All posts by Julia Meyer

Adding Industry Certifications to Your Résumé

A graphic showing the fake résumé for a Peter S. Burg.

When you need to update your résumé to reflect your latest industry certification and be captivating at a glance, you have a few choices and a couple must-do’s. Our quick guide below will walk you through industry-certification specific tips, to help you land an interview after getting certified.

Choice: Listing your Certifications in your Heading

For single credential holders, or those with stackable certifications with their own unique title (think CompTIA Secure Infrastructure Specialist (CSIS) that implies CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+) including your credentials in your heading, after your name, might be a perfect fit. However, once you have amassed multiple credentials, this information is better in a short positioning statement at the top of your résumé, or even better, in a Stand-alone Certification section.

Choice: Stand-alone Certification section or Education & Certification combo

Whether you choose to position yourself using a traditional chronological résumé or trendy functional résumé, your certifications should help you stand out. I recommend a Certification section above your Education, especially if you hold more than one valid credential. You may choose instead, to list your certifications under your Education section, because creating another certification-specific section, may take up valuable space on your résumé.

I feel it is a personal choice that can be based on the amount of other information you would like to list on your résumé. Keeping in mind résumés should be one page long, and no longer than two, for high-level applicants. A veteran in their field may have more compelling Experience and value to highlight. A new-to-the field candidate could be better served by placing their Certifications front and center.

In my opinion, a dedicated certification section says just that—you are dedicated to building your specific technical skillset and your credentials can validate it.

Computer Science student works on a computer.

Must-Do: List the full Title and Acronym of your certification credential

It might be tempting to list only the acronym or common term for your certification (think CEH.) Given that most résumés are run through Applicant Tracking Systems before ever landing in front of a Recruiter or Hiring Manager, stack the deck in your favor by listing both terms: Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH.) This way, no matter how the system is tagged with the skillset they are looking for, your résumé will match it.

Must-Do: Note the Date you Certified, the Expiration Date, and any Unique Identifiers

Employers will be curious about your certifications. Help take the guesswork out of their process by explicitly stating your certification date, and expiration date (if applicable.) Include any unique identifying numbers associated with your credentials, in the same place. This will help Hiring Teams audit your credentials from your Certification Vendor’s website. Many times, without listing your credential ID number, or association number, your certification cannot be validated until you directly share further details with the hiring manager. Help them take the next step toward you, and share this information with them on the front-end.

Choice: List your Education after your Experience, or before

Traditionally, Education follows your Experience section. However, for students who have been certified or graduated recently, with less relevant experience in the workforce, I recommend listing your Certification and Education sections before your Experience. While waiting tables and computer networking administration have similar words in common (Server) the old workforce you, should not stand in the way of the new MCSA-certified you. If you are changing fields, list your latest education first.

Choice: Include Expired Certifications or not

If you have let a credential lapse because your most recent work did not require it, but your technical skillset is still valid and relevant for the positions you are applying for, you will need to decide how to incorporate it. Some experts suggest listing a lapsed credential under Education and in parenthesis noting expired. Otherwise, consider listing something similar in your Technical Skills Summary, a popular component of today’s IT résumés. If your expired certification was Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) but your (still) relevant technical skillset is Cisco Routing & Switching, list that under skills, and forgo the expired CCNA under Education.

Also important, if a skillset is no longer relevant because the industry has grown and changed since then; remove antiquated skills from all sections of your résumé. Leaving them takes up valuable space, makes it harder to find your latest skills, and might make you appear out-of-touch with your industry. Likewise, list only certifications and skillsets relevant to the jobs you are applying for, regardless if the certification is valid.

All of this to say, once you have added an industry certification to your professional portfolio, there are important considerations and choices for you to make when you take the next step in the workforce. Ensure you have a well-structured and relevant résumé that displays your credentials. Determine how your certifications, education, and experience, should be organized to position you best with these tips in mind. Are you looking for Career Development-Certified expertise? Connect with your campus Career Services Team.

Do you have any practical tips about how you positioned your certifications on your résumé with great success? Let me know in the comments below.

#GetCertifiedSPC #CareerSPC

After You Get Certified

Certified puzzle man

If you have been following our industry certification posts on the Careers & Internships blog over time, maybe you have read Industry Certification Explained and Certification Success Strategies. Perhaps they helped you earn your first industry certification. (If so, great job!) After all the hard work you put into getting certified, you might be ready for a break. However, the end of your certification journey is the beginning of your career journey, so do not stop yet.

Complete these six tasks to position yourself and your new credential in the workforce effectively.

1. Learn about CEUs and credential maintenance

2. Be aware of annual fees

3. Update your résumé

4. Download your digital badge

5. Enhance your email signature

6. Add to your LinkedIn profile

CEUs and Credential Maintenance

As we discussed previously there are two types of industry certifications, terminal, and evergreen. Terminal certifications are time-specific and do not require continuing education units. They focus on a software-specific skillset that includes the year of the product you certified in, like AutoDesk Certified User: AutoCAD 2019. Evergreen certifications remain valid overtime when the certified person earns CEUs. CompTIA A+ is an example of an evergreen certification.

CEU requirements vary greatly by certification provider and are typically managed in a Certification Tracking System on their website. Some CEUs may be earned free over time. CompTIA certification holders can accumulate free CEUs by attending their annual summit, ChannelCon online, and participating in CompTIA community activities throughout the year. AHIMA certified individuals are required to earn CEUs too, including an annual self-review our Medical Coders take as part of maintaining their CCA certification. In addition, various providers offer paid professional development trainings that earn CEUs.

It is so important to get familiar with your certification’s unique requirements immediately after being certified. You do not want to face losing your credential, or having to recertify. If you have multiple certifications to maintain from different providers, create a simple system for yourself to keep track of it all. Ensure you always know how many CEUs you have accumulated, and when you must submit them to your certification provider. Record your accumulated CEUs as you earn them to avoid becoming overwhelmed or forgetting some. Do not rely solely on provider reminders, instead, create a certification maintenance routine and schedule it on your calendar.

student

Annual Fees

Many certification holders will also be responsible for annual fees associated with their credential. Technology certification providers EC-Council and CompTIA, assess annual fees. Failure to be aware of this can come as quite a shock to those who are certified. The good news is the annual fee you pay to maintain your credential, often has professional association benefits tied to it and costs far less than recertifying.

Résumé

With each new certification you earn, it is important to update your résumé. You may even consider adding a certification section to it. Make sure to use the formal name of your certification, in addition to any commonly associated acronyms, to ensure applicant-tracking systems recognize your certification. If your certification has a unique ID number, include that too, to help a potential employer validate your credential more easily. If your latest certification were more recent than your latest education, consider listing your certification section first.

Digital Badge

A number of certification providers are choosing to establish a secure digital badging system for their credential holders. Real-time digital badge authentication makes it more difficult for individuals to position themselves as certified when they are not. Acclaim is a provider that supports many widely known certification badges. A great place to display your digital badge is on LinkedIn, and some individuals choose to embed them into their email signature. While badges require you to download a series of files and follow specific directions to set them up properly, it is time well spent.

You may find that some badges are too large for your email signature. Resist the urge to change the scale of the badge. Most providers have strict guidelines about how you can use their credential. Therefore, it is important to learn about their requirements. For now, use the badge on other social media platforms, and read on about how to list your certification in your email signature instead.

man using computer

Email Signature

When you have earned a credential without a badge, amassed several certifications, or your badge is too large for your email signature, it is appropriate to simply list your credential. Just as we mentioned in the Digital Badges section, certification providers are strict about how they would like you to list your certifications. You will want to visit your certification provider’s candidate guide or website to learn more about their requirements. In the meantime, here are a couple of suggestions.

It is appropriate to list your certification acronym after your last name unless you hold a graduate degree. In that case, list your certification after your degree. Once you have earned credentials that supersede prior certifications, ensure you only list your highest level of certification earned. For example, a Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) who becomes a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) would no longer display MTA, because their new certification shows an employer a higher-level of skill, and the skills of an MTA are therefore implied.

Those who have general credentials and specialty credentials from the same certification provider should list their general certification followed by their specialty. For example, Registered Health Information Technicians who are also Certified Coding Associates, would list RHIT, CCA after their last name. Commas separate all degrees and credentials.

LinkedIn

Lastly, it is time to update your “living” résumé, your LinkedIn profile. Create a separate section on your profile that focuses only on your third party certifications. As you did when you updated your résumé, ensure you list the full name of your certification, its provider, and the commonly recognized acronym. Allow recruiters to easily find your credentials through search terms and increase the possibility of them connecting with you.

Graduates Emily Varjassy and German Hall experienced this firsthand. Emily said, “Since earning my CompTIA Security+ certification…and adding it to my LinkedIn profile, I have seen an increase in the number of recruiters who reach out to me with opportunities…” While German leveraged his credential by seeking out cybersecurity recruiters on the platform and connecting with them when he began his job search. The connections he built, helped get his résumé directly to the HR department of his (now) employer.

Leveraging your industry certification to launch your career is easier when you learn about what to do after you get certified. Tasks like keeping a file that details CEU requirements for your credentials, budgeting for your annual certification fees, and keeping your professional presence up-to-date, will make a difference to you and your career when hitting the workforce certified.  To our readers who have been certified, what do you wish you had known about maintaining your certification sooner? Tell us in the comments below.

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Students Who Play in the National Cyber League (NCL) – Get Certified

NCL

During fall and spring semesters, members of our Cybersecurity Club, TitanSec, are hard at work solving cybersecurity challenges. These students are participating in the National Cyber League (NCL), an online high school and collegiate Capture the Flag Competition (CTF). While the competitions are fun, members of the NCL are putting in serious hours to prepare for industry certifications. These include CompTIA Security+ and EC-Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). This definitely does not feel like studying.

Contextualized out-of-class preparation helps students earn credentials to their degree.

Did you read my post about Certification Success Strategies? You may recall that most of our students who become certified, do so after spending at least 20-hours on out-of-class preparation. NCL members easily spend that amount of time completing the same type of technical challenges they will face in the workforce. As a fringe benefit, the challenges they encounter in the NCL were carefully aligned to both CompTIA Security+ and CEH certification competencies. Courses in the college’s Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics AS degree programs support both certifications. High-achieving students can become certified free, through use of Carl D. Perkins federal grant funds. The NCL provides students with a practical application to study topics they will be tested on. This makes preparing to certify more fun.

Challenge topics include:

Open Source Intelligence, Scanning, Enumeration and Exploitation, Password Cracking, Traffic Analysis, Log Analysis, Wireless Security, Cryptography and Web Application Security

A typical NCL Season Roster includes:

  • Veteran players certified in previous semesters
  • Newly certified students and those preparing for certification
  • Novice players beginning their cybersecurity courses and searching for an interactive way to make their learning stick

 Every skill level of cybersecurity student can enjoy playing in the NCL.

The NCL seasons have three phases over several weeks:

  1. Preseason (for bracket placement in Bronze, Silver, or Gold skill levels)
  2. Individual Game
  3. Team Game (Optional)

Participating students receive a NCL Scouting Report. This tracks their personal growth and may be shared with potential employers. They also receive continued access to the NCL Gymnasium, a practice area where they can develop their skills through guided challenges.

Once the season ends, many NCL participants sign-up for their certification exam dates. This past season, five of our NCL members became CompTIA Security+ certified. Several more students continue to prep as their exam date nears. Once CompTIA Security+ certified, most players go on to earn CEH too. The student benefit of a paid-CEH certification is $1,199.

Our certification-aligned courses can be referenced on each programs Academic Pathway. For more information about participating in the fall season’s National Cyber League, finding a cybersecurity tutor, or our free certification opportunities for Career and Technical Education students, email Julia Meyer Certification Testing Coordinator. #GetCertifiedSPC

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Certification Success Strategies

certification success

Prepare for certification success! Save yourself from being overwhelmed. Learn proven strategies our students use to get ready for an industry certification and succeed.

Have you read the details of our post Industry Certification Explained? Are you curious about how to successfully earn certifications too? Guiding students in our workforce programs through the certification process, I have learned tips that lead to success. Most students who achieved certification have the same prep strategies in common.

The Formula for Certification Success

  1. Know Yourself and Take Care of Yourself
  2. Create a Plan
  3. Stay Accountable
  4. Use Multiple Resources
  5. Study Often
  6. Envision your Success and Have Fun

Know Yourself, and Take Care of Yourself

When working toward a goal, it is important that you approach the process with self-reflection. You should know what supports your personal success, or inhibits it.

Self-Reflection Question to Ask: How do I learn best?

Play to your strengths. Utilize study methods that support how you gather and retain information. The way we learn is as unique as we are. Consider these type of study strategies:

  • Watch videos and take illustrative notes to help with recall (Visual learner)
  • Listen to competency topics on certification podcasts (Auditory learner)
  • Read certification guides and take notes to help with recall (Tactile learner)
  • Find a certification-based game, like the National Cyber League (NCL) to participate in, or use a Test Prep app (Kinesthetic learner)

Once you know how you learn best, ask yourself a few questions about your environment.

Self-Reflection Questions to Ask: When, where, and how long am I most productive?

If you are not a night owl, do not plan to study late in the evening. If you hate early mornings that is not a good fit either! Define where you will study and stick to this space when possible. If you cannot focus in a messy space, organize your study area (but do not get distracted elsewhere, procrasticleaning is real.) Eat a healthy snack before your study session to fight off another potential distraction. If studying at home turns into an uphill battle for your attention, make a plan for where and when you will prep. If you cannot make it to your favorite study space, consider using earplugs, noise canceling headphones, or playing low-volume instrumental music.

The key is to figure out what works best for your life, attention span, obligations, and schedule. Determine when you will take breaks and set a timer to ensure you do. Most students I surveyed set study sessions for themselves that were between 30 to 90-minutes long, but almost never longer.

Some exams are over three hours long and do not allow for scheduled breaks. It is difficult for even the best-prepared candidate to thrive when tired and hungry. So, please, do not forget to meet your basic needs during this process:

  • Get Enough Sleep
  • Hydrate Yourself
  • Feed Yourself Properly
  • Take Breaks
  • Move Your Body Regularly

Create a Plan

Next commit to an exam date, and keep it. Having a set test date helped many of testers stay engaged and motivated. Students who do not choose an exam date, but want to pursue certification, rarely take the next step. Develop a 30-day study plan in a physical or online planner, and work backwards from your exam date.

Visit your certification vendor’s website and download a copy of the official certification competencies. These lists include all topics you might be questioned on during your exam, and typically remind you of any vocabulary or acronyms unique to the certification you are pursuing.

Here are three separate strategies to begin the study process:

  • What percentage of the exam is focused on X competency area? Begin with the larger percentage sections, to ensure you spend enough time covering them. Most exam competencies are not weighted equally; therefore, being strong in the larger areas is important.
  • What areas am I least familiar with? Begin here, because you may need to revisit them more often until you know these areas well.
  • Find a topic that interests you and begin there to gain momentum for your study session.

Pre-plan what competencies you will focus on, when, and for how long. Build in buffer-time. In reality, we do not work as well under pressure. Procrastination causes anxiety! Make use of practice exam questions to check your understanding of the material.  

Stay Accountable

Many of us need deadlines and accountability to be successful and achieve our goals. Seek a support system at the beginning of the process, not the end. How do you meet expectations? Do you need an accountability partner? Choose a friend, a family member, or a weekly appointment with a Learning Resources Tutor. How about a social media post to family, or an alarm for a reminder? Choose someone or something that will keep you accountable.

Use Multiple Resources

“The reason for this is that it gives you fresh perspective and exposure to different wording in test questions.” Jacob Leffew, Oracle Certified Associate Java Programmer

Our next strategy focuses on resources. It is not uncommon for our students to arrive on exam day with no further preparation than their knowledge from the classroom. Our 8-week modmester courses cannot cover the same depth of competency areas you will experience on a certification exam. Certifications are not only knowledge based, but also closely examine your practical skills. They test your ability to understand a topic, perform an action, and provide a solution or result.

Resources to Guide Your Certification Success:

  • Reread relevant chapters in your textbooks
  • Reference multiple exam prep guides
  • Take several practice exams to test your knowledge regularly

Study Often

After surveying a group of students who got certified, nearly all of them spent more than 20 hours preparing. Many spent over 30 hours. Some study more frequently the week leading up to their exam, and some found they were productive with 2-3 hour study sessions. They all have persistence and discipline in common. If you create a 30-day study plan, and commit to 90-minute preparation sessions, you will only need to schedule 20 days of focused study. You will find other times to sneak in small study-sessions, too. CompTIA A+ Tutor, Bill Wantling, found low-cost apps with practice questions helpful when he had limited time, and access to only his phone. Repetition and review is essential.

Envision your Success and Have Fun

Mastering your mindset is key. Let go of your fear of being unsuccessful and focus on how you will feel when you earn your certification. What will you do once you are certified? For most of our students, they start planning for their next certification. Do the work now and be steadfast in your process of preparing to certify. You will be better equipped for each new certification opportunity and more importantly, your career.

If you have set yourself up properly, there is little need to “cram,” just before the exam.

With this in mind, student, German Hall, Certified Ethical Hacker, recommends planning a fun activity the day before your exam. It is time to relax and envision your success. You are almost there – do something non-certification related and be present in the moment. This will help lower your anxiety as your exam appointment grows near.

With these certification success strategies in mind, I hope you feel less overwhelmed when you begin to approach your study for an industry certification.

Did you already #GetCertifiedSPC and use a tactic I didn’t discuss? Share your experience with other students in the comment section below!

Need more information about industry certifications? Contact Julia Meyer, Certification Testing Coordinator. 

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Workforce Education Leads to Jobs – Celebrating National CTE Month

Technology - CTE Month

In Pinellas County, St. Petersburg College is a great plan for students who wish to pursue Career and Technical Education. We offer free college credits to begin your AS degree, impactful learning experiences bridging college to career, and industry certification costs paid in many of our programs. All at nearly half-the cost of state-universities. Each February we celebrate CTE Month® in support of The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE).

At SPC, 104 of our programs prepare students to enter high-wage, high-demand fields that fall within the Florida Department of Education’s CTE Career Clusters®.

The impact of CTE education STEMs into many of our Career and Academic Communities:

There is great support for CTE, both federally and within our state. Governor DeSantis recently issued an executive order announcing his administration’s intent to make Florida “number-one in Workforce Education by 2030.” The newly reauthorized Carl D. Perkins V Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins), a federally funded grant, will continue to enhance our CTE programs for years to come.

Our commitment to CTE opportunities for students through use of Perkins funds is all around:

  • Connecting with Pinellas County School students who may qualify for free college credits after completing CTE courses in high school
  • Staffing our New Initiative Program that provides instructional support to our health students
  • Awarding free industry certification exam attempts to eligible students in several CTE programs
  • Providing state-of-the-art equipment for hands-on learning, like 3-D printers in Engineering Technology, a SynDaver Surgical Canine soon-to-be in use by Veterinary Nursing students, and a new fleet of police cars for our Cadets

In order to foster community, SPC stays connected with our Pinellas County Schools. Together, we ensure strong career pathways for our future students. Many PCS students begin CTE programs early on their academic path. Some even earn industry certifications that build into “stackable credentials” as they advance their knowledge and skill – sometimes as early as middle school. That is why SPC promotes over 44 articulation agreements for recent PCS graduates to claim their free college credit from prior CTE coursework (and certifications) when they join us. Claiming their credits lessens their cost of attending St. Petersburg College, and makes their time to graduation shorter because they will not need to take certain courses within their degree program.

Students highly engaged in CTE programs during secondary school, are more likely to have a post-secondary school plan. The state collective, Advance CTE, reports that just two-percent of CTE students say they “don’t know” what they will do after high school.

CTE is also commonly known as Workforce Education, because it leads to jobs. In these fields, students can begin their careers after completing short term training, or earning an Associate in Science degree. CTE programs at SPC include career preparation milestones, and internships. Our degrees and certificates are great options for Career Changers, like student German Hall. He left his former industry of Sports Medicine to pursue Cybersecurity. German found our free certification opportunities to be just what he needed to switch career paths. German quoted, “If you have entry-level knowledge, consider CompTIA Network+ and Security+ certification to differentiate yourself.” After earning his CompTIA Security+ certification, he landed a position in a busy Security Operations Center (SOC) in Las Vegas. He moved across country to begin his new career, and accepted a higher salary than his former position – all before graduation. Our convenient online courses have allowed him to continue his studies with us.

At St. Petersburg College, our Career and Technical Education programs prepare students to enter a variety of in-demand fields. Embedded free certifications and on-the-job work experiences put them at the forefront of their industry. These opportunities are available to our students year round. Learn more about us, or take your next step and enroll during National CTE Month. #CTEmonth #careerSPC #GetCertifiedSPC

Industry Certification Explained

industry certification

If you are looking for ways to differentiate yourself in the job market, adding industry certifications (alongside your college degree) may be just what you need. Many of our students pursuing Associate in Science degrees at St. Petersburg College are already earning certifications free, through federal grant funding. Some of those certifications include CompTIA Security+, Adobe Certified Associate Photoshop, and Autodesk Certified User AutoCAD.

We have featured a few of their success stories on the blog:

Career Changer: Sports Medicine to Cybersecurity

MSP:In Step with the New Economy

#GetCertifiedSPC- Cybersecurity

SPC Titan Alumni:Where Are They Now? – Emily Varjassy

However, the differences between a certification and a traditional college course exam are too often confused. This confusion sometimes results in students who sit for their first certification exam unprepared. Let me explain industry certifications in depth, so you can arrive to your certification exam as prepared as possible.

What is an industry certification and why should you care?

An industry certification is a voluntary process where individuals are assessed by an independent, third-party certifying entity, using predetermined standards for knowledge, skills, and competencies. When a certification exam is passed, it results in the award of a credential that is nationally (and sometimes internationally) recognized. Some examples of certification entities are AHIMA, Autodesk, CompTIA, and Cisco. Industry certifications are valuable to employers because they verify a job candidate’s technical skillset. By having earned the certification credential, an employer can safely assume that the candidate has proven knowledge and skill in a particular subject. Industry certification exams are rigorous and unlike any exam you have ever completed. Although certification exams are difficult, many can still be earned with short-term training, before graduation.

That is why SPC has aligned over 30 courses in our Associate in Science and certificate programs with industry-recognized certifications. We also have many reciprocal agreements called articulations,which award free college credit toward a particular degree program for valid certifications you earn even before you become a student with us.

Knowledge gained in the classroom lays the foundation for the practical skills you will apply when taking a certification exam. Some classes at SPC include industry certification exams as final exams. However, make no mistake, additional preparation outside of the classroom will be necessary before you get ready to certify. Before I explain how you can prepare, let’s dive further into the two ways industry certifications are classified.

What is the difference between an Evergreen and a Terminal Industry Certification?

Most certifications are referred to as evergreen and require the credentialed individual to meet continuing education (CE)requirements to maintain their certification over time. Think of the nurturing it takes to keep an evergreen tree alive. Comp TIAA A+ is an example of evergreen certification.  If an individual does not actively seek continuing education (nurturing) during the period of time their certification is valid (typically 1 to 3 years), the credential may lapse and they would have to sit for the certification exam again. The good news is that CE units are oftentimes free through the certification entity when you participate in their live events, serve on advisory panels, or watch a webinar. A great way to ensure you are notified of these options is to join their certification-specific mailing list. You may find yourself automatically receiving these updates once you are certified! Although not as appealing as free CE units, some entities offer lower-cost recertification options to keep a credential valid. CompTIA’s CertMaster,is a great example.

A terminal certification (time specific) focuses on a software specific skillset and includes the year of the product exam.  For example, I hold a QuickBooks Certified User (QBCU) 2015 certification (time driven so terminal). As QuickBooks software improves and new versions are made available, I could choose to earn the latest version and ensure my skillset is “of-the-moment.”  Nevertheless, my terminal QBUC 2015 certification remains valid and does not require CE.

How to prepare for an industry certification exam          

After surveying a group of our certified students, I found that they had a few things in common with the way they approached their certification preparation.

Their proven framework will help you take your next step along the path to certifying:

  • Each spent more than 20 hours outside of class preparing; a few spent more than 30 hours.
  • They created a plan to keep themselves accountable, scheduling study time at regular intervals. Most used their exam date as a target, and worked backwards to determine how often they would study.
  • Each student used the certification objectives they would be tested on, to guide their study. They accessed the objectives (sometimes called competencies) from their certification entities website. To save themselves from overwhelm, they broke up sections of competency areas and focused on one section at a time during a study session. Some certifications include more than 100 individual competencies.
  • They utilized more than one resource to prepare. This included exam guides available on reserve at several of SPC’s campus libraries, as well as KAPLAN IT‘s practice exam portal (provided by SPC to students pursuing certification.)
  • They regularly tested their knowledge through practice exams, and did not continue to focus on competencies they knew well. Practice exam tools are useful because in addition to testing your knowledge, they will explain why an answer is incorrect, and another answer is correct. If your certification exam is simulated (versus Live-in-App), using a practice exam product is closest to the way your actual certification exam will look and feel.

Here’s the recap of what I covered:

  • What is an industry certification
  • Why employers value candidates who are certified
  • The framework for how successful students have prepared and earned industry certifications.

 I hope you feel more confident about taking your next steps toward an industry certification.

Did you already #GetCertifiedSPC? Share your experience with other students in the comment section below!

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Career Changer: Sports Medicine to Cybersecurity

Career change sign - sports medicine to cybersecurity

Curious about changing careers? We caught up with Cybersecurity student, German Hall shortly after he accepted his first position in the IT field. He moved across the country to work for ReliaQuest (a MSP headquartered in Tampa) at their Las Vegas, NV, Security Operations Center (SOC). In our discussion, he shared details about his job search, employer’s hiring process, and initial salary offer. A glimpse into German’s new role will inspire you to take the next step in your career even before graduation.

Titan Interview: German Hall

Employer: ReliaQuest

Title: Associate Security Analyst (Tier 1)

Length of Time in Position: Three months

Industry Certifications: CompTIA Security+, Certified Ethical Hacker, Cisco Certified Entry Network Technician

Education: Currently earning an Associate in Science in Cybersecurity, St. Petersburg College, previously earned a Masters in Movement Science, Barry University, Miami Shores, FL.

From Sports Medicine to Cybersecurity:

With a former career in sports medicine, and a graduate degree in Movement Science, why did you decide to make a career change?

“There was limited room for growth professionally and financially, and little life-work balance in my former industry. I was working six days per week and my schedule was unknown 10 months out of the year.”

What advice would you give others preparing for their first position in cybersecurity?

“If you have entry-level knowledge, consider CompTIA Network+ and Security+ certification to differentiate yourself. Take a Cisco course, and understand networking and security principles. Build a home lab. It is easier to start in a Security Operations Center that provides great training!”

You found ReliaQuest’s job post on LinkedIn. As an entry-level cybersecurity professional, still completing your degree, how did you get them to notice you?

“I heard lots of ‘no’ (before I found ReliaQuest.) I built a home lab setting up virtual machines, because I did not have any field experience. My Kali Linux experience has helped, too. They were looking for employees with entry-level knowledge. I had both strong foundational knowledge and industry certifications, from taking online courses at SPC.”

“I connected with many cybersecurity recruiters on LinkedIn, but one day I saw a suggested job post for ReliaQuest, not through any of my connections. I direct messaged their recruiter, who sent my resume straight to their HR department. Four days later, they called me for an initial interview, which consisted of basic security principle questions. I went through five interviews over the course of two-weeks. At each stage of the interview process, I would hear a response within 24 to 48 hours. I accepted their initial salary offer of $60,000 per year.”

You moved across the country to work for them, is there something about this employer that made you excited to take that leap?

“They have rapidly grown their Security Operations Centers from a Tampa start-up in 2007, to serving over 200 large businesses nationally and internationally. At our site, their retention rate of employees is about 90%. Everyone’s voice is valued. They pride themselves on culture, and seek to hire people who are team players. I had to take a Culture Test! When I arrived in Las Vegas, I completed an intensive, month-long proprietary training program. The support from my managers was great.”

It is important to note, that at the same time German was completing his training, he was studying for his Certified Ethical Hacker certification, funded by SPC. He became a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) shortly after.

What is your typical day at ReliaQuest like?

“I currently work ‘C’ shift, from 6:00 pm to 3:00 am each week. I work on-site at their Security Operations Center, which operates 24/7, 365. Most of ReliaQuest’s new associates are scheduled then, when the volume is lower. My main role is to provide incident response for our customers when an incident is detected in their environment. I am responsible for determining the threat factor and how they were able to compromise a user or system. I investigate and suspicious or malicious acts. It is my job to take the burden off their cybersecurity team. A written report accompanies every ticket (incident).   We have service level agreements (SLA) in place with our customer call-out tree for before and after hour’s calls.”

Your employer has rapidly grown since they were a start-up. Did they explain how they would help you grow with them?

“Yes, they try to promote from within. I am currently an Associate Security Analyst (Tier 1) and every six to nine months, I will be eligible for assessment by our Career Review Committee. If a promotion were awarded, I would receive a 10 % raise with each step-up. If the Career Review Committee rules at six months that no promotion will be given, they will reassess me on the next available CRC date.

After one year of service with them, they will cover my costs of earning a new industry certification, or provide a certain amount toward higher education. They have an excellent pathway for growth, including leadership and technical positions. My next step is SOC (Security Operations Center) Analyst (Tier 1).”

What is next for you?

“I am working towards becoming a Tier 2 Security Analyst and will be studying to become CCNA Security certified.”

Thank you for your time and sharing your student perspective in your new career, Cyber Security. German differentiated himself online three ways:

  • Through use of social media – LinkedIn
  • Directly connecting with recruiters in his desired field
  • Earning a body of industry certifications before he had in-field experience.

A new career like German’s can be yours too. Get started today earning your Associate in Science in Cybersecurity with SPC, students who perform well academically, have opportunities to earn several industry certifications FREE. Are you applying for a job with ReliaQuest? Let them know that German Hall referred you!

Follow us on Instagram or Twitter at #careerspc#spcintern,,  #workforcespc. and #GetCertifiedSPC

MSP: In Step with the New Economy

MSP remote work

What is an MSP? Businesses looking to scale and stay current with their technology are outsourcing technical work. They are using managed services providers (MSPs) instead of maintaining an in-house IT department.

MSP is a relatively new business model in IT operation. Growth of the managed services market is estimated to increase 10 percent year-over-year through 2022, according to a Markets and Markets report published last fall. Now is a great time to get familiar with what managed services providers do for the businesses they serve. Now is also a good time to add MSP to your job search keywords.

What do managed services providers (MSPs) do?

Managed services providers offer and manage a service (or bundle of services) for a business on an on-going basis. Their services may be provided on site at the client’s establishment or offered remotely through cloud computing.

Small and medium-sized enterprises are choosing to work with MSPs because of the reliability and stability using cloud computing.  Support is often available to clients of an MSP 24/7. Each business-to-business relationship has an agreement, which states what services are performed and how the two businesses will operate once the partnership is in place. Fees for the service may be paid on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis.

Think of an MSP as a subscription service providing day-to-day technical support for a business’ operations, cloud-based network, security monitoring, or management of their IT infrastructure.

Your experience is as valuable as your technical talent working for MSP

Employees of managed services providers work directly for the MSP  and indirectly for clients. This means that interpersonal skills like customer service, honed from previous job experience (like prior interviewee Adam McCarty’s time in Hospitality) become particularly important. You are responsible for effectively communicating with stakeholders on both sides of the service agreement. In a more complex scenario, some employees of MSPs manage multiple client accounts. They must balance the expectations of each client, perform their technical work, and be transparent and communicative with everyone.

Two St. Petersburg College Titan alumni who are working for an MSP in different roles were interviewed about their work.

Khoi “Tiger” Chu, a 2016 SPC graduate, talked about his  first six months working remotely for GuidePoint Security, LLC as a Virtual Security Operations Center (vSOC) Analyst.

And check out an earlier interview with Adam McCarty to learn more about his experience working on site for clients of his MSP employer, Lair Services, Inc.

Titan Alumni Interview, Tiger Chu: Why I chose to work for a Managed Services Provider

Tiger’s employer, GuidePoint Security LLC, runs high-availability virtual security operations centers and has team members available 24/7. When he chose to work there, the flexibility of having a remote position weighed heavily on his decision.

“For my job, as long as there is a reliable internet connection, I can work. I can stay more focused working from home and in my comfort zone. I only commute to the office when our clients are visiting,” Tiger said.

For those who crave flexibility in their schedule but are sick of the gig-economy, the emergence of managed services providers locally (many with benefits) could be the next best step.

How does Tiger stay connected with his managers, team members, and clients?

  • “I use Slack to communicate with my team.”
  • “Meet face-to-face weekly with our clients using Zoom video conferencing.”

Tiger also explained that large businesses are choosing MSPs as a cost-saving measure over hiring, training, and retaining, in-house cybersecurity staff.

A typical shift

  • I monitor our security information and event management (SIEM) software for suspicious events.
  • Validate the strange activity, then document and manage my incidents in our case management system.
  • We use a ticketing system to report the incidents to our clients.
  • He regularly answers questions his clients raise, and provides guidance to resolve their issues.

With small, medium, and large businesses choosing to invest in technical talent through managed services providers, your next search on a job board should include MSP.

Earn your CCNA and CompTIA Security+ Certifications Free at SPC

Students looking to position themselves for work with managed services providers can leverage their technology degree from SPC through earning industry certifications aligned with their coursework. The Carl D. Perkins IV Grant for Career and Technical Education will fund exam fees for high-performing students. With opportunities to earn credentials from CompTIA, Cisco, and EC-Council, and a private Pearson VUE authorized testing center, SPC makes taking the next step on your career path easier.

For more information on these certifications, contact Julia Meyer, Certification Testing Coordinator in the Career Connections department at SPC.

Follow us on Instagram or Twitter at #careerspc#spcintern, and #workforcespc.

#GetCertifiedSPC – Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity Word Cloud

Curious how St. Petersburg College alumni have used their skill sets, industry certifications, and college degrees to land great jobs? Do you want to know where their SPC Titan education has taken them?  Check out this alumni story and #GetCertifiedSPC through SPC’s FREE certification opportunity for high-performing career and technical education students. MAKE MORE out of your skills with a Cybersecurity Associate in Science degree.

SPC alumnus Adam McCarty was offered his first job in Technology with Lair Services, Inc. a managed services provider well before graduation. He is now a Service Engineer overseeing all of the day-to-day IT operations for a powerful Lair Services client, in Downtown St. Petersburg. Learn more about his path below, and make sure to check out our previous Titan Alumni post with Emily Varjassy, Cybersecurity Certificate graduate.

SPC Titan Alumni Employment & Academic Profile

SPC Graduate: James (Adam) McCarty

Employer: Lair Services, Inc. – a managed services provider (subcontractor for client in Downtown St. Petersburg)

Title: Service Engineer (Technician level)

Length of Time in Position: nine months

Industry Certifications: CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+

Education: Associate in Science in Cybersecurity, St. Petersburg College, December 2017

Cybersecurity Certification from St. Petersburg College Helped Him Land a Job Before Graduation

“Just before earning my Associate in Science degree in Cybersecurity with SPC, I began working for Lair Services, Inc.  This is a managed IT service provider with over 100 client accounts ranging from small to large businesses in the Tampa Bay area. My CompTIA Network+ and Security+ certifications helped me land the job before graduation. I currently work full-time on site with our second largest client, a reputable accounting firm in downtown St. Petersburg. As the only on-site technical support for this business, I am responsible for all of their day-to-day IT operations. That ranges from providing cybersecurity training to their employees and (clients), remotely troubleshooting issues, installing software updates, as well as managing our terminal server connections, in-house file-server, and firewall settings.”

“My certifications coupled with my experience in hospitality (where I developed customer service skills) played a big role in why I was chosen for my position over other candidates. Being personable is essential in both industries! When people are hungry, or their internet does not work – it is easy for them to get upset. But when you are pleasant and you feed them, or fix their computer, everyone is back to being your friend!”

How to Successfully Get Certified

“The classroom provides the foundation for your certification exams, but it is just not possible for the depth of each competency to be gone over in an 8-week class. You must go further on your own before you sit for a certification exam, if you want to succeed. I used a lot of supplemental resources like YouTube, forums, and the Exam Cram guides available at SPC’s libraries.”

Building up my Industry Certification Portfolio

“I may earn my bachelor’s degree in the future, but for now I’ll continue to build my portfolio of IT certifications and gain further experience in the field. I am studying for EC-Councils’ Certified Ethical Hacker (certification) right now.”

Get Certified through SPC

Have you received a FREE #GetCertifiedSPC invitation from your professor? Did you schedule your exam date? Do not wait – there is still time! Email meyer.julia@spcollege.edu. Let us get you in the certification pipeline so you can MAKE MORE out of your skills with certification!

If you would like to share your career progression as an alumni with other Titans, including how your education and opportunities (like FREE industry certifications) at SPC helped you get there, email Julia Meyer, Certification Testing Coordinator with SPC’s  Career Connections to make it happen.

Follow us on Twitter at #careerspc, #spcintern, #workforcespc

SPC Titan Alumni: Where Are They Now? – Emily Varjassy

Alumni

Curious how St. Petersburg College alumni have used their skill sets, industry certifications, and college degrees to land a great job? Do you want to know where their SPC Titan education has taken them?  Check out this alumni story and #GetCertifiedSPC through SPC’s FREE certification opportunity for high-performing career and technical education students. See where a cybersecurity certificate can take you.

SPC alumna Emily Varjassy entered into the dynamic and rapidly changing field of cybersecurity. She’s now a BayCare Health System employee and member of the organization’s Information Systems (IS) Security and Compliance Team.

SPC Titan Alumni Employment & Academic Profile

SPC alumna Emily Varjassy
Emily Varjassy

SPC Graduate: Emily Varjassy

Employer: BayCare Health System, IS (Information Systems) Security and Compliance Team

Title: IS Compliance Analyst

Length of Time in Position: 1 Year (4 Years with BayCare Health System)

Industry Certification: CompTIA Security+

Education: Cybersecurity Certificate, St. Petersburg College, December 2017

Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences, concentration in Biological Science, University of South Florida, May 2014

Emily Varjassy: The Beginning of My Career Pathway

“Four years ago, I was in my last semester of my bachelor’s program with the University of South Florida, and I needed a for-credit internship. BayCare Health System was hiring interns, and I envisioned myself working with their Project Managers. I ended up interviewing with their Chief Information Security Officer (along with a few other potential interns) and I was chosen! The day I found out, I called my Mom crying. I was terrified to begin working in such a technical department without IT experience. Nevertheless, the opportunity was extended, I had accepted, and my internship grade was on the line. There was no turning back. Despite being out of my comfort zone, I ended up loving it.

“Right after graduation, I was offered a full-time position as an IS User Provisioning Generalist. Each year since, I have enjoyed increased responsibilities and received promotions. To support my professional development and technical skill, BayCare funded my Cybersecurity Certificate at SPC. I took one class each modmester (two per semester) while working full-time. I had plenty of ah-ha moments while completing my certificate. Some of my colleagues (on the Incident Response Team) use the tools I was exposed to in class. I found I could relate the topics covered in my certificate program back to scenarios I encountered at work. It helped me grasp the concepts more quickly!

“Now, I oversee our Security Awareness Program, conducting in-field and online training as well as presentations about cybersecurity for all BayCare employees. I even get to send out phishing emails to them. If they click on the content I sent, they are automatically enrolled in our mandatory online cybersecurity training.”

Certification Increased My Visibility (to Recruiters)

“Since earning my CompTIA Security+ certification last year, and adding it to my LinkedIn profile, I have seen an increase in the number of recruiters who reach out to me with opportunities. My education allowed me to be promoted from IS User Provisioning Generalist to IS Data Security Analyst a year sooner than my employers expected. Now, when I attend meetings with C-Level leaders in my organization, I understand the technical terminology that is discussed, thanks to my certificate at SPC and CompTIA certification.”

Building up my Industry Certification Portfolio

“In this field, experience and certification is what it takes to move forward in your career! Eventually, I would like to earn my master’s degree and become a Senior IS Compliance Analyst. For now, I will gain more experience, and earn more certifications. I am considering certifications like Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).”

Get Certified through SPC

Have you received a FREE #GetCertifiedSPC invitation from your professor? Did you schedule your exam date? Don’t wait – there’s still time! Email meyer.julia@spcollege.edu. Let’s get you in the certification pipeline so you can see yourself CERTIFIED!

If you would like to share your career progression as an alumni with other TITANS, including how your education and opportunities (like FREE industry certifications) at SPC helped you get there, email Julia Meyer, Certification Testing Coordinator with SPC’s  Career Connections to make it happen.

Follow us on Twitter at #careerspc, #spcintern, #workforcespc.