5 IT Certifications That Make a Big Impact for Support Professionals

In the world of technology support professionals, few things hold as much clout on a resume as certifications.  These courses often bring you the specialization that makes you stand out from the competition when it comes to landing a job. And in a field that requires an expansive range of knowledge with an ever-increasing scope of expertise, they are the often the perfect way to keep up in the fast-paced world of technology. 

But with so many certifications out there, it’s often hard to know which one will have the biggest impact on your career.  Sometimes the job you currently hold dictates what extra education is needed, but if you are simply looking to up your game and add a certification that will give you the most bang for your buck further down the road, it can be a tough choice.

We asked 75 IT support professionals from organizations of all shapes and sizes which single certification had the biggest impact on their career and here are their Top 5 responses and recommendations in their own words:

1. ITIL Foundations Certification

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Topping the list and recommended by 20% of IT support professionals, is ITIL Foundations. This course “is the entry level qualification which offers candidates a general awareness of the key elements, concepts and terminology used in the ITIL Service Lifecycle, including the linkages between Lifecycle stages, the processes used and their contribution to Service Management practices.”

While some received the training through work, many indicated that they attended multiple-day training courses on their own or worked through the course online. 

“The ITIL framework is now the foundation for some many IT departments. It teaches you best practices in key areas of service management.” – James T., University for the Creative Arts
“It has opened up a number of doors including getting me my current position.” – JD Steiger, Insurance Organization
“This changed the way I look at IT! IT is truly a service organization! Having the ITIL certification has also helped me in my career path as most IT organizations are wanting to find ways to better deliver the services that they are spending a lot of resources on.” – Terry D., Higher Education Organization
“It has aided me in my understanding of my customers’ pains and issues in IT. This education has definitely given me credibility in the IT industry.” -  Rich Longo, Flycast Partners
 

2. Comptia A+ 

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Coming in at a close second is Comptia A+, which Comptia designates as “the starting point for a career in IT.” The certification consists of two exams, with the first focusing on “fundamentals of computer technology, installation and configuration of PCs, laptops and related hardware, and basic networking,” while the second “covers the skills required to install and configure PC operating systems, as well as configuring common features (e.g. network connectivity and email) for mobile operating systems Android and Apple iOS.” The certification is valid for three years.  (http://certification.comptia.org)

The majority of respondents indicated that they completed the course and exam through self-study.  Course work is offered through in-person training courses and online. For most, it was their first certification or the stepping stone for launching them into a career in IT. 

“It got my foot in the door after years of being away from full-time tech work.  That experience has led me through several positions - raising the bar with each one.” – Lynn Sturgis, CresaPartners
“It is what started me down the path of computers and IT.” - Zachary K., Professional Services Organization
“This certification got my foot in the door of IT.  From there it was a matter of hands-on learning and growth.” – Ryan Pollard, CLM Group

3. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

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While in 2013 Cisco changed the CCNA certification to offer several different types of CCNA certifications based on growing job roles, the initial CCNA certification corresponds to the “CCNA Routing and Switching.”  This program “validates the ability to install, configure, operate, and troubleshoot medium-size routed and switched networks.”

This certification can be earned by taking Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 1 and Part 2 with their corresponding exams, or by taking Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices: Accelerated and a single exam. 

“Great source of networking information, both practical and theoretical. Smooth transition into professional networking environment.” – Viktor V., Higher Education Organization
“Nearly every manager that interviews me focuses on this one.” -  Ace F., Higher Education Organization
“Opened a lot of doors to better jobs.” – Chris O., Insurance Organization

4. Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE)

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Many Microsoft certifications were given as responses (notably MCDST and MCP) but Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert topped that list. The MCSE itself is offered in eight different categories, Server Infrastructure, Desktop Infrastructure, Private Cloud, Data Platform, Business Intelligence, Messaging, Communications and SharePoint.  You must first pass the MCSA certification exams related to your choice of MCSE track. Then you must pass additional exams to earn the MCSE on your chosen track. Recertification is required every three years.

“When I interviewed for my current position, my bachelor's degree got me a foot in the door, but my MCSE got me the job.  It enabled me to prove that I had the qualifications to do the job.” – Jason Thomas, Green Clinic Health System
“It gave me the official qualifications to move forward and to be able to put myself forward for the next level of jobs that previously i felt were out of my reach.” – Mac McBride, University of Leeds

5. HDI Support Center Team Lead 

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The HDI Support Center Team Lead Certification “verifies that support professionals in a team lead or supervisor role possess the fundamental management and leadership skills necessary to provide operational support to the organization and the coaching skills to promote staff development.” This course is focused on developing fundamental management and leadership skills with the goals of offering superb customer support and efficiency in day-to-day operations.

While respondents attended off-site training, HDI does also offer the course online. 

“It's given me more insight into not only how to communicate with other peers that look to you for leadership, but also how to manage up to your Manager or their Manager.” – Michael M., Higher Education Organization
“The workshop really punctuated IT management best practices, running your IT shop as business and align IT support with the goals of the entity supported.” – Travis M., Higher Education Organization

6. BONUS: On the Job Training (OJT)

While we know this isn’t a certification, we had enough respondents give On the Job Training as their answer to include it in our list.  Certifications can be very helpful in boosting your knowledge and making your resume shine, but absolutely nothing can replace experience. 

 “I feel that actual experience in troubleshooting various issues has helped me greater than being ‘book smart’ when it comes to IT.” – Sean Kirst, Centrada Solutions

 

“When hiring techs and partnering with companies I have much better luck with real world experience rather than a degree. But certifications are huge!” – Thomas Turner, NerdDeck, Inc

What about you? What certification has made a huge difference in your IT career and which do you wish you had? Check out our updated post here

Liz Richardson, at Bomgar

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