IT learning on the cheap

Fast, cheap and easy: Five IT certifications that won't break you

Looking to get a certification to boost your IT career? Here's a shortlist of relatively easy-to-obtain and inexpensive certs that are valued by employers.

1 2 3 Page 2
Page 2 of 3

Like the A+ certification, MTA credentials are entry-level, foundational certifications. As such, you don't need to spend a few thousand dollars on classroom training for an MTA-level certification such as Windows Operating System Fundamentals. A good preparatory book and/or online materials are all you need -- assuming that you have access at work or at home to the hardware and software you need.

One caveat here: MTA certifications won't count toward a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) credential. IT professionals going that direction might want to opt for Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certifications, a track that focuses more on designing and building systems and that is a prerequisite for the MCSE. "Earning an MCSA requires a moderate time and monetary commitment," says Timpany, but, like the MTA path, it can be done through a program of self-study. Exam costs start at $150.

3. VMware Certified Associate

VMware's VCA certification will let you get your foot in the door with one of the most popular virtualization technologies used in business -- and demands only a low to moderate time commitment, says Timpany. VMware offers variations of the VCA in three areas: Data Center Virtualization, Cloud, and Workforce Mobility.

Exams within each category cost $120 apiece, and VMware offers a free online e-learning program for each topic to get you up and running. There are no prerequisites, and outside of the e-learning program you do not need access to VMware products to study for and pass the exams.

4. Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician/Cisco Certified Network Associate Routing and Switching or CompTIA Network+

If Cisco products are central to your professional life, consider a Cisco certification -- but skip the entry-level Cisco Certified Technician (CCT) credential. "The CCNA Routing and Switching track is the better way to start unless you have no networking experience at all," says Stanger.

Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) is the first certification on the road to the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Routing and Switching credential, which covers the administration and maintenance of midrange Cisco routers and switches, according to Cisco. It is, says Timpany, "the launching pad for a career path with Cisco technologies."

CCNA Routing and Switching consists of two exams at $150 each: Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 1 (ICND1, the CCENT certification) and ICND2 -- or you can take one accelerated exam ($295). In addition, Cisco recommends, but does not require, one to three years of related experience.

If you don't need Cisco-specific expertise, or if you want to broaden your credentials, the equally desirable CompTIA Network+ certification is worthy of consideration. In fact, the CCNA is commonly combined with the CompTIA Network+, which focuses on a more general skill set. About two thirds of CCNAs also hold the Network+ certification (exam cost: $269), according to Global Knowledge.

Both the CCNA and the Network+ are accredited by ANSI. There's a substantial overlap between the two credentials, Timpany says, which means if you get one you should be able to attain the other with just a bit more effort -- and, of course, about $300 more.

Story continues on next page >

1 2 3 Page 2
Page 2 of 3
It’s time to break the ChatGPT habit
Shop Tech Products at Amazon