060221_MNS_Paul_Sterling_001 Evan Sterling

Evan Sterling holds the CompTIA Security + Professional Certification he received from the Paulding College and Career Academy.

When Evan Sterling received his CompTIA Security + Professional Certification from the Paulding College & Career Academy April 28, he not only became the first student at the school to do so but also got a huge leg up on his career.

CompTIA stands for the Computing Technology Industry Association, and Sterling focused on cybersecurity while pursuing the certification. The certification is the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity, and according to the association’s website, 96% of managers use certifications as criteria while recruiting staff.

“I feel like it gives me a head start not only with my peers but also in the industry because not many people have the certification, especially at my age,” said Sterling, who turns 18 in August.

Leon Bowers, a cybersecurity pathway teacher at the academy, added, “The Security + exam is recommended for people who have been in the industry for at least two years and at least served in administration of cybersecurity for at least one year. Those are the two requisites the CompTIA recommend before you even take the test.”

Sterling got his certification through a dual-enrollment program while also taking classes as a senior at East Paulding High School, where he graduated from May 29. The academy, which opened in 2019, offers Paulding County’s high school students classes in four fields: cybersecurity, energy, healthcare and mechatronics. Students can earn partial or full professional certification in those pathways.

In a video about the academy, Marores Perry, its CEO, said 86% of employed Paulding residents work at jobs outside the county, and 60% of Paulding’s jobs are filled by individuals who live outside the county.

“We, at the Paulding College & Career Academy, are trying to give the students the skills to actually fill the jobs that we have in our community,” she said.

Sterling, a B average high school student, started taking classes at the academy in August. His schedule included three hours a day at East Paulding, another hour at the academy and a 30-minute online academy course he could take from home or elsewhere.

Before enrolling at the academy, Sterling said he “had a good amount of knowledge” about computers and cybersecurity.

“I was into it personally as a hobby,” he said.

Bowers taught Sterling in his introductory cybersecurity class starting in August and in his advanced cybersecurity course beginning in January.

“Evan is not afraid to work outside of class,” Bowers said. “He does what he needs to prepare. He knows what he wants and goes after it. … It means he’s applying himself outside of class, setting up servers and networks at home, learning programming and Linux programming. He’s doing what it takes to get the credential.”

Bowers added the academy has helped Sterling learn all he could about cybersecurity and focus in on a career path in that industry.

This fall Sterling plans to attend Kennesaw State University and get not only a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity but also a master’s degree. And what are his plans after college?

“I’ve always been really interested in pen (penetration) testing. You get paid to test out security, not only the cybersecurity but the digital security and physical security as well,” he said, adding he’s already applied for a cybersecurity analyst job, which he’s confident he can get based on his certification.

And what are Sterling’s summer plans?

“I hope to get an internship over the summer or a job at this point,” he said.

Whoever hires him will certainly have a leg up as well.

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