Earlier this month, my article, “Members believe Microsoft certification is worth the time, effort, and expense,” examined the results of a recent TechRepublic survey on the value of Microsoft certification. The survey found that most respondents believe in the value of certification and feel the process is worth the time, effort, and expense involved. The responses to this article, however, illustrate a sincere belief among members that certification should only be one part of a tech’s résumé. Hands-on experience is considered equally, if not more, important. To keep the discussion going, I’d like to share these member comments. We received many responses, so it’s not possible to present them all here. However, I believe I have presented the best balance of all the submissions. Where applicable, I’ve also included links to the respondent’s Peer Directory information.
In Response offers a weekly roundup of feedback from TechRepublic members intended to help inform you and your peers about critical issues in the world of IT.
Certifications can enhance a career
Several members posted comments describing the positive effect that certifications have had on their careers and incomes.
Gardiner J: Certification has been a blessing
“My wife once asked me ’Why are you working so hard on these tests? I don't see any benefit to us.’ She was silenced by my reply: ’Our income has increased $30,000 in the last three years because of the certifications.’”
Ramkumar C: Certifications are great
“It's true. I have personally felt the impact of the certifications on my career. I am a developer, but have an MCSE with TCP/IP and IIS 4.0. It has impressed all my interviewers and has worked to my advantage greatly. Not only that, the exams have given me ample knowledge to work on lots of problems, even in development, without dependencies.”
Certifications should be accompanied by experience
Here are two of our members who believe experience and certification are equally important.
David P: Simple advice
“I tell this to everyone I know, whether it's my employee that I'm sending to training or a peer: ‘Use it or lose it!’
”You can go to any training class that you like or are interested in, but just make sure that you are able to use what you learn immediately or you will forget everything that you may have paid for in time and money.
”If you are going to an MCSE 2000 class, make sure you have access to a Windows 2000 network or workstation to practice what you've learned or else that class [will prove to be] useless. If you are going to a Cisco CCNA class, make sure you have a Cisco router to play with or [the certification is] just a piece of paper.
”Classes and certifications are nothing without experience to match. If you don't have the ability to practice what you have learned, don't go. You don't have to have a job to get the experience I'm talking about, even though it's better to use the skills in a real-world environment. If you don't work with the equipment or software, do it at home. Either way, you better do it or lose it.”
Martin P: Gain experience before getting certified
“I am the kind of guy who gains experience on a subject before [going for] my certification. For me, certification is a ’validation‘ of the experience. I saw a lot of ’dumb‘ MCSEs—they are MCSEs but without any experience. So when you want them to help or do a simple task, they don't know what to do or won't try to know. The person doesn’t have any organization. But when I see a person who's certified and has experience, I respect that person. Certification is not the end of the learning process; it's just the beginning.”
Microsoft certifications are overrated
While most respondents were favorable towards certification, some feel that Microsoft’s process is less than perfect.
Faden: Paper MCSEs
“Knowledge is always good, but to merely memorize the right answers and not know why something works is a big mistake. If you don't know why or how, then you don't know. There are multiple approaches to the same problem, and I don't believe Microsoft is the authority on all of them. Maybe for their products, but not for best practices. I see more and more shops trending toward Linux and Solaris.
“I think MS has done a good job of brainwashing the IT community in being MCSE-centric, and I think it's ‘bullpuckey!’ Dollar for dollar, I think a CCNP cert is more valuable than an MCSE.”
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Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.