My family recently vacationed in Florida. Before we left, I plotted the route we’d take to travel the 900 miles from our house to our destination. I also planned where we’d stay on the way down and back. (Anyone with a three-year-old can tell you it’s not wise to try driving 900 miles in a single stretch.)

But detailed planning isn’t just for vacations. You should place similar emphasis on planning out your IT certification efforts. For this reason, I’m going to present you with a road map you can use to plan and achieve your next certification.

Use my seven-step road map
A long time ago, I read a magazine column that advocated taking a slightly different approach to exercise. Instead of setting a goal to run five miles a day or ride 20 miles on a bike three or four times a week, the article recommended measuring how many times you “got out the door,” or GOTD. The idea was that getting started is the biggest impediment to accomplishing a goal.

The same is true with IT certifications. One of the major obstacles to earning an IT certification is the act of actually beginning the process of becoming certified. At some point, you must GOTD, or get started. My seven-step IT certification road map can help you do just that.

Although it’s a simple document, it will help you get started and allow you to break the process into manageable pieces. The steps involved in obtaining certification, when first viewed together, can be a little overwhelming. Breaking things down into smaller steps can help you stay motivated and eventually reach your goal.

The road map’s seven steps are:

  1. Select your certification. Start by choosing the certification you intend to earn.
  2. Schedule your exam. It’s easiest to motivate yourself to study when you have a deadline in place.
  3. Obtain the corresponding study guide and simulation test software. These are tools I recommend you use when preparing for all certification exams, and they are a good place to start in pinpointing your gaps in knowledge.
  4. Identify and schedule the corresponding training course. This is an optional step, but one benefit of taking a training class is that you can dedicate time exclusively to preparing for the exam.
  5. Attend the training class. If you’re going to take a class, you have to schedule time to attend; otherwise, you run the risk of letting procrastination permanently derail your certification effort.
  6. Take the simulation exams. I recommend taking the simulation exams after you’ve read study guides and attended formal training.
  7. Perform a final review and take the actual exam. Wrap up your studying by reviewing class notes, rereading particularly troublesome areas, and running through each simulation test one more time before taking the actual exam.

Eckel’s take
One of the biggest obstacles to earning certification is getting started. Typically, beginning a certification effort requires having a plan. My IT certification road map will help you clear that first hurdle by giving you a definite starting point. From there, the worksheet breaks down the certification process into manageable parts.

Download the form and replace the provided examples with values that map to your own certification effort. If you’re pursuing a certification that requires passing multiple exams, simply use the IT certification road map for each exam you must pass.