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There are nine basic categories of computer certification exams, each centered on a specific area of expertise or a specific software vendor. Skill set-based certifications include security certifications, Certified Internet Web (CIW) certifications and Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) certifications. Vendor based-certifications are provided for Microsoft, Unix, Linux, Novell, Cisco and Oracle products. Most computer professionals will base the types of certifications they choose to pursue on a combination of their current or intended job role, as well as the specific software programs or operating systems that they will be using while performing their duties.
Security certifications are geared toward professionals who are responsible for network and data security on a day-to-day basis. The pinnacle of the security certifications available is the Certified Information Systems Security Professional® (CISSP®) certification. The CISSP® focuses on major areas of expertise, including areas such as network security, application development security, cryptography and operations security. In order to qualify to take the CISSP® exam, the individual must have extensive knowledge of at least two of the 10 skill sets.
CIW computer certification exams are geared toward professionals in the field of web development and Internet technologies. They are considered vendor neutral, and CIW certifications are recommended for individuals with some background in both Linux/Unix and Windows operating systems. They are offered in a variety of expertise rankings, ranging from associate level to master's level, and they focus on a wide range of topics, including enterprise management, network architecture and database management.
CompTIA certifications are an extensive group of computer certification exams that cover one of the broadest selections of topics. With more than 10 certifications from which to choose, computer professionals can become certified in a range of job specialties, such as Network+, Security+ or Project+. Some CompTIA computer certification exams will focus on a combination of both software and hardware knowledge. The A+ certification is one example of this.
For vendor-related certifications, those under the Microsoft umbrella typically are the most widely recognized of the software-based computer certification exams. Common certification offerings include the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist, the Microsoft Certified IT Professional and the Microsoft Office Specialist certification. Each certification is offered in three levels of expertise, the Architect Series, the Professional Series and the Technology Series.
For individuals who are looking for certifications in open-source operating systems, there are numerous computer certification exams specializing in Unix, Linux and Novell. These certifications are geared toward a wide range of professionals, including computer engineers, technicians and programmers. They also can be focused on specific versions of the programs, such as Solaris, the Unix-based operating system produced by Sun Microsystems.
Novell, Cisco and Oracle also offer a range of certifications based on their specific software offerings. Oracle, for example, offers three basic levels of certification, the Oracle Certified Master, the Oracle Certified Associate and the Oracle Certified Professional. Popular Novell offerings include the Certified Novell Administrator and the Certified Novell Engineer certification exams. Cisco offers a variety of certifications in four categories, each geared toward a specific level of expertise, including technician, associate, professional and expert-level certifications.
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