IT Cert Strategy

Free Study Guides and Job Tips

There is always a need for talented IT and Security professionals. IT Cert Strategy is a project that helps students and workers interested in the trade.

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What the IT Cert Strategy Project is About

IT Cert Strategy is More Than Certifications

Even though IT certifications are great and fill a needed gap, you shouldn’t lean on them too heavily. Age old questions regarding certifications are:

  1. Should you get them?
  2. Are they worth the time, effort, and cost to get them?

They’re great for testing your knowledge and can often help you get jobs you normally wouldn’t be able to get. I often disagree with the vehement attitude some people on the other side of the spectrum have against them, whether they’ve had issues with the certification bodies or how they actively try to break down certificate holders to prove how superior they are.

I tend to find that a happy medium between both extremes work well here. This doesn’t absolve you of planning and working hard though. Get the certifications that make sense to you.

Methodology on Which Certs to Get

Here’s my opinion on which certifications to pull the trigger on:

  • Get certifications that make sense to you and your career.
  • Get certifications that are paid for, whether you get your employer to cover the cost or you start a new side project that produces income to cover your education costs.
  • Get certifications that are in demand by employers.
  • Get certifications that are proven and have been around for a while, at least the certification body anyway.
  • Get certifications with reasonable and fluid continuing education demands.

Here’s my opinion on bad reasons to get certifications:

  • The certification sounds nice. Plan to use it somehow.
  • You think the certification is good. You need to know it’s good.
  • You want to collect certifications like they’re candy. There are diminishing returns to how impressive certifications are.
  • You want to learn a new skill. Do you really need a certification to do this? Ever hear of the concept of a home lab?
  • You think the certification counts as experience. This is how the A+ was marketed back in the day. Newsflash, it doesn’t count as experience. Yes, it’s useful, but don’t position yourself with it as a sole highlight.

About the Study Guides and Exam Tips Here

The next 2 headings describe the methodology behind note taking, why I take a certain approach to studying for exams, and how you could best use the materials on this website.

Why These Study Guides and Exam Tips Exist

A lot of the information here is organized for my own purposes. I want to open it up to future IT and Security superstars as there is a significant shortage in a few tech areas, especially security.

I’m one who takes notes of meetings, webinars, studying, and even light reading where applicable. Not everyone likes to take notes, especially while they read but I find that it helps retain and process information.

How to Use the Study Guides and Exam Tips

Use them as a review. You should be nodding your head to most of the concepts. Maybe they’ll be a reminder or maybe you’ll finally understand a few sticking points after seeing them presented in a different way. With the exception of the first 2 A+ study guides, the organization of the study guides are in such a way to flow, hopefully allowing you to mentally organize the material.

These writeups are thorough, going in-depth on select topics that may or may not be featured on the actual exams. Context is given to help learn the material as employers value someone who understands material beyond memorizing it for exams.

Even though these writeups are in-depth in some areas, they are not complete. Some areas may be very brief. They are not intended to be sole study materials. Everyone has a different understanding of the material and as such may need to put more work in some areas than others.

About Me

It’s great to know whether the person that gives you advice is credible or not. Here’s a few tidbits from my history:

  • 15 years of IT experience, including 5 years specifically in cybersecurity.
  • Masters of Business Administration with a track in Management Information Systems.
  • Bachelor of Science in IT with 3 minors and 3 university certificates.

Note: For more details on my background, including what drives me, head over to the about page.

Earned Certifications

  • CS0-001, CompTIA CySA+, 2018-Sep-19
  • SY0-401, CompTIA Security+, 2015-Sep-21
  • SY0-201, Security+ (2008 Edition), 2010-Dec-29
  • N10-004, Network+ Exam (2009 Edition), 2010-Dec-13
  • 220-602, A+ IT Technician, 2008-Feb-13
  • 220-601, A+ Essentials, 2008-Feb-13

These certs took anywhere from a week to a month to get with dedicated time to read, study, and practice. I’ve passed every IT certification on the first attempt, every time. You’ll notice the Security+ is on there twice. I had the last good for life (GFL) version of the Security+ and an employer in 2015 required the most recent version of the Security+, which was SY0-401 at the time.

Note: See all the certifications in their badge glory by heading over to my Acclaim profile page.

IT Cert Strategy Wrap Up

Thanks for joining me. Let me know how I can best serve you in your IT or Cybersecurity journey!

For the New Folks

For New Comers and Those in Career Transition

See answers to common questions below, including worth of certifications, what getting certifications can do for your, and how to get them. IT Cert Strategy goes beyond earning your choice certification.

If I get a certification will it count as experience?

All IT certifications serve a specific purpose that helps to identify a baseline of knowledge. The usefulness of these certifications will increase and decrease based upon your career level and your prospective employer’s value of them. The good news is that CompTIA certifications are useful during the beginning states of your IT career as their curricula addresses a lower bar than Microsoft, Cisco, (ISC)², and other authorities.

Are CompTIA certs the best route to go for those who are not interested in getting a degree to find tech work?

First and foremost, CompTIA certs are not degree programs. You may find college curricula that are made up of certification programs but raw CompTIA certs are not this. It’s also worth mentioning that CompTIA certs are considered entry level. While this is a great place to start, be expected to show that you know basic tech and that you are coachable. These certs do certainly help although you shouldn’t solely rely on them to break into IT. They validate your knowledge but they don’t guarantee employment.

If only getting a cert isn't the best way to break into IT then what is?

There isn’t a right or wrong way to break into IT or even cybersecurity. Start with a few home projects to see if you can stomach this type of work and then start applying for Help Desk roles. Help Desk is a great way to learn a ton of concepts, tech, service management, and project management.

I see the value of getting the CompTIA "Trifecta." How long does it take to get the A+, Network+, and the Security+?

Honestly, it will take as long as it takes. For me personally, it took 2 months of cumulative study but I didn’t do it back to back to back. Everyone is different when it comes to studying and retaining knowledge, not to mention actual passion and experience level. Some quick learners will have the trifecta in a month. Others may take a year or more. Don’t feel bad if you’re one of the people who need to take more time. If you want to get the trifecta, GO GET IT.

Is IT worth getting into now? It seems like the field is oversaturated.

This question will always be around. IT growth has exploded in the last 3 decades and people have asked it the entire time. IT is a hot field and as more people become aware of what’s possible in IT, everyone wants to get into it. IT isn’t going to slow down anytime soon. Sure, things will be more automated and some jobs that people have comfortably had in the last 15 years will slowly fade away, but so many more types of positions are being added. IT isn’t going away. If this is the type of work you want, GO FOR IT.

If I want to work in IT, will I have to move to a big city?

Not really, but you will have more opportunities in a big city, especially a tech town. This is the same with any job market. The bigger the city the bigger the opportunity usually. If you don’t find reasonable tech work then be prepared to move to land a job. Early on in my career, I moved 1100 miles away to accept an IT role I ended up absolutely hating but it opened many doors later.

How many study materials do I need?

Aim for 2 to 4 sources of study materials (courses, books, etc). Use what you need to learn the material but try to avoid reading too many sources. As far as study notes and quiz questions are concerned, find what you need to improve your practice scores. You never know how you need something worded for it to click.

Why 2 to 4 sources of study materials to prepare for an exam? If your notes are based on authentic materials shouldn't this be adequate? I'd like to save some time.

Although it’s possible to pass the exam with my study notes alone (please don’t do this), I would highly recommend you use multiple information sources when studying for a certification exam. Use at least 2 sources but stay under 5. You want more than one book for example in case the author doesn’t cover all topics adequately. You don’t want to go too far in the other direction and spend too much time in reading mode. The main reason is my study notes are just that, they’re my notes. It’s how I see and understand this industry. This means I have omitted things that seem obvious to me. Don’t take shortcuts. DO THE WORK AND REAP THE BENEFITS.

I see a few study guides here. Can you also provide free quizzes and videos?

I’m more than happy to link to either official content providers, YouTube videos, recommended study materials, or other legitimate content sources. I have no plans to produce this kind of stuff at the moment. However, it’s worth mentioning that I will NOT post content or links to braindumps or pirated software or videos. ILLEGITIMATE CONTENT SOURCES HAVE NO PLACE HERE.

Cert Study Notes

Starting off with certs I have and then expanding into other IT and Security certifications.

IT Reading Lists

Important (and favorites) books, publications, articles, and more.

Job Hunting Tips

Traditional job hunting doesn’t slice it anymore. Let’s find some stuff that works.

Skill Up Info

You have to be more than a test taker. Keep building those tech skills.

Soft Skills Help

Got experience, certs, and education? Awesome. There’s still one extremely important thing to work on.

Career Paths

Not everyone’s break into their field of choice is straight forward.

From Others in Industry

Career Advice from Trainers Underground


Career Advice in Cyber Security

This excellent video comes from the folks at Learn Security on YouTube. Even though it’s cyber focused, there’s some good nuggets of info to get started. Job seekers pay attention!

Of course you don’t need to be in cyber security in order to have a successful, technical career. Regardless of how you enter the industry, you need a plan.

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IT Cert Strategy Articles

Career advice, certification study notes, instruction in IT and cybersecurity concepts, and more on the Blog page.

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What’s Your Path?

In IT and cybersecurity, there’s a multitude of options. How do you want to serve people?

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If there’s additional content that lends itself to the IT Cert Strategy project, reach out and let me know.

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