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Online learning should be a part of everyone’s lifelong career plan, especially in the field of information technology. In the networking and telecommunications space new hardware and products yield new functionalities to teach and learn.

In the website development space, new programming languages mandate extra learning to keep up with the times. Technical support personnel need to update their knowledge to stay employed while users adopt new software and need instruction and support. In the IT world, continuing education has become a necessity. But there is a reason even more compelling to continue education throughout career development. Some might say job stability is most important but those who have been surveyed state-by-state report outstanding jumps in earning potential after gaining more education.

Systems like Microsoft Word, Outlook, Access, PowerPoint and even Excel may seem like simple programs that come easy with any device. Employers looking to promote, bolster their IT department or to hire after a dry spell want the proof in the pudding. Holding your MCSA (Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator) or MCTS (Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist) result in an average of $10,000 more in earning potential. Even higher certification courses like SQL database training raise average earning potential in the state of Florida by $20,000.

What’s more are those seeking to regain employment. Going back to school for a professional college degree is not always convenient or practical for those who have been out of work. Certification courses are about one fourth of the cost of university classes and offer more relevant information on products and services recently introduced to the market. The best testament to this trend is Monster, CareerBuilder.com and other job posting sites. In the job descriptions for IT positions there are several certifications listed as desirable or required. Very few companies focus solely on degree requirements from state universities.

But certification courses might be the golden ticket to break into a new career. Some companies even value certifications over college degrees because of the real-world application and relevant version experience such as with new software and programming languages. Online certification courses focus on the next greatest thing, the newest version and the most cutting edge technology. As much as online learning can advance your career it can open the necessary doors to begin a new career path. However, having the certification to prove the knowledge base was not only taught but tested in a classroom can be a very valuable asset to an employer.