Saturday, August 15, 2015

Family Tech: Getting IT certified has many benefits and there’s lots of help available - August 14, 2015

Is someone in your family comfortable with computers, but maybe not quite right for college? Or do they worry a four-year degree is more likely to put them into debt than into a job?

Do you have a college-bound high schooler who could use a shot in the arm confidence wise, and maybe an achievable goal that might help them get a good part-time job in college?

Are you wishing you had a job working with computers; a burgeoning field?

Or, are you knowledgeable about computers but do not have anything in your record proving what you know?

Comptia is an Information Technology industry trade association. It offers a variety of computer-knowledge certifications such as the basic A+, Network+ and Security+.

Many starter jobs in IT, such as help desk, repair technician, or printer technician, require a Comptia A+ Certification.

To obtain one of these certifications requires a test taken at a Pearson Testing Center.

There are many paths to the first A+ certification. You can begin by going to Comptia’s site and seeing the objectives that are used for the two A+ required tests, the 801 and 802 tests.

There are a variety of ways to learn the material needed to pass the tests. Some are even free.

There are traditional courses you can take at Northern Virginia Community College to help you prepare. It also has an entire program to help you get ready for an entry-level IT job with its Technology Retraining Internship Program (TRIP). This program not only offers coursework and its own certification, but also provides an opportunity for an internship that will impress hiring managers.

There are grants and other financial assistance available to help with the TRIP program.

For those without the time, or perhaps money, for in-class training, there is a well-regarded set of videos on Youtube to teach you A+, Network+, Security+ and others. Professor Messer videos are absolutely free to watch. He makes his money by selling quizzes, study guides, books and the like.

People have successfully passed their A+ tests solely by watching the videos and using other free online materials, although spending a little money on practice tests or study guides is often prudent.

Messer also offers study groups where he asks viewers questions and they can call in to discuss.

His website’s forums also offer ways for people to discuss the certifications, ask questions, learn together, and get overall support as they go through the process.

Popular websites like have places too where people to ask questions.

I attended TRIP classes – a regular A+ course at NVCC – and in my final two-week push, used Comptia’s CertMaster program.

CertMaster is a subscription service where it asks a question from the A+ objectives. You can answer it, say you do not know, or choose two answers. If you are wrong, or choose two answers, it presents information about the topic and then goes on to the next question.

It requires you to answer each question correctly twice before you can finish a module.

There are separate subscriptions for 801 and 802, and then each additional certification. I found the drill useful. I passed my two tests on the same day just two days after completing CertMaster.

The tests are not simply multiple choice questions; although that is the bulk of each test. There are also simulations where you might be asked to format a drive, or do other real world tasks in a simulated computer environment.

Watching the videos and doing Certmaster will not be enough to pass. You will need some real world, hands-on time with a PC. You’ll need to know some common command line tasks like formatting a drive, partitioning a new drive, copying files and navigating around the directory tree.

The videos will cover a lot of that but to set it into your brain you need to do actually do these things. Messer has a video on setting up VirtualBox so you practice in a virtual computer and not risk screwing up your actual computer.

One thing my NVCC class had us do was to take an ancient, but working desktop and take it apart. We dismantled it completely; removing the CPU and memory from the motherboard, removing the various cards. Finally we removed the motherboard, power supply and fan from the case.

And then, we put it back together and made sure it worked.

I could even point to one simulation I got right because of my experience building a gaming PC last spring with my son.

On another topic, there has been a lot of press about Windows 10 giving away your personal information. The reality is Microsoft is using your information to sync your various Windows 10 devices and allow Cortana to better serve you. What Microsoft is doing is little different from what Google does for Google Now. I wrote about that in April, and that column is at this week.

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