How to Choose an IT Career Path

How to Choose an IT Career Path

May 21, 2020 Technology by writer
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A career in information technology can be lucrative and successful. The problem for many people who are new to the field is how many options you have when you want to get started. How can you possibly decide which area to choose when you are new to the field?

Even though it seems like you have narrowed down the field, once you start researching you see just how many directions your IT career can take you. From cybersecurity to cloud technology, data management to storage and software development to productivity – the list seems endless.

A career in information technology can be lucrative and successful. The problem for many people who are new to the field is how many options you have when you want to get started. How can you possibly decide which area to choose when you are new to the field?

Even though it seems like you have narrowed down the field, once you start researching you see just how many directions your IT career can take you. From cybersecurity to cloud technology, data management to storage and software development to productivity – the list seems endless.

Here we will look at how you can choose the IT career path that is right for you. We will also look at the certifications that can get you where you want to go.

Step 1: Identifying Which Target Area is Right For You

When it comes to the many specialty areas of information technology, there are some main categories that they fall under. One way to take the very first step towards picking an IT career path is to choose with major target area sounds ideal for you. The major categories include:

  • Information Security
  • Network and Cloud Technologies
  • Hardware, Services, and Infrastructure
  • IT Management and Strategy
  • Storage and Data
  • Web and Mobile
  • Software Development
  • Training

So, the obvious first step is to review each of these major areas and begin to assess which fits your skills and personality best. Perhaps the idea of working in software development doesn’t exactly thrill you; then nix it from the list and keep moving.

Once you begin to narrow the field you can start looking at the specializations within the major categories. Most people new to information technology will find that once they start looking into the major categories they can scratch a few off very quickly.

Step 2: Choosing a Specialization

Hopefully, a review of the major categories will help detail what areas you might like to pursue. This means you are ready to move on to the next step – getting started. That’s right, that quickly you are ready to dive in.

One of the things that make a career in information technology unique is that you have the ability to fully customize your certifications and training to suit your specific needs. Most students start with fundamental courses and through that training will start to see where they want to their career path to head.

Start at the Beginning

When you are ready to take that first step into your new IT career you will start with the basics. You will begin by registering for certification courses that provide you with a rudimentary introduction to the field of information technology.

Whether you are leaning towards a career in Information Security or feel like Storage and Data might be the best fit for you, you will need to start with the basics.

Certifications such as CompTIA A+, Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician, Linux Essentials and Microsoft Technology Associate Fundamentals will provide you with the tools you need to begin your career journey. Hopefully, as you complete them you will start to see specialty areas that peak your interest.

You Have Become A Generalist, Now What?

Once you complete the basic certifications you are ready to start molding your IT career. There are some people who stick with the generalist level and enter the workforce at an entry-level position right away.

Most people will opt to move to the next level and become more specialized. You have the option of earning those certifications before applying for positions or while you are on the job.

This is the time where your certification courses will become more specific to the major category you have chosen.

If you are pursuing a career in Network and Cloud Technologies you will pursue certifications more geared toward this area. Depending on the vendor that you plan to work with, you will earn certifications that help you move to the next level.

How to Choose Where to Specialize

When completing your basic certifications you will probably start to find areas that you enjoy more than others. Perhaps it is a vendor you prefer or maybe you see certain areas as more your style. This will help you to choose specialty certificates.

Let’s say you plan to push your career towards Mobile and Web-based applications. The next step would be for you to complete certifications in areas like Microsoft Specialist: Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3 or CIW Web Design Specialist. These will open doors that you need to reach the next level.

Becoming a True Expert

To really be a master of your domain you will pick and choose the certifications that shape your career. You can reach a high level of mastery in one specific vendor – like Cisco or Oracle. Or maybe you would prefer to have mastery of several different vendors in your target area of practice.

The great thing about an IT career is that you can make it your own. Something that remains unique to the field of information technology is that your certifications can truly make your individual career path one that is built for you.

Step 3: Deciding on Specific Certifications

When do you decide this is the right path for you the obvious question is where do I start? Here are some of the most important things you need to know when choosing which specific certifications to pursue.

What Are the Types of Certifications Available?

There are four types of IT certifications offered by most vendors.

  • Fundamental Certifications: Designed for new IT students with limited experience in the field.
  • Professional Certifications: Appropriate for entry-level or established IT pros to expand their skill set.
  • Specialty Certifications: Programs designed to enhance mastery in specialty areas.
  • Mastery Certifications: For experienced IT professionals who want to expand their skills and knowledge.

By starting with the foundational courses you will be exposed to many of the specialty areas within the field. This is a great way to start to get a sense of which areas might be your best fit.

Where Do I Start If I Have No Experience?

For those with no experience and no certifications, it is a must to start at the beginning. Regardless of where you complete your certification, you should start with the fundamentals. Those in the area of Software Development will begin with certifications like CompTIA A+, Microsoft Technology Associates Developer Track and Oracle Certified Associate Java SE 6/SE 5.

How About if I Have Some Experience?

If you are someone who wants to push your IT career further but have some introductory experience or training you might be able to bypass some of the early certifications. Perhaps you earned a degree in information technology – you can use that degree as your springboard.

You can then move on to the intermediate level training courses and specialty certifications. In the area of Information Security, you might be able to skip IT Fundamental courses and move on to certifications like Cisco Certified Network Associate Security, Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate, GIAC Certified Incident Handler or Information Security Professional or several others.

Becoming an Expert

Another major benefit to an IT career is that earning certifications is something you can do forever. It’s not like a college degree where you are enrolled for a few years and the training ends there. You can continue to accrue certifications and hone your skills throughout the life of your career.

There are many higher-level certifications that you can earn to become an IT expert. Whether you want to become a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert or your company would prefer you become an ISACA Certified Information Security Manager – you can continue to earn certifications throughout your career.

What About IT Degrees?

Another way to enter a career in information technology is to earn a college degree. Whether you pursue an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s level degree, you can study IT careers in the traditional college or university setting. However, there are some drawbacks to this kind of training.

In the past, a college degree was the standard entry point into almost any white-collar career. However, the times are changing. With that change has come to a very different educational system – at least in IT fields. Technology moves at a breakneck pace. This means that what IT pros need to know changes on an almost daily basis.

The trend that has emerged because of the ever-changing face of technology is a stronger emphasis on IT certifications in favor over college degrees. In fact, people graduating with a college degree in various areas of information technology are continuing training after graduation. Many are finding that a bachelor’s or associate’s degree in IT areas is just not enough to secure the jobs they want.

IT Career Outlook

The overall career outlook in information technology is very bright. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook (BLS-OH), it’s estimated that careers in computer and information technology will grow 12 percent between 2014 to 2024. This is considered faster than the average for all occupations in the US.

They also note that there will likely be an addition of around 488,500 new jobs added to the market between 2014 and 2024. This is excellent news for those considering an IT career.

Average Information Technology Salaries

It is important to keep in mind that there are sectors of information technology, like Computer Network Architecture and Software Development that earn over $100,000 annually.

The Bottom Line

If you have chosen to pursue a career in information technology there are some simple steps you can take to help decide which direction to take your future. By choosing to begin in one of the major categories you can start completing the fundamental certifications.

Once you finish those basic training courses you will start to see which directions suit you best. Then you have the ability to start completing certifications that will guide your career in the direction that you prefer.

You can complete multiple certifications at once or you can start slowly and let them guide you to what you enjoy the most. By choosing the path of certifications to pursue your IT career you can customize your plan to help create the career of your dreams.