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Test Taking Strategies and Study Strategies for Certification Exams

Test Taking Strategies and Study Strategies for Certification Exams

Oh, those certification (cert) exams! There’s so much content!

“Help! Is there any way to streamline the learning process in preparation for my next certification exam?”

The massive number of acronyms, new concepts, dozens of new definitions, performance skills to master, coupled with busy family and life responsibilities, can feel overwhelming to anyone. Information Technology (IT) study resources can be 500-1,500 pages. Content is often supplemented with learning labs, practice questions, graphs, diagrams, and other exam-related content.

Do test taking strategies or shortcuts exist? Are there any study strategies that can make this easier? Anything helps!

My name is Gary Bell. I have spent the last 13 years of my life teaching IT courses, and 15 years before that working in the IT industry. Over time, I have discovered test taking tips that I have incorporated into my own IT exam preparation. If you are open to either new or amended exam preparation strategies, see if these same strategies can work for you, too.

Preparing for an Exam

I have always suspected that some individuals are better test-takers than others. They seem to have secret ways to prepare for exams or a gift to perform well taking exams. I seem to fall in the category of “others.” Because of that and because of the volume of information to be studied, slowly and methodically over the years I have developed some personal strategies to assist in absorbing huge amounts of new information. Maybe they can help you, too. Below are my tips on how to prepare for a test and build up your test preparation skills.

Attitude and Emotion

Here’s a surprising strategy. Our attitude and our emotional ability to work with technologies may be key in IT career success.

Considering attitude, do you really want this IT position? Or do you feel you are compelled to accept a position because of the feeling, “I need to feed my family?”

Regarding emotional ability, do you have the “emotional stability to be more responsible, better able to focus on the task at hand and pay attention, be less impulsive with more self-control, and improve your scores on achievement tests” (Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, publisher, Bantum, 1997, p. 284)?

In his book Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman expounds on why emotional intelligence can matter more than IQ. Developing IT skills is hard enough. It takes time, practice, experience, and patience to become proficient with IT skills. If an individual faithfully desires to succeed in an IT career, then the journey will becomes much easier.

Before an exam, make sure that your attitude is in the right place and that you’re not in emotional turmoil. Don’t let recent life events distract you from focusing on the exam.

Exam Objectives

Match study material to exam objectives. Supplemental IT content is usually included because it may be related to the topic being discussed. However, if it is not listed in the exam objectives, consider absorbing that material later. Keep a copy of exam objectives handy for quick review, and let these objectives guide where you spend your study time. This is one of the most important test preparation strategies when it comes to spending your time wisely!

Bookend Preparation

Many exam objectives require becoming familiar with steps, or lists of courses of action. Most anyone can master memorization, or learning one list. Often there are many lists (or sequences of steps) that should be mastered before sitting for an exam.

Make it simple. Learn the “bookends” first. Here’s an example: for a six item (step) list, memorize the first and last steps first. These steps are usually very logical and easy to remember. For example, consider the following list of CompTIA’s A+ troubleshooting best practice steps that will appear in their revised and updated version of this certification due in 2019:

CompTIA A+ Best Practice Troubleshooting Steps

  1. Identify the problem
  2. Establish a theory of probable cause
  3. Test the theory
  4. Establish a plan of action to resolve the problem and implement the solution
  5. Verify full system functionality and, if applicable, implement preventive measures
  6. Document findings, actions, and outcomes

Troubleshooting usually begins with verification (identification) that a problem actually exists – the first step. Upon resolution, documenting activity associated with the problem and resolution must be recorded – the last step. Now you know two steps.

That leaves only four more to grasp. Try for two more. It should be fairly obvious that you should verify (test) your solution before you complete documentation (Step 5). And before you verify full system functionality, one must perform the fix (implement the solution) (Step 4).

Now, there are only two more to go. Do you think you could come up with a plan for the last two (Steps 2, 3)?

The more important I think the list content is relative to the objectives, the more apt I am to learn (memorize) all the steps. Less important lists, at least in my view, tend to just get the “bookend” treatment. By solidly knowing one or two or three steps in any type of list, often I can figure out a test question answer even if it’s about a step I did not pay much attention to.

This method also applies to the content within the steps. To be truly prepared for questions related to steps or lists, you must be prepared for the content within the steps. For example, if you were asked “Which step would a technician typically ask the user?” The answer is Step 1, because it is part of identifying and verifying a problem condition exists.

Short of learning every list in maximum detail, it is better to know 1-3 steps of a given list well, as opposed to, “I sort of remember that in the textbook, but I can’t quite remember the exact order or what was in the steps.”

Time Allocation Absorption (TAA)

Some material is essential to know not only for exam preparation but also to be able to function quickly and efficiently in the field (job performance). Looking up resources certainly works, but that activity can be slow and may indicate a tech is not ready for the task at hand.

I developed a method for my test prep which I call Time Allocation Absorption (TAA). A more simple description might be called Mini Index Card Method. This strategy allows more focus (time) to areas most needed. This works well for short word-and-description material I need to master, and is one of the best ways to study for an exam.

Two examples are IP port numbers and acronym identification. Here’s how it works. I create a small stack of index cards (any color) cut into two pieces (½ size of a standard index card). Using the port number example, I write the TCP/IP protocol on one side, and the associated default TCP/UDP port number(s) on the other side.

Test Taking Strategies 1 Test Taking Strategies 1

Referencing exam objectives, I produce a card for every listed protocol or port number. I do the same for the acronyms. The acronym goes on one side, the full-word representation on the other.

Now here’s the learning method. In no particular order, I read the first protocol; recite to myself the associated port number, if I know it. If not, I flip the card and peek at the answer, spending a brief moment memorizing.

Next, I go to the second card and repeat the process. When satisfied, I go back to the first card and repeat the process for card #1 and #2. If I get both correct, then the process moves to card #3. If I get it correct or incorrect, I go back to #1, and repeat through the first three cards. If I miss one, I start over. If I get them all correct, I move to card #4. I repeat this process until the entire stack is completed.

Notice what is happening here. When I reach the final card in a 20 card stack, in theory, I have seen card #1 twenty times, card #2 nineteen times, card #3 eighteen times, etc. all the way to the end. I do not pretend that I have nailed down the beginning cards and skip them. What I am doing is reinforcing what I should have already learned.

Repetition accelerates learning.
The repetition process should begin to permanently etch port-number associations into my long-term memory. For content that needs a little work, just reshuffle the cards and place any unlearned content towards the front. For more information on this technique, check out this video demonstration.

Self-Assessment and the ABC Method

How do you know if you are exam-ready? Is it just a feeling, or is there an objective signal stating that you are ready? At some point the decision must be made. It’s time! How do you really know when?

Assessments! Assessments are your best friend!
The only way a student pilot will ever get to fly an airplane on his/her own is by the grace of an assessment by a licensed and experienced pilot instructor. For IT people, the same principle can apply. Assessments can greatly help determine your state of readiness.

Assessments (or practice tests) evaluate one’s ability to answer questions related to the content. Here are two methods to consider.

First, take as many practice tests from different authors (publishers) as possible, not just from one. Consider using at least three authors that offer multiple quizzes and tests. I typically use three to five authors. Why so many?

I have noticed with this method that there seems to be many questions that are strikingly similar comparing one author to another. To me, this is a clue that I had better be sure I am familiar with the question, the correct answer, and the wrong answers. Right or wrong, I assume that most of the question writers are also certified. Maybe they know something that I should too.

Watch out! IT industry questions can come is surprisingly different formats. Only studying one set of questions from one publisher could be a bit misleading if you are expecting similar exam questions. Exams could offer very different question formats. Exposing yourself to varying question formats can only be beneficial.

Second, consider the ABC method (my term). Use chapter quizzes and/or full-length practice exams. Hopefully they are provided with your study material. Next, on a sheet of notebook paper or using a word processor, create three to five columns and label them each A, B, C, to start (D and E are optional). Down the left hand side number the quizzes or tests you might be taking. If there are 11 quizzes, there will be 12 rows numbered from 1-11 and row 12 can be labeled Total (average %).

Test Taking Strategies 3Now take the first quiz (Row 1-A). I prefer taking this assessment before I read or study the content. I do not look up anything, or cheat myself, or pretend I know the answer. I want to record exactly what I know and do not know. I finish all the quizzes in the first column (A), and record my honest scores for each.

I study the content. Then I take the same quizzes for the B column, and never in the same day. (Even I can remember an answer if it was reviewed a few minutes ago.)

My goal is to keep repeating the above process until my scores are at a minimum of 90%. Hopefully, I can do this by the time I reach the C column. If not, I may have to expand the columns to D or E. Strive for 95% or higher. Repeat the process until all quizzes and practice exams are well in the >90% range. Once I reach that plateau, I schedule the exam.

Notice the log on the right that I used for a cert exam. Some content I had a better understanding than others in the beginning. One caution is I try to avoid (not pretend) I know an answer when I really do not.

I mentioned earlier that it is possible to prove that changing an answer creates more wrong answers than right answers. Well, in the process above, I noticed that when I change answers, I very often get it wrong. I have not actually logged that kind of data, so I cannot verify it even to myself. But I am totally convinced that changing an unsure answer is not in the best interest of getting the most answers correct.

Learn vs. Memorize

Exam preparation requires memorization, at least in the beginning. Some content may be worth memorizing just for an exam. But much content is well worth learning (committed to long-term memory) not only for a cert exam, but to be able to function when landing that next position. You never know what type of pre-employment assessment you might encounter. You definitely want to be prepared by retaining as much content as possible.

Be careful here, but I do tend to classify some content as retainable just for the exam. Then I magically seem to forget it.

Buckle-down Method

Certification exams are not necessarily easy. I do not recommend “shortcuts” as a primary strategy. Every exam subject deserves our best efforts: the buckle-down method. It’s the real “shortcut” for long-term success.

Sitting for an Exam

Common Exam Tips

This is just a reminder of common strategies that can apply on most any exam:

  • Prepare for exam day. Get a good night’s rest, make time to have breakfast and get to the exam on time.
  • Read the question, every word. Watch for words like is or is not, always or sometimes.
  • Learn to identify distracters and to ignore them, as they have nothing to do with the question.
  • Eliminate the obvious wrong answers first, then consider what’s remaining.
  • Consider reading the answers first, then the question.
  • If allowed, start by writing out a brain dump of important info you’ve memorized on a scratch sheet.
  • Be aware of time spent on each question and don’t let a tough one take up too much of your time. Come back to it if needed.
  • Use all of the time available to you. If you finish the exam, go back over your answers to look for any mistakes.
  • Take deep breaths and stay calm. Panicking will not do you an favors!

While I cannot verify that these strategies are solid, I have spoken to individuals who swear by them.

Don’t Change Answers

The first strategy requires no study effort. None. Only “question awareness”. Avoid changing an exam answer in which you are unsure, also known as – guessing. Leave your first intuition (answer) alone, and move on.

When I first started graduate school, my professor explained this concept to my class. She explained that changing an answer can result in a 45 percent chance of getting the question correct. Leaving your first answer “as is” produces a 53 percent chance of getting the question right.

Using those numbers, a test-taker could get eight more questions answered correctly on a 100 question exam. That could easily mean the difference between pass or fail.

CompTIA, an IT industry certification provider, also supports this strategy. In their course material (IT Fundamentals) testing suggestion section, they state, “Studies indicate that when students change their answers they usually change them to the wrong answer.”

I have used this strategy ever since I first learned of it. Is there any way to prove that it works? Maybe. That will be addressed later in this writing.

Skip the Hard Ones

From personal experience, other cert takers, and suggestions provided by industry exam providers, consider skipping the harder questions, and return to them later.

Some certification exams present performance-based questions. They seem to appear towards the beginning of exams. The recommendation is that if you cannot work out a satisfactory answer quickly, mark it for review (if your exam allows it). Continue and answer the rest of the questions that might be more quickly answered. Also consider marking any other question (i.e., multiple-choice) for “review” if you find yourself spending excess time on them as well.

After completing the last question, return to the questions you have marked for review. In most cases you will have more than enough time to complete all questions. Each question counts the same on most tests, so the strategy is to get the highest number of questions correct, not necessarily the hardest.

This method works! In 2002, I spent too much time on the first five questions of a Network+ exam. Suddenly, I realized I was almost out of time to answer the remaining 85 questions. In a sweating panic, I blasted through the rest of the questions. The result was good. But the journey (pressure) of getting there was miserable. I learned the hard way. You don’t have to.

Summary

Never allow a single exam to define your career. Regardless of if you pass or fail an exam, your next charge is to press on. If you pass, do not relax, take the next cert in sequence, attend the next webinar, seminar, or training class, but ABL (always be learning). If you fall short on an exam, identify what needs to improve, and go back and succeed.

Never allow a single certification exam to define your career.

Perhaps by applying these test taking strategies and study strategies for exam preparation, you will feel more confident about your career progress.

Much success,

Gary Bell

Degrees vs. Certifications: Investing In your Future

Degrees vs. Certifications: Investing In your Future

Like most things in life, getting certified comes at a cost. Yes, there is a financial cost associated with getting certified, as well as the time it takes to study for your certifications. But what about the opportunity cost? What else could you have done with that time, and how does getting certified compare? We’ve already covered some of these differences in a previous blog, but in this one we’ll be focusing on the timeline of return on your investment in education.

In this blog, we’ll be taking a look at the costs and opportunities for certification training as opposed to pursuing a bachelor’s degree.

Part 1: Getting IT Training

First, we’ll take a look at the timeline for these training options.

Bachelor’s Degree

Typically, a bachelor’s degree requires four years of study to complete. In these four years, students will complete 120 semester credits or around 40 college courses.

While this is the longest of any of the four options, it’s also important to mention that a bachelor’s degree program aims to create well-rounded graduates who learn about history, language, math and literature in addition to their chosen area of study. Usually only 30 to 36 credits or 10 to 12 courses will be in a student’s major area of study.

According to LendEDU, for the 2017-2018 year, the average cost of tuition for a semester at a public 4-year in-state college or university was $9,970. For four years at that rate, one would expect to pay $39,880 for tuition.

LeaderQuest Training

At LeaderQuest, we recognize that highly employable graduates aren’t created overnight. While each IT certification is a powerful addition to a resume, a single certification is not typically enough to secure employment in the industry. That’s why our Computer User Support Specialist program includes four of the leading IT certifications for entry-level work: CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+, and ITIL Foundation.

The Computer User Support Specialist program takes five weeks to complete the courses (or 10 weeks if taken part-time in the evening). Students will need a few more weeks to study the material, take practice exams, and prepare themselves for their certification exams. Most students will need two months to complete all of their courses and get certified.

Our certification courses cost around $3,000 each (varies by course), with the total cost of our Computer User Support Specialist program coming in at $12,775.

Part 2: Getting Hired in IT

Once you have your certifications and training or degree, how hard is it to get hired in IT?

Bachelor’s Degree

With your bachelor’s degree in hand, you’ll find a large number of entry-level positions that you qualify for. Depending on the focus of your studies, you may be able to get a head start in the specific IT field you’re interested in. However, with more and more high school graduates attending college, the value of a college degree has begun to decrease.

While a degree will help you qualify for more jobs, it’s by no means a golden ticket. As you can see from this Quora thread, you’ll still need to look for internships during college, network with other IT professionals and employers, create a great resume and work on your online presence.

If you can’t show potential employers that you have the hard skills they are looking for, a degree may not mean much to them. They’ll want to know that you worked with the systems and hardware that they’re currently using. In fact, many of our graduates have combined a degree with certifications to help them compete in the job market. For more on this, check out the success story of Michael Cost who got an Information Assurance degree but still wasn’t able to find work until he added a Security+ certification to his resume.

LeaderQuest Training

Certifications like CompTIA Security+ are ideal for employers because they provide third party verification of the worker’s skills. For most IT jobs, skills are far more important than college degrees. Employers want to know that you’ll be able to configure a router, rebuild a computer or help secure the company’s systems. Because of this, the four certifications offered in the Computer User Support Specialist program are an ideal gateway to working in the tech world.

80% of our graduates are hired within six months of completing their studies and certifications. This is because our training is an ideal way to meet the increasing employer demand. According to CompTIA research, nearly 4 in 10 U.S. IT firms report having job openings and are actively recruiting candidates for technical positions. For those who wish to continue their education and expand into the cybersecurity market, they’ll have an even easier time getting hired. In fact, The Cybersecurity Jobs Report predicts there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions by 2021.

The final component to our employment rate is one-on-one Career Service support. Each campus has a dedicated Career Services team, ready to help you optimize your resume, polish your LinkedIn profile, and practice your interview skills. When you’re certified and ready, they’ll connect you with local employers that are looking to hire.

Part 3: Where Will You Be Five Years Later?

Bachelor’s Degree

After five years, a bachelor’s degree student would have only been in the working world for about a year, or possibly less given the time needed to secure employment. In an entry-level position like Information Technology Specialist, one could expect an average salary of $48,063. Working for one year in a role like this, the bachelor’s degree recipient would have incurred $39,880 for tuition and would just be able to start to pay that off.

LeaderQuest Training

Assuming two months to complete training and certification, and six months to find a job in the industry, a LeaderQuest graduate would have been working for four years and four months. Considering the average salary of $48,063 for an Information Technology Specialist, the LeaderQuest graduate could have already made as much as $208,271 in the same amount of time that the bachelor’s degree holder was just getting started in the working world! If you factor in the potential for promotions or pay raises, they might even be making more. And they’d be gaining valuable industry experience that can help them get ready for the next move in their career—instead of just starting it.

TimelineBachelor’s DegreeLeaderQuest Training
Year 1Studying, -$9,970Training, -$12,775

Working, +16,021

Year 2Studying, -$9,970Working, +48,063
Year 3Studying, -$9,970Working, +48,063
Year 4Studying, -$9,970Working, +48,063
Year 5Working, +48,063Working, +48,063
TOTALTotal: +9,183Total: +195,498

Looking at the table above, the benefits of accelerated training through LeaderQuest are obvious. Get trained, get into the field, and start earning experience and money!

College or LeaderQuest?

You don’t have to choose! The American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT®) has recommended 14 LeaderQuest courses for college credit. ACE CREDIT® recommendation means you could get trained with entry-level certifications, quickly start a job in IT, and still have college credit if you decide to go back to school to specialize. Really, the only thing better than certifications or a degree is certifications and a degree!

LeaderQuest also has an articulation agreement with Colorado State University-Global Campus (CSU-Global) which makes our Computer User Support Specialist program worth about as many credits as a semester of classes. In addition, LeaderQuest students can take advantage of a 10% tuition discount at CSU-Global. This means you can use the training and job relevant skills you learn at LeaderQuest in high demand career areas of information technology, cybersecurity, and project management, and apply it toward your continued education and career advancement with CSU-Global.

Are you ready to get started on an IT career today?

If you are, it might be time to talk to a Career Advisor and schedule a tour of one of our campuses. During the tour, you’ll get a free career consultation with one of our Career Training Consultants to help you determine if IT is a good fit for you, and what field you might like to work towards. They’ll also talk to you about funding, training timelines, employment rates, and anything else that’s on your mind.

Getting into the IT industry doesn’t have to be time consuming. LeaderQuest can make it easy to take the first steps on a new career path.

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Degrees vs. Certifications: Which is Better for an IT Career?

Degrees vs. Certifications: Which is Better for an IT Career?

When seeking to join the ever-growing field of information technology, two of the most common paths to competency are degrees and certifications. While both of these options can get you a job in IT, they are by no means created equal! In this blog, we’ll take a look at some of the important differences between these two routes (as well as a couple of ways that you may not have to choose at all).


Time InvestedDegrees vs. Certificates: Time

College or Degree Program

In general, it takes about 4 years to earn a college degree. This is usually spread out over 8 semesters, with four courses per semester. This enables students to get a huge amount of information in their time at college and really process each individual class before moving on to additional learning materials. Especially determined students may be able to finish their major in 3 years (or less) if they take more than 4 classes per semester, or take classes during the summer.

In terms of time spent during the week, most courses are 3 credit hours. With four courses, that means about 12 hours per week spent in class. Additional time will of course be needed for homework, writing papers and exam-prep.

Certification Courses at LeaderQuest

Certification training at LeaderQuest is intensive and accelerated. We’ll take our Computer User Support Specialist program as an example, because it prepares students with enough certifications and knowledge to confidently enter the IT industry. This program includes training for four certifications: ITIL, CompTIA A+, CompTIA Security+, and CompTIA Network+. These courses take 5 days or 10 evenings each, except for A+ which is split into two courses. That gives us a total of 25 days of instruction, or 50 evenings.

For those taking the course during the day, instruction and labs comprise a 40-hour week. Each day is packed with instruction, hands-on labs, and time for questions and answers. Evening courses are spread out over twice as many days, with only 4 hours of instruction per evening. After instruction, students will need some time to review everything they’ve learned and take advantage of the additional materials offered by LeaderQuest. Most students complete their certification exams within the following month.


Cost of Training

College or Degree Program

According to LendEDU, for the 2017-2018 year, the average cost of tuition for a semester at a public 4-year in-state college or university was $9,970. For four years at that rate, one would expect to pay $39,880 for tuition. Of course, this doesn’t include other costs such as room & board, transportation, supplies and so on.

A college degree offers value that is above and beyond what certifications offer, which makes it difficult to compare these two items accurately.

Certification Courses at LeaderQuest

Our certification courses cost around $3,000 each (varies by course), with the total cost of our Computer User Support Specialist program coming in at $12,775. That’s close to the cost of a single year at an in-state college or university! Included in the overall cost of tuition are the industry-recognized certification exam attempt(s).

The certifications included in our Computer User Support Specialist program do not offer the breadth and depth of knowledge that a Bachelor’s degree does, but they offer a more expedient path to employment in the Information Technology sector. As you’ll see in the next section, the tight focus of our training courses provides a huge benefit to their holders.


Focus of TrainingDegrees vs. Certificates: Focus

College or Degree Program

Most degree programs require students to take electives or general education credits to help ensure a well-rounded education. Even within their major, college graduates study a huge variety of topics, not all of which will be useful in their career after school. General education requirements can take as much as one to two years to complete before students can really focus on technology skills.

Certification Courses at LeaderQuest

Certifications instead offer focused training designed to confirm skills in very specific areas that employers have a high demand for. These programs do not require students to take courses in other subject areas. Students are able to jump right into technology courses, each of which has a clear application and certification to show 3rd-party skills verification.

For those looking to start a career in IT as soon as possible, certifications offer a much more direct path to employment because of their increased focus.


Style of Training

College or Degree Program

Many college courses focus more on theory and the history of a subject than on its current practice. Textbooks may have been written years ago but still be in use until a new edition is released. Courses will vary in how much focus they offer on hands-on training depending on the instructor and the availability of lab facilities.

Certification Courses at LeaderQuest

All of our courses include a mixture of lecture time and hands-on labs. Labs are different for each class. In A+, you’ll be taking apart and putting back together computer hardware. Network+ and Security+ are more software focused, with students configuring network components and checking the security of connected virtual systems.

We want to make sure that our students get the experience they need, working with real computer systems and programs. We understand that it’s important for our students to get certified, but we also want to make sure that they have mastered the skills they’ll need to excel in the workplace.


Getting Hired after TrainingStarting an IT Career

College or Degree Program

The completion of a degree marks a huge milestone in one’s career and shows that they have the dedication and determination needed to complete their program. Degrees are respected all over the world as a sign of accomplishment and knowledge, but they don’t signify the same kind of skills-verification that a certification does. This is because certifications focus on very specific bodies of knowledge, while two graduates with Computer Science Bachelor’s degrees may have very different skill sets.

Certification Courses at LeaderQuest

One thing that many colleges lack is follow-through with students who’ve graduated. Once you’re done, you’re pretty much on your own when it comes to finding a job. At LeaderQuest, we make it our #1 priority to help you get hired in a job you’ll love. Each campus has a dedicated Career Services team that will work with you to optimize your resume, perfect your LinkedIn profile and practice interviewing. When you’re ready, we’ll connect you with our network of employer partners that are looking to hire entry-level It roles.

When applying to careers in the IT field, certifications can be a very persuasive credential. For example, if a company wants to hire a Network Engineer, knowing that a candidate has their Network+ and CCNA certifications may be valued over a degree that may or may not have covered the expertise they need. This is especially true of the IT careers in demand right now. If you look at a list of IT jobs, you’ll see certifications listed for almost every one of them. According to a survey conducted by CompTIA, 93% of hiring managers believe IT certifications are valuable in validating expertise. Not only that, but 80% of employers reward their staff for passing certification exams with an increase in salary or pay, public recognition, bonus or promotion!


Certifications vs. Degrees: Who is the Final Winner?

And the final winner is… *drumroll*

Really, we can’t say that one of these routes is superior to the other.

  • If you want a strong foundation and an unparalleled breadth of knowledge, a degree is the best path.
  • If you’re interested in quickly gaining skills and certifications that will get you employed in IT, certification training is a great option.

But did you know that at LeaderQuest you can do both?


With LeaderQuest, you don’t have to choose just one!

In January of 2018, the American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT®) officially recommended 14 LeaderQuest courses for college credit. The American Council on Education (ACE), serves as the major coordinating body for the nation’s higher education institutions. Simply put, ACE CREDIT helps adults gain academic credit for courses and examinations taken outside traditional degree programs.

One can debate the merits of a degree or a particular certification endlessly, but there’s no doubt that having both a degree and the right certifications is a perfect recipe for career success! You can read more about which courses are approved and how many credits they’re recommended for on ACE’s website.

LeaderQuest also has formed a comprehensive partnership with Colorado State University-Global Campus (CSU-Global) to create career-relevant, continuing education pathways for technology professionals. This partnership includes an agreement for credit articulation, as well as a 10% tuition discount at CSU-Global for LeaderQuest students! CSU-Global is an online university, and students can attend from anywhere.


Are you interested in starting an IT career?

If you’re ready to get started in IT, LeaderQuest is a great choice. Our intensive training will quickly teach you everything you need to know to get hired in IT. Many students are employed in IT within 3 months of starting classes at LeaderQuest. Our classes are taught by expert instructors who hold the certification you’re training for. LeaderQuest covers the cost of one certification attempt per class, we also have onsite testing centers to make sitting for the exam easy and stress-free. Once you’ve completed your certifications, our Career Services team will work with you to get your resume and LinkedIn profile polished, and then connect you with local employers that are part of our Employer Partner network. That’s what makes us the experts when it comes to helping students start IT careers.

To find out more about how we can help you start an IT career, click the link below and get in touch with us!

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5 Powerful Reasons to Join the Tech Industry Now!

5 Powerful Reasons to Join the Tech Industry Now!

Have you been considering a career change? Nobody likes working a dead-end job with no chances for promotion or advancement, but it may not be your boss’s fault. Some industries, like manufacturing, have been stagnating in recent years as emerging markets generate more and more output. Other jobs, like customer service or food service positions just don’t offer lower level employees an easy way to climb the ladder. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A career in IT can provide great job security and advancement opportunities.

There’s never been a better time to make the switch to working in IT. Check out our five powerful reasons to join the tech industry, below!

1. The Average Annual Tech-Sector Wage is $112,890

Sure, Silicon Valley skews this stat a little bit high, but even if you leave California out of the equation the average wage is still $102,800! Entry-level positions won’t command this kind of salary, but it shows the salary potential for experienced workers in the industry. At an entry-level role like Computer Support Specialist, you can expect a median salary of $52,810 (BLS, 2017).

While many tech workers are salaried, there is a growing “gig economy” in the tech sector. For tech occupations the median hourly wage was $38.90, not bad! Gig workers can’t take advantage of benefits like health care, but they still command high wages.

2. Tech Unemployment is at a Rock Bottom 2.3%

For context, that’s nearly 70% less than the national unemployment rate of 3.9%. Nearly every industry has a need for tech workers, from startups to Fortune 500 companies. As more and more businesses go digital, get online or otherwise adopt 21st century technology to run better, there is a huge need for tech workers. If you’ve got tech skills and you’re not working, it shouldn’t be hard to find a job.

3. Huge Growth Potential of 11-12% by 2026

Considering that we’re in what historians call the “Information Age,” this should come as no surprise. Our economy’s focus has shifted from production of goods to the management of data and digital assets, and it shows in the kinds of jobs being added to the economy. The BLS reported growth rates of 11% for Computer Support Specialists, and 12% for Computer and Information Systems Managers from 2016-2026. Compare this to the national average of 7% growth and it’s not hard to see that tech is on the rise! In 2016 alone, the tech industry added 200,000 new jobs to the economy.

While mining and manufacturing continue to decline in their share of the economy and the number of jobs they create, the tech industry is going in the opposite direction. Of course, not every sector of the tech industry is growing at the same rate. Since 2010, the IT services and custom software services category powered job growth, accounting for 67 percent of job gains.

4. Predicted Shortage of Over One Million IT and Cyber Security Positions in the U.S. by 2026

If you think that the need for workers in this sector is powerful now, wait until you see what the future has in stock! According to CompTIA Cyberstates, “When factoring in the need to replace retiring or career-change workers, the total potential tech workforce need will exceed 1.2 million through 2026.“

Part of this need is driven by the expanding role of tech in other industries, but the increasing need for cyber security is also a huge factor. As fast as tech has grown over the last twenty years, we are only just beginning to understand the need for strong security measures for our networks and data. With every passing year, protecting our voting systems, financial infrastructure, and communications networks becomes more and more important. The US government has made its commitment to cyber security clear with Directive 8570/8140, and American businesses are making their commitment clear with more job roles and increased spending on security.

5. Tech Workers are Needed in Nearly Every Industry

According to the Cyberstates 2017 report, over half (56%) of technology professionals are employed at companies not in the tech industry. Nearly every modern company needs to use computers, the internet, data storage and more. To manage and secure these devices and networks, companies from nearly every industry are hiring IT positions.

This is great news for workers with tech skills because it means that you can move anywhere and know you’ll be able to find a great job. It also helps ensure excellent job security, because there are so many jobs for tech workers in so many different industries.

Are You Interested in Information Technology?

Making the transition to a tech career could be easier than you think. While a degree in Computer Science or a similar discipline can be very helpful, skills are more important than diplomas for most hiring managers. IT certifications can prove your skills and offer a faster route to skills competency and entry level positions.

LeaderQuest offers accelerated training courses that can give you the skills and hands-on experience you need to pass your certification exams and excel at a new job. Our courses generally take 5 days or 10 nights and are taught by industry-expert instructors that can answer your questions and help you work through the material. With a mix of lecture and lab, you’ll gain the confidence you need to secure a new position and start a brand new career in a thriving industry,

If you’re interested in learning more about accelerated IT training, don’t hesitate to get in touch! We’ll schedule a time for you to meet with one of our expert Career Training Counselors and see if a career in IT could be right for you.

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How Can the CompTIA A+ Certification Jump-Start Your IT Career?

How Can the CompTIA A+ Certification Jump-Start Your IT Career?

Today, we are living in a digital economy. Every business can see that technology has become a critical part of their current operations and their future success, and leadership is pushing for digital transformation. In order to remain competitive, companies know they must invest in IT. This includes everything from the computers that workers use every day, to the networks they communicate with the internet over, to data storage, to cloud computing, and more.

CompTIA A+ is the industry standard for launching IT careers into today’s digital world. Why? Because it’s performance-based, trusted by employers, regularly re-invented by IT experts, and offers a complete skills development solution.

Getting your CompTIA A+ certification will enable you to join this digital revolution and ensure a competitive salary and great job security. Read on to learn about why A+ is so powerful and what you’ll learn.

What Makes the A+ Certification Valuable?

CompTIA A+ vendor-neutral certification is the preferred qualifying credential for technical support and IT operational roles. A+ demonstrates comprehension of hardware, software, operating systems, system troubleshooting, technology repair, networking, mobility, security and operational procedures.

  • Directive 8140/8570: The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) recognizes CompTIA A+ certification for information assurance technicians under DoD Directive 8140/8570.
  • Mapped to NICE: CompTIA A+ maps to the Customer Service and Technical Support specialty area of the framework developed as part of the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE).
  • Highly In Demand: CompTIA A+ ranked 7th in U.S. job listings showing the certification is required or recommended for potential candidates. (Source: CompTIA IT Employment Snapshot, Q4 2017)

If you want to learn more about this certification, download CompTIA’s A+ Certification Guide.

Targeted Job Roles

The A+ certification is ideal for those looking to get started in the Information Technology industry. It was created to certify that readiness and skills for job roles such as Service Desk Analyst, Field Service Tech, Help Desk Tech, and IT Support Specialist.

Employers look for candidates with their A+ certification because it helps them know they’re making a great hiring decision. Being able to pass the exam is a form of 3rd party skills verification that gives hiring mangers confidence that this hire will be able to do the job and do it right. In fact, 96% of HR managers use IT certifications as screening or hiring criteria during recruitment!

What Does the A+ Certification Cover?

This in-depth certification covers the most important basics of the IT industry: security, infrastructure and hardware, networking, operations, operating systems, software and troubleshooting. For a more in-depth look at what you could learn, read through the exam objectives below.

Security

Tech support teams face a growing challenge to accurately triage a flood of security issues.

  • Physical and logical security
  • Social engineering
  • Malware detection and removal
  • Device hardening
  • Biometric authentication
  • Privacy concerns, including GDPR and handling PII

Security Objectives

  • Summarize the importance of physical security measures.
  • Compare and contrast wireless security protocols and authentication methods.
  • Given a scenario, detect, remove, and prevent malware using appropriate tools and methods.
  • Given a scenario, implement security best practices to secure a workstation.

Infrastructure & Hardware

Connectivity is the lifeblood of productivity. Troubleshooting device connectivity issues are table stakes for IT support professionals.

  • Cloud and virtualization
  • IoT devices and protocols
  • Internet appliances, including endpoint management
  • Different network types, including wireless mesh networks

Mobile Devices Objectives

  • Given a scenario, install and configure laptop hardware and components.
  • Given a scenario, install components within the display of a laptop.
  • Given a scenario, connect and configure accessories and ports of other mobile devices.
  • Given a scenario, configure basic mobile device network connectivity and application support.

Networking Objectives

  • Compare and contrast TCP and UDP ports, protocols, and their purposes.
  • Compare and contrast common networking hardware devices. (Routers, switches, access points, firewalls, bubs, repeaters, etc)
  • Given a scenario, install and configure a basic wired/wireless SOHO network.
  • Compare and contrast wireless networking protocols.

Hardware Objectives

  • Explain basic cable types, features, and their purposes.
  • Given a scenario, select and configure appropriate components for a custom PC configuration to meet customer specifications or needs.
  • Given a scenario, install and configure motherboards, CPUs, and add-on cards.
  • Given a scenario, select, install and configure storage devices.

Troubleshooting Objectives

  • Given a scenario, use the best practice methodology to resolve problems.
  • Given a scenario, troubleshoot problems related to motherboards, RAM, CPUs, and power.
  • Given a scenario, troubleshoot common wired and wireless network problems.
  • Given a scenario, troubleshoot hard drives and RAID arrays.

Operations

As the systems that users connect with increase in both number and variety, the definition of competency for an entry level IT support pros has expanded.

  • Scripting, Python, Bash, Javascript
  • Working with log files
  • Knowledgebase best practices
  • Change management
  • Basic disaster prevention and recovery
  • Using remote access

Operational Procedures Objectives

  • Compare and contrast best practices associated with types of documentation.
  • Given a scenario, implement basic change management best practices.
  • Given a scenario, implement basic disaster prevention and recovery methods.
  • Explain the processes for addressing prohibited content/activity, and privacy, licensing, and policy concepts.

Software

Hardware knowledge underpins tech support competency, but the day-to-day requires software expertise.

  • Windows, Linux, Android, iOS, Chrome OS, Mac OS
  • Software as a Service (SaaS)
  • Hypervisors
  • iCloud, Exchange, Google Inbox
  • Active Directory

Operating Systems Objectives

  • Compare and contrast common operating system types and their purposes.
  • Summarize general OS installation considerations and upgrade methods.
  • Given a scenario, use appropriate Microsoft command line tools.
  • Given a scenario, configure Microsoft Windows networking on client/desktop.

Software Troubleshooting Objectives

  • Given a scenario, troubleshoot Microsoft Windows OS problems.
  • Given a scenario, troubleshoot and resolve PC security issues.
  • Given a scenario, use best practice procedures for malware removal.
  • Given a scenario, troubleshoot mobile OS and application issues.

Are you interested in IT training?

Does the idea of installing and configuring motherboards make you grin? Do you want to learn the ins-and-outs of running virtual machines? A career in IT could be the perfect choice for you. If you enjoy working with your hands, fixing broken things, and understanding the latest technology, consider giving IT a chance.

LeaderQuest can help you get the training you need to get hired in IT. Our training courses take 5-10 days to complete and are taught by instructors with years of industry experience. We include hands-on labs in every course so that you’ll have the skills you need to excel. Finally, we offer one-on-one career services to help you with your resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letter, interview skills and more. We’ll even connect you with local IT employers that are looking to hire.

So what’s stopping you? Your IT career is waiting for you!

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From Unemployed to Empowered: Khozema Raja

From Unemployed to Empowered: Khozema Raja

After 15 years in the the commercial real estate industry, Khozema Raja found himself jobless with a new child on the way. He knew he wanted to head in a new career direction but he didn’t have much time. Luckily, the stars aligned and he found LeaderQuest!

Khozema was faced with a difficult situation. “I really needed to step up and take care of my family,” he told us. He could either go get a low-paying non-career job or go to the unemployment office and see what options there might be out there for him. He decided to head to the unemployment office. After discussing his situation with his counselor, he was introduced to the idea of transitioning into the IT industry with an accelerated training program at LeaderQuest. Fortunately, he qualified for a state grant that would cover his training costs wherever he decided to go. LeaderQuest is proud to partner with workforce centers that provide funding to help those who’ve been unemployed get the training they need to get back to work.

“I’ve always liked being around computers and my father worked at IBM, so I was like, why don’t I actually try to make a career out of it?”

Watch Khozema tell his story about training at LeaderQuest Dallas in his own words, below.

 

Know Your Career Training Options

He was advised to go to LeaderQuest’s campus and take a tour with a Career Training Consultant whose job it is to help people understand what a career in IT entails and ultimately if it is the right move for a candidate. He decided to check it out and headed to LeaderQuest the next day. “They were so friendly to me, they gave me a tour and answered all of my questions about the IT industry.” The tour ended up going very well for Khozema.

“It was a no-brainer to enter the IT industry. I didn’t even hesitate when I decided to go with LeaderQuest. They made me feel like family as soon as I walked in.”

Soon after Khozema’s decision to go with LeaderQuest he was enrolled into the Computer User Support Specialist program. This program is designed to help individuals with little to no IT experience enter the industry comfortably and confidently. The program is made up of four different certifications: ITIL Foundation, CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, and CompTIA Security+. As Khozema put it “This program gives you a foundation for everything IT-related from the basics of how a computer works and operates to security and networking.”  

This carefully curated array of internationally recognized certifications is the perfect combination of entry-level and mid-level IT training that allows students to get a taste of different facets of IT so they can see what areas interest them the most. From cyber security to network engineering, there are many areas one can explore.

Alternative Learning Environment

While traditional teaching techniques that lock students into a read-study repeat routine, LeaderQuest strives to create an alternative learning environment that helps trainees master the basics by focusing on the hands-on experience that will translate into a real world job. Khozema found this out in his first week of training, “It was refreshing. It didn’t feel like you were in school again, It felt really comfortable.”

His favorite certification course was CompTIA A+. “I enjoyed the hands-on training. We had different labs where you had to troubleshoot problems. I would always try to be the first one to get done, we all started to get real competitive which made it more fun.” This is exactly what LeaderQuest is all about, creating a place to train, a place to create new bonds, and a place to launch a new future.

More Than IT Training

At LeaderQuest we understand that many people are intimidated by the whole process, and sometimes that intimidation stands in the way of their success. This wall of intimidation is broken down throughout the duration of the program with easy to understand training, study sessions, and one-on-one career counseling with our Employment Development Managers (EDMs) who are heart of our Career Services Team.

Our EDM’s sole purpose is to guide trainees through the employment process in conjunction with their training. As Khozema was settling in to LeaderQuest he was able to start meeting with the EDM at our Dallas campus. “We set up mock interviews, as well as resume building sessions, where I was able to learn what exactly I needed to put on my resume.” In addition to interview training and resume writing, our EDMs can connect students with our network of employer partners. This is made possible because LeaderQuest has fostered relationships with recruiters as well as direct relationships with employers in each of our markets. This allows us to have multiple opportunities waiting for our trainees as soon as they finish the program. We do not charge our partners to hire our students which has created a symbiotic relationship, beneficial to everyone involved.

While following his plan, Khozema was getting much more out of the program than just training.

“The process was inspiring, empowering, and really helped me grow.”

As he went through the training and employment services, more and more opportunities started to present themselves. The LeaderQuest employment services helped him to understand what these offers really meant and which offers better aligned with his goals. Towards the end of the program, Khozema as well as other trainees were presented with help desk job opportunities with an oil and gas company looking to fill multiple positions. He and a few other trainees decide to take positions at this company. “It was a stress relief and really nice actually knowing someone on my first day on the job.”

Career Training that Empowers Students

“I really liked the whole process from becoming a student to being successfully placed. Thank you for empowering me!”

This word “empower” is key in understanding the goal of LeaderQuest. We not only provide our trainees with the skills to enter the IT industry but the confidence and backing to do so. Khozema was faced with a hard situation, he found out his options, planned, and most importantly of all executed.

His situation is not unique. Thousands of Americans are currently sick of their jobs, unemployed, or are longing for something more. LeaderQuest provides a path to education for those looking for a new career. Currently there are over 300,000 unfilled IT jobs in the U.S., a number which is expected to balloon over the 1,000,000 mark in 2020. The salaries for Information Technology  (IT) positions are among the highest in the country. See the numbers for yourself from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There has never been a better time nor a better opportunity to make the transition.

Turn Your Story Into a Success Story

Khozema Raja went from being unemployed with a baby on the way to an employed father with a bright future ahead. His story is similar to hundreds of LeaderQuest alumni. Our goal is to help as many people as possible change their lives through a new career.

Here is Khozema’s advice: “To anyone thinking about transitioning, come down, meet the staff, and have a real conversation about what is going on in your life and what your aspirations are.”

We firmly believe in the human connection. If you are interested in turning your story into a success story with one of our IT programs, please reach out and we’ll have a conversation to see if this is the right path for you.

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