Specialist, Network+, MTA, MCSA Windows Advice?

muchw0wmuchw0w Member Posts: 9 ■□□□□□□□□□
Hi everyone,

I've been browsing the forums for quite a while now, finally got around to making an account for myself. Im 28, work in warehouse/foodservice and am trying to make a career change into IT. I recently passed my COMPTIA A+ certification and am looking advice for the next certification.

Long term, Id like to focus on InfoSec, but for now I am trying to land a entry level Repair or Technical Support job.

A few years back, when I was fresh out of high school, I enrolled in ECPI and did a year in Information Systems and Security Management. Didn't finish because of personal reasons.

Originally, I planned to dive right into Network +, but after looking at the job market in my area, it seems like I might want to grab a Microsoft cert or two focusing on Windows 7 or 10. The Microsoft certs are confusing to me. What should I go for? The website has several basic certs. Specialist certs for 7 & 10. Then theres the MTA? I've read several threads that say MCSE over MCSA, but I feel like I might be better starting with the MCSE for Windows 7 or maybe 8. Should I go for both or just 8? or maybe 7?

Any advise would be greatly appreciated. From a very young age I've been drawn to this industry. I've stumbled along the way and am finally trying to focus on a career I will be happy with.


  • techfiendtechfiend Member Posts: 1,481 ■■■■□□□□□□
    Welcome to the forum!

    About a year ago I was in the same position as you. Looking to make a career change after attending school for IT many years ago. Recently passed the A+ and trying to get a foot in the door but struggling on deciding on which cert to get next to gain employment. I was getting interviews with the A+ but no job offers. A month later I decided to look at going back to school and had to find out what this WGU is that's regularly discussed here.

    I was dreading going back to school but hesitantly applied at WGU, was accepted and I immediately put that on my resume as expecting to start. That addition resulted in 2 of the next 3 interviews leading to job offers. I decided to take the lower paying part-time desktop support role with a small IT staff over a full-time customer service phone role with a software company that doesn't promote for at least a year.

    Today I'm still at this first position, received a few bumps in pay but keeping my eyes open for higher paying admin positions. I'm also still at WGU but ready to take my last test, the second part of Linux+. Also waiting for approval of my capstone topic, after writing it I graduate. This is the first night since I started WGU February 1 that I have no plans whether it's studying or living life, it feels like I'm missing something. These past 9 months of WGU have been easier and more interesting to me then any course I'd ever taken at a brick and mortar. If you enjoy self-study you'll really love WGU and be checking 2 important boxes on your resume, degree and certs. It's also the least expensive degree I've seen. I'm going from an associates to a bachelors for $6200, that's less than my associates cost after factoring in books.

    I think I made the correct choice of going back to school and also picked the correct job as now I'm a sys admin with some engineer responsibilities. Going to WGU decided my cert path which is in my signature. Earning the BS will open up many doors with companies that require them, which is a growing list.

    If you don't want to go back to school I'd suggest an MCSA Windows 10 test. Once earned you get MCP status, a highly sought after entry level credential. Then one more for the MCSA, even higher sought. Although Windows 7 would be more relevant today, the MCSA tests are retiring at the end of the month. Network+ is unlikely to help get a job and really only useful to study if the CCENT is too much.
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  • muchw0wmuchw0w Member Posts: 9 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Thank you very much for the advice. I have been thinking about just going back to school. The only real thing holding me back is the current student loan I hold. I'll have to take a look at WGU. I'll also look into MCSA Windows 10 exam.
  • OctalDumpOctalDump Member Posts: 1,722
    muchw0w wrote: »
    Thank you very much for the advice. I have been thinking about just going back to school. The only real thing holding me back is the current student loan I hold. I'll have to take a look at WGU. I'll also look into MCSA Windows 10 exam.

    So, Microsoft changes around their certifications a bit too much, so it can be a bit of effort keeping up. A quick overview for you:

    MTA - Microsoft Technology Associate - this is entry level kind of certification, similar level to A+ or Network+ but with MS branding. Available in their three main tracks of developer, IT Infrastructure (Windows, Windows Server and associated technologies), and database. Pass one exam and you get an MTA.

    Microsoft Certified Specialist or MCTS - these are basically the same level of thing, just different branding.They are aim at people with 1 year or more experience in the technology. Basically, you pass one exam on a technology (eg Windows 10) or aspect of a technology (eg configuring Windows 7) and you get a certification in that specialisation. As a bonus you also get a Microsoft Certified Professional, which is probably the most useful designation.

    MCSA - Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate - these are mid level certifications, and usually are for people with 2 years or more experience with the technology. They typically consist of 2 or 3 exams. Some of the exams might also give you a stand alone Specialist or MCTS designation. For example, there are two Windows 7 exams, each of which gives you an MCTS, but together get you MCSA Windows 7.

    MCSE - Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert - these are advanced or expert certifications, intended for people with several years experience in complex environments. They generally follow on from an MCSA, and are two more exams. So, for example to get the MCSE Server Infrastructure, you would typically start with MCSA Server 2012 (3 exams) and then complete 2 more exams for 5 total.

    MCSD - Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer - these are aimed at developers working with Microsoft technologies like C#, .Net, Azure, and Sharepoint. Typically with 1 year or more experience. They are typically 3 exams.

    There are also a couple of older MCITP certifications still available. These cross between MCSA and MCSE level.

    So, as you can see, the MCSE/MCSA certifications are really not entry level. Depending on what experience you do have, you might consider these. Generally, it is more appropriate to start at the MTA or Specialist level. Any of the MTA's would be worth doing, depending on your experience and personal preferences. Because info sec touches on everything, all the MTA areas are relevant. The only question would be if they are too basic for you.

    Based on the A+ you have, you could look at the Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 10 specialist exams. There is some overlap in content. If you have good skills now, you might also consider an MCSA in Windows 7 or Windows 8. At this stage there is no MCSA in Windows 10.

    Outside of Microsoft, the obvious route is Network+ followed by Security+. These are good fundamentals to have. Depending again on your particular experience, you might choose to substitute CCNA or CCENT for Network+.

    A possible path to a security role is helpdesk to NOC to SOC. A possible certification/training/education path is A+/Net+/Sec+, MTA -> MCP -> MCSA, CCNA -> CCNP (or CCNA Security/Wireless/Data Center/Collaboration etc), CEH/GSEC, CISSP/CISM, Bachelor/Master Information Security.
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  • muchw0wmuchw0w Member Posts: 9 ■□□□□□□□□□
    That makes much more sense than the way Microsoft has them listed on their website. The MCTS seems most appropriate for me. This is why I love this forum. Thanks for the helpicon_thumright.gif
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