How to Get IT Certifications in 5 Steps

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

To get an IT certification, decide on one, prepare for the exam, take the exam, update your resume, and stay on top of renewing it.

Working to get an IT certification

Information technology (IT) certifications show employers you have the baseline of specialized knowledge expected of an IT professional. They can also make you a more competitive candidate for jobs and promotions. Some employers may not require certifications, but earning them can help you stand out in an application. The process of getting a certification can also enhance your skill set as an IT professional.

How to get an IT certification

1. Decide on a certification.

Picking a certification that fits your needs depends on what technical skills you’re trying to build and what you plan to accomplish with them. If you're not sure where to start, consider looking through job descriptions of positions you’re interested in to see what kinds of skills are requested. Your current employer may even suggest a specific certification program that is suitable for your role.

Read more: IT Certification Roadmap: A Guide

Relevant certificate programs for entry-level professionals

Just starting out? An entry-level IT certification might help. These can include:

Note: The Google IT Support Professional Certificate can prepare you for the CompTIA A+ exam in addition to providing you with a Google career certificate and preparing you for an entry-level IT job. As of August 2023, it offers a 20 percent discount off CompTIA A+ exam costs.

Read more: CCNA vs. Network+: Overview, Differences, and Certifications

2. Prepare for the exam.

Certifications will generally have an exam you’re required to pass in order to obtain the credential. Preparing for the exam typically means you need to:

Meet all the requirements. Entry-level certifications generally don’t have any prerequisites, but more advanced certifications might have stricter requirements. Check to make sure you’ll be able to take the exam for the certification you’ve chosen. 

Study for the exam. Each certification generally has a corresponding exam that’s listed on the certification provider’s website. They might also list what subjects are covered on the exam or provide practice questions. More popular certifications should have multiple prep courses, books, or other resources you can use to study.

Schedule your exam. Go to the certification provider’s website to register for your exam—this is also usually when you’ll pay the exam fee. Depending on your experience and how much you’ve studied, the time you need to prepare for your certification exam can vary. If you’re just starting to study, budget for a few months’ time, or wait until you feel ready to take it to register.

How much do certifications cost?

IT certifications typically cost up to a few hundred dollars to take. For example, the CompTIA A+ certification can cost you $464 (for both required exams), the CCNA $300, and an associate-level AWS Solutions Architect $150.


3. Take the exam.

Exams can be online or in person. They can include several different types of questions, like multiple choice, short answer, or ones in which you navigate through an exercise.

Before your exam day, run through the rules and requirements again. You might be asked to bring a valid ID or want to know how long to expect the exam to take.

4. Update your resume and LinkedIn

You’ve gotten your certification—congratulations! Now, put your certification status where people can find it. Here’s where you might place your new credentials in your resume and LinkedIn profile.

Resume: In your resume, you can list your new certification in your education credits. You can also list any new skills you may have learned, and if you’ve completed any projects in coursework, add these to a section listing relevant projects.

LinkedIn: On your LinkedIn page, you can add your new certification to the licenses and certifications section.

Want more details? Read our guide on how to add credentials to your resume

5. After the certification: Renewals, and more certifications

Renewing your certification: Like many credentials, IT certifications can have an expiry date. Many CompTIA and entry-level Cisco certifications, for example, are valid for three years. It can be a good idea to keep an eye on how long your certification will be valid for and plan accordingly. Requirements for recertification can include taking a recertification exam, or completing continuing education activities.

Your next certification: Getting another certification can make sense for you if you need more specialized knowledge, hope to switch to a different field of IT, or want to build on your current career trajectory. If you’ve gotten an entry-level certification, you might start looking at certifications in a specialized area you’re interested in—like networks, cloud computing, or cybersecurity. You can also consult your employer to see what skills they might find useful to have.

You can explore various certification paths through our IT certification roadmap.

Start earning a certificate today on Coursera

If you’re ready to start looking at certifications, start browsing some entry-level certifications. Or jump right in and start preparing for your first IT job with the Microsoft IT Support Specialist Professional Certificate program. In just two months, you'll learn to apply concepts like data management, troubleshooting, customer support, and networking while earning an employer-recognized certificate from Microsoft—the first week is free.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.