In the modern business world, computers are king. Widely present in offices of all types, from law firms to doctors’ offices to the business world, these machines have the ability to store and quickly manipulate large amounts of data. Computers have been around in one form or another since the 1940s; however, it was only since the 1980s that computers enjoyed widespread use in business, with personal and networked computing truly gaining popularity when the Internet became widely available in the 1990s.Accordingly, the number of computer-related careers has expanded considerably in availability and scope since then. There exist jobs for high- and low-level programming professionals; user interface designers; and software engineers. These jobs typically require extensive schooling, with additional experience acquired on the job.There are, however, information technology and computer jobs that require significantly less schooling. Individuals are employed as network administrators; technical support professionals; and computer repair technicians — and often, they are eligible for this sort of employment after just several months of study. This article will discuss some types of quick-study computer education and career training programs that lead to professional certification — and often, directly to technology careers.The A+ certification is designed to prove a student’s abilities as a general computer technician. A+-certified technicians understand computer systems inside and out. They are as comfortable working with hardware (the “guts” of the computer) as they are with operating systems, software, networks, and files. They have the ability to troubleshoot computer problems and to achieve resolutions to those problems.Students seeking technical support, computer repair, or networking administration careers often begin with the A+ certification. This certificate is recognized as showing worker competence and achievement in several computer- and technology-related fields. CompTIA sets the standards for this exam, which provides a good foundation for further competency classes and exams, such as Linux/UNIX exams and various network certifications. This certificate can lead to an entry-level technology career, from which the worker might eventually move to an advanced technical support or networking career.The Network+ certification is also a CompTIA standardized exam. To prepare for this exam, students will study the basics of computer networking, as well as more advanced networking concepts. These concepts can include networking hardware; Ethernet setup and configuration; cable interface; network protocols like TCP/IP protocols, and wireless networking. Students will also study how to connect networked systems and to set up clients and servers for remote Internet access.CompTIA suggests that individuals who wish to seek a career in the networking field should have 9 months of experience, or equivalent training, before sitting for the certification exam. There also exist a number of adult learning institutions and quick-study programs that can give students the appropriate levels of experience they will need for such an exam.Like the A+ certification, the Network + certification also enables students to pursue further technology certifications, or to seek increasingly advanced computer technology career positions. The Network + certification is also good preparation for other certifications, such as those required by Cisco or Novell.The Security 5 certification is established and administered by the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants. This organization considers it to be an entry-level security certification. Nonetheless, it is recommended that students or network administration career professionals possess the equivalent knowledge of A+ and Network + exam material if they wish to seek careers in network security.This exam covers a variety of network and desktop security principles. Students will need to have a solid foundation of basic computer security concepts, like firewalls and hack-proof log-ins. They will also need to understand computer cryptography, e-mail and communications security, secure site and Web browser procedures, and file transfer/FTP security. Desktop and hard drive security, portable and wireless security, and secure computing with third-party devices are additional topics covered.This exam, when combined with another professional certification or prior networking and information systems experience, can be a powerful career asset. For those computer users who are not employed in the networking or information sciences sectors, the Security 5 certification can be a great asset in protecting the privacy and integrity of personal data.The Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician (MCDST) certification is specific to information technology applications in the Windows desktop environment and Windows operating system. It is considered to be a beginner-level credential, and it demonstrates that an individual is competent in assisting end users and helping to test and troubleshoot Microsoft desktops and applications. This Microsoft certificate can be completed in tandem with other certifications supported by Microsoft, including the Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certification and the Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDA).Currently, professional Windows environments are in a transitory phase between Windows XP Professional and Windows Vista. Vista’s large allocated operating memory requirements and compatibility difficulties have caused XP to remain widely used in the workplace — so there are some career environments in which the MCDST, MOS, MCDA, and other certifications are necessary. Network administration specialists and information sciences students should be aware, however, that Microsoft is changing the certification requirements in accordance with the new Vista user interface and desktop functions.