What should come first: Experience or Certification?

By bburnette2003 ·
I am recently laid off from a tire building plant, and taking this unemployed time to enhance my knowledge. I'm currently prepping for my CompTIA A+ cert, but at 24, with minimal college education in computer networking, I'm feeling against a wall...

PCs have always been a hobby and working on them is a task I always enjoyed, so I couldn't think of a better career option to choose, but I have zero expierience that I can put on a resume.

I'm beginning to find that most people work in a Help Desk position for 6months-1year before taking the A+ cert. They all have a hands on experience that can only help them. As a guy at home reading a book, I feel like I'm only gaining 50% of knowledge. I don't have access to laser printers, or multiple computers to network and work on.

At this point, money isn't a concern, and I'm applying to every entry level PC related job I can find in my area, but I'm getting no luck in landing a job. I understand they want cert's, but I'm needing a better education style beside's a text book with black and white pictures.

What should I aim for: Experience or Certification?

Any other advice you can give me?

(btw, long story short, going back to college isnt really an option, especially in this economy. i can get a student loan, but don't want that hanging over my head when i graduate and still can't find a job. The cost of my Mike Meyer's CompTIA book collection > another year's tuition)

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Certification tests your knowledge

by CG IT In reply to What should come first: E ...

if you have no knowledge then you won't pass the certification test.

unless of course you take those boot camps which basically give you the answers. But once in the real world, if you don't know, it will become apparent.

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I'd agree with that ...

by OldER Mycroft In reply to Certification tests your ...

If the OP ends up WITH a CompTIA certificate but still lacks any hands-on experience, it won't be long until it becomes glaringly apparent.

A certificate without any experience is like shooting yourself in the foot.

It's not beyond the realms of possibility that he could offer his time for free. That 'time' would then become experience.

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For me

by Wizard-09 In reply to What should come first: E ...

A good mix of the 2 would help you go along way, 1st thing would to get your foot in the door, then take the cert. Hope all goes well for you as i know how hard the economy is, it's took me 4 months with a MCSE and over 5 years doing the job.

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thanks guys...

by bburnette2003 In reply to For me

there are a handful of "mom and pop" computer repair stores in town, and i've sent them an honest upfront letter saying that i'm wanting to get into the field, and i would like to shadow/apprentice for no payment. i would just like to build a relationship with SOMETHING in the field. but as usual, i didn't get any response at all.

I am knowledgeable with basic level pc stuff. I already took my A+, but sadly i scored a 599, short of the 675 passing. While i felt bad initially about failing, i kept reminding myself that this is something i'm basically doing in the dark with no hands on.

i'm more than eager to do what it takes, even at the expense of a 30-40hr FREE workweek, to gain knowledge and advance myself. i'm not asking for a miracle, if i could land a $10/hr help desk job, i'd be happy as a clam.

With my initial post, i was just asking for advice, and for input from others about just how their career path went.

thanks again.

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by Tony Hopkinson In reply to What should come first: E ...

The original idea of certs was to put an industry accepted estimation of the value of your knowledge, no matter how accrued. Unfortunately they beacsem a vehicle for gaining that knowledge. Simple economics guaranteed that turned into to just enough knowledge to gain the cert.

In answer to your question, if you can get a related job and part time the way through your cert do it.
You get the cert muppets and the people who are more impressed with experience on board.
That wait a year is more like people suddenly realising without gaining formal recognition for what they know, they're liable to be doing this crappy job forever.

It was many many many moons ago but I got my first IT job in support at twenty four. I'd started a correspondance degree to get out of an even crappier job (data entry clerk). I continued to diploma level while in supoport and moved to my own choice development once I got it.
Learning is good, learning to apply it, is the key though, and you aren't going to do the latter in the classroom.

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the chicken or the egg?

by Churdoo In reply to What should come first: E ...

Well asking which to do first, i.e. experience or cert, is like asking "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"

As the other posters have indicated, it takes BOTH to be well rounded and successful in the field; as far as which order you do them in depends on the opportunities available to your situation. So don't stop hitting the books if you don't have any opportunities for experience at the moment. Keep hitting the books while you continue to look for experience building opportunities.

First, if I received a letter like the one that you've sent, I'd probably just file it too, but a personal appearance may make a better impression and may be taken more seriously. Free labor for a shop may sound like a good idea on the surface, but the reality is it may COST more time to babysit and spoon-feed an inexperienced intern than a ma/pa computer shop can afford. Through a personal introduction, perhaps you can convey that you'll be a self-starter, will not be training to take away their business by eventually starting your own shop, and will be a help and not a hinderance to their own time.

There are other ways to donate labor and/or gain experience. A lot of us started by working on "friends and family" computers. I can't tell you the number of times someone offered me dinner or drinks to come over and "look" at their computer. I'm glad they don't ask that much any more, but at the time it was a good (good, not great) experience builder.

Non-profit organizations are great places to donate labor, as they're always looking for handouts; are there any Churches or local non-profit Organizations you like to work with? Canvass those in your area and see if you can donate your time to some area non-profits. Are there any schools you can volunteer at to help turning computer labs?

So keep hitting the books and think of more creative ways to network with those that can help to build experience; and when you to land some way to build experience, don't stop with the books.

Good luck!

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