required.
The exam verifies your knowledge with configuring, managing and maintaining network devices, implementing and designing functional networks, network troubleshooting and network security. If you know you want to work closely with IT networks, it’s a well-recognized and worthwhile certification that will set you apart from other entry-level candidates.
Exam fee: $329 (KSh35,700)
Security is a crucial IT skill for any technology role, so it’s a good idea to earn your CompTIA Security+ certification at the entry-level. It’s suited for network, system and security administrators, security specialists, junior IT auditors, security consultants and security engineers. A new exam will launch in November that is compliant with ISO 17024 standards and approved by the US DoD to meet specific security requirements. It’s recommended, but not required, to have your CompTIA Network+ certification and at least two years of experience in IT administration with a security focus.
The 90-minute exam covers threats, attacks and vulnerabilities, risk management, architecture and design, technology and tools, cryptography and PKI and identity and access management. Earning your Security+ certification will show employers you have the skills to install and configure systems to keep applications, networks and devices secure in accordance with compliance laws.
Exam fee: $349 (KSh37,900)
Microsoft 365 Fundamentals
The Microsoft 365 Fundamentals certification covers all the basics and fundamentals of the Microsoft 365 suite of products and services. The certification proves that you understand “the options available in Microsoft 365 and the benefits of adopting cloud services, the Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud model and implementing the Microsoft 365 cloud service.”
The exam will ask you to describe and explain cloud concepts, core Microsoft 365 services and concepts, security, compliance, privacy and trust in Microsoft 365. You’ll also be tested on your knowledge of the Microsoft 365 products, services and pricing structures.
Exam fee: $99 (KSh10,6750)
Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA)
The MTA certifications are designed for entry-level workers just starting out in IT or for those looking to change IT careers. The exam is meant to help you establish your career track in IT, letting you decide what areas you want to focus on. The MTA certifications are a great place to start for anyone interested in becoming an IT auditor or a systems, network or security administrator.
Exam fee: Varies by location
PMI Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
The Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification is a widely-recognized entry-level certification for project management offered through the Project Management Institute (PMI). You don’t necessarily have to be a project manager to get your CAPM — plenty of IT jobs require project management skills to oversee technical projects.
You’ll need a secondary degree and at least 23 hours of project management education completed before you can take the exam — but you can accomplish that through PMI’s Project Management Basics course. The course is designed by PMI to prepare you for the CAPM certification exam — it covers project management basics and skills you’ll need for an IT project management job.
Exam fee: Varies by location
Course fee: Varies by location
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