The field of cyber security is growing every year by leaps and bounds as companies and other organizations realize how imperative it is to protect their networks and data. According to the Cybersecurity Ventures’ 2019 Cybersecurity Market Report, worldwide spending on cyber security is expected to exceed one trillion dollars by 2025. As companies struggle to keep up with the rising threat of cyber crime, they’re having one major problem: they can’t find enough qualified candidates.
That’s right, cyber security specialists are so in demand that the number of open positions has outstripped the number of qualified applicants by as much as 2 to 1 in some industries. So what’s holding applicants back? About one-third of information security jobs require a cyber security certification compared to 23 percent of all IT jobs. In the U.S. alone, some 50,000 vacant jobs require the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification. But the number of certificate holders is only about 73,500, according to the Information Security System Certification Consortium, and most of them are already working.
Are you considering a career in cyber security, but not sure where to start? LeaderQuest offers multiple cyber security training programs that can prepare you to enter this exciting industry. Take a look at the four programs below, and you’ll be able to choose one that’s ideal for where you are now and what you’d like to do with your career.
Certifications: Comptia Security+, CND, and CEH Base Training Period: 15 days Skill Level: Intermediate Recommended Experience: CompTIA Network+ and two years of experience in IT administration with a security focus Ideal for: If you have Network+, some experience under your belt, and you’d like to massively expand your job opportunities and earning potential, Information Security Analyst could be the perfect program for you. Roles you’ll be qualified for: Cyber Security Specialist, Information Security Analyst, Information Security Auditor, and Site Security Administrator
If you’ve got some experience in entry-level IT and want to take your career to the next level, this program is for you. Security+ will teach you the basics of threat management, identity management, security systems, security risk identification and mitigation, and more. Building on this information, Certified Network Defender (CND) will teach you how to protect, detect, and respond to network attacks in real-world situations. With an in-depth understanding of how network traffic functions, you’ll be able to secure your network and identify the signs of an infiltrator. See below for more information on CND.
By obtaining your Certified Ethical Hacker designation, you’ll not only be prepared to secure networks and look for vulnerabilities; you’ll be an active part of the mitigation and remediation process. You’ll be able to strengthen your network through rigorous penetration testing and stop cyberattacks in their tracks.
Certified Network Defender
Certifications: CND Base Training Period: 5 days Skill Level: Intermediate Prerequisites: CompTIA Security+ Ideal for: If you’ve completed Security+ and want to keep building your resume and knowledge base, Certified Network Defender can be completed in one week and is a HUGE step up from Security+. Roles you’ll be qualified for: Network Administrator, Network Security Administrator, Network Security Engineer, Network Defense Technician, and Security Analyst
Certified Network Defender (CND) is a vendor-neutral, hands-on, instructor-led comprehensive network security certification program created by EC-Council. This tactical network security training course prepares network administrators to defend their networks from intrusion. Through this course, you’ll gain a hands-on understanding of data transfer, network technologies, and network software needed to secure a network.
If you would enjoy taking a hands-on role in the defense and security of your network, this program could be perfect for you. CEH is the natural next step after attaining this certification, and if you’re interested in having a good depth of technical knowledge when it comes to network defense, you may want to sign up for our Information Security Analyst program (above).
CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner
Certifications: CASP Base Training Period: 5 days Skill Level: Advanced Prerequisites: 5-10 years of IT experience or CEH/Security+ certifications Ideal for: Getting CASP certified is ideal for individuals who have 5-10 years of IT experience and are interested in cyber security. Unlike the CISSP certification, another important cert in the cyber security world, CASP’s focus is hands-on and technical. This is ideal for people who AREN’T interested in management. Roles you’ll be qualified for: Network Security Engineer, Information Security Specialist, Information Security Auditor, Security Analyst, Security Architect, and Site Security Administrator
If you’re interested in assessing and managing risk, securing networks, preventing cyber attacks, and even getting inside the mind of a hacker to make sure that a company’s data is safe as possible, CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) could be right for you. CASP is often compared to CISSP, but that’s like comparing apples to oranges. If you’re looking for a career in IT management, CISSP might be the better choice. If not, CASP can level up your career at a fraction of the cost.
Certifications: Security+, CEH, CHFI Base Training Period: 15 days Skill Level: Advanced Prerequisites: Knowledge of TCP/IP, Information systems and security background, and 12 months of experience in networking technologies Ideal for: If you’ve completed A+ and Network+, or have similar job experience, you’re ready to take on this ambitious program. Roles you’ll be qualified for: Cyber Security Specialist, Information Security Specialist, Information Security Auditor, Site Security Administrator, and Computer Forensics Investigator
If you enjoy detective work and want to get inside the mind of a hacker, this is the perfect program for you. Security+ and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) will provide a thorough understanding of the attack vectors and methods of hackers, as detailed above. By adding the Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI) certification to this mix, you’ll be able to track the movements of intruders in your network and systems and report on their activities and methods.
Does the idea of doing penetration testing on corporate networks pique your interest? Corporations understand the need for strong security better than anybody, and they are looking to hire experienced cyber security specialists who can protect them from cyberattacks and identify what went wrong. The mix of certifications in this program will perfectly position you for these kinds of opportunities.
Are you ready for a career in cyber security?
If you’ve got some experience in IT and are ready to take a huge step forward in your career, we can help! Our advisors can aid you in choosing a program that will advance your career and increase your earning potential in just a few weeks.
Quentin Parham wanted to start a career in IT, but he didn’t have a clear path from his experience in the Army to a first job in the industry. Here’s how he was able to combine his previous experience and his training from ACI Learning (formerly LeaderQuest) to start a new career in the industry that he loves.
Quentin is from Chester, Va. He started his Army career in 2005 with basic training in Kentucky. His first duty station was in Hamburg, Germany. From there he went to Tacoma, Wash., then to Fort Carson in Colorado Springs.
“I was stationed here at Fort Carson from 2013 to 2015 and I liked it so much that I had to get back as soon as possible. After getting out of the Army in 2015, I went back home to Virginia. I tried a few things, went to school, and taught for a little bit. I just didn’t feel satisfied. At the end of the year this year I was talking to my wife and we said, ‘Let’s move back to Colorado.’ So we moved back in February.”
When Quentin completed his service, it was time to choose a new career as a civilian. He had some experience with IT in the Army, but initially wanted to follow his passion for history. That led him in a different direction.
“I served as a Field Artillery Surveyor, which I was not too fond of. So then I became a Signal Support Specialist, which is what helped me get into the world of ACI and IT. It’s working with radios and computers and you do some of the more basic networking and troubleshooting stuff in that position.”
“So with the signal support position, I thought initially that this was what I wanted to do when I got out. But I also had a love for history and I wanted to teach, so I wanted to try that out first. That obviously didn’t work out. So after I came to Colorado Springs, Sarah Arnold reached out to me and started talking to me about everything ACI could offer. And it just appealed to me, because this is kind of what I did in the Army. I was at a point where I wasn’t exactly certain what I wanted to do with the next stage of my life, but this was something I was familiar with and I liked it, so I signed up and began my ACI journey.”
IT Training at ACI Learning
Quentin enrolled at our Colorado Springs location in our flagship track, the Computer User Support Specialist Program. This bundle of training takes five weeks (or 10 weeks on an evening schedule) and trains students for four of the most popular, foundational IT certifications: ITIL, CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, and CompTIA Security+. These certifications are in high demand with IT employers, which is why they form the perfect foundation for an IT career. Once certified, students are poised to move their career in the direction of their choosing after they get some experience in areas such as IT service management, networking, and cybersecurity under their belt.
After completing certification training, our students benefit from our Career Services staff. This team works with students one-on-one to make sure all of them get hired and get their start in the industry. They’ll assist with everything, including resume editing, LinkedIn profile optimization, job-hunting strategies, and even connecting students with local companies looking to hire.
“What made me want to choose ACI? The appearance of the facilities and the professionalism of the staff. Also, when they were going through everything they offered — I know there’s nothing that’s 100% guaranteed, but this seemed like the closest thing to a sure thing. Not only do they prepare you and give you the resources, you’re able to use those resources whenever you want to. Also Shari Carroll and Michelle Martin, the employment staff, are very hands-on with you and work with you. Whether you’re a current or former student, they’ll still work with you on getting a job.“
“They give you a ton of resources, and for me being a veteran I felt like it was custom built for me to transition into the world of IT.”
Landing His First IT Role
One tool that our Career Services staff uses to help students get employed is regular hiring events. We invite Employer Partners to come and meet our students and graduates so that they can fulfill their hiring needs. Quentin attended one of our hiring events and was able to make contact with a recruiter at Tek Experts.
“From the first or second day, the [Career Services] team reached out to us. One of the first things they told us was to make a LinkedIn profile. They had a group of not just students and alumni but also recruiters and people who were working at local businesses. Then, they told us to get on Monster, ZipRecruiter, and so on, and apply to three jobs a day. They also gave us templates and tips on resume writing and would review our resumes with a very quick turnaround. They arranged a virtual job fair with Tek Experts, which is where I’m working now. I think they were very resourceful given that they had to change their approach [because of COVID-19].”
“So, they did a virtual job fair with Tek Experts and I decided to attend it. And I interviewed for a Tier 1 or Help Desk role which is usually how somebody like me would transition into IT. My interview — I at the time didn’t like it. I had other interviews I was doing, and I initially turned it down. But I managed to stay in touch with the recruiter. So they had a second position come up within their Microsoft Office 365 team. And so she sent me an assessment and I did well on it, and she put me in touch with another recruiter who was on the Microsoft team, but he didn’t like me for it. But probably a week after that they called me back and said they’re doing a new program where the MS Office 365 team is taking people with maybe a little bit less technical skills and they are bringing them up to speed with more training. So I am in a training program that started on August 10th. I am now a Level 2 Technical Engineer at Tek Experts.”
Congrats on getting hired, Quentin! We couldn’t be more proud. It’s our mission to create meaningful outcomes that impact lives, and seeing that in action is what we do it all for.
“I’d definitely recommend ACI to anybody that’s trying to get into the IT field. Even if you have some experience, it’s definitely a fantastic program.”
“If I could just say one thing about ACI it would be: impressive. Just the program itself, even given these circumstances it’s just been impressive. They have just gone above and beyond to provide great training to all of us and helped us to find employment even in these trying times.”
If you’re ready to have a conversation about starting a career in IT, we’re here to help. Fill out the form below to get in touch and discuss training options that can help you start a stable, high-paying, lifelong career in information technology, networking, or cybersecurity.
Think about when you first enlisted in the military, the excitement, the nervousness, the fear of the unknown. While these feelings have surely changed since your first deployment, the end of your military career marks the beginning of a new chapter in your life and the renewal of those same feelings. While this may be intimidating, we want you to know that you have a partner in moving forward. Our goal is to help veterans navigate the maze of opportunities ahead of them by means of education and information in order to help them choose a career that will serve them for years to come.
We discussed the advantages of certifications over degrees in Degrees vs. Certifications and in Your Military Transition we discussed how to navigate your transition and assesses your military benefits, but in this blog we would like to explore why exactly entering the IT industry is such a great fit for military veterans and why you should consider a career in IT.
While you were deployed the amount of open IT positions has increased tremendously. From 2014-2018, more than 450,000 IT job openings have been added to the market. The U.S. workforce is desperately trying to keep up with demand, but there are not enough qualified individuals to fill these positions.
The sector that has the hardest time keeping up with demand also happens to be the sector that favors military veterans, cybersecurity. In 2019, the cybersecurity shortage was already at 4.07 million cybersecurity professionals needed worldwide.
What does this mean for you? Entering the IT industry can lead to great opportunities at an accelerated rate. Veteran Christopher Jaskoski was earning $70k just nine months after his separation from the military; read The IT Training Success Story of Christopher Jaskoski to learn more about Chris. At our last check with him in March of 2019, he was earning over $120k. A lot of veterans don’t know this but time in the military can be a significant advantage when seeking a career in IT.
Your Military Experience = Your Advantage
Skills you develop in the military like teamwork, leadership, and problem solving are just a few of the qualities that you can utilize in the IT industry. Exceptional problem-solving skills alone are a great indicator for an entry-level job in IT were troubleshooting and problem-solving are large parts of the job roles. Entry level roles like Computer User Support Specialist are earning on average 53k a year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
On top of basic skills that can help veterans get a head start in IT careers there are also many MOS’s that have direct correlations to jobs in the civilian workforce.
Networking and communications positions are a great example of this. Have you ever seen Cisco equipment in the field? There is a good chance that this equipment has had a large impact on your military career. Many of their devices are deployed all around the world with the U.S. military and are the exact same devices used on the civilian side of things.
From Cryptologists to Network Defenders and Signal Specialist to Systems Maintainers there are hundreds of positions in the military that can translate directly into civilian IT positions. Want to see if your skills and experience would translate to an IT job? Download our Veteran Skills and Interests Assessment below.
Download the Veteran Skills and Interests Assessment
Having a secret security clearance and being in the field of IT can lead to a 5.8 percent average pay increase over time, and top-secret security clearance can lead to a 12.8 percent pay increase over time according to the Human Resource Association of the National Capital Area. Certified individuals with a security clearance are sought out by defense contractors, and generally have a very easy time getting hired.
Are you interested in working for the Department of Defense (DoD)?
Becoming 8570 compliant with single certifications from LeaderQuest can also boost your earning potential as well as make you eligible for a position in the DoD.
What is DoD 8570 Compliance? DoD 8570 establishes the policies and responsibilities of Department of Defense information assurance, including training, certification and workforce management. It is a baseline requirement for employees to access DoD IT systems.
How do you become 8570 compliant with LeaderQuest Certifications?
By combining your Secret Security Clearance with 8570 compliance you can significantly improve your chances of getting hired into an IT position for a defense contractor.
What is the advantage of working in IT for the DoD or a defense contractor?
You get to continue your to serve your country while leveraging your security clearance to make more money, the average base salary for IT specialists in the DoD is around 80k according to glassdoor.com.
How Important are Time and Money to You?
Entering the workforce through a certification path can save you years and help you build the necessary experience to advance your career and make a decent living.
When looking at college degree programs you will find that a bachelor’s degree will typically take around 4 years to complete. This translates to 120 college credits and around about 40 total classes, not to mention the additional time it takes to get hired after completion. After this time you will still be entering the workforce as an entry-level candidate making entry level pay.
In comparison our entry-level certification program, the Computer User Support Specialist program, you are looking at around 3 months from training to hire and a total of 4 certification courses.
The earning potential of these different paths can be illustrated in the table below.
*Salary factored in is based on Robert Half’s technology salary guide. We used Low-End Conservative 50th percentile salaries for years 1-3. Years 4 & 5 are based on the average of 2,250 Cyber Security Analyst salaries from Glassdoor.com.
Training AND Working = +$16,287
(-$12,775 + $29,062)
1st year Tier 1 Helpdesk annual earnings = $38,750
12 months of work – 3 months of training = 8 months of work ($29,062)
Minus Training Costs ($12,775) = +$16,287
Total: +$38,750 (With G.I. Bill Funding)
As in any field, your pay is dependent on your experience and effort to move forward. To make the step from a Help Desk Associate to a Cybersecurity Expert it typically takes 2-4 years of IT experience and can be supported by next level certifications offered by LeaderQuest like the Certified Ethical Hacker certification or the Certified Security Analyst certification.
Why IT Certifications and Why LeaderQuest?
In general, certifications verify that you have specific skills or knowledge. They are a great way to show employers that you have put in the time to learn your craft. While certifications are great, they won’t always land you a job by themselves. Here at LeaderQuest, we have recognized this and have gone to great lengths to bridge the gap from certification to employment.
The LeaderQuest Difference
A large portion of our staff are military veterans, and it has pushed us to go beyond what one might expect from a training facility and inspired us to create a world-class training center that cultivates success for veterans from training to employment.
The LeaderQuest training process includes multiple forms of extra support to ensure the best academic outcomes.
On Campus Instructor Mentors: Each LeaderQuest campus has an Instructor Mentor specifically dedicated to the success of all students. The Instructor Mentors will organize study groups, create personalized study plans, and tutor individual students who need the most help.
Expert Instructors: All of our instructors are required to have industry experience.
Day or Night Courses: We offer day and night courses to fit your schedule. Full time courses run for 5 weekdays at 8hrs/day. Part time courses run for 10 weeknights at 4hrs/night.
Learning Portal: Carefully curated study tools and practice test are included in each course.
The LeaderQuest Learning Guarantee: You may re-sit any course that you have taken at no cost if it’s within 2 years of your course date. (If the certification version has changed you may have to purchase new materials.)
The LeaderQuest Career Services Department offers one-on-one support for students who have completed their courses to help them take the next big step and actually get hired.
Resume/Cover letter writing to help graduates polish their resume to perfection and help them land an interview.
Interview coaching & mock interview practice to help gain confidence and learn the best way to answer common questions.
LinkedIn profile creation and optimization to make sure each graduate’s online presence is working for them.
Application coaching including how, when, and what kind of jobs to apply to.
Meet and greets with industry professionals in the local area to help graduates make valuable connections.
LinkedIn Tech Professionals groups to network and ask questions to LeaderQuest alumni in your area.
Access to LeaderQuest’s job boards curated by the Career Services Employment Development Managers.
Access to LeaderQuest’s employment partners. LeaderQuest has partnered with DoD contractors and other companies across the country to help fill their entry-level to advanced-level positions in a wide array of IT sectors.
Learn more about LeaderQuest’s Employment Services in the video below.
As you can see, LeaderQuest has perfected the formula for a concise education and Career Services support that produces results. That being said, we are continually evolving and are constantly adjusting to the market to ensure a top-level education for anyone who chooses to walk through the doors of LeaderQuest. We listen to our students and support our veterans in and outside of the company.
Is the IT Industry Right For You?
Whether you are looking to continue your service to the country through the DoD or are simply wanting to make money as quickly as possible, the IT industry may be a good fit for you! Your skills from the military combined with LeaderQuest’s proactive approach to training work together to get you employed as quickly and efficiently as possible.
A large portion of LeaderQuest employees are military veterans, and we empathize with what you are going through and want to aid you in this process. This life-altering decision does not have to be one that you make alone. Here at LeaderQuest, our goal is to partner with you in making this decision and guide you throughout the whole process.
If you are interested in transitioning into the IT industry please fill out the contact form below and a Career Adviser will contact you about your future. Thank you for your service and good luck!
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.
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.
We’d like to introduce you to Ambrose Boswell, a successful LeaderQuest graduate. Ambrose spent years working in the hotel industry, but found that the salary they offered just wasn’t high enough. After working closely with IT staff in another job, he decided to take the leap and see if he could find a place in IT for himself.
Check out his video below, and read on to learn more about Ambrose’s successful transition to an IT career.
Finding Work after High School
After he graduated from high school, Ambrose worked in hotels like Sheraton and Disney for over 7 years. It was an interesting industry to work in, but just didn’t pay enough.
“When I jumped out of highschool it was an easy career path to take. Hotels were always fun. I got to meet a lot of different people. It was always changing, you check in new people every day and have different conversations with interesting people. But the money wasn’t there, so I decided to go elsewhere.”
Leaving the hotel industry behind, Ambrose worked in Sales for Enterprise for two and a half years. He also worked for an IT company, but not in an IT position. Through all these jobs, he developed a background in sales and customer service. Ambrose realized that when it comes down to it, he loves helping people and solving problems, and in IT you get to do both.
Coming to Colorado and Exploring IT Training
Ambrose moved to Colorado Springs in 2018 for “the mountains, the views, and the cost of living.” He was eager to get out of Missouri and escape the humidity and bugs. As soon as he moved to Colorado, he quit his Sales job and decided he was going to go for IT full time.
“I Googled how to get an A+ certification and LeaderQuest came up as well as one other school. I called both of them, got the info I needed from both of them, and came in for a one on one interview at LeaderQuest. Sarah went over all the courses and how LeaderQuest works. She was very informative about it being a boot camp, and that you get a lot of information at once.”
“You can resit the classes any time. It’s not like you pay for the class, you sit in it, and if you don’t feel like you got the knowledge, too bad you already paid. Instead it’s, ‘No, we’re LeaderQuest. We’re here to help you, you sit in as many times as you need. And we also have tutors we offer.’ And that was the selling point. The other campus didn’t offer that.”
Ambrose enrolled in our Computer User Support Specialist program, which is our most popular program for those who have little to no IT experience and want to get started in the industry. This program includes ITIL, as well as CompTIA A+, Network+ and Security+. Students emerge with a strong foundation for an IT career, whether they decide to go into networking, cyber security, or IT support roles.
“LeaderQuest offers a lot of different outlets for information. It’s not just sitting in front of a teacher and having them read you slides or explain what they are doing. They actually give you a lot of other tools. One of them is TestOut, a website that gives you a hands-on testing environment where you can take practice tests before you take the exams. You can work physically on building a computer by clicking, and that’s not something everybody can do at home.”
Ambrose told us his formula for success in his classes at LeaderQuest:
“Making sure I showed up to class on time, asked all the questions I needed to, and then studied after class. Security+ excited me the most because you can get so many jobs once you have that certificate. I’m a visual learner, so it helped that they have huge whiteboards in the classroom and they’ll draw exactly what they’re talking about. It was a lot of information to take in at once and it wasn’t easy, so that’s why I’m still studying [before taking exams].”
Starting an IT Career
Ambrose landed his first IT job after completing just one of his four certifications. In January 2019, he was hired by the Gazette, the second largest newspaper in Colorado. It wasn’t long before he got a better offer and moved on to another IT role.
“I’m in my second IT job since starting LeaderQuest. Everything I learned in each course I took I put on my resume. When the employer saw my resume and had a conversation with me about it, I said I am at LeaderQuest, I’m still studying to get certified. They liked that I was dedicated and was wanting to learn and move up in the industry. Right now I work for Colorado High Tech Solutions, we’re a managed service provider mainly for medical offices.”
“The Colorado Springs Employment Development Manager ran resume writing classes during the lunch hour between classes. He helped me structure that information which helped me get my resume ready to put in front of an employer so they’d really look at it and not just go on to the next one, and that’s what really helped me land my job was the resume.”
Many people who are interested in IT are worried that they just won’t be able to get hired without a 4-year degree. But what employers are really looking for is a candidate with the right skills.
“Coming from sales, and not knowing anything about IT, I knew that employers are very particular when they are hiring people for IT. They want the skills, they want the knowledge, they want the years of experience. But when you’re brand new and you have no experience what do you do? LeaderQuest helped me find out what I could do to get that experience. Aside from getting certifications, just getting these skills on my resume and being able to talk the talk is what got me to be able to walk the walk.”
Looking Back on His Time at LeaderQuest
We asked Ambrose about what made his experience at LeaderQuest a great one, and there was one specific person he wanted to thank.
“I’d like to thank Sarah for all her hard work and everything she’s done for me in my tenure here at LeaderQuest. From meeting with her on day one through everything up to today, she has stayed in communication with me. We’re always talking, she’s very excited that I’m on to my next IT position and I just feel like she’s really in my corner. So thank you, Sarah, for everything that you’ve done for me. I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without you.”
Ambrose also had some advice for those who’re interested in training at LeaderQuest:
“LeaderQuest is not for everybody, but it really is for the right individual who is really motivated and willing to work their way up in this industry. If you’re really passionate about IT, and this is a career you want to start, then absolutely dive in and sign up!”
Are you ready to start an IT career?
If you’re interested in training at LeaderQuest, get in touch! We’ll give you a call and schedule a time to go over our training options, what kind of career you’re interested in starting, and what kind of funding options might work for you.
At LeaderQuest, our students come from all walks of life. Christopher Ogunsakin knew from a young age that he was interested in I.T., but it his journey to an I.T. career was not a direct one. Read on or watch the video below to learn about how Chris came to LeaderQuest and found career success.
Watch Chris’s Story
Learning About I.T. in Nigeria
Chris grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, and as a child he didn’t have a lot of access to computers at home. His brother, who was also curious about information technology, brought home a laptop that got Chris interested.
“I’ve always been interested in I.T. from a very young age. Growing up in Nigeria, I didn’t have a lot of computer resources, but my brother was interested in I.T. He bought a laptop, thankfully. And that was how I got started. He would let me play on his laptop.”
He took some computer classes in school in Nigeria. He didn’t have to study like his friends did, and that was when he realized his aptitude for I.T.
Moving to America
Chris moved to Denver, Colorado from Nigeria in 2011. He moved to the United States by himself and had to walk everywhere, pay his own bills, and go to school. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and has been in the reserves since then. Chris also enrolled at Metro State for Computer Science, but wasn’t able to translate that experience into a role in I.T. Instead, he was driving for Lyft and Uber as his main source of income, often for five or more hours a day.
“Before coming to LeaderQuest I was an Uber driver. Before that I was a delivery driver. That was easy for me to do, and honestly it was a great job for me. But the thing is, I knew that wasn’t something I wanted to continue doing for the rest of my life. It had to be temporary.”
During this time, a recruiter came into Chris’ unit during an Army Reserve monthly drill. He gave info about resources that the Army can help with, including educational assistance. When Chris asked about training for I.T., the recruiter referred him to LeaderQuest.
Exploring Training Options
Chris came in to LeaderQuest to learn about our training options at an informational session with a Career Training Consultant. Chris told his Career Training Consultant that he wanted to focus on cyber security. They went over his background in T.T. and the classes he’d need to take. Considering his experience from Metro State, they decided that the best course of action would be to move directly to Security+ and skip some of the earlier courses in our Computer User Support Specialist program.
CompTIA Security+ Training at LeaderQuest
Chris completed his CompTIA Security+ over two weeks, online, in the evening. In this way he was able to continue driving for Uber and paying bills while attending LeaderQuest. Our training courses are intensive and instructor-led, and run either one week full-time (8 hours of instruction per day) or over two weeks in the evenings (4 hours per day).
“Overall, it was a great experience. What I appreciated mainly was just that the instructor was there to answer any questions you have. He would be on before and after class to answer any questions you have.”
CompTIA Security+ is one of our most popular courses. This course teaches students the fundamentals of cyber security. Students will learn to…
Monitor the security infrastructure and identify security threats
Harden internal systems and services and internetwork devices and services
Secure network communications and enforce an organizational security policy
Manage a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and certificates
Most importantly, Security+ is in high demand with employers in I.T. and cyber security! According to Accenture’s 2019 cybercrime report, incidence of cyber attacks has risen 11% since last year, and the average cost of cybercrime for each company increased from US$11.7 million in 2017 to a new high of US$13.0 million. As companies and organizations look to secure themselves from cyber attacks, more qualified individuals are needed to fill these roles. LeaderQuest is proud to help train the next generation of cyber security specialists to help combat the rising tide of cyber crime.
Career Services & Getting Hired
“If I have to say the most useful resource I got from LeaderQuest, it would probably be Steve.”
After completing his Security+ training, while studying for the exam, Chris started working with our Denver campus’ Employment Development Manager, Stephen Wright. Stephen works closely with our graduates to help them find the kind of jobs they’re looking for, and make sure that their resume and interview skills are top-notch. Stephen also makes connections with local employers who are looking to hire for their I.T. or cyber security workforce.
“I would definitely recommend LeaderQuest, and here’s why. For me it was a big challenge when it comes to: Now I’ve gotten the skills, now I have the certificate. How do I go out there and sell myself to employers as a candidate they want to hire? So, Stephen Wright went above and beyond. Any questions I had about a job, he was there. He was always there. He was my go-to for everything, and I think that was a huge resource. Anybody who needs help in that area would benefit as well.”
Chris kept driving for Uber while he looked for work in cyber security. After a few months, he was able to secure an interview with the Colorado Governor’s Office of Information Technology. He worked with Stephen to prepare for the interview, and he got the job! In May of 2019 he was hired as a Cybersecurity Specialist, and he’s loving his new job.
“A lot of people would look at my story and say I’m very lucky, but I put in a lot of work for myself. When I had interviews I knew I would be asked questions. I couldn’t make it up, I needed to know the answers.”
Start a New Career in I.T. or Cyber Security
“After getting my new job, I only drive for Uber when I want to because it’s something I like to do. When I get off work it’s an option, it’s no longer a necessity. Now I’m using my skills, using my brain, doing what I love to do. I don’t get tired of doing that.”
With some certification training and a lot of hard work, Chris was able to pursue his dream of working in the I.T. field. LeaderQuest is proud to have been able to help him take a few steps along the way, and provide the support he needed to get hired and start his career.
If you’re interested in starting a career in I.T., we can help you too! LeaderQuest training provides the a career jump start for aspiring tech practitioners. We offer:
Accelerated training that takes months instead of years
Online courses and flexible scheduling to work around your life
Live instructors with years of industry experience
Instructor Mentors available for 1-on-1 tutoring
Career Services support to help you actually get HIRED once training is complete
Multiple ways to finance training so that you can start now
If you’re ready to take the next step in your career, contact LeaderQuest today!