From “No GED” to a Career in I.T.

From “No GED” to a Career in I.T.

This is the second blog in our series, What to Do After School: Starting a Secure, Life-long Career. Last week, we examined why IT certification training is a great option for high school grads who aren’t sure that pursuing a college degree is right for them. But what about those who did not complete their high school education and don’t have a GED? Certification training fills a vital role for these individuals as well.

Career Prospects with No GED

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for occupations requiring no formal credential was $23,480 in 2017. That’s significantly lower than $37,690, the median annual wage for all occupations. The BLS also notes that workers who don’t hold a high school diploma are the lowest earners on average, at just $504 median earnings per week. 

Additionally, the unemployment rate for Americans without a high school diploma or GED is the highest of any of the educational categories at 7.4%. Combined with low wages on a weekly basis, that puts those with no GED in a precarious position. Making ends meet on low wages is already a challenge, but if they should become unemployed they won’t have any savings to fall back on.

That’s why it’s so important for those who did not complete high school to get additional education that can open up new, more stable career prospects that will offer a higher salary.

Career Training is Often a Better Option than College

While many colleges require a GED to enroll, most trade schools do not. This can be hugely beneficial for those who have not completed high school, as they will not have to go back and complete a GED before they can start training.

Career schools like LeaderQuest also offer a much faster timeline from beginning training to completing credentials and being able to start a career. While most degree-granting institutions require 2-4 years of study, a trade school can have students job-ready in a matter of months.

In addition to this, many colleges offer little in the way of career services support. After completing your degree, it’s up to you to market yourself and find a position in the working world. At LeaderQuest, it’s our No. 1 goal to make sure that each graduate finds work in their field. We offer one-on-one Career Services support for each graduate. This includes resume help, interviewing practice, job hunting tips — plus all the connections we have with local IT employers often looking to hire.

Certifications are in High Demand

According to the BLS, employment for computer support specialists is growing at 10%, faster than average for all occupations. While some employers may seek a degree, others are looking primarily for relevant certifications like CompTIA A+, Security+ and Network+. As the BLS puts it: “Certification validates the knowledge of and best practices required by computer support specialists.”

Burning Glass found that one in five entry-level IT roles require the CompTIA A+ certification. 

“Employers value these in-demand certifications so much that they are willing to pay a higher salary for them. All of these door-opener certifications carry sizable net salary premiums, independent of skill, experience, education, other certification requirements, occupation, and wage levels for the industry and MSA.”

“This salary premium is particularly notable because certifications usually demand less investment compared to degree credentials, such as an associate’s degree. For instance, A+ certification requires a $200 fee and an average of six weeks of preparation time to pass the exam. Yet A+ certification commands a 5% salary premium, more than half as much as the average premium for IT workers with a two-year associate’s degree (9%). So in this area, certification can be an alternative for job seekers for whom acquiring more formal education is not a viable option.”

IT Training at LeaderQuest

Our Computer User Support Specialist program is designed for those who have no prior experience in IT. This program trains students for four industry-standard certifications, including ITIL, CompTIA A+ (in two parts), CompTIA Security+, and CompTIA Network+. Each course takes five days of full time instruction, or ten days if taken on our evening schedule for students with full-time jobs or other commitments. After completing the courses, students take advantage of the resources and practice tests that LeaderQuest provides to help them study and prepare for the exams.

Each campus has an Instructor Mentor that’s available for one-on-one support while studying for exams. Our online Learning Portal is full of resources and tools designed to help students master the material not just so that they can pass the exam, but so that they are fully prepared to take on a job role using these skills. We want to make sure that our students have every advantage and are fully prepared when the time comes for them to take the exam and earn that certification.

After classes are complete, graduates work with our Career Services team to help them start their career. Each campus has one or more Employment Development Managers that work with students to perfect their resume, help them successfully apply to jobs in the area, and get them ready to interview successfully and get that job offer. Our Career Services team also helps to create a network of local Employer Partners who have a regular need to hire IT workers. When possible, we connect our students with job opportunities from our Employer Partners to help them get hired quickly.

Ready to Learn More?

If you’re interested in learning more about training options at LeaderQuest, fill out the form below and we’ll contact you with more information.

Degrees vs. Certifications: Investing In your Future

Degrees vs. Certifications: Investing In your Future

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

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

Part 1: Getting IT Training

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

Bachelor’s Degree

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

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

According to 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.

LeaderQuest Training

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

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

Bachelor’s Degree

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

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

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

LeaderQuest Training

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

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

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

Part 3: Where Will You Be Five Years Later?

Bachelor’s Degree

After five years, a bachelor’s degree student would have only been in the working world for about a year, or possibly less given the time needed to secure employment. In an entry-level position like Information Technology Specialist, one could expect an average salary of $48,063. Working for one year in a role like this, the bachelor’s degree recipient would have incurred $37,60 for tuition and would just be able to start to pay that off.

LeaderQuest Training

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.

Timeline Bachelor’s Degree LeaderQuest Training
Year 1 Studying, -$9,410 Training, -$13,875

Working, +16,021

Year 2 Studying, -$9,410 Working, +48,063
Year 3 Studying, -$9,410 Working, +48,063
Year 4 Studying, -$9,410 Working, +48,063
Year 5 Working, +48,063 Working, +48,063
TOTAL Total: +10,423 Total: +194,398

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.

Ready to Learn More?

How to Start a Career in Information Technology

How to Start a Career in Information Technology

If you’re interested in starting an IT career, you’ve come to the right place. LeaderQuest offers IT training that can help you quickly get the credentials you need to get hired! Our programs prepare you to earn the most important IT certifications for a fraction of the time and money of a college course in as little as three weeks. We offer IT courses online as well as in person.

Whether you’re in an entirely different industry or just getting started in IT, certification can help you advance to the positions you really want. For career changers, a certification lets employers know you have the knowledge and skills to do the job despite not having the experience. For IT workers with some experience, certifications legitimize that experience and give employers assurance that you’re the right hire.

LeaderQuest offers three IT programs for entry-level certification:

Read on to learn more about each program and what kind of jobs you’ll be qualified to take with a little information technology education.

Technical Support Specialist

This 15-day program includes the CompTIA A+ and ITIL Certifications and is designed to help individuals get entry-level jobs in IT, with a median average salary of $47,660 (BLS, May 2016). Instruction focuses on desktop support, basic TCP/IP networking and troubleshooting, Windows and other operating system installation and maintenance, server hardware and software support, and disaster prevention and recovery strategies. This IT certification training program also introduces the principles and core elements of IT service management (ITSM) based on the ITIL framework.

Learn More


None! Well, almost. This program is perfect for anybody who has basic computer literacy. If you can turn on a computer and run a web browser, you know enough to take this program.

Jobs this program prepares you for…

  • Help Desk Technician
  • Technical Support Specialist
  • IT Support Specialist

Ideal for…

  • Those with little to no IT experience
  • Those seeking entry-level IT positions
  • Those who want to get started in IT as quickly as possible

If you’re looking to change careers quickly, this may be the perfect program for you. CompTIA A+ and ITIL will prepare you for a wide range of entry-level IT positions. After getting your foot in the door, you’ll most likely be able to learn more advanced concepts on the job and start your IT career on an upward trajectory. However, if you want to start with a deeper bench of skills and a higher salary, our Computer User Support Specialist program may be right for you.

Computer User Support Specialist

This 25-day training program is designed to offer a comprehensive education when it comes to IT fundamentals. Students will be prepared to pass exams for the CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+, and ITIL Certifications. By adding IT courses like Network+ and Security+ to the mix, students will get a truly well-rounded IT education preparing them for virtually any entry-level role in the industry, with a median average salary of $49,390 and a high average salary of $82,160 (BLS, May 2016). Security skills are increasingly in demand, and such a student would be well positioned to advance towards a career in cyber security.

If you’re interested in working with the Department of Defense (DoD), it’s important to note that A+, Network+, and Security+ training/certifications combined fulfill levels 1 and 2 of the security requirements for DoD Directive 8570. You can learn more about our veteran services here.

Learn More


A typical student taking the CompTIA Network+ and Security+ courses should have a minimum of nine months or more of professional computer support experience. This includes experience as a PC or help desk technician. Networking experience is helpful but not mandatory. A+ certification or equivalent skills/knowledge are also helpful but not required.

Jobs this program prepares you for…

  • Computer Support Specialist
  • Technical Help Desk
  • Technical Support Specialist
  • Network Technician
  • Security Specialist

Ideal for…

  • Those with around a year of IT experience
  • Those seeking above-entry-level IT positions
  • Those wishing to start a career in cyber security
  • Those who want to validate the experience they have and move up in the IT world
  • Those who want to achieve DoD Directive 8570 compliance and be eligible for DoD jobs

This program is best suited towards individuals who have a bit of IT experience who would like to take a huge step forward in their career. Because of the huge breadth of knowledge these certifications cover, they can qualify the holder for nearly any lower-level IT position. They can also help to significantly increase your salary in a short time, taking you from entry-level to experienced in weeks.

Network Support Specialist

This 20-day program focuses on networking skills and will prepare students to take and pass the CCNA, CompTIA Security+, and Network+ certification exams. Together, these certifications will teach you to configure, manage, and defend networks. Computer Network Support Specialists have a median average salary of $62,670 (BLS, May 2016).

As a Network Support Specialist, you’ll be ready to install, configure, operate, and troubleshoot medium-size routed and switched networks and resolve connectivity issues. You’ll also be prepared to anticipate, identify, and prevent threats to the network, ensuring maximum privacy and uptime for the users of your network.

Learn More


A typical student taking the CompTIA Network+ course should have a minimum of nine months professional computer support experience as a PC or help desk technician. Networking experience is helpful but not mandatory. A+ certification or equivalent skills and knowledge are also helpful but not required.

Jobs this program prepares you for…

  • Network Technician
  • Junior Network Engineer
  • Network Operations Center Engineer
  • Network Administrator

Ideal for…

  • Those with around a year of IT experience
  • Those seeking above-entry-level IT positions
  • Those who want to validate the experience they have and move up in the IT world

If you’re interested in pursuing entry-level CCNA jobs such as Network Support Specialist, Network Technician, Network Administrator, and similar IT job roles, this is the perfect program for you. These certifications will also prepare you to advance into roles like network administration and management as you gain more experience in the field.

Which program is right for you?

Technical Support Specialist is our fastest entry-level program, for those who want to quickly get IT certified and get a job. If you’d like to have a stronger knowledge base and a higher earning potential, our 25-day Computer User Support Specialist IT training program is perfect for you. Finally, our Network Support Specialist IT certification program takes 20 days and is ideal for those who want to go into network administration.

If you have any questions about the programs offered at LeaderQuest, let us know! We’re happy to answer questions about how our programs work and what kind of careers they can position you for. Contact us today, and one of our career training consultants will get in touch with you to answer all of your questions.

Contact Us