In “A letter to TechRepublic on the value of IT certification,” TechRepublic passport owner Todd L. explained how obtaining an MCSE had paid off for him, “so far.” We asked for your opinions on the value of certification, and based on the notes we received, certification doesn’t always guarantee career success.
Thumbs up: Brian found a job on the Web that doubled his salary
Here’s what we heard from TechRepublic passport owner Brian H., MCT, MCSE+I, MCP (14), Network+, A+ Certified: “Probably the best example of how much it helps comes from my own experience. Around Christmas in 1998, I found myself unemployed because the small VAR I worked for went out of business. I had almost five years in the industry, but no college degree, and only the A+ cert. Even though I had been doing network design and engineering for the last two years, no one would give me the time of day.
“After three months of searching, I FINALLY got a job making $19 an hour as a manager. I was against certification in a big way, but my Mom finally convinced me to give it a shot, so, in the next two weeks, I sat and passed 10 exams. Understand that I did very little studying (took a practice test, passed it, and took the real thing), so my level of knowledge did not rise during this time.
“After I sat the last exam (on a Thursday), I posted my resume on the Internet. By the next Monday (four days), I had an offer for a contract position making $30 per hour, port-to-port, that I ended up averaging around $7,000 per month on ($90,000/year). So, for me, certification (and JUST certification) doubled my pay. That's proof enough for me.”
Thumbs up: Make a move on your own behalf and be a nicer person to be around
Here’s the certification gospel according to Michael C., MCSEE, CCNA, MCP+I, A+: “I started out in the IT industry with a broad knowledge of computers gained in the military and taking a lot of classes. I worked hard to try to know everything there was to know about hardware and certain software. I studied without fail and vigorously to get an MCSE certification hoping that it would lead me to a promotion at my current position. Well I studied, and studied, and bought computers to work with, and studied some more. I got MCSE and A+ certification in less than six months. Things were looking good.
“Well, now the heartbreak. When I approached my superiors with certifications in hand and discussed my opportunities with the company, they gladly gave me a salary increase but there was no present opportunity for advancement. The salary increase was small, and the part that I didn't understand was we had 23 NT servers with no administrator. I couldn't find out what was wrong with this picture.
“Well, I went after another certification, Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA). After a lot of studying and dishing out an extensive amount of cash for hardware like routers and switches to help me in my training, I passed with a very good score and was proud of myself. So, I went back to my superiors with certification in hand and now having more knowledge than the acting Administrator could even imagine having.
“I was turned down again for a promotion and this time no salary increase. Unimaginable! Was I becoming a threat because I knew more than three-fourths of the people in the IT department? I was up in arms, heartbroken because I spent all this money to get ahead and things just were not going the way I had planned.
“I figured that now was the time to make a move on my own behalf. I checked into other job opportunities via the Web and newspaper for my local area and sent out countless amounts of resumes with all my certifications neatly tucked inside. In less than three weeks, I was being stared in the face with more job opportunities than I could actually make interview time for. I accepted a position with a consulting company at a premier salary and benefits package, and I went on to start my own business part time.
“My previous superiors? When I turned in my notice that I was leaving, they were very upset and said that they were making plans for me and were creating a new position just for me to be able to use my new found skills and abilities. Unfortunately, it was too late. My wife even says I'm a better person to be around. Go figure!”
Thumbs down: “We need someone with more experience”
Certification stories don’t always have happy endings, based on this story from Alan M., CAN, CNE, MCSE, MCP. “I have been an engineering professional for over 25 years in semiconductor process equipment, and I needed a change. Having a broken back might have had some impact on my decision, but my broad background in the computer industry was my only hope for a new career path that my body and physical limitations might tolerate.
“After 12 months of intense self-study and testing, I finally achieved CNA/CNE with my goals focused on finishing MCSE and MCP certifications. I had strong hopes of becoming a productive person again. Facing the financial burdens of the costs of training and self-sustenance, I started looking for work in the IT marketplace only to find that without experience, no matter how many years I had behind me as an engineering professional, I had no chance at a job. Every single interview was ended with, ‘We really need someone with more experience,’ even when I stated that any entry-level position would be considered an opportunity. I thought to myself, maybe with additional certifications I could get a job, but many more months of work and study ended in the same responses.
“You need to understand that there are not always only success stories. There are a great number of people like myself who work hard to achieve these certifications only to face the same response. I am a professional, and, having faced my life's challenges head-on all my life, I found it more than just depressing to realize that at my age of 44, being physically disabled, and with my children in college, my outlook was less than the peaches-and-cream stories I see in the trades. There are no apprenticeship programs and no way to break the ‘experience’ boundary—a vicious circle of ‘How do you get experience if no one wants to give you a chance?’ My certifications have done nothing for me other than prove to myself I can achieve anything if I want it bad enough. But a good job has nothing to do with what you know and more to do with who you know.”
Thumbs down: The experience thing again
Diane C., MCP, wrote: “I'm switching careers after being a nurse anesthetist for 20 years. My background experience involved a great deal of teamwork and decision making under stressful conditions. I've passed one exam and am now MCP (and anticipate passing my next exam in 3 weeks). Can one find a job? Not unless you have one year's experience. Even the anesthesia field didn't require experience before landing a first job. One would be watched more carefully after training and not necessarily be given the most difficult case your first day on the job, but the jobs were available.
“It's easy to read in the media that over a quarter million tech jobs are out there, but the business is in a Catch-22 situation. We won't give you an entry break, yet we're desperate for educated professionals. Something, somewhere needs to change. So far, I'm not impressed with the value of being certified.”
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