UPDATED 2019

Computer Skills Test Guide

Computer Skills Test Guide
What: Computer certification testing allows IT and IS professionals a concrete way to demonstrate their skill set.
Who: Certification in computer technology is available from multiple companies and vendors.
Where: Certification may be available through online testing or require on-site demonstration and training.
When: Certification should be approached by technology professionals who want to advance their careers, prove their skills or gain an edge in performance.
How: Testing may be conducted on-site at the providing company online.
Type: Computerized.
Why: Certification offers a verifiable method to assure performance and knowledge in technology professionals.
Time: Most computer certification tests will take upward of an hour and some may take several hours.
Language: Multiple languages.
Preparation: Many preparation materials are available.
Cost: Varies.

By Beau Johnson, Tests.com Contributing Writer

For professionals in computer technology fields, such as software engineering or information technology, computer certifications are a valuable way to prove technical skills, and may very well make the difference in job eligibility or earnings level. Some completed tests may even count for college credits. Computer certifications ensure that certified individuals have competency with certain systems or software.

Types of Certifications

Certifications may come from specific technology companies that tailor training to their product lines, or may be available from third parties that offer certifications without catering to any specific technology group. The most successful and popular programs tend to come from the specific vendors, as those certifications are generally more specific and directly pertain to the sponsoring company’s products.

The Certification Process and its Rewards

The process to attain one of these certifications can be arduous, and is often expensive. According to the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP), certification should be viewed as a commitment to professionalism in the IT/IS field and requires the passing of objective examinations and then annually recertifying currency in the field. It is a means of assessing one’s skills, career advancement, gaining membership in a professional peer group, and deriving satisfaction from testing against the highest standards in the industry.

Some of the most highly-sought and rewarding certifications are explained below:

Cisco Systems

Cisco offers four levels and seven different paths of IT certification. The levels are entry, associate, professional and expert, and the paths are professional concentrations—routing & switching, design, network security, service provider, storage networking, voice or wireless. Costs vary widely, from around $350 for associate certification test costs to nearly $2000 for expert CCIE certification. Cisco certifications are some of the highest paying in the industry, however, so the achievement may be well worth the cost. A written test is required, and a lab test may also be included, depending on the chosen program.

Citrix Certifications

There are three series in the Citrix Certification Series: administrator, engineer and architect. Citrix also offers “partner certifications” for instructors and sales professionals. The certification manager tool on the Citrix website allows users to track progress on the route to certification and receive more detailed information on available programs.

CompTIA A+ and Other Certifications

The CompTIA A+ program offers certification for IT Technician, Remote Support Technician and Depot Technician. It is a vendor-neutral certification that is international and widely recognized. CompTIA also offers other certification exams that cover everything from network maintenance to document imaging. The company also offers the popular Network+ and Server+ accreditations, as well as Linux certification, which is a very important and popular option for demonstrating mastery of the popular operating system. Testing in the United States ranges from the low-$200 range to almost $500 to attain certification through any test.

ISC2 Certifications

ISC2 is an accrediting organization that offers certification to information security professionals. Their certifications are SSCP, CAP, CSSLP and CISSP. The CISSP—Certified Information Systems Security Professional—is the most advanced level of accreditation they offer, and was the first credential in the field of information security, accredited by the American National Standards Institute and the International Standards Organization, and is a globally recognized achievement, according to the ISC2 website.

Microsoft

Microsoft offers certification covering their entire line of technology, ranging from the business worker series, emphasizing the Microsoft Office System, to the technology series, professional series, master series and uppermost architect series. Completion of the architect series grants the title of Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) on the earner, and demonstrates proficiency on products such as the Microsoft .NET framework, Windows Server and SQL Server. The certification tracks require a varying number of tests, at an approximate $125 per test. Recertification is not necessary, but as tracks are discontinued or reorganized, certified professionals will have to successfully complete the replacement exams to maintain their accreditations.

Novell

Novell offers a wide range of certifications for engineers, professionals, administrators and instructors, including Linux certifications. The company touts their programs as simpler to attain than most, with no required classes, free online skill evaluations and only testing required to attain certification. Test fees vary, but in the US, standard testing fees are $125 and $195 for a practicum.

Oracle

Oracle offers a myriad of certifications for Linux, PeopleTools, Oracle Communications, PeopleSoft Enterprise 9, Hyperion, Siebel, Oracle E-Business Suite, Oracle Application Server, Forms Developer and Database Administration. Certification requires instructor-led training and test completion. Test costs start at $90. According to the company, there are more than 440,000 Oracle Certified Professionals worldwide.

Sun

Sun offers certification on their popular Java platform at the levels of associate, programmer and developer. From the associate level, the certification process may progress to specialty certifications of web development, business component developer, developer for Java Web Services and mobile application developer, all paths to becoming a Sun Certified Enterprise Architect (SCEA), the top tier of Sun certification. The stated goal of Sun certification is to test on a particular job role, so the company suggests Sun training prior to taking the exam. All certifications require a minimum of one successful test, at an approximate cost of $150 or more each.

Other Certifications

  • Accelerated SAP
  • Adobe Certifications
  • AIS (Advanced Information Security)
  • AWP (Associate Webmaster Professional)
  • BCIP (Brainbench Certified Internet Professional)
  • BEA Systems
  • Brainbench
  • CEC (Certified E-Commerce Consultant)
  • Check Point Certifications
  • CIW (Certified Internet Webmaster)
  • CIW Web Developer
  • cSage
  • CWP (Certified Web Professional)
  • CWP (Certified Webmaster Professional)
  • Dell Certified Enterprise Engineer
  • GIAC Global Information Assurance Certifications
  • GSE (GIAC Security Expert)
  • IBM Certification
  • Juniper Networks
  • Lotus Certifications
  • PMP (Project Management Professional)
  • RSA Certifications
  • SANS Certifications
  • SCNA (Security Certified Network Associate)
  • SCNP (Security Certified Network Professional)
  • SCO ACE (SCO Advanced System Engineer)
  • SCP (Security Certified Program)
  • SSCP (System Security Certified Practitioner)
  • Sybase Certifications
  • TWC900 &TWC950 (Technical Writer Certification)
  • WOW (World Organization of Webmasters)

Successfully Attaining Certification

All recommendations and requirements for accreditation should be affirmed from the certifying company. Some certifications cannot be obtained before a requisite number of years in the IS/IT field or other measurable experience. Professionals should expect to take tests either on site or online that may last several hours, and may be asked to demonstrate skills in a lab environment.

Interested in additional information on computer certification? Please check out our Computer Test Directory!