As Halloween approaches, horror fans will line up to be terrified by men in masks, creepy dolls, slashers, monsters, and everything ghoulish and gross. Meanwhile, a more sinister threat lurks in your inbox.
“So what?” you might say. Getting scammed or hacked is dangerous, but it only happens to huge companies or the most tech illiterate, right? Wrong. For the spookiest month of the year, we’ve prepared three cyber security horror stories that will chill your blood.
Or, at the very least, make you change all your passwords. (Password1? Come on, guys!)
Story #1: The Good Samaritan (Who Makes You WannaCry)
It’s a dark and stormy night (of course), and you’re at home. You know the risks of cyber crime. You’ve got antivirus software, your data backed up, and you update regularly. That’s when you get a message from Microsoft confirming your worst fears.
You’ve been hit with ransomware.
A notification pops up and urges you to call tech support. You dial the numbers, the sound of your heartbeat pounding in your ears. Someone picks up and you explain the disaster.
The woman on the other end puts your fears to rest. She’s here to help. She walks you through setting up some anti-ransomware software for $300. It’s a bit much but worth it to save your data.
Reluctantly, you fork over the fee and give her remote access to your computer. After a few minutes, she thanks you and assures you your computer is ransomware-free.
One week later, you’ve nearly forgotten the incident. During your morning coffee, you turn on the news and see a story about a local scam. Your eyes widen in horror.
That’s when you realize you were never hit with ransomware. The woman you talked to wasn’t from Microsoft. She was a scammer. And you let her into your computer.
According to UK’s fraud and cybercrime center, Action Fraud, criminals have been exploiting fears around WannaCry by offering tech support after they fake a ransomware attack. During their “tech support,” they charge ridiculous amounts of money and can even install malware on your computer.
“It is important to remember that Microsoft’s error and warning messages on your PC will never include a phone number. Microsoft will never pro-actively reach out to you to provide unsolicited PC or technical support. Any communication they have with you must be initiated by you.”
And this isn’t limited to computer users. Some Android apps like, “WannaCry Ransomware Protection,” promise safety but instead install buggy adware on your phone that will expose you to a ton of annoying and potentially dangerous ads. They’re available on Google Play and even have high star ratings.
What can you do? First, know that Microsoft, or any other big organization, will never send you a tech support number in an error message. They will likely not reach out to you unless you’ve asked them first. Second, do your research before you install anything on your phone or computer. Check out these articles for tips on how to avoid fake virus & malware software and learn how to recognize fake virus warnings.
Okay, that was a pretty mild story compared to some. From here on out, it gets worse. Are you ready?
Story #2: Let the Right One In
It’s a lazy Wednesday afternoon in the office. You’re in charge of supplier relations at a company that buys and resells wholesale products. It’s your job to make sure big orders come and go without hassle. The clock is striking 2 pm and your mid-morning coffee buzz has worn off.
You’re debating whether or not a Snickers is technically cheating on your diet (it is) when you get an email from a vendor. It’s a company you regularly work with. They tell you they’ve received over $20,000, but weren’t sure what you ordered. They want your account info so they can sort it out.
Your heart jolts. You’ve got deadlines to meet and if you don’t get this out, you’ll be in big trouble. You click the attachment and scan the invoice, confirming they have your account and some of your bank info. You send them an email with payment info so they can sort it out.
They respond promptly. It’s been taken care of. You breathe a sigh of relief, happy you’ll be able to tell your boss you’ve already fixed the problem.
A few weeks later, you get a strange call. One of your clients is complaining their order never came. That’s strange, you’re sure you remembered. You dig back through your inbox to find the email.
That’s when you take a closer look at the invoice. You’re used to working with this company, but you thought for sure their name was spelled differently.
That’s when it hits you. This isn’t from your vendor. You’ve given an enormous amount of money and your company’s banking info to a scammer. By opening the pdf with your account information, you’ve also exposed your company’s entire network to heaven only knows what.
And there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
While we associate Nigerian phishing scams with sketchy deposed kings and poor grammar, cyber attackers continue to adapt in more serious and pernicious ways. One such scam targets suppliers, customers, commercial organizations, and delivery services who have data access to a greater pool of victims.
Nigerian phishers would send a legitimate-looking invoice and ask recipients to clarify product pricing or goods. They’d even register similar domain names to the companies their victims worked with. Then, they’d send their victims attachments with trojan-spies or backdoors.
“Using the newly registered domains, the cybercriminals are able to carry out a man-in-the-middle attack: they intercept the email with the seller’s invoice and forward it to the buyer after replacing the seller’s account details with the details of an account belonging to the attackers. Alternatively, they can send a request on behalf of the seller for an urgent change of bank details in addition to the seller’s legitimate email containing the invoice.”
This type of attack is an especially big risk for industrial companies that buy from wholesalers and resell. They lose out on the money the scammer stole and have to deal with replacing the order that didn’t go out.
What can you do? The best advice in this situation is to always, always think twice before clicking. The difficult thing about these attacks is they appear to come from people you know. Ask yourself, how well do I know the source? Am I expecting this information? Make sure to double check the spelling of the sender’s address and name against previous emails from them. And, of course, make sure all your data is backed up. Strengthen your network, and, if you think your computer has been compromised, shut it down immediately.
If you think that’s bad, just wait. We saved the worst for last.
Story #3: Destroying Your Digital Life
You get home after a long day. You sit down, happy to spend some time with your one-year-old daughter. As you play, you realize your iPhone shut down. Since you’re expecting a work call, you plug it in.
Instead of bringing up your familiar lock screen, it takes you to the setup display you saw when you first bought it. Weird. And annoying. You figure it’s probably just a bug and, luckily, you’ve backed everything up on the iCloud. You hook your phone to your laptop so you can enter your Apple ID and restore your data. When you open it, a message pops up letting you know your Gmail information is wrong. It asks for a four-digit pin.
But, there’s just one problem… you never set up a four-digit pin.
A twisted, burning hole in your stomach confirms it before you can even think it. You try your laptop. No luck. In horror, you start checking your other accounts. Your Google account is gone. Your Twitter has been hacked and is sending out an ugly stream of racist and homophobic tweets.
Fearing for your household network, you shut down the laptop and disconnect your router. You call Apple support. During your call, you think of everything you could lose. It’s bad enough that you’ll have to recreate all your work, notes, data, and maybe even create new online accounts. What’s even worse is that you realize almost every picture you’ve taken of your daughter’s first year on earth was on that hard drive. That can’t be replaced.
On your tech support call, they mention this is the second call you’ve had with them today. But that doesn’t make you sense, you insist. It’s the first time you’ve called them today.
That’s when you realize. The first call to tech support was from the hacker, posing as you. It took them less than an hour to destroy your entire online existence. You have no idea what to do next.
Mat, a tech journalist, revealed that the scale of the devastation was due to the fact that information from one account let the hacker get into his other accounts. A hacker got his address and the last four digits of his credit card from the support staff at Amazon. From there, they got into his AppleID, his Google account, and his Twitter.
Fortunately for Honan, the hacker wasn’t interested in his bank account or the people on his contact list. So why did this hacker ruin Mat’s digital life?
For his Twitter handle.
The hacker was interested in Mat’s rare three-character Twitter handle. For that reason, they laid Mat’s data to waste.
Fortunately for Mat, the team at the Apple store managed to restore over 75% of his hard drive, including the photos of his daughter. It didn’t come cheap at a hefty fee of $1,690. Not everyone has the time or the resources to retrieve memories like the one below.
What can you do? First of all, two-factor authentication is your best friend. This links your accounts to a phone number. Every time you log into a new device it will ask you to enter a code that’s sent to your phone. It will also send you an email to let you know when and where someone logs into your account. Second, back up everything. The cloud gives us a false sense of safety. Sure, it backs up all your data, but if it’s hacked you will lose everything. An external hard drive could be your savior.
Protecting Your Data
Whether it’s at home, work, or even across your devices, cyber attacks can affect even the most tech-savvy among us. It could be as simple as opening an attachment or setting up accounts for convenience rather than security.
Though ghosts and ghouls will haunt many nightmares this month, cyber security is a real and present danger we face every day. For most, the best offense is a good defense. The National Cyber Security Alliance provides online safety tips and has info on the ever-evolving world of online fraud, theft, and crime.
If you’re interested in joining the fight in a more hands-on way, there’s never been a greater need for talented pros. By 2019, there will be a global shortage of two million cyber security professionals. Even now, employers are struggling to fill 40,000 information security analyst positions and over 200,000 other cyber-security related roles, according to cyber security data tool CyberSeek.
When you’re stuck in an unrewarding, underpaying job, getting something better can’t come fast enough. No matter what you want, it can be difficult to break into a new field on the timeline you need. That’s where IT certifications come in.
IT certifications can help you to jump into a new career fast while building a foundation for further specialization. Still not convinced? Here are just a few of the reasons IT certifications are a great way to start a career in IT.
1. They’re a Fast/Low-Cost Way to Level-Up Your Resume
For those who have the time and resources to dig deep into a field of study, the traditional degree has a lot to offer. However, when you want to bump up your skills fast, certifications are a great alternative. The average tuition for a master’s degree program is $60,000 to $80,000 while living expenses, books, and more can easily cost over $100,000. Certifications are vastly less expensive, especially if you can find a third party that will cover the cost for you.
Another benefit is that you get into the meat and potatoes of what you’re studying much more quickly. Certifications are hyper-focused on the skills you need, so there’s no Gen Eds to knock out. Labs and simulations will ensure that you get hands-on experience that employers are looking for.
2. Certifications Validate the Skills You Need to Succeed
From an employer standpoint, every hire is a gamble. It takes time and money to get them registered in the system, trained, and enmeshed with a new team. Of course, there will always be situations where things don’t work out for one way or another, but it still important to get every assurance possible an employee will be a good fit.
That’s where certifications come in. They provide globally recognized, 3rd party (CompTIA, EC-Council, PMI, etc.) verification of a certain skill set. This can be easily understood by employers and technical professionals alike. Whether you’re validating a skill that you already have or taking on a wholly new one, it shows an employer that you definitely know what you’re talking about.
In fact, sometimes getting certifications isn’t a matter of “if” but “when” because…
3. DoD Jobs Require IT Certifications
If you’ve spent any time in the Department of Defense (DoD) arena, you’ve probably heard about Directive 8570/8140. It requires that all users of authorized information systems have a certain level of certification. This is to ensure that people who are working with sensitive information have the knowledge to do so safely.
Whether you’re working for the DoD, or just working with a company that regularly contracts with the DoD like Raytheon, Booz Allen Hamilton, Northrop Grumman, etc., you will need these certifications to operate at different levels. The table above shows what certifications are required for such work.
This creates a huge opportunity for those who get certified, because companies who work with the DoD are always in need of certified professionals to work on their contracts. Thinking about going into DoD work, but not sure which certification is right for you? Luckily, we wrote a blog about that.
4. Certifications are Good For the Whole Company
When it comes to an overall company’s well-being, certifications are the gift that keeps on giving. Studies from CompTIA, Microsoft, IDC, and Novell have confirmed wide-ranging benefits for a company on the whole.
Organizations that invest in certifications for their employees are rewarded with happier and more productive workers who want to stay longer. Not only do they bring a brand new skill set to the table, they’re grateful, excited, and engaged because their company showed faith in them.
Getting employees certified also boosts confidence and peace of mind. On the one hand, workers feel assured in their knowledge. Meanwhile, customers themselves know that they’re getting more bang for their buck.
5. Certifications Help You Stand Out in Interviews
Before you even set foot inside a potential employer’s office, recruiters and resume scanning software will look for key certifications like CompTIA A+, CompTIA Security+, Certified Ethical Hacker, or Certified Network Defender. That means that certifications can make or break even getting a seat at the interview. Once you’re in, certifications can help you stand up against candidates who might have as much or more experience than you.
6. Great Certs Equal Greater Earning/Salary Potential
7. Certifications Could Get You a Head Start at College
Many individuals attain an entry-level certification like ITIL or CompTIA A+ so that they can get a start into a ground floor IT job. Then, they can go back, finish their degree, earn a few more certifications, and put themselves in the best position possible for work in an intermediate or advanced field like networking or even cyber security.
Colleges have even started recognizing certifications as counting toward credit. The American Council on Education gives ACE CREDIT recommendations by reviewing educational institutions and recommending their courses as being the equivalent of college credit at universities and colleges. This is the case for 14 LeaderQuest courses.
IT skills are desperately needed, important, and can have a great impact on the world around you. Taking on these new skills means having an opportunity to enter into a career that will help you develop personally as well as professionally.
There is a Japanese concept known as ikigai which reflects on that which is needed and loved in the world or “the reason for which you wake up in the morning.” In the novel, “The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life,” co-author Hector Garcia has this to say about finding happiness and fulfillment in life.
“Your ikigai is at the intersection of what you are good at and what you love doing,” he says.
You never know where your purpose will come from. However, when it comes to a field as exciting and fast-growing as IT, you just might find yours.
Level-Up Your Career with LeaderQuest
If you want a career you’ll love, IT is a quickly growing field with a number of benefits both personal and professional. IT certifications can help you land that first job or advance to a higher, better-paying position. That’s why LeaderQuest offers some of the most essential IT certifications in the business.
We offer 5 and 10-day classes online, on campus, during the day, and at night with the goal of getting you trained, certified, and hired in the IT world. Once you’ve finished classes, you’ll have the opportunity to work with your own personal Employment Development Manager (EDM) who will help revamp your resume, nail your cover letter, and work with you to practice for behavioral interviews.
If you’re stuck in a job you don’t like, why delay? Contact us today and start a career you’ll love with a salary you’ll appreciate!
It’s a path so commonplace and accepted, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it as the only one.
Go to college after high school. Of course. It’s just what people do. Never mind the four years you give up in time, or the tens of thousands you pay in tuition and room and board. In the long run, these are nothing concerns. Especially when you consider the higher income that a college education all but guarantees.
Actually, maybe not. Four years is a significant period of time to wait before you can start earning money. And the costs? Credit.com puts the average student loan debt at a whopping $31,172. That’s not something you can pay off overnight. If your debt is higher, which is all too possible, it may not be something you can fully pay off ever.
When you also consider that basic employment is far from guaranteed in many fields — let alone that higher income — college starts to look a lot less stable and reliable than we’re led to believe.
Bucking Tradition, Together
Roommates Michael Lim, 23, and Michael-Anthony Shipman, 25, experienced some of these drawbacks firsthand. Both of them tried the traditional college route after high school, and both of them decided it wasn’t for him.
“There’s an overemphasis in my opinion on college degrees,” Lim says. “I don’t want to downplay at all the education you get from college, the social understanding and things you learn outside the classroom. But for the price, it’s a little bloated. A little bit, in my opinion.”
Both of Lim’s parents went to college, as did all five of his siblings. But he didn’t take to his new lifestyle at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He didn’t like the massive classroom sizes, nor was he completely sure of the value of his intended computer science degree.
“It wasn’t really like, ‘Oh, should I go to college and get a degree?’ It was like, ‘When am I going to get it?’” Lim says. “For me personally, just as a life choice, I didn’t want to go to college right after high school — and it kind of showed. Getting out after a year and a half in was my way of saying, ‘Oh, I don’t think the timing is right. I don’t want to be going into this kind of intensity. I just want to figure things out for myself.’”
After Lim left, he wound up in Pittsburgh, where he met Shipman. In addition to his ongoing work with the Army National Guard, Shipman was studying game design at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, which eventually shut down as part of a wave of Art Institute closings across the country.
Together with a couple other friends, the group migrated west to Aurora, Colorado. Some enrolled in a new school, but that turned out not to be exactly what they were looking for either. That’s when Shipman came across LeaderQuest’s Denver campus.
“Just from all the options and the outcomes that I could have from LeaderQuest, it was going to be better than getting a degree in college,” Shipman says. “Especially with being already in the military, having the VA benefits and already having a clearance for jobs for getting out of LeaderQuest is a huge bonus.”
Shipman — a tech guy who built his first computer five years ago — decided to give it a go, ultimately convincing Lim and their roommate Ryan Broadwater as well.
“When [Shipman] started looking into it, he was like, ‘Oh, wow, this is a really, really solid place,” says Lim, who was also attracted to the opportunity to earn college credits. “The idea of me and my two roommates going to school together, as well as getting some certifications and whatnot, it was a very enticing proposition. So it was very hard for me to turn it down.”
“When you’re going to college, you’re spending just literally tens of thousands of dollars, every year,” Lim says. “Coming to LeaderQuest, time-wise, it’s less than a semester. And money-wise, it all just kind of made sense, like lucratively. You’re going to be making a fair amount of money coming out and you’re going into an expanding field. It just makes a lot of sense.”
Whereas before he was one of 300 in classes at UNC-Charlotte, with LeaderQuest Lim learned in classroom sizes of 15 or less. He called that “very refreshing” as he completed his LeaderQuest courses and went on to pass the ITIL exam as his first certification.
Military duties related to the coronavirus, meanwhile, have kept Shipman from wrapping up his coursework just yet. But once his training is finished and his certifications are acquired, he’s looking forward to working with the Department of Defense as a civilian contractor — “to not necessarily be in uniform but work with people in uniform.”
Both Lim and Shipman are fully confident in LeaderQuest’s career services team to help them find full-time employment in IT.
“One of the best things is how ready they are to help you out,” Lim says. “When I connect with my teachers they’re like, ‘Hey, even outside of LeaderQuest, when you’re gone as an alumni, you can contact me. If you need a reference, you can contact me. If I leave LeaderQuest, you can still contact me and I’ll help you out.’ I was like, ‘Dang, these guys are just like all for me.’ It was really nice to hear that kind of encouragement from my professors. I just thought it was top tier.”
Though the young men are closer to the beginning of their professional journey in IT than the end, both feel good about the less-than-traditional route they’ve decided to pursue.
“It all worked out really well for me,” Lim says. “This is an amazing decision in my opinion. Me and my roommates, we were just like, ‘Oh, best decision of our lives, hands down.’ It just makes a lot of sense for us.”
Adds Shipman: “I think this was a great decision. I’ve never regretted doing it.”
Ready to Learn More?
As Lim points out, with LeaderQuest you can get the training you need to pass the certifications necessary for IT positions in less than a semester. Going to school at night, as he did, takes 10 weeks; if you’re able to attend classes during the day, you’ll be done in five weeks. The Computer User Support Specialist program is the most common direction for those with no experience. It prepares students for the ITIL, CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, and CompTIA Security+ certifications that will help them successfully break into IT.
Our staff of instructors and mentors are there to help every step of the way, even after the course ends. LeaderQuest prides itself on helping students pass their certification exams, and then helping them get jobs. To that end, our career services team is tireless in their efforts to connect LQ alums to IT positions. They’re well-connected in the community, and can often put in that good word with hiring managers that moves our alumni’s resumes to the top of the pile.
Are you a high school student who feels college might not be the right fit? Could you see yourself joining the expanding field of IT and cybersecurity? Fill out the form below to get in touch with LeaderQuest and start talking options, from potentially finding funding for your training to seeing how IT certifications can build the foundation for a fulfilling career.
Mark Emery is the Social Media and Content Marketing Manager for LeaderQuest and MISTI. He is a Pittsburgh native who now lives in Denver, and his previous work experience includes editorial roles at Men’s Health, the NY Daily News, and MLB.com.
With so many struggling, it’s easy to assume that career prospects in every field are similarly bleak. But there’s at least one sector where people are still being hired, where work is still being carried out.
That field is IT. As companies shift their operations online, the demand – the need – for trained IT professionals and the technical support they can provide has grown to all-time highs. And LeaderQuest grads are living proof. Between March and April, LQ helped place 100 of them in fulfilling new careers, bucking the difficult trends seen elsewhere.
We caught up with three of these student success stories to get the specifics of each one’s journey into IT, from having an initial interest in the industry to receiving that offer letter for a position within it.
Their experiences show that with the right assistance, reinventing yourself doesn’t have to be all that painful, even in a global pandemic.
A New Job and an Instant Promotion
For Chris DeWitt, the sheer amount of IT openings is part of what caught his attention.
“The possibilities absolutely seemed endless,” he says. “There was no shortage of positions to apply for, and that was really exciting.”
DeWitt, 44, spent the first two decades of his career in the U.S. Air Force. It’s what brought him to Colorado Springs, where he has remained with his family since retiring from the service in 2013.
A talented photographer, DeWitt went on to work in creative areas in the years that followed, until last year when a stark realization hit him.
“I kind of plateaued,” he says. “It was my dream job. But I didn’t see an opportunity for growth anymore.”
That led him to IT, which led him to LeaderQuest. After being drawn in by “a bunch of smiling faces” at a job fair, DeWitt got to know some of the Colorado Springs LQ team, including Employment Development Manager Shari Carroll and Career Training Consultant George Winn.
He was thrilled to learn that not only could LeaderQuest provide him with the IT training he sought, it could also help him secure government funding to complete that training for free.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” DeWitt says. “It almost seemed too good to be true, that VET TEC was going to pay for this and then this program was going to assist in job placement. I mean, there’s parts of that that seem too good to be true! And, thankfully, it wasn’t.”
While he had been applying to jobs before taking his exam, his results improved dramatically once he added the new certifications to his credentials.
“The second I said ‘I have my certification,’ my responses immediately went from maybe 25-30% to probably 90% in job applications,” he says. “I was immediately getting responses from companies that I wasn’t getting before.”
The interviews started piling up, so much so that it became a joke in the DeWitt household, how often Dad was in the office with the door closed, talking to another company about another job opportunity.
Initially aiming low because of his limited experience, DeWitt started going after positions of a slightly higher level. He ended up snagging one with Apex Systems, which hired him to be a Mobile Service Center Sr. Technician. After just one week of demonstrating the leadership and management skills he honed in the military, he was promoted to Mobile Service Center Manager.
“Here I am, after one week of work I’m talking with the company about what that (salary) increase looks like,” DeWitt says. “It was validating, because I was just so nervous about making that leap.”
Perhaps the best part: Through a contract with NORTHCOM, DeWitt and his Apex team are playing an active role in the coronavirus fight, helping with backend communications for military medical providers such as the USNS Comfort in New York and USNS Mercy in southern California.
“Those individuals are getting the devices we’re providing them, which allows them that cooperation and collaboration while still maintaining their social distancing,” DeWitt says. “Not only was I able to accept a position during these difficult times, I accepted a position where I’m supporting that effort directly.”
Being Let Go a ‘Blessing in Disguise’
Reggie Landers had long held an interest in IT – for most of his adult life, actually.
“I’ve been wanting to get into it,” he says. “But I had bills to pay, so I couldn’t just leave work and go to school. Because then I would be homeless.”
Landers, 39, had been employed in insurance before. He was unfortunately let go from his job, and he found it difficult to find another one of a similar stature.
Some positions he was unqualified for. Others would pay significantly less than he made before.
A father of one, Landers felt these options weren’t suitable for his circumstances. Amid decreasing responses from places he’d applied to, he vented about his growing frustrations to a friend.
“I kind of let him know the situation,” Landers says. “His girlfriend said, ‘Hey, why don’t you look into IT? They’re massively hiring. I went to this seminar and I got all this information.’ And I was like, ‘OK, cool, absolutely.’”
But the problem of affording IT training, in both money and time, still existed. Or so Landers thought, right up until he got in touch with LeaderQuest.
While the coronavirus pandemic has prevented him from taking his certification exams, it has not stopped him from finding a new job. Landers is now employed as a Level 2 Software Support Engineer Specialist with Tek Experts.
“It’s a right fit for someone that has no experience,” Landers says. “It’s a company that’s growing despite COVID-19, and I ended up getting hired in pretty much right away.”
How soon is right away? Landers applied to Tek Experts on Thursday, March 26. By Monday, April 20 – less than 30 days later – he was in the midst of his first day.
According to Landers, the company bills itself as a springboard to other opportunities. And he’s not the only LeaderQuest alum who’s caught on there.
In fact, from the very beginning, Hoerning pegged it as a possible landing spot for him.
“The LeaderQuest staff has been more than helpful and gracious during this process,” Landers says, “and has really been fighting for me as the student to try to make sure that everything is in place.”
A 37-year-old mother with two teenagers at home, West knew she could better support her family if she left her role as a paraeducator for preschoolers and elementary students.
“That is definitely not a lucrative job by any means,” says West, who was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in education. “Even as a teacher, I mean, starting salary for a teacher is about 36k if you’re really lucky.”
Together with her husband Bobby, who retired from the Navy in November, West began looking into IT. It was something the couple had considered in the past, as she has two brothers who work in cybersecurity.
They started studying on their own, but found it difficult to make progress without formalized training. It was Bobby who came across LeaderQuest.
Going from 8 am to 5 pm, five days a week, West and her husband completed the five-week course over February and the first week of March. She took the rest of March to study for her Sec+ exam, which she passed on her first try. That’s when she called Shari Carroll, the Employment Development Manager at Colorado Springs, who helped with her job search immediately.
“That was on March 27th that she reached out to Valdez,” West says. “I had an interview at noon one day and was called back the next day telling me that I had received a job. So it was a very, very quick process.”
Seemingly overnight, West had an offer letter for a change management position in her possession. Although she can’t start yet due to COVID-19 precautions being taken at Peterson Air Force Base, where the role is located, she has a salary of $51,000 a year to look forward to.
“I’ll be making twice as much as I’ve ever made,” West says. “Just starting off, the very first job that I’ve ever gotten – I don’t have any other IT experience other than what I got from LeaderQuest.”
In describing the LQ process – from recruitment and classes to mentoring, exam prep and job placement – the word West kept coming back to was “phenomenal.”
“They just help out in any way, shape or form they can, from start to finish, to teach you this stuff, then (help you) study for the certs, then take the certs, then get a job,” West says. “Through the entire process, they’re just extremely helpful and encouraging.”
Start an IT Career with Zero Experience
At LeaderQuest, the most gratifying part of the job is seeing — and frequently helping — people get hired. That starts with training, with the most common journey being the Computer User Support Specialist program. There are no prerequisites. If you have basic computer literacy, you can take this course, get your certifications, and be on your way to a new career. All in an average of just three months.
And you won’t have to find work in this new field all on your own. As the above stories show, our career services team is an energetic, well-connected bunch. From helping you craft a top-notch resume and cover letter to directly reaching out to companies on your behalf, these people are dedicated to your employment. It’s their job to get you a job — and trust us, they’re excellent at their job.
When you factor in all the funding options available — especially for veterans — LeaderQuest becomes the obvious choice for anyone looking to enter IT. If that’s you, fill out the form below so we can start a conversation about your specific career goals and how LeaderQuest can help you reach them.
Mark Emery is the Social Media and Content Marketing Manager for LeaderQuest and MISTI. He is a Pittsburgh native who now lives in Denver, and his previous work experience includes editorial roles at Men’s Health, the NY Daily News, and MLB.com.
Think about when you first enlisted in the military, the excitement, the nervousness, the fear of the unknown. While these feelings have surely changed since your first deployment, the end of your military career marks the beginning of a new chapter in your life and the renewal of those same feelings. While this may be intimidating, we want you to know that you have a partner in moving forward. Our goal is to help veterans navigate the maze of opportunities ahead of them by means of education and information in order to help them choose a career that will serve them for years to come.
We discussed the advantages of certifications over degrees in Degrees vs. Certifications and in Your Military Transition we discussed how to navigate your transition and assesses your military benefits, but in this blog we would like to explore why exactly entering the IT industry is such a great fit for military veterans and why you should consider a career in IT.
While you were deployed the amount of open IT positions has increased tremendously. From 2014-2018, more than 450,000 IT job openings have been added to the market. The U.S. workforce is desperately trying to keep up with demand, but there are not enough qualified individuals to fill these positions.
The sector that has the hardest time keeping up with demand also happens to be the sector that favors military veterans, cybersecurity. In 2019, the cybersecurity shortage was already at 4.07 million cybersecurity professionals needed worldwide.
What does this mean for you? Entering the IT industry can lead to great opportunities at an accelerated rate. Veteran Christopher Jaskoski was earning $70k just nine months after his separation from the military; read The IT Training Success Story of Christopher Jaskoski to learn more about Chris. At our last check with him in March of 2019, he was earning over $120k. A lot of veterans don’t know this but time in the military can be a significant advantage when seeking a career in IT.
Your Military Experience = Your Advantage
Skills you develop in the military like teamwork, leadership, and problem solving are just a few of the qualities that you can utilize in the IT industry. Exceptional problem-solving skills alone are a great indicator for an entry-level job in IT were troubleshooting and problem-solving are large parts of the job roles. Entry level roles like Computer User Support Specialist are earning on average 53k a year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
On top of basic skills that can help veterans get a head start in IT careers there are also many MOS’s that have direct correlations to jobs in the civilian workforce.
Networking and communications positions are a great example of this. Have you ever seen Cisco equipment in the field? There is a good chance that this equipment has had a large impact on your military career. Many of their devices are deployed all around the world with the U.S. military and are the exact same devices used on the civilian side of things.
From Cryptologists to Network Defenders and Signal Specialist to Systems Maintainers there are hundreds of positions in the military that can translate directly into civilian IT positions. Want to see if your skills and experience would translate to an IT job? Download our Veteran Skills and Interests Assessment below.
Download the Veteran Skills and Interests Assessment
Having a secret security clearance and being in the field of IT can lead to a 5.8 percent average pay increase over time, and top-secret security clearance can lead to a 12.8 percent pay increase over time according to the Human Resource Association of the National Capital Area. Certified individuals with a security clearance are sought out by defense contractors, and generally have a very easy time getting hired.
Are you interested in working for the Department of Defense (DoD)?
Becoming 8570 compliant with single certifications from LeaderQuest can also boost your earning potential as well as make you eligible for a position in the DoD.
What is DoD 8570 Compliance? DoD 8570 establishes the policies and responsibilities of Department of Defense information assurance, including training, certification and workforce management. It is a baseline requirement for employees to access DoD IT systems.
How do you become 8570 compliant with LeaderQuest Certifications?
By combining your Secret Security Clearance with 8570 compliance you can significantly improve your chances of getting hired into an IT position for a defense contractor.
What is the advantage of working in IT for the DoD or a defense contractor?
You get to continue your to serve your country while leveraging your security clearance to make more money, the average base salary for IT specialists in the DoD is around 80k according to glassdoor.com.
How Important are Time and Money to You?
Entering the workforce through a certification path can save you years and help you build the necessary experience to advance your career and make a decent living.
When looking at college degree programs you will find that a bachelor’s degree will typically take around 4 years to complete. This translates to 120 college credits and around about 40 total classes, not to mention the additional time it takes to get hired after completion. After this time you will still be entering the workforce as an entry-level candidate making entry level pay.
In comparison our entry-level certification program, the Computer User Support Specialist program, you are looking at around 3 months from training to hire and a total of 4 certification courses.
The earning potential of these different paths can be illustrated in the table below.
*Salary factored in is based on Robert Half’s technology salary guide. We used Low-End Conservative 50th percentile salaries for years 1-3. Years 4 & 5 are based on the average of 2,250 Cyber Security Analyst salaries from Glassdoor.com.
Training AND Working = +$16,287
(-$12,775 + $29,062)
1st year Tier 1 Helpdesk annual earnings = $38,750
12 months of work – 3 months of training = 8 months of work ($29,062)
Minus Training Costs ($12,775) = +$16,287
Total: +$38,750 (With G.I. Bill Funding)
As in any field, your pay is dependent on your experience and effort to move forward. To make the step from a Help Desk Associate to a Cybersecurity Expert it typically takes 2-4 years of IT experience and can be supported by next level certifications offered by LeaderQuest like the Certified Ethical Hacker certification or the Certified Security Analyst certification.
Why IT Certifications and Why LeaderQuest?
In general, certifications verify that you have specific skills or knowledge. They are a great way to show employers that you have put in the time to learn your craft. While certifications are great, they won’t always land you a job by themselves. Here at LeaderQuest, we have recognized this and have gone to great lengths to bridge the gap from certification to employment.
The LeaderQuest Difference
A large portion of our staff are military veterans, and it has pushed us to go beyond what one might expect from a training facility and inspired us to create a world-class training center that cultivates success for veterans from training to employment.
The LeaderQuest training process includes multiple forms of extra support to ensure the best academic outcomes.
On Campus Instructor Mentors: Each LeaderQuest campus has an Instructor Mentor specifically dedicated to the success of all students. The Instructor Mentors will organize study groups, create personalized study plans, and tutor individual students who need the most help.
Expert Instructors: All of our instructors are required to have industry experience.
Day or Night Courses: We offer day and night courses to fit your schedule. Full time courses run for 5 weekdays at 8hrs/day. Part time courses run for 10 weeknights at 4hrs/night.
Learning Portal: Carefully curated study tools and practice test are included in each course.
The LeaderQuest Learning Guarantee: You may re-sit any course that you have taken at no cost if it’s within 2 years of your course date. (If the certification version has changed you may have to purchase new materials.)
The LeaderQuest Career Services Department offers one-on-one support for students who have completed their courses to help them take the next big step and actually get hired.
Resume/Cover letter writing to help graduates polish their resume to perfection and help them land an interview.
Interview coaching & mock interview practice to help gain confidence and learn the best way to answer common questions.
LinkedIn profile creation and optimization to make sure each graduate’s online presence is working for them.
Application coaching including how, when, and what kind of jobs to apply to.
Meet and greets with industry professionals in the local area to help graduates make valuable connections.
LinkedIn Tech Professionals groups to network and ask questions to LeaderQuest alumni in your area.
Access to LeaderQuest’s job boards curated by the Career Services Employment Development Managers.
Access to LeaderQuest’s employment partners. LeaderQuest has partnered with DoD contractors and other companies across the country to help fill their entry-level to advanced-level positions in a wide array of IT sectors.
Learn more about LeaderQuest’s Employment Services in the video below.
As you can see, LeaderQuest has perfected the formula for a concise education and Career Services support that produces results. That being said, we are continually evolving and are constantly adjusting to the market to ensure a top-level education for anyone who chooses to walk through the doors of LeaderQuest. We listen to our students and support our veterans in and outside of the company.
Is the IT Industry Right For You?
Whether you are looking to continue your service to the country through the DoD or are simply wanting to make money as quickly as possible, the IT industry may be a good fit for you! Your skills from the military combined with LeaderQuest’s proactive approach to training work together to get you employed as quickly and efficiently as possible.
A large portion of LeaderQuest employees are military veterans, and we empathize with what you are going through and want to aid you in this process. This life-altering decision does not have to be one that you make alone. Here at LeaderQuest, our goal is to partner with you in making this decision and guide you throughout the whole process.
If you are interested in transitioning into the IT industry please fill out the contact form below and a Career Adviser will contact you about your future. Thank you for your service and good luck!
It’s clear that Information Technology is a fast growing field with lots of opportunity. According to (ISC)2’s Cybersecurity Workforce Study 2019, which polled more than 3,000 cyber and IT professionals, the current cybersecurity workforce in the United States and 10 other world economies at 2.8 million – about 4 million short of what it needs to be. LeaderQuest is proud to help train the next generation of IT specialists and cybersecurity pros.
Considering that IT workers are needed in nearly every sector of industry, it’s no surprise that these roles are growing like crazy. Salaries are also increasing at high rates, with Information Technology Managers seeing their compensation rise by over 8% from 2015-2019.
So what does this mean for IT? In this examination of the Robert Half 2020 Technology & IT Salary Guide, we’ll be exploring areas of growth, examining average salaries, and reviewing other information that’s essential for anyone thinking of getting into IT.
Expanding IT Industries
Though the need for IT is rising everywhere, the three industries with the biggest demand are healthcare, financial services, and manufacturing.
Healthcare — Big innovations are needed to improve patient care by modernizing healthcare operations.
Financial services — In the wake of the Equifax breach, this shouldn’t be surprising. Both big data and information security initiatives drive the need for pros in this industry.
Manufacturing — While manufacturing has been slow to adapt, things are changing quickly with the trend toward automation.
Technology — Unsurprisingly, the tech industry has a huge and growing need for all kinds of information technology roles.
Certifications are always in high demand as a way for employers to verify the skills of a new hire. The skills and knowledge required to pass these exams give employers confidence that they’ve made the right hire.
In Robert Half’s extensive salary guide, they break down the numbers for what people in the 25th, 50th, 75th, and 95th percentile will make. Which percentile an individual falls into is decided by things like level of experience, special skills/expertise, job complexity, location, and other such factors.
When looking at these charts for yourself, it’s important to remember that the 50th percentile represents the midpoint. Those just getting started in the industry will be closer to (or below) the 25th percentile. Those with a lot of experience or credentials would fall in the 75th or 95th percentiles. For more information on using the salary guide, check out the video below.
When you examine the chart below, you can see that IT salaries top out with executive positions such as the Chief Information Officer ($174,750 – $298,750), Chief Technology Officer ($152,250 – $266,000), and Chief Security Officer ($155,250 – $278,000).
While that’s the highest of the high, it’s still worth noting that many of the salary ranges for IT roles easily reach over $100,000 including specialties and years of experience. Here are just a few high paying jobs in technical services, networking, and security.
Technical Services, Help Desk, & Technical Support
As you can see from the chart below, these positions represent the lower end of the salary range in IT. However, with the midpoint salary range for most positions around or over $50,000, it’s still much more than a living wage.
While salaries start in the $34,000 to $40,000 range, they quickly move to $50,000 – $60,000 as they get more and more specialized. This is especially true for systems administrators and systems engineers.
Help Desk Tier 1
Help Desk Tier 2
Help Desk Tier 3
Desktop Support Analyst
When you’re looking to get into IT for the first time, it’s important to have a base of knowledge to draw upon. Our Computer User Support Specialist program combines popular ITIL® and CompTIA training programs necessary to develop the skills you’ll need for entry-level IT.
If you’re looking to get started in IT with little to no experience. Learn more about us by clicking the link below.
Network Administrators are listed as one of the most in-demand positions for 2020, so it should be no surprise their salaries range from $76,250 to $129,500, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Many higher level network positions such as Network Engineers, Managers, or Wireless Network Engineers start around $105,000 and can go as high as the $178,750.
Wireless Network Engineer
If you’re interested in the networking positions, our Network Support Specialist Program teaches fundamentals, competencies, and qualifications that are necessary to start a career in networking. Through these classes, you’ll learn how to install, configure, run, verify, and troubleshoot medium-sized networks.
Interested in learning more? Click the link below.
Cyber security is rapidly expanding and in desperate need of more professionals to stay on top of security. The compensation for these roles reflects this high demand.
In cyber security, even the jobs in the 25th percentile start around $90,000. With rising concerns about data from the Equifax breaches and others, it makes sense that Network Security Engineers, Data Security Analysts, and Information Systems Security Managers most often make between $115,000 and $160,000.
Network Security Administrator
Systems Security Administrator
Network Security Engineer
Data Security Analyst
Information Systems Security Manager
With the gap between cyber skills growing wider by the day, the industry provides professionals with unparalleled job security and a world of opportunities. Whether you’re interested in working on securing networks, keeping data safe, or even getting inside the mind of a hacker, cyber provides a variety of great, high-paying options.
Interested in learning more about how our programs can help you build a career path toward cyber security? Click the button below.
Most IT positions include generous benefits packages. Here are the most common benefits broken down by the percentage of companies that offer them:
Medical Insurance (81%)
Paid Time Off (76%)
Dental Insurance (71%)
Vision Insurance (63%)
Retirement Savings Plan (65%)
Employers also consider a number of other incentives to snag top talent including signing bonuses, health insurance, generous vacation time, and professional development opportunities.
As for perks, places often offer flexible work schedules, social events, the option of telecommuting, paid parental leave, employee discounts, onsite gym or access to a gym offsite, a compressed schedule, or free/subsidized meals.
Importance of Certifications
Ultimately, the difference in salary comes down to specialization. For IT pros, that means skills and certifications. Both increase the marketability of a professional. Employers may increase salaries between five to ten percent for professionals with sought-after skills and abilities.
Some of the most popular certifications, as identified by the Robert Half guide, include CISSP, CCNA, CompTIA A+, and PMP®. However, certifications show more than proving a skillset. They also signal to employers that a professional is committed to keeping their skills up to date at all times. With the ever-widening cyber security gap, certifications and willingness to keep on top of the latest updates are becoming more and more of a commodity.
Certifications can mean the difference between thousands of dollars in salary. That’s why, at LeaderQuest, we balance by-the-book training that helps people pass their exams with real-world, hands-on experience. This ensures our students can take their learning beyond the classroom and be fully prepared for a brand new career.
We understand the pressures of working full-time while still wanting to advance education and earning potential That’s why we offer classes during the day, at night, on campus, or online to meet any schedule and learning style.
Ultimately, a certification is a great, cost-effective way to get into the lucrative IT field for the fraction of the cost of a university. With the continuing upward trend in salaries, the IT industry isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
If you’re interested in building a successful career in IT, contact us and we’ll get you set up with one of our expert career advisers.
Contact us today and unlock your career’s full potential!
PMI, PMP, CAPM, and PMBOK are registered marks of Project Management Institute, Inc.
Lauren had been working as a highschool English teacher for a couple of years and was enjoying her job, especially having the summers off. But we can’t always control what’s in store for ourselves or our spouses, and life had a few surprises in store for her.
Check out her story in the video below, or read on to get all the details.
Moving to Colorado Springs
When Lauren found out her husband was going to be stationed in Colorado and they would have to leave Florida, finding a teaching job in Colorado Springs was her first concern. She had about 5 months warning and took all the right steps: she got her teaching certification for Colorado, got references, and applied to every job she could find. But she wasn’t able to find any open positions for teachers in the area, and started to look for other options.
“There’s not a ton you can do with a literature degree so I was feeling kind of hopeless. And I did not want to go back to college because it’s a lot of extra money, and it’s a lot of extra courses you don’t need that don’t help you in a job. So when LeaderQuest popped up on Facebook, ‘You just need these certifications to be successful in an IT career’ I was like, sign me up!”
“The thing about IT that interested me was the massive amount of opportunities. You can create your own career path. If you’re teaching, you really only have one avenue to go down. And it’s a lucrative career! They pay a lot more than teachers get paid.”
IT Career Training at LeaderQuest
Lauren enrolled in the Computer User Support Specialist program. This program is designed to help those with zero experience gain the skills and certifications needed to get started in the IT industry. It also teaches foundational skills that can be built on to help our students to specialize as they advance in their career, going into areas such as networking, cyber security, or management.
“The teachers were very knowledgeable, very helpful, and the resources they offered were amazing. Coming in with zero IT experience, it was a bit overwhelming at first. But they give you every resource and every opportunity to succeed.”
“When you enroll, you’re with the same group of people throughout all the classes. We got to network with each other and make new friends. Everyone was there to support one another and everyone had different levels of experience with IT, so it was cool for me to talk with the gamers or someone who had been in IT for 5 years and just needed the experience.”
There’s no doubt that the material will be challenging for those with no background in IT, but we make it our mission to help anybody who is interested in IT and committed to training complete the classes and get their start. It’s important to pay attention in class and take good notes. Once the class is completed, most students will spend a few weeks studying the material and using the resources provided to make sure they’re 100% ready for the exam. Lauren took advantage of our expert instructors to make sure she learned everything she needed to pass.
“I worked with Greg Gardner a lot and he was phenomenal. When I was feeling super down and overwhelmed by all of the material, he lit a fire in me because he knows his stuff and he wants everyone to succeed. Not only is he a great IT professional, he’s a great teacher. And coming from a fellow teacher, I think that says a lot.”
“He didn’t just present the lessons and go over slides, he dove into it and gave us things to put our hands on, and told us about real life experiences. He’s an author, and I got to look at his books, which as an English person I liked that a lot. You can email him any time, you can meet with him and go over everything before you take the certification exam.”
“It’s hard coming in and sitting down and listening to an instructor talk about IT when you have no clue what he’s talking about. So they give you these labs to do that simulate a lot of things you’re talking about which was easier for me to learn because I can see it in real life terms, I can actually physically do something. So those were super helpful.“
Getting Hired in Entry Level IT
Lauren passed exams for two certifications: CompTIA Security+ and ITIL Foundation v4. She worked with Shari Carroll, the Employment Development Manager (EDM) at Colorado Springs, to look for work in the IT industry in the area. Our EDMs are experts when it comes to job hunting, and offer each of our graduates one-on-one assistance with perfecting their resumes, brushing up on interview skills, and finding jobs that are the perfect fit for their skills and desired career path.
With help from Shari, Lauren was able to get an entry level IT position at Valdez.
“I work for Valdez and they contract with the Airforce here. I’m in Change Management. It’s entry level, and it’s easy to do, so I have a lot of time to study and a lot of helpful people who are super willing to train me and help me get to different positions.”
Next Steps: After IT Training
At LeaderQuest, our number one goal is to help individuals get the education and certifications they need to start a successful career in the IT industry. Support doesn’t stop when you complete your last class. You can come back and resit a course any time for the next two years if you don’t feel fully prepared for the exam. We also have an Instructor Mentor on each campus who is available for one-on-one meetings about the material to help you master it front to back.
“Even though I’ve completed the program, I’m still in contact with Greg, Ken, and Shari. They contact me all the time to ask how my job is going, what’s your next step, can we do anything to help you. It’s more than just a mentorship, it’s a friendship because they care about where I’m at and where I want to go.”
“I would highly recommend LeaderQuest to anybody who is willing to put in the work to fight for their dreams to succeed. LeaderQuest is not a cake-walk. You can’t just walk in here and expect to pass the certification exams, especially if you have zero experience. But it can be done. If you put in the work, if you rely on the resources that they have, if you lean on the Instructor Mentor teacher. If you put in the work, you can do it and you will be successful.”
Curious about training at LeaderQuest?
If you’re interested in starting an IT career, we can help. We offer training on the most in-demand certifications in the IT, cybersecurity, and networking industries. Our courses will quickly give you the skills and knowledge you need to pass exams and get hired. Instructor Mentors are on hand to help you with any tricky material. We’ll help you get trained, certified, and hired.
If you’re ready to take the next step in your career, click the link below!
We get this question all the time from IT professionals. They want to make sure that their money and time is going to be well spent. So, is becoming a white hat hacker worth it? The short answer is a resounding, “yes.”
If you’re interested in cyber security, the CEH certification is a great investment based on the knowledge you’ll gain alone. Beyond gaining technical know-how, CEH is also a valuable certification for your professional career.
Read on for three great reasons to stop waiting and get your CEH!
Increase Your Salary
The number one reason to get this certification is to command a higher salary. With an average CEH salary starting at around $73,000 and going as high as $132,000, you’re sure to see an improvement in your paycheck. Getting your CEH can help you secure a quick raise at work and qualify you for other higher-paying positions when you’re ready to change jobs.
After comparing this against the cost of getting certified, it’s easy to see that your CEH is an investment that will quickly pay for itself and then some. If you can get your training covered by your employer, or paid for by a third party funding source, it’s a no-brainer.
Of course, CEH doesn’t have to be where you stop on the path to career advancement. With this certification and some experience under your belt, you’ll be well on your way to earning your CISSP and other certifications that can easily take your earnings into triple digits.
Fulfill DoD Compliance Requirements
If you’re interested in the Department of Defense (DoD) world, getting certified is a must. The DoD requires all of its Information Assurance officers be certified before handling sensitive information and network security. EC-Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker certification fulfills the DoD requirements for the CSSP Analyst, CSSP Infrastructure Support, CSSP Incident Responder, and CSSP Auditor roles.
The DoD is having trouble finding enough qualified candidates to fill these roles, which is why certifications like Security+ and CEH are so popular right now. With DoD contractors all over the United States (and abroad), getting CEH-certified offers a unique kind of job security no matter where life takes you. With demand at a record high and professionals with the required certs in such short supply, you can be sure that the salary for these DoD contractors will continue to climb.
Achieve Unparalleled Job Security
The rate and severity of cyberattacks is climbing and causing billions of dollars of damage to companies and organizations the world over. According to the Ponemon Institute, “the average price for small businesses to clean up after their businesses have been hacked stands at $690,000; and, for middle market companies, it’s over $1 million.” Against expenses like this, it becomes quite cost-effective to hire cyber security professionals who can protect company assets before they’re attacked.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Information Security Analysts have a fantastic 32% job growth outlook for 2018-2028, much faster than average for all industries. DoD contractors, cyber security defense firms, and large corporations are creating a huge and growing demand for qualified cyber professionals which virtually guarantees employment now and well into the future.
Get CEH Training at LeaderQuest
If you’re ready to upgrade your paycheck and open new career opportunities, come get CEH certification training at LeaderQuest! Forget about self-paced learning and YouTube videos. Our cyber security school is led by industry experts with real-world experience, so you get the knowledge you need to excel. You’ll be ready to pass the CEH certification exam on the first try, but if you have any problems you can re-sit the course for free over the next 6 months.
You can complete our CEH course in 5 weekdays with our daytime schedule or over 2 weeks on our evening schedule. With an included test voucher (CEH exam cost included) and onsite testing center, you can complete your certification and get back to work as efficiently as possible. So, are you ready to increase your job security and salary in a growing and lucrative industry?