Choosing the Best School & Courses for an IT Administrator
What are the best courses for entry-level IT administration? Schools want students to take everything to be well-rounded, but is that what a company needs. Degree programs seem to be built on exposing students to different ideas and in this case different technologies. They make their income based on credit hours, which means the more subjects you take the more money they make. Small computer schools operate in a similar manner in that the more certificate they convince you to take the more money they will make. Of course this is nothing new because by now most people have recognized that a school is a business first and an educator second, because if they go out of business they will not be able to educate anyone. As a result it's up to you, the potential student, to do your homework on the school you want to attend and the course you want to take before choosing a school.
First you'll need to look at the credibility of each school and their degree program, as well as the credibility of the degree or certification you are seeking. For this you'll need to know what companies respect, and if they will be willing to pay for your service if you attain it. As far as the colleges are concerned the answer is fairly simple and straightforward. If employers are flooding the campus and interviewing the graduates because they know the students have received the training to do the job that is needed, then this is the college you should attend. If the graduates are being offered internships, it probably means the employer does not have enough confidence in the training that was provided to offer the graduate a real job. Unfortunately a lot of colleges have a problem, because exposing students to a little bit of this and a little bit of that have very little use to most companies. As a result degrees are not as respected as they used to be before Information Technology became essential.
Professional and technical schools are expected to double down and teach exactly what companies want; so are they the answer? Professional schools are your best choice to learn exactly what companies are looking for without the added distractions of unnecessary exposure to topics you are not interested in, allowing you to focus on starting your career immediately. Unfortunately finding the right school will be a challenge. The reputation of the school and whether they are simply introducing students to a little bit of this and a little bit of that is still a big obstacle.
How do I find the right professional school if all the people I know were not satisfied with their school? You can start with the process of elimination. First look at the information the course covers and the total questions you are going to be asked. If you look at a textbook like the A+ certification textbook that has about 700 pages, and you know that you are going to be asked a total of 200 questions on the certification tests, you can ask yourself, "How long will it take me to learn this?" If a school promise to teach it to you in one month in the evenings after work or on the weekends, you'll have to figure out for yourself if that's realistic. If the school offers to combine two certification courses such as the A+ certification and the Network+ certification in one course, you have to ask yourself again "Are these two courses similar, will the instructor be teaching twice as fast, or will I learn half of each? " It may sound like a good idea to get two courses for the price of one, but can you handle the pace. Are they omitting lessons you'll need to know for a job or to pass both certifications. Once again to avoid being taught a little bit of this and a little bit of that, simply walk into a store and look at the size of each book. You can even compare the contents in each book if you have the knowledge to do so.
Being a business it’s natural that they would want people to take as many certifications and exams as possible, but this should not be confused with the quality of each course. Unfortunately for the schools that are focused on test taking and not the skills required for the job, some employers are now automatically dismissing resumes coming from students who attend some of these schools regardless of whether they are certified or not.
What don’t I recommend for the IT administrator?
CCNA is a required starting point if you want to become a CCIE, but this entry-level Cisco exam is useless by itself because although you'll learn a few Cisco basics and commands, you will not be able to fully configure and secure a high end Cisco router. The one or two commands required by a Cablevision or Time Warner entry level field service technician is taught on the job in less than a day.
Network Plus also does not secure any network since it does not cover any operating system adequately. Even Time Warner pay people who pass the A+ more money but refuse to pay anyone who passes the Network + any more money, despite repeated requests by their union. The bottom line is that suggesting to a potential employer that you know a little bit of this and a little bit of that is not something they can use. That’s why they ask for experience. It’s also why college degrees are losing their effectiveness. Companies need skills that they can use. Feel free to evaluate the other courses using the same method to decide what courses are best for the job you are looking for.
What do I recommend for the IT administrator?
A + allows you to fix computer hardware and recognize all the components needed to network them. Nothing else is required. You can unequivocally state that you can assemble and repair computer hardware etc.
Windows 7 Certification allows student to install, migrate, secure and troubleshoot Windows 7, etc. Nothing else is required.
Active Directory is used to administer a Microsoft network. Period!
The bottom line is that a student who has been taught these courses properly can tell a potential employer what they will be able to do for the company without any extra training.
In summary all schools are businesses otherwise they will not be able to teaching anyone for long. If you want cheap, free, test preparation only, or super-fast accelerated courses, the value you get from the course will be exactly what you pay for. College degrees are based on the school's reputation and the usefulness of that particular degree. In choosing a professional school you need to do your homework to ensure that the time they state that they will cover the course is realistic, and you should choose a course or a set of courses that focus on this skill you need to acquire to get the job you want.