So, you’ve chosen to pursue a career in computer science and information technology – congratulations! Technology careers not only continue to be some of the fastest growing today, but also some of the most lucrative. Unlike many traditional careers, there are multiple paths to becoming a successful IT professional.
What credentials do I need to start an IT career?
While certain technology careers, such as research and academia, require a computer science degree, most do not. Employers in the tech industry are typically more concerned with ensuring you have the required skills to carry out the responsibilities of a given role.
What you need is a credential that demonstrates that you possess the practical skills to be successful; independently verifiable certifications are the best way to accomplish this. This is especially true when you are just starting out and do not have prior work experience.
We recommend the Linux Foundation Certified IT Associate (LFCA) as a starting point. This respected certification demonstrates expertise and skills in fundamental information technology functions, especially in cloud computing, which is something that has not traditionally been included in entry-level certifications, but has become an essential skill regardless of what further specialization you may pursue.
How do I prepare for the LFCA?
The LFCA tests basic knowledge of fundamental IT concepts. It’s good to keep in mind which topics will be covered on the exam so you know how to prepare. The domains tested on the LFCA, and their scoring weight on the exam, are:
- Linux Fundamentals – 20%
- System Administration Fundamentals – 20%
- Cloud Computing Fundamentals – 20%
- Security Fundamentals – 16%
- DevOps Fundamentals – 16%
- Supporting Applications and Developers – 8%
Of course if you are completely new to the industry, no one expects you to be able to pass this exam without spending some time preparing. Linux Foundation Training & Certification offers a range of free resources that can help. These include free online courses covering the topics on the exam, guides, the exam handbook and more. We recommend taking advantage of these and the countless tutorials, video lessons, how-to guides, forums and more available across the internet to build your entry-level IT knowledge.
I’ve passed the LFCA exam, now what?
Generally, LFCA alone should be sufficient to qualify for many entry-level jobs in the technology industry, such as a junior system administrator, IT support engineer, junior DevOps engineer, and more. It’s not a bad idea to try to jump into the industry at this point and get some experience.
If you’ve already been working in IT for a while, or you want to aim for a higher level position right off the bat, you will want to consider more advanced certifications to help you move up the ladder. Our 2020 Open Source Jobs Report found the majority of hiring managers prioritize candidates with relevant certifications, and 74% are even paying for their own employees to take certification exams, up from 55% only two years earlier, showing how essential these credentials are.
We’ve developed a roadmap that shows how coupling an LFCA with more advanced certifications can lead to some of the hottest jobs in technology today. Once you have determined your career goal (if you aren’t sure, take our career quiz for inspiration!), this roadmap shows which certifications from across various providers can help you achieve it.
How many certifications do I really need?
This is a difficult question to answer and really varies depending on the specific job and its roles and responsibilities. No one needs every certification on this roadmap, but you may benefit from holding two or three depending on your goals. Look at job listings, talk to colleagues and others in the industry with more experience, read forums, etc. to learn as much as you can about what has worked for others and what specific jobs or companies may require.
The most important thing is to set a goal, learn, gain experience, and find ways to demonstrate your abilities. Certifications are one piece of the puzzle and can have a positive impact on your career success when viewed as a component of overall learning and upskilling.