Originally Posted by EyeSeeCold
Yeah the "thorough understanding" bit is what I'm trying to nail down. Even for Word, with all the menus and tricks, someone could make an exam that the average person wouldn't pass. So it would help if I could get some idea from people who've taken or passed these already. Although I believe the cert companies have some weird tradition where no one can give specific details about exams.
This is certainly true. But then an exam to test everyday competence in Word would be pointless, since the everyday features are fairly intuitive. If there were to be an exam, it would test the advanced features and tricks. But there'd be a rather small niche market for this.
Regardless, such an exam would not be an IT certification; it would be an computer competency test.
An IT certification validates the competencies required for an IT Technician/Engineer/Architect role.
In the "old days", IT was basically divided into three domains: programming, systems and networks. At entry level, most people had exposure to at least two of these. Systems and Networks went more naturally hand in hand.
Certifications aren't relevant to programming as far as I'm aware; it's as much an art as it is a science.
Systems meant Microsoft and Networks meant Cisco. There were other players on the scene as well, but these were the dominant ones, and they dictated the paradigms.
The Microsoft MCSA was the golden rite of entry into Systems, and the Cisco CCNA into Networks.
Things have changed a fair bit in the last decade. Other giants have emerged, like Juniper and Alcatel-Lucent (Nokia). You have other players in subfields of Networks as well.
I left Systems behind very early, so I don't know what goes on these days. But I'd imagine VMWare has emerged in that space, as well as others.
Increasing virtualisation, abstraction and automation is blurring the lines between the three areas now, as well and between enterprises and service providers. And it's an exciting time to be an Engineer. But it's also a time of profound anxiety about the obsolescence of the Engineer. But that's another story.
Despite all the evolution, it very much remains the case that the CCNA is a gold standard for the entry level in Networks. Whatever path you take after that in specialisation or deviation, it teaches you the fundamental anatomy of computer networks. And it commands unparalleled respect for that level.