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.
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!
Cybersecurity is an exploding industry! Get in now! The pay is great, the possibilities endless! What are you waiting for?! Get started now!
And you know what? It’s all true.
Sometimes even this lowly blogger asks himself: What the hell am I doing writing marketing content about cybersecurity growth when I could easily get certified and experience its benefits for myself?
If I ever think of a good answer, I’ll be sure to let you know.
But back to LeaderQuest and the aforementioned yapping. We can go on and on about the 0% unemployment rate, the half a million job openings, and facts like, “the workforce must grow by 145% to meet global demand.”
But talk is tiring. Rather than continue telling you about all cybersecurity jobs available, repeating all the lines you’ve heard before, this time we’d like to show you.
Cybersecurity Openings, Everywhere You Look!
Thanks to Cyberseek.org, we can do just that. The website, which seeks to “close the cybersecurity talent gap with interactive tools and data,” has a fun, useful map showing the amount of cybersecurity job openings in all 50 states.
Guess what? There isn’t a state in the union that doesn’t have literally hundreds of openings. Most have thousands. Many are in the tens of thousands. See for yourself!
Here are some highlights:
The top five states with the most cybersecurity openings are California (67,915), Virginia (54,432), Texas (46,279), New York (24,431), and Florida (23,629). The five states with the fewest cybersecurity openings are Wyoming (340), Vermont (431), North Dakota (622), Montana (624), and South Dakota (660).
Here’s a full rundown on the stats in table form:
Are you a Vermonter who assumed you’d have to move to Boston to get into cybersecurity? Hopefully after reading this you reconsider.
What Does the Future Look Like?
Now, a large quantity of jobs is one thing. But is the amount shrinking or growing?
With factors like automation and migration, work was already changing before. Throw in a global pandemic and the need for remote employment, and the landscape becomes that much more complicated.
But cybersecurity is one industry you can count on to be there. And in uncertain times, there’s a lot to be said for that.
OK, But How Much Money Is There In Cybersecurity?
Convinced yet? No? Well, let’s take a look at some other statistics. Financial ones.
Check out these entry-level pay rates for cyber roles from Indeed: $38.57 an hour for Project Managers, $51.86 an hour for IT Security Specialists. Extrapolate those numbers over a full year, and you get salaries of $80,225.60 and $107,868.80, respectively!
And that’s just to start. Let’s take a look at the figures later down the career path.
Mondo, too, has a breakdown of high-paying cybersecurity jobs. Here’s a look at the average salary range for six different positions:
Information Security Manager: $125,000 to $215,000
Cybersecurity Engineer: $120,000 to $200,000
Application Security Engineer: $120,000 to $180,000
Cybersecurity Analyst: $90,000 and $160,000
Penetration Tester (Ethical Hacker): $80,000 to $130,000
Network Security Engineer: $125,000 to $185,000
But again, say you’re a Vermonter or a Montanan. How useful are those numbers, when location isn’t factored in?
The folks at ZipRecruiter considered that, too. They put together handy salary figures broken down by state — a perfect complement to the above map from Cyberseek.
Among states with the highest average cybersecurity salaries, New York narrowly leads the way ($123,918), followed by Massachusetts ($122,746), Washington ($121,890), New Hampshire ($119,461), and Hawaii ($117,889).
As good as those top numbers are, the bottom ones aren’t nearly as bad as you might think. North Carolina, the lowest state on the list, still carries an average cybersecurity salary of $90,882.
Maybe this lowly blogger is biased, but who wouldn’t want to make that?
I’m Sold. How Do I Get Into Cybersecurity?
If you’ve read this far and started to evaluate your life choices, don’t worry! One of the great things about IT and cybersecurity is that it’s never too late to start down this path. Plus, cybersecurity training is relatively affordable and speedy.
At LeaderQuest, helping aspirants become professionals is what we do. From top-tier cybersecurity training with experienced instructors to effective exam prep before certification time, we’re with our students every step of the way. Even after they pass their exams and get certified, our all-star Career Services team pulls out all the stops, making every call they can, to help these qualified candidates get started in their fulfilling new careers.
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.
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.
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.
aking tests is no fun. There’s a reason it’s a common nightmare for anyone that’s ever been in school, even briefly. This goes double for CompTIA exams which are a big investment in terms of time and preparation.
But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible. People pass and get their CompTIA certifications every day. While nothing will ever replace diligent studying, these 12 tricks and secrets to help you pass your test are sure to help you show up for test day confident and ready.
1. Avoid “Brain Dumps”
Sometimes it’s not about how much you study, but where you’re getting your materials. Using official CompTIA textbooks or materials from well-established industry pros is a great way to ensure you’re getting quality materials.
As for what to avoid, two words: brain dumps. A brain dump is when someone posts test questions after taking an exam. They often include the answers. While this might seem like the best place to get knowledge, be careful. There’s no quality control, you have no idea if you’re actually getting the right answer, and, while it might help you pass the test, it won’t do you any favors when you’re actually trying to use the knowledge in the real world.
Worst of all, brain dumps can actually get the person posting them in legal trouble since CompTIA exam takers have to sign a non-disclosure agreement. This Reddit thread gives a great summary of why they should be avoided.
While this might seem like a no-brainer, knowing the test objectives does more than just prepare you for the layout of the exam. It’s a roadmap that lets you know how fast or slowly you’re moving through the material.
Time is of the essence in these tests and knowing where you are and how much you have left is vital. Not to mention the fact that studying the objectives means you’re more prepared to take and pass your test in general. Which is a very good thing.
3. Know What Type of Learner You Are
Everyone studies differently. Maybe you need to write things down or use flashcards. Maybe you need silence. Maybe reading voraciously helps you retain knowledge or maybe you need to explain the concepts to someone out loud. It’s more of an art form than an exact science.
Figuring out what works best for you is the best exam trick when you have to do a ton of studying. This article gives you an idea of some of the best ways to study while this quiz can tell you if you’re an auditory, visual, or kinetic learner. It can make all the difference when you’re on your tenth hour of studying.
4. Build a Computer or Set up a Network
This is especially important for the CompTIA A+ exam and the Network+ exam. The CompTIA A+ 901 exam covers hardware while 902 covers software. While it might sound daunting, building an actual computer is a great way to prepare. It will be essential in understanding not just the theory, but the actual practice. The same goes for the Network+ exam. There’s no better way to understand networks than to actually set one up yourself.
It comes down to this: It’s easier to remember which port is which if you just finished interacting with them in real life. If this just isn’t possible, finding a virtual lab is the next best thing. Our CompTIA A+ course includes hands-on experience with building computers, a great component of any I.T. education. As for our online classes, we provide a virtual environment for students to get the experience they need.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
CompTIA provides practice questions for almost every exam including A+, Network+, Security+, and more. (Scroll down to see the form where you can request a CompTIA practice test, objectives, and more.) In addition to giving you an idea of how ready you are overall, you can hyper focus on the areas you’re having problems with.
When you’re reviewing your answers, figure out what you keep getting wrong and then redouble your study efforts in those areas.
6. Skip Strange Exam Questions
Again, these tests are about managing time and are graded on a pass-fail basis. So, if a question seems too hard, skip it! On a test like Security+, there are actually beta questions, seemingly random questions which are being tried out for a future version of the test. They are not graded, which is good, though it’s hard to tell what is and isn’t a beta question so don’t skip TOO many questions without answering.
While beta questions aren’t a feature of all CompTIA exams, skipping a confusing question will give you more time to answer the questions you do understand. By the time you return to the question, you may see it in a whole new light or have the confidence to answer.
7. Be Prepared for CompTIA’s Performance-Based Questions
Performance-based questions (aka PBQs) ask the taker to perform a task or solve a problem in a simulation. More complex than your standard multiple-choice, these questions take time and can be intimidating if you’re not prepared. However, they don’t have to bring your test to a screeching halt.
First, it’s important to know that most PBQs will come toward the beginning of the test and, while they are a little more complex, they aren’t impossible. The best defense is a good offense, and preparing for these questions with online labs will make it much easier. However, if you reach the question and don’t feel confident, it’s okay to skip it for the moment and come back to it.
8. BEST, MOST, LEAST
One of the simplest exam tricks is if a question contains capitalized words like “BEST,” “MOST,” or “LEAST,” pay attention! This gives you a hint as to what the question is really asking. There could be a number of answers that seem to fit, but only one that corresponds with the capitalized word and will help you pass your test.
9. Join an Online Community for CompTIA Exam Tricks
Finding a CompTIA study group online is a great way to work out your brain. They are a lot of great resources, study suggestions, and more in the CompTIA subreddit, /r/CompTIA which is full of people who have either passed their certifications or who are deep in the process. If you need extra help with a tricky section, ask! They’re always happy to share the secrets to their success and give all the information about the tests you could want. (Without breaking the non-disclosure agreement, of course.)
10. Create a Study Plan to Pass that Test
If you were planning on running a 10K, you wouldn’t start training a week before. Studying for a CompTIA exam is no different. Plan out the time between now and when you’re going to take your test.
Be sure to allow more time for difficult subjects or areas you might need some extra help on. Set aside an amount of time each day to dedicate to different objectives. Then, study, study, study.
11. Know the Multiple-Choice Tricks
While multiple-choice questions can cause you to tear your hair out (all of the above? WHY WHY!?) there are a few ways to even the odds. Always eliminate answers that are obviously wrong. Think of, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” The odds are always better when you cut it down to 50/50.
Second, recall information related to the question. This can be a surprisingly effective method for remembering the right answer. If two of the answers are related, that probably means that one of them is correct. If all of the answers seem wrong, you might want to re-read the question to figure out what they’re really asking.
And lastly, skipping a question and coming back to it can be helpful. A question later in the test might key you into an answer the question earlier. For more tricks, check out this article on multiple-choice questions. You’ll be glad you did and made this portion of the test a little less daunting when you finally schedule your exam.
12. Treat Yourself Well the Day of Your CompTIA Exam
Last, but certainly not least, you’ll want to show up well-rested, fed, hydrated, caffeinated, and de-stressed (at least, as stress-free as possible). While last-minute cramming can be important, you need to leave yourself enough time to get a full eight hours of sleep. Be sure to eat some protein in the morning (oatmeal is always good brain food).
Making sure you know the testing location is especially important (which is why LeaderQuest offers a Pearson VUE testing center for you to take the exam on-site). If you do have to travel to a new location, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time in case you get lost. Finally, build up your confidence to prepare for the test. Give yourself a pep talk. You’ve done the hard work. You’ve got this.
If All Else Fails, Study with a Professional
It can be easy to get discouraged, especially if you’ve tried and failed once or even twice. With the CompTIA A+ exam cost at $211 for 901 and 902 each, it’s clear that this is an investment you want to make wisely.
While self-study is important, it’s okay to need a little extra help. That’s why LeaderQuest offers tech industry training with expert instructors to help you pass your CompTIA courses, get your certification, and prepare you for your career in I.T.
With classes offered during the day, at night, online, or on campus, we’re prepared to work with any schedule and learning style. First, we’ll help you along your certification career path. Then, we’ll provide career services to assist our graduates in getting hired. That includes helping you optimizing your resume and even setting you up with our employer partners.
As the skills gap in I.T. grows more and more every day, the industry is in desperate need of professionals who are ready to tackle the challenges. Taking CompTIA certification classes can be a great way to get started. If you want to pass your test, get certified your career to the next level, contact us today. ↓
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Are you working in an entry-level help desk job that offers no real chance of career advancement? It can get frustrating, handling the same problems day in and day out. However, the skills you’ve gained have real value, and you can translate them into a more challenging and lucrative career in IT with a little help.
In this blog, we’ll show you why it’s so hard to escape the help desk, how to make help desk experience on your resume shine, and how certifications for current and new skills can provide a path to a better career.
Help Desk: The Black Hole of IT
There’s a good reason the help desk is notoriously hard to escape. Companies that find competent help desk employees rarely want to let them move to other roles. This is especially true for those who work nights or weekends. Many companies will make promises of a path to advancement during the hiring process but refuse to allow any movement once you’ve become good at your job. This kind of role is so hard to escape because once a company finds a competent employee to fill the role, they really don’t want to let them go. The best help desk employees have a unique combination of communications skills and technology skills, and companies worry about being able to find another person to fill their shoes.
Of course, not all companies are like this. If you’re lucky enough to work at a company that promotes from within and sees the value of your contributions, you may be able to move within your company. In this case, much of this advice still applies to you. You’ll have to prove that you’re ready to expand your role and take on new challenges. Certifications are a tangible accomplishment that can show management you’re ready and have the knowledge they need.
If your company isn’t open to advancement, though, the best option is often to look for a new position elsewhere.
Polish Your Resume
Help desk experience actually provides many skills you can add to your resume to make it shine. One huge asset is problem-solving savvy. Being able to think on your feet and find solutions is vital.
Help desk staffers can also claim a powerful commitment to providing fantastic customer support that exceeds expectations. Employers want to know you always have the customer in mind. This will give you an advantage over other IT professionals applying to the same position because they will have no frame of reference for customer service. Finally, your technical ability and familiarity with various business systems can give you a leg up on the competition.
Here are some bullet points to polish your help desk experience for your resume:
Problem-solving savvy and solutions expertise
Powerful commitment to providing fantastic customer support that exceeds expectations
Expanded perspective that includes the customer experience
Technical ability and familiarity with various business systems
Legitimize Your Experience
Putting a good spin on your previous experience is important, but you can also use the skills you’ve acquired to pass exams for valuable IT certifications. Some of the most common certs that you likely already have the skills to pass are ITIL and A+. By getting certified, you show employers that you’ve mastered these skills in an official capacity and increase their confidence that you’ll be a great hire. For many IT roles, candidates who don’t have certifications are sorted to the bottom of the list and don’t get considered for the position. When compared against an uncertified individual, certified professionals are the obvious choice.
However, ITIL and A+ may be below the level that you seek to work at. If you already have mastered these skills, more advanced certifications can provide a path to more advanced positions.
Choose Your Path
Building on your help desk experience, you have a few options for training that can quickly qualify you for new positions. In this blog, we’ll present two career paths that help desk workers are poised to move into by training in networking or cyber security.. Networking it a highly technical field where the correct certifications can open many doors. Cyber security is seeing a huge growth spurt and has thousands of job openings for qualified individuals.
Certification training is focused on helping you gain the skills and knowledge to pass certification exams quickly. By combining a few highly-sought after certifications with your experience, you’ll become a desirable candidate for jobs in your new area of expertise.
Either of these paths will help you increase your earning potential and make it much easier to find a great position. But, beyond that, they provide a clear path for continued career advancement the longer you’re in the industry.
Network Support Specialist
If you’re interested in cabling, network protocols, and how systems communicate and interact, this could be a great path for you. This program starts with Network+ training, which develops foundation-level networking skills to help you understand how networks operate. CCNA training will help you develop hands-on skills required to install, configure, operate, and troubleshoot medium-size routed and switched networks and resolve connectivity issues. Finally, CompTIA Security+ training covers the anticipation, identification, and prevention of threats and vulnerabilities as well as basic cryptography concepts.
Our Network Support Specialist program targets entry-level CCNA jobs such as Network Support Specialist, Network Technician, Network Administrator and similar IT job roles. This program combines CCNA, Network+, and Security+ to create a well-rounded network skillset that arms students with the know-how to handle myriad projects. This includes assembling and configuring secured networks, addressing existing network security issues and more. Network Administrators are listed as one of the most in-demand positions for 2019, so it should be no surprise their salaries range from $70,000 to $120,000.
If you like the idea of securing networks and systems and preventing cyber attacks, this program might be ideal for you. With more cyber attacks happening every day, the need for security professionals has skyrocketed. This program starts with Security+ training, which will help you understand the field of network security and how it relates to other areas of information technology. CND instructs entry and junior-level network security administrators on Defense-in-Depth network security preparedness. It covers the protect, detect, and respond approach to network security. Finally, CEH is the most comprehensive ethical hacking course in the world and is a must-have for every cyber security professional’s portfolio. This course immerses students into a hacker mindset where they are shown how to scan, test, hack, and secure systems. The includes a live lab which is an intensive, interactive environment that gives students in-depth knowledge and practical experience with current essential security systems.
Our fifteen-day Information Security Analyst program is ideal for those interested in becoming Network Analysts, Network Technicians, Network Administrators, System Administrators, System Security Engineers, Firewall Administrators, Network Security Engineers, IT Managers, IT Professionals, Security Specialists, and other similar job roles. Security professionals in roles like these most often make between $115,000 and $160,000.
There’s never been a better time to gain cyber security skills as nationwide demand for these roles is soaring. Between hacks like Equifax 2017 and ransomware such as the WannaCry attack, digital security is getting a huge amount of attention. Many companies are seeking to protect their networks and data before the next big breach. By adding these powerful certifications to your resume, you’ll be ready for many of these positions.
It’s time to leave the help desk nest! LeaderQuest offers training online or on campus to make it easy to get the skills you need. We also offer our classes in a one-week daytime format or you can take classes in the evening over two weeks while keeping your day job.
Our industry expert instructors will make sure that you learn not only what you need to pass the exam, but the know-how to need to excel in your new role. With the cost of the test included and an on-site testing facility, we make getting certified a snap.
Don’t wait to start on your future IT career. Email us today!