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What are the best and cheapest certifications to help move a career forward?

What should a highly educated (I have a MEd in Kinesiology) PC Technician focus on as far as certifications to move my new career forward in this tight job market? I don't want to waste a minute or a dime that I don't have to.

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Great question. If you're already working as a PC technician, don't quit your job until you find a new one. You'll have to decide whether you want to advance within a help desk/support role or whether you want to switch into a regular IT role as a system or network administrator. If you decide to go the former course (help desk/support), I suggest looking into the Microsoft Certified Help Desk Technician certification, as well as offerings from the STI Knowledge folks like the Certified Help Desk Professional (CHDP; or offerings from the Service and Support Professionals Association (SSPA), like the Certified Support Professional (CSP) credential. For a complete list of such offerings, visit then select "HelpDesk" from the "Find By Technology Area" pull-down menu.

If you decide to go the system/network analyst course, you'll need to decide whether you want to work with Windows, Linux, Unix and so forth, then either investigate relevant offerings or stick to network infrastructure and go after Cisco or telecom certification instead.

I imagine I've probably raised as many questions as I've answered, so please e-mail me at if you'd like to get some dialog going on this subject.

This was first published in December 2003

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