Trouble specializing

alisonrebeccaalisonrebecca Member Posts: 5 ■□□□□□□□□□
I have seen a lot of posts from those who are new to IT and need help planning their certification paths...however I have the opposite problem. I have been in IT for 13 years but am only now starting to gather certifications. My work experience is general in nature, with lots of tech support and Network administration type titles. My knowledge is spread around among many different aspects of IT in Windows environments. I have my Network+ certification and am now studying for Security+, but not sure where to go from there. Assuming it is too late to specialize, what verifications would make me most valuable and well rounded? I'm thinking about Linux Certifications, MSCA, Virtualization or ones having to do with higher levels of Networking and/or IT Security but every time I try to research them I get to running in circles. Anyone have some advice?


  • f0rgiv3nf0rgiv3n Member Posts: 594 ■■■■□□□□□□
    Aside from the obvious recommendation of "go with what you enjoy most", I'm going to say I would take a close look at virtualization. Virtualization requires someone that has a broad understanding of all aspects because you get involved with all of it (storage, networking, servers and even PCs). If that interests you, it might be your niche! It would utilize all of your past experience as well as grow knowledge that you might not have yet.

    Just my two cents icon_pirat.gif
  • RobertKaucherRobertKaucher Member Posts: 4,298
    In my opinion the only really valid reason to invest in certification is that it will benefit your career. Even people who get certifications as a type of hobby expect that they will have some benefit for them professionally. Having said that, there are two ways that certification can give you a professional boost: validating skills earned through experience, broadening your knowledge so that you can enter into a new niche within your field.

    My suggestion is going to be that you first achieve some vendor centric certifications that validate the experience from your most recent role. So first decide what the bulk of your work experience has been for the past two years and get a cert around that technology.

    If the most experience you have had has been in Networking with Cisco equipment, then the obvious first choice is the CCNA. If you are also interested in Info Sec you could then consider a security specialization within the CCNA. From there you could move on to either more specialized Cisco certifications or, if you decided you really wanted to specialize in security, some higher level info sec certifications.

    The important thing, in my opinion, is that the specialization should build naturally on your experience as well as your interests. So first, get the mid-level certs (like CCNA/CCNA Security in my example) in before you move on to more advanced things (like CISSP, etc).
  • jdballingerjdballinger Member Posts: 252
    Certifications are nothing more than knowledge validations. Experience will trump them almost every single time. If you have 13 years of documentable work experience in the industry and no certifications, you are in a much better position than someone with no time in the field and a whole alphabet soup after their name.

    Additionally, it is never too late to specialize. Remember also that there is always a market for an IT generalist. Have you looked at job postings lately? Someone who has multiple years of experience in every technology under the sun seems to be worth their weight in gold to these recruiters!

  • WilliamK99WilliamK99 Member Posts: 278
    Security + is a good starting point as you can branch off from there to a more specialized certification. To decide which one you go for, decide where you see yourself 5 or 10 years down the line, you also want to try and get a certification that will remain relevant for the years to come (so stay away from a Windows Server 2008 certification unless your organization plans on sticking with it for awhile). If you are employed, see what certifications may help you advance to the next level at your job. Finally decide if you want to stay technical or move into managerial, as that will help you focus on what certs to go for as well.
  • alisonrebeccaalisonrebecca Member Posts: 5 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Thanks so much for all of these wonderful answers. Certainly good food for thought and I have a few ideas for my overall direction that I will be chewing on for a while.
  • paul78paul78 Member Posts: 3,016 ■■■■■■■■■■
    Hello and welcome to TE.

    I think that I may be one of the few members with a slightly contrarian viewpoint on specialization. I don't believe in it. Unless you want to be strictly on a technical track, specialization can work. But after a while, I imagine it can be dull. I also recall all those specalized COBOL programmers icon_smile.gif

    If you have aspirations of being growing into a leadership or closer to a business role, being well versed (not necessarily an expert) in multiple areas is a good thing.
  • alisonrebeccaalisonrebecca Member Posts: 5 ■□□□□□□□□□
    I guess it is easy to be discouraged looking at job postings, when I was last looking to change jobs (last March), everything seemed to be highly specific: Web Designer Java Specialist, DB Admin etc.
    It is true that I do enjoy the fact that my days are never the same twice and I work with people from all levels and departments. Thanks for the perspective!
  • paul78paul78 Member Posts: 3,016 ■■■■■■■■■■
    Even though you are at 13 years in you career, assuming you started out of school, you are still probably less than halfway in you career. I have found that specializing in a particular industry, in my case financial services, has been more meaningful for my career than specializing in some aspect of IT. I have nearly 25 years in IT.

    I do know what you mean about job search, I started to look around last summer as well. But usually the more senior level jobs are harder to find with the right fit and compensation.

    As for certfications, I never had one unti last year.
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