Businesses are always looking for an edge. Job seekers are always looking for a differentiator. Both often view IT certifications as a way to get better results. Yet the subject of information technology certifications is controversial.
Some strongly believe that someone with a certification is better at what they do than someone without. Others are equally sure that certifications are meaningless. There are valid arguments on both sides.
Some certifications have value while others are not worth your attention. It is important to know what a particular certification means and what value it has in a particular situation.
Is it relevant?
Ultimately, the relevance of the certification is what really matters. A certification in security audits is of little value to a team needing a web developer. Make sure you understand what a particular certification means in terms of job skills.
Deploying and maintaining technology products is complex. The pitfalls are many and the skills required are varied. Technology professionals must constantly learn new techniques to keep up with an ever changing industry. Certifications are one way to do this.
There are many choices.
Many certifications are issued by vendors that sell the underlying products. For example, Cisco, HP, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle have many certification types and levels. It makes good sense for vendors to attract and train skilled professionals thus unleashing a small army of evangelists.
Other certifications are issued by organizations that champion a technology or capability. For example, CompTIA (information technology), ISACA (information security) and PMI (project management) offer multiple types of certifications.
It’s important to note that certifications represent a revenue opportunity. The firms that offer training programs, books, manuals and examinations have much to gain. The fees for attaining a certification amount to hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars.
If you decide to obtain certification or are looking to hire certified professionals, do your homework. Be sure the organization offering the exams is well known and respected.
There are certifications that are popular and in demand. Here is a short list of major certifications (there are far more than I can list here and I apologize in advance to the many I’ve excluded):
- Microsoft offers over a dozen certifications. There is a list here.
- Cisco offers even more. Take a look.
- Security certifications are offered by CompTIA and ISACA.
- The Project Management Institute offers a Project Management Professional certification.
- There are also certifications in Scrum through the The Scrum Alliance (and others) and Lean Six Sigma through Six Sigma (and others).
So, are certifications worth it? A certification can’t hurt even if it is in an area that is not closely related to the work being done now. Certification shows that the person holding it is willing to put in the effort required to learn the material and pass the exam.
Employers can use certifications as a way to motivate and reward staff members. They keep the team fresh and trained on the latest best practices. The way to make this work effectively is give people time to study during work hours and, of course, to pick up the tab for the exam and required study materials.
How much certifications help in hiring or career development is an open question. Be sure that the job and the certification are aligned. When they aren’t, certifications get a bad reputation and only the training firm comes out ahead. Do you have anything to add?