The Google IT Support Professional Certificate can be an entry into an IT career. The certificate program, developed by Google and offered through Coursera, requires no prior experience or IT knowledge. It is designed to give learners the skills they need for an entry-level IT role. The certificate course teaches skills including how to build a computer and install an operating system, system administration and security, networking, and troubleshooting.
The program is a part of Grow with Google, a company initiative to expand job training opportunities. Since its launch in 2018, the program has had more than 400,000 enrollments globally. With no experience or education requirement and a low monthly subscription cost, the Google IT Support Professional Certificate can serve as a pathway into the IT field.
IT support is a high-growth, high-paying field. The median annual salary in 2019 was about $55,000 per year, compared with a median annual wage of about $40,000 for all workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“The Google IT Support Professional Certificate prepares learners for an entry-level IT support role within six months,” says Betty Vandenbosch, chief content officer at Coursera. Designed as a “launchpad to an IT career,” the course covers fundamental IT skills, including troubleshooting, networking, operating systems and system administration. It also helps learners prepare for the CompTIA A+ exams, which are the industry-standard certification for IT, she says. You can earn dual certification by completing both.
Since launching in 2018, the certificate program has helped traditionally underrepresented groups in tech prepare for entry-level IT support roles, Vandenbosch says. Fifty-eight percent of U.S. learners identify as Black, Latino, female or a veteran; more than 60% don’t have a college degree; and 45% report having less than $30,000 in annual income.
“The IT support certificate is a stackable credential, meaning it is recognized by some degree programs, such as the University of London Bachelor of computer science, a fully online program on Coursera,” Vandenbosch says. “Learners can complete the Google IT program, find stable employment and then pursue a degree, which often helps them move up in their field,” a route she says brings value to learners.
“Once someone completes the program, Google also facilitates introductions with a number of employers who recognize the certificate,” says Leroy Ware, co-founder and CTO of Knack.io, a personalized job board for engineers.
He calls the certificate a stepping stone, and to continue to advance your career, you should earn additional certifications. For instance, “someone who takes the IT support course might start working in IT support while then participating in one of the Google Cloud certification programs,” Ware says.
The Google IT Support Professional Certificate program is online and includes five courses that use video lectures, quizzes and hands-on labs. It is also available at more than 100 U.S. community colleges.
“Learners can access course materials at any time via desktop or mobile,” Vandenbosch says. “In fact, about half of all learners accessed Coursera through mobile in the last year.”
Financial aid is available on a course-by-course basis through the link on the course’s homepage. If approved, you’ll be notified by email and automatically enrolled in the course.
Course 1: Technical Support Fundamentals
In the first course of the Google IT Support Professional Certificate, you’ll get an overview of the program. The course introduces learners to the information technology field and its various facets, including computer hardware and software, internet, troubleshooting and customer service.
After completion, you’ll be able to understand the inner workings of the internet, how the binary system works and how to assemble a computer from scratch, including how to choose and install an operating system. You’ll learn about applications and how they’re created and used by computers as well as common problem-solving methods used by IT professionals.
It is designed to take 21 hours to complete over six weeks and includes 99 videos, 23 readings and 22 quizzes.
Course 2: The Bits and Bytes of Computer Networking
This course gives learners an overview of computer networking, from modern networking fundamentals and protocols to the cloud and its applications. You’ll learn about the five-layer model of computer networks, the standard protocols of transmission control protocol/internet protocol communications, different network services, and network troubleshooting tools and techniques. You’ll also gain insight into cloud computing and storage.
The course is designed to take six weeks to complete, with five to six hours spent learning each week for 34 hours of total learning time. It includes 96 videos, 22 readings and 34 quizzes.
Course 3: Operating Systems and You: Becoming a Power User
The third course in the Google IT Support Professional Certificate program goes into more depth on operating systems and the critical tasks IT professionals perform on them, such as managing software and configuring hardware.
You’ll learn how system processes work and how you can manage them. Upon course completion, you’ll also be able to set up users, groups and permissions, and configure disk partitions and file systems. You’ll work with system logs and remote connection tools and troubleshoot common IT issues. You’ll also learn how to use a graphical user interface and command-line interpreter to navigate Windows and Linux file systems and how to install, configure and remove software from these operating systems.
The course is designed to take six weeks to complete, with four to seven hours spent learning each week for 35 hours of total learning time. It includes 112 videos, 51 readings and 26 quizzes, plus hands-on practice.
Course 4: System Administration and IT Infrastructure Services
This course shows learners how to work on multiple computers, as opposed to just one, through system administration. It introduces the multiuser environment and infrastructure services that large and small organizations use. Learners get a deeper understanding of the cloud, from cloud infrastructure setups to managing cloud resources.
By the end of the course, you’ll be able to manage and configure servers and know how to manage computers, user information and productivity with industry tools. You’ll even get schooled on how to recover an organization’s IT infrastructure following a disaster.
The course is designed to take six weeks, with 31 hours of learning time plus a 14-minute final project. It includes 90 videos, 36 readings and 35 quizzes, plus the final project.
Course 5: IT Security: Defense Against the Digital Dark Arts
The final course in the Google IT Support Professional Certificate program introduces the different computer system threats and how to safeguard against them.
It provides background on encryption algorithms and how they can safeguard data. You’ll also learn about the “three A’s of information security: authentication, authorization and accounting,” and various network security solutions, from firewalls to Wi-Fi encryption. Finally, participants learn how each element can be part of a multilayered, in-depth security architecture.
By course completion, you’ll be able to differentiate authentication from authorization and identify various authentication systems and types. You’ll also understand how encryption algorithms and techniques work, along with recognizing each of their benefits and limitations. You’ll be able to evaluate and suggest ways to minimize potential risks. You’ll also be able to help others better understand security concepts and protect themselves.
The course is designed to take six weeks to complete, with three to seven hours spent learning each week for 29 hours of total learning time. It includes 74 videos, 37 readings and 29 quizzes.
How Do You Prepare for the Certificate Course?
The Google IT Support Professional Certificate has no prerequisites or prior experience requirements. “The program is designed for learners without a degree or prior experience to go from beginner to job-ready within six months,” Vandenbosch says.
How Long Does It Take to Get the Certificate?
The course is designed to be completed within three to six months, provided you spend about five hours per week on learning. According to Vandenbosch, the speed at which learners complete the course largely depends on how much time they dedicate to the course materials.
A 2020 Coursera study of online learners found that those who devote more time to watching and reviewing videos rather than skimming through the content have a higher completion rate. The report also found that most learners who completed their course did so in 40- to 60-minute learning blocks in one to five learning sessions each week, although daily learning sessions also proved fruitful toward completion.
“With that in mind, we recommend that learners take advantage of the flexible pace of a fully online program to make sure they understand foundational concepts before moving on,” Vandenbosch says.
Is the Google IT Support Professional Certificate Worth It?
If your goal is to use the certificate to get a job in IT services, it could be a worthwhile investment. The program includes job support, allowing certificate holders to share their information with employers hiring entry-level IT talent, including Hulu, Infosys, Intel and Walmart.
The Google IT Support Professional Certificate can be worthwhile for learners not ready to start their careers yet, too. “Since the program is (American Council on Education) certified, learners can earn 12 college credits or the equivalent of four associate degree-level courses,” Vandenbosch says.
Know that the Google IT Support Professional Certificate is just a starting point, Ware says. Certificate holders should move quickly to add cloud-based credentials, like a Google Associate Cloud Engineer certificate, which requires six months of work experience with the cloud and can be followed by higher-level Google certifications. You might also consider pursuing Amazon Web Services certifications. Earning more certifications will increase your earning power and the range of job opportunities, he says.
In recognition of IT support as a career path rather than just a job, in January 2020 Google launched a follow-up program for the IT support certificate, called the Google IT Automation with Python Professional Certificate, to provide beginner-level training in Python. In early 2020, the company also announced a new suite of certificates in project management, data analytics and user experience design.
Are IT Support Skills in Demand and What’s the Career Outlook?
The demand for tech skills has been increasing for the past decade. Employment in high-level digital content more than tripled from 2002 to 2016, according to a 2017 Brookings Institution report. Digitization has also created hundreds of new occupations, the think tank’s report says, such as solution architect, cloud services specialist and app developer. Nearly one in three new jobs created since 2010 required high-level digital skills, according to the report.
These trends are likely to continue at an increasing rate due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as employers report greater digital adoption, creating increasing demand for IT support skills. About 40% of companies report needing workers with security skills, and 38% say they’re looking for database/information management skills, according to industry group CompTIA. Thirty-six percent are looking for those with PC support expertise, 33% want storage and backup skills, and 31% need workers with networking knowledge.
All of this creates a rosy career outlook for IT support skills. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the computer support specialist job will grow at 8% over the next decade – double the average growth rate for all occupations. It expects 67,300 new computer support specialist jobs to be created from 2019 to 2029.
Will This Certificate Help Me Get a Job?
“When asked, 80% of learners say it helped them advance their job search or career within six months,” Vandenbosch says. This is, in part, thanks to the Google hiring consortium that connects certificate holders with employers offering entry-level IT roles.
The consortium includes more than 50 national companies that have committed to considering Google IT certificate completers for their entry-level IT roles. Some partners include Walmart, T-Mobile, the Cleveland Clinic, Hulu and, of course, Google. But while the consortium can help you connect with potential employers, you’re not guaranteed a placement. Those who have completed the program recommend applying elsewhere as well.
“Certifications are definitely something employers look at when hiring in the engineering space,” Ware says. “For engineers, a recently acquired certification (one earned in the last year or two) is a sign that the person is committed to staying abreast of their field and engaging in continued education (and) training.”
Ware says depending on the hiring manager and job requirements, “a handful of certifications can carry as much impact as a bachelor’s degree since traditional degrees tend to focus on theoretical topics and don’t usually produce skills that can immediately translate to workforce productivity.”
Of course, a bachelor’s degree is still important. Many hiring managers will use wording like, “B.S. in computer science or equivalent experience.”
“For employers that recognize workforce experience as a form of education, certs like (the) Google IT support cert and especially some of the higher cloud-focused ones can give a candidate an edge,” Ware says. The most recognized certifications are probably those from Google and Amazon Web Services, or AWS, he adds.
Ware recommends certificate holders optimize their resume by using specific Google-related keywords and services throughout their resume to attract hiring managers and turn their resumes into marketing tools. For instance, you might include phrases like “Google Cloud platform,” “Google IT support” and “IT support” throughout your resume.
“More important than anything for job seekers is that they adopt an inbound approach to career building that turns their resume into a lead generation mechanism, rather than spending time searching and applying to jobs,” Ware says.