Steffon Fisher thought he had his post-military life all figured out.
After leaving the Marine Corps in 2018, he went to school for marketing. He made plans to start his own business, and had even created a website and begun acquiring clients, when COVID-19 came along and turned the whole world upside down.
“All of the clients that I had been working with were like, ‘I can’t go through with this. I’ve gotta save as much money as possible,’” Steffon recalls. “I was like, ‘Well, this is just perfect timing.’ So it kind of just fell apart. But everything happens for a reason, I think.”
What makes Steffon, 26, say that now? Using his GI Bill to attain full funding, he enrolled at the ACI (formerly LeaderQuest) Denver Tech Center Learning Hub for IT training. Just three weeks after finishing classes — and with an ITIL certification in hand — he received an offer for a job in IT.
The role: An entry-level service desk position with a Colorado company called Astonish. It was the first step to a brand-new IT career.
“They told me it was going to take about 90 days for me to get my first job offer after classes. So three weeks was definitely not expected,” Steffon says.
“I’ve always been good with computers. That’s just something that kind of comes natural to me.”
Steffon still remembers the call he got from ACI Learning. He had just moved from San Jose to Colorado with his wife and son. One day the phone rang, and the word “cybersecurity” caught his attention.
“Since I have the GI bill from the military, it wasn’t really a tough decision on whether or not I was going to do it or not,” Steffon says. “So I started.”
Once in class, he was immediately impressed with the quality of the IT training.
“The instructors are really awesome, and they’ll work with you,” Steffon says. “I would touch base with them, like, “Hey, yesterday was kind of rough for me. Do you think we could go over what we talked about, on the side?’ They’ll work with you on the weekend. They’ll give you an hour-long call and go over the stuff you’re missing, or what you’re not understanding. So that was really helpful.”
That above-and-beyond level of dedication was key for Steffon. Training online at home because of COVID-19, he caught himself losing focus from time to time. Having a 7-month-old baby will do that.
But wherever he got lost, he knew he could count on the instructors to get him back on track.
“They definitely have a passion for teaching you the knowledge, which is rare,” Steffon says. “These instructors want you to learn — they’re not just doing it because it’s their job.”
Stellar IT Career Help
So that was the learning process. But what about the whole, you know, getting-a-job process?
Here again, Steffon says ACI Learning came through with flying colors.
“Shannon Travis was really helpful,” Steffon says, referring to an Employment Development Manager on the Career Services team. “She did an amazing job getting me the interview with Astonish. Most universities, they don’t even bother with employment.”
With a mere three-week turnaround after completing classes, it’s hard to argue with the results.
And Steffon is loving his new job in IT.
“I’m getting some good experience,” he says. “I get challenged on a daily basis, which is something I need in order to stay interested in a job. And the company itself is awesome. They have a lot of opportunity for growth. It’s pretty much like, if they have a new project and you let it be known that you want to work on that project, regardless of your experience they’ll let you work on it, and they’ll pay you for it.”
Another plus of Astonish: the chance to move into cybersecurity.
It’s all part of what he enjoys about IT and cybersecurity — what he describes as an “act of constantly evolving” and “figuring out solutions.”
“IT definitely wasn’t in my plans,” Steffon says. “But after going through LeaderQuest and having the opportunity to take these certification exams, that’s definitely in my cards now.”
Could This Be for You?
We’ve written before about how IT can be a perfect next step for transitioning veterans, and Steffon is living proof of that. So many of the skills are transferable. Add VET TEC and other sources of funding, including for military spouses, and there’s practically no downside.
A typical course track is ACI Learning’s Computer User Support Specialist program. It can be completed in just five weeks if attending full-time during the day. If you need to take classes at night, that’s an option too. That takes 10 weeks from start to finish. Either way, graduates leave the hands-on instruction with everything they need to know in order to pass the ITIL, CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, and CompTIA Security+ certifications — the basics for most any entry-level IT position.
And, as Steffon mentions above, you don’t have to land that entry-level job on your own. Thanks to people like Shannon Travis on ACI Learning’s Career Services team, students and graduates have a plethora of job-hunt tools at their disposal. From resume edits to interview practice, this team exists to make job candidates as prepared as possible. What’s more, they have professional connections established over years and years in the IT and cybersecurity community. Frequently, they make phone calls to employers that result in jobs for ACI Learning graduates.
Whether you’re a veteran yourself or a civilian looking to start a new career, IT is worth considering. And ACI Learning can get you the IT training you need. Fill out the form below to learn more about the opportunities to be had with IT careers.
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.
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.
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).
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 2019-2020 year, the average cost of tuition for a semester at a public 4-year in-state college or university was $5,220. For four years at that rate, one would expect to pay $41,760 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 $13,875 for five courses. 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 attempts.
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.
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 Training
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 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!
When you think about starting a new career or advancing your career, a couple of things probably come to mind. Can I earn more money? Where is the best place to find a new job? Can anyone help me?
Depending on your situation you may or may not get the help you need in answering these questions. But why are these questions so hard in the first place?
Traditionally, those doing the hiring and those doing the teaching do not communicate effectively. Both are running businesses serving different markets. When a college helps you earn a degree, they aren’t concerned with what you can do with it or what kind of jobs are available. They leave that up to the student. At LeaderQuest, we do things a little differently.
Watch Stephen Wright, the Employment Development Manager for LeaderQuest Denver, talk about the Career Services Department, below.
The IT Employment Divide
Why is there such a divide when these two industries should be working together? The harsh reality for students attending four-year Bachelor’s or two-year Associate’s programs in Information Technology is that by the time they reach the end of their curriculum, much of the knowledge and skills developed in the early semesters become obsolete. This renders these students less desirable by employers looking for people with an understanding of the latest tools and techniques – particularly in practices that pertain to cyber intrusion detection, forensics, and ethical hacking. For some skills. the pace of change in the tech industry is making the two-year or four-year college journey less relevant. You can learn more about the differences in our blog Degrees vs. Certifications: Investing In your Future.
Institutions that focus on accelerated IT skills training, like LeaderQuest, are bound by strict employment guidelines. What does this mean exactly? To maintain our status as a training company and to be able to accept certain kinds of funding, our graduates must exceed state-set employment guidelines.
Faced with these regulations within the industry, we here at LeaderQuest had two options: we could train individuals and send them off to fend for themselves in the job market, or we could face the challenge head-on and develop a complete training-to-employment system. We decided to go with the latter.
LeaderQuest IT Training
In order to tackle this challenge we first had to align our goals with the needs of the industry. This was done by analyzing the IT industry and directly speaking with IT companies. We pinpointed what skills are in demand, what skills are most critical, and what exactly we can do to best prepare students for breaking into careers (or advancing their careers) in the IT industry.
After ensuring that our training programs and certification selection were aligned with the industry’s needs, we then had to build the bridge between students and employers. This is the purpose of our Career Services Department. This department was created to foster a symbiotic relationship between the IT industry and LeaderQuest while providing students with the optimal resources to confidently apply to and interview for their future jobs.
The Career Services Department provides a comprehensive path from professional development to employment. The process begins on the first day of training when students are introduced to their campus’ Employment Development Manager (EDM), the EDM is in charge of leading students through the Career Services process. This process is broken down into 5 steps.
The Career Services Process in 5 Steps
Step 1: Initial Evaluation Meeting
You will meet with the EDM one-on-one in order to understand your specific situation. This includes understanding your goals, experience, and desired timeline. For example, some students may be looking to be employed immediately after their first certification and some students may wait to finish their personalized program before looking for employment. It all depends on the experience and goals outlined in this first meeting.
A frequently asked question that our Denver EDM recieves on the first day of class.
Step 2: Professional Development
You’ll then meet with your campus EDM for professional development. You’ll collaborate with the EDM to develop quality resumes and cover letters while pulling together a good list of references. Throughout this step, you’ll learn about valuable resume techniques and cover letter strategies that have been developed by the LeaderQuest staff, all with the goal giving you an advantage right off the bat. A pristine resume and cover letter is crucial for standing out in the job market.
Step 3: Applying for Jobs
Once your resume and cover letter are up to professional standards, it’s time to start applying for jobs. By this time you should have an idea of what area you want to work in and what kind of company you’re looking to work for.
The EDM will then reach into their pool of jobs and look for a match. This pool of jobs comes from multiple sources: LeaderQuest’s Employment Partner Network and positions curated from traditional job websites. In addition to the EDM searching for specific positions, students will also be taught what to look for and how to apply for jobs themselves. The EDM is available for all questions and concerns throughout this process.
The LeaderQuest Employment Partner Network spans from the private sector to government entities like the Department of Defense (DoD). These employers know the LeaderQuest curriculum, they know the quality of candidates we produce, and they have found success with hiring our students. This has created a mutually beneficial relationship between these employers and LeaderQuest where they supply us with jobs and we supply them with qualified candidates.
Step 4: Interview Preparation
In this step, once interviews opportunities start to get generated, you’ll learn what it takes to execute a perfect interview. In addition to years of resume/cover letter writing, EDMs are experts at interviewing. They know what specific employers are looking for, what strategies will work best for each candidate, and they know how to coach the necessary interview skills.
“When we have an interview set up it’s go time,” Stephen Wright, EDM for the LeaderQuest Denver campus.
There’s basic coaching, like when to show up and how to dress appropriately for the interview, and then there are the higher level skills that many students are unaware of. Some of these skills include (but not limited to): questions coaching; how to respond to and ask the right questions; mannerisms, body language and how to act appropriately; and one of the most important skills, closing: how to close the interview properly in order to secure a second interview or job offer.
In addition to skills coaching, the EDM will conduct mock interviews with you in order to help boost your interviewing confidence while ironing out any interview problems that may come up.
When this step is complete you will not only have the necessary skills and confidence to land a position, but will also have have a strong foundation to build from for continued professional development and success.
Step 5: Continued Support
Once you have interviewed and gotten a position, the job of the Career Services Department is not over. We would like to hear from alumni and continue to assist them throughout their careers. LeaderQuest alumni also have lifetime access to the LeaderQuest LinkedIn Professionals groups and all of the services offered by the Career Services Department, including their job pool.
Are you ready for an IT career?
The LeaderQuest Career Services department is here to aid students in their career aspirations, as well as continue the pursuit of cohesion between employers and graduates. The goal is to adapt as the job market advances and to innovate where necessary to give LeaderQuest graduates the highest level of service and the best chance of landing their dream job.
Whether you are looking to start a career in IT or advance your career, LeaderQuest’s Career Services is the perfect partner in helping you move forward.
If you are looking to break into the industry you may be interested in our entry level Computer User Support Specialist program which will give you a glimpse into each IT field allowing you to find out which sector best suits you while providing the skills crucial for entry-level IT jobs.
Looking to advance your career or break into cyber security? LeaderQuest has you covered there as well, with a wide variety of certifications from CompTIA, EC-Council, and the Project Management Institute (PMI®). Our complete list of certifications and programs can be found here: Training Programs & Courses.
If you have decided you want to learn more about what LeaderQuest can offer you, please click the button below, fill out a contact form, and a LeaderQuest Career Adviser will contact you for a discussion about your future.
PMI, PMP, CAPM, and PMBOK are registered marks of Project Management Institute, Inc.
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.
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.
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 collegeboard.org, for the 2017-2018 year, the average cost of tuition for a semester at a public 4-year in-state college or university was $9,410. For four years at that rate, one would expect to pay $37,640 for tuition.
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 three 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 $13,875.
Part 2: Getting Hired in IT
Once you have your certifications and training or degree, how hard is it to get hired in IT?
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.
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?
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 $37,60 for tuition and would just be able to start to pay that off.
Assuming three months to complete training and certification, and five 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 $194,398 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.
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 Adviser 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.
Let’s be honest, no one likes studying. No matter the subject, it’s tempting to procrastinate. After all, some tests you can take on an hour of sleep and two cans of Red Bull. Unfortunately, the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) is not one of them.
Given the ever-growing importance of cyber security, maybe it’s no surprise that the CEH is rated as one of the hardest exams in the IT world. A four-hour long affair that costs $950 or more, it’s not something you want to do more than once. That means studying smart is everything if you want to learn how to ethically hack.
Fortunately, there’s no need to go it alone. We’ve prepared a list of resources and handy advice so you can pass with flying colors.
“To beat a hacker, you need to think like a hacker.”
—EC-Council on CEH
The Certified Ethical Hacker is a vendor-neutral certification focused on cyber security and penetration testing. Its goal is to certify that a professional is able to identify weakness and vulnerabilities that a malicious hacker could exploit. In ethical hacking or, “white hat,” hacking, this information is used to help an organization strengthen its defenses.
Here’s the lowdown on the test.
The purpose of the CEH credential is to:
Establish and govern minimum standards for credentialing professional information security specialists in ethical hacking measures.
Inform the public that credentialed individuals meet or exceed the minimum standards.
Reinforce ethical hacking as a unique and self-regulating profession.
Exam Voucher Cost: $950 – $1,199 (this is the Certified Ethical Hacker certification price)
Number of Questions: 125
Duration: Four hours
Format: Multiple choice
Test Delivery: ECC EXAM, VUE
Though it may seem pricey, CEH-certified individuals make an average salary of $90,000 per year and as much as $126,381. With earning potential like that, the investment is well worth it.
The CEH program requires the candidate to have two years of work experience in the Information Security domain and should be able to provide a proof of the same as validated through the application process unless the candidate attends official training. If a candidate has completed official EC-Council training either at an Accredited Training Center, via the iClass platform, or at an approved academic institution, the candidate is eligible to attempt the relevant EC-Council exam without going through the application process. LeaderQuest is an Accredited EC-Council Training Center
Of course, everybody wants free hacker training! Fortunately, the EC-Council provides a variety of free resources to get you started. Begin by heading over to the CEH assessment which provides 50 questions that will give you an idea of how prepared you are to dive in. It’ll help you gauge what needs the most attention.
Next, the EC-Council’s comprehensive exam blueprint dives deep into which subjects will be covered in the text, how they are weighted, and even how many questions will be devoted to each topic. Going one step further, the EC-Council CEH Candidate Handbook v2.2 covers not only the nitty-gritty details, but also lays out a CEH career path, discusses the application process, and even outlines a strict code of ethics that white hat hackers must follow.
If you need to study on-the-go, this free EC-Council CEH™ v9 Exam Prep (which includes some in-app purchases) provides you with 600 practice questions over seven different subjects. It’s available for iPhone, Android, and through Amazon. It’s perfect for Certified Ethical Hacker online training.
Internet resources are great, but they can only take you so far. At some point, putting money into your CEH study is a wise choice. Here are the most highly-rated textbooks and what you can expect to learn from them.
By Sean-Philip Oriyano and Raymond Blockmon, this guide provides a systematic review of CEH topics and helps the reader identify key proficiencies prior to the exam. It also lets individuals examine their knowledge of security, tools, procedures, and more.
This book from security expert Matt Walker discusses tools, techniques, and exploits relevant to the test complete with end-of-chapter reviews and practice questions with in-depth answer explanations.
Study with an Expert
No matter how hard you study alone, there’s bound to be gaps. If you’ve hit a wall in your studying, or are worried you’re missing key information that will help you pass, don’t go through it alone. At LeaderQuest, we offer a 5-day Certified Ethical Hacker training course taught by industry expert instructors. They know what they’re talking about because they’ve been there and had years of real experience. They’re ready to help you get certified while also preparing you for the real-life challenges you’ll face during your cyber security career.
LeaderQuest classes come with a CEH VUE exam voucher (value $1,199) and an opportunity to take the test at our onsite location. That way, you don’t have to stress about the details and can focus on passing. You also won’t have to pay the $100 eligibility application fee for self-study students. If you ever feel like you need a refresher, we offer free class resits to all our graduates.
No matter what your schedule, we can work with you. Our classes are available on campus, online, during the day, or at night. We will work with your schedule to get you certified and strengthen your earning potential.
Don’t tear your hair out studying for your Certified Ethical Hacker. Train with the experts at LeaderQuest and kick your cyber security career up a notch. Your next Ethical hacking job is out there today.