CXO

The certification game. Do you want to play?


These days certification isn’t cheap. Between providing training and study time, a typical certification may cost your company from $700 to $2,000 per employee.

And this is on top of the costs of the certification tests, which can range from $100 to $500 per test. With all this expense, the question I’m sure many an employer has asked is: Is it worth it?

Let’s first explore some of the benefits and follow that up with what I think is a very viable alternative solution.

Certification conveys a number of conceptions about the individual. In an employee, the image of personal commitment and drive is attached to certification.

The certification(s) indicates that the employee has the dedication to pursue professional development outside of the arena of his or her full-time career. It shows a passion about her field of interest and for her personal development plan.

And when screening job applicants, certification has become an obvious litmus test for employers. When considering applicants with experience in the field, the one with certifications will often fare better because of the above-mentioned notions that accompany certifications.

And when looking for entry-level employees, many companies look for professional certifications to open the door to that potential first job. The earned certification is supposed to be the qualifier: proof to the employer that this prospective employee has the required aptitude to get the job done.

As an employer, you are expected to assume that, with this credential, the candidate has the minimum level of knowledge about the products he works with.

Also, as a business, you receive certain vendor incentives for having certified individuals on your team (such as being labeled a solutions provider with Microsoft).

These incentives may serve to comfort or impress your clients with the quality and technical expertise they hope to receive in their relationship with you.

Getting Burned

But in reality, do these letters after the employee’s name really deliver on all that’s promised?

In a word: No.

Using certification as a minimum aptitude is now a waste of time. There are countless ways to beat the certification testing system and just as many Web sites dedicated to just that.

These “brain-dump” sites (not to mention professional Web sites) make a living bucking the system. If a certification exists, it can be cheated on.

There are people that will study posted test questions for a couple of days, take the test, and pass. Most of these certification tests only require a C-average.

And while the majority of employees actually do seek certification to support continuous learning and to improve their own knowledge and performance, many seek certification for entirely different reasons altogether.

Some earn the certification to gain the financial token offered as incentive by the employer. Some earn it because they fear losing their job if they don’t. And some earn it so that they may go find a more lucrative job elsewhere.

Yes, that’s right. I mentioned that these certifications are costly and many in the IT field just can’t afford to earn them. So it is quite common for an employee to specifically seek out a company that will pay for certification.

Once they certify, they move on to greener pastures because they want more money than the current employer is willing to give.

So, is it worth it to certify in your company? That depends on your motivation for encouraging the certifications. If you need to be able to show your clients and your public that you have a percentage of recruits who are safely and securely certified in order for them to maintain their faith or loyalty, by all means yes. Continue on with the certifying.

But if you are strongly urging your people to certify in hopes that you will have a top-notch, highly trained, special forces level of employees in your arsenal, my answer for you is no. Seek other training options.

The Four-Step Remedy

My dream solution for this education vs. certification battle is to offer four things within each company: ongoing education/training, community experience, trade magazines, and a computer lab.

Encourage ongoing education/training. Allow your employees to pursue excellence in the area that they are passionate about in the field. And offer similar encouragement to pursue topics that will foster excellence in their position in your company.

Provide classroom training in-house. Offer computer-based training (CBT). Approve funding when an employee takes the initiative to choose to attend a seminar or conference.

Let them explore their potential. The whole purpose of training is to better oneself. If an employee works with Microsoft technology and they want to learn about Cisco firewalls, encourage it. Help them grow.

Give them the training that makes them love your company and be loyal to your company. In the end, you will find yourself with an excited, knowledgeable, fulfilled employee who feels appreciated and valued by his employer.

Open the door to experience in the IT community. Allow your employees to grow within the IT communities around the world by participating on message boards and blogging.

Encourage them to speak at conferences if their subject is accepted. Troubleshooting solutions to the problems of others and then providing helpful information to the masses is a great learning tool.

Offer subscriptions to trade magazines. If your employees are interested in certain computer subjects, consider allowing them to subscribe to a magazine that will provide cutting-edge information.

Support their need to read about emerging technologies. Providing your employees with resources to grow and learn and gain experience will likely be more valuable than any four-letter acronym out there.

Finally, and most importantly, make the investment in a computer lab.

One thing I would love every company to have is a lab for learning. There is nothing better than a computer lab to test out things and learn through hands-on participation.

You may even want to have your staff configure lab time into their job to explore new technologies or to dig deeper into familiar ones. I can’t tell you the number of certification tests I have taken but I didn’t even break the surface of many issues until I was faced with them in my lab at 2 a.m.

Real learning takes place when setting up these programs and labs and by working through them until you really feel the product and what it’s about.

As a highly certified IT professional, I believe there is a better way for many companies to prepare their staffs. Allow your company’s finest to ignite their passions. You will be (happily) surprised what the freedom will bring.

57 comments
matthew.snider
matthew.snider

I just passed the CISSP, and I'm telling you what, there is not one person in the world who could "study practice questions for a few days" and pass this exam. What you should be asking is why certs are meaningless? Because there is no real verification. For the CISSP, I had to submit my resume and a voucher from a C-level company executive proving I worked in InfoSec for 5 years. Add a resume, 3-year requirement, and a voucher to the MCSE and suddenly you get rid of the cheaters. The problem is "it's just a test" whereas the CISSP is not, it requires experience. You can't just "pass the test". Just as a disclaimer, I hold MCP and CCSE certs also ... so I'm familiar with those areas.

dl63
dl63

I find that employers today are placing too much emphasis on certifications today in the hiring process. As you rightly point out, the motivation for certification is the most important aspect. In most cases today, I find it's the desire to be more marketable, but having a certification is like eating junk food. In most cases, they are empty calories -- a check mark signifying nothing except the ability to get in the door for an interview. I find most employees in the field who emphasize certification are shallow. They are usually the weakest members of the team because the certification makes up for lack of on the job accomplishment. They spend too much time worrying about marketable skills over making meaningful contributions to the project. Consequently, they get the least desirable work because they never prove themselves with something substantial where they can gain real knowledge in an area where a certification could never substitute. The best people on my team never concerned themselves with certification. They preferred acquiring new knowledge by reading books and experimentation. Often times, they created their own techniques superior to those found in a book. The best people are too busy, normally starting work early and leaving late. These are the people that employers and headhunters today pass up because they don't have the certification. The way these steady, accomplished performers move on to new opportunities is through networking -- people inside another company vouching for their worth. When hiring an experienced person, I've always emphasized their accomplishments. After all, what good is experience and a certification if there are no accomplishments to go with them? Meaningful on the job accomplishments are the hallmark of an exceptional employee. These people are successful even when assigned to projects where they are inexperienced in the technology. They are problem solvers and quick learners -- the most important skills to have in IT. To the steady performer who benefits nothing from acquiring a certification except for the piece of paper, it presents a conundrum. If he doesn't acquire the certificate, he will find it more difficult to find a job when the time requires it. If he spends the time acquiring certificates, he takes time and thought away from his real objectives which is delivering successfully on job assignments.

MAJ JBM
MAJ JBM

I'll play devil's advocate here. How many people would trust their lives to a doctor without a medical degree or board certifications? To call yourself a specialist in a particular medical field requires training and an exam in order to become certified. How about trusting a lawyer who couldn't pass the bar exams? Granted, many certifications wind up just being screening tools, but they do reflect a degree of study, training, and experience, not to mention motivation. Using certifications as a screening tool for IT jobs is a lot more logical than military aviation using uncorrected perfect vision as a screening tool for flight training candidates even for puddle jumper planes or helicopters, even though only high-performance flying in fighters truly requires that. Having said all that, I am more cynical about certifications that I used to be. You spend lots of your own money on training and certification tests, and then the industry comes up with even more tests. As others have noted, testing and certification is a cash cow.

brian.kinney
brian.kinney

I have to disagree with you about the "cost" of learning. Did you go to college? Did you get a degree? Did you pay tons of money for that education? Does it add value to your career? I see that a long term committment to education is valuable. Certifications are not college degrees, nor were they meant to be. Certifications are elements of focus, showing that you've been willing to INVEST time, effort and money into having more knowledge on a subject than before. I wouldn't hire a person to run the WAN for my business if they didn't have at least a CCNA cert, and I'd demand more experience alongside it as well. If I have a bunch of candidates who are very similar in talents, what's left to make a difference to me? If you have a complaint about a specific certification, then bark about it to the vendor. Maybe you chose a course which was too simple for your needs, or wasn't aligned to your specific interests. A number of people complain about "paper MCSEs." They've taken the exams and somehow passed. If there isn't practical working knowledge behind that certificate, then yes, it's worthless. Certs also give credence to those who didn't go to college and worked hard on those talents they acquired "by the seat of their career." A certification also shows you're still motivated - while you're unemployed, just what have you been doing with yourself in the meantime? On mental and physical vacation, or doing something to improve your skill set?

Nafstejyn
Nafstejyn

I think arguing completely for or completely against certification is completely missing the boat. The fact is, in most (not all, but most) cases, an entry-level certification can help you secure your first job in I.T. Sorry to all that despise certifications, but if I'm looking to hire an entry level employee, if a degree isn't a requirement, I'll scan resumes for basic certs that meet my needs. There's nothing wrong, and a bit of common sense with that practice. A certification may not help you with all of your troubleshooting scenarios, and every possible thing that can go wrong, but it can show that you may have the basic knowlege necessary to properly operate a system when things are going right. Then, once you've secured your first job, you learn from more experience and other methods. But how, pray tell, are you supposed to get that experience without first getting the job? See the catch-22 here? Once you've got that job, I agree that brain-dumping certs is not the way to go if you truly want to learn your craft and advance in your field or explore new avenues later. But that is up to individual personal integrity, that doesn't simply invalidate every single certified person's hard work. The most common sense approach is to certify, get a job, find your niche, practice, read, learn from others, find mentors, aim for higher level certs (by reading, practicing and learning from mentors) and continue through this process throughout your career. The combination of certification, and experience/practice is invaluable. Neither one will serve you as well alone as they would with the other. Perhaps a better solution would be to focus more on ways of improving the security, confidentiality and integrity of certification exam processes rather than to declare them all worthless. In all facets of I.T., we use metrics to determine how various parts of our systems are performing, and a certification can at the very least be used as a metric to determine, at the entry level, what a person's basic skill set is. There are certification models that have a relatively high rate of integrity. All the cert bashers love to disparage MCSE. How many paper CCIE's are there? How about CISSP? Or maybe even RHCE? I'm sure there may be some, there always will be successful cheats, but to say ALL certs are worthless, because MCSE candidates frequently cheat, is just plain silly. In closing, to those of you who feel you don't need certifications at all, please bid on all networking and security contracts that my company bids on, that way, it will help ensure that my highly experience, qualified AND certified consulting team will win the contract over you every time, and I can continue to enjoy the benefits that my combination of certifications and experience consistenty provide me.

MAJ JBM
MAJ JBM

In some cases, companies (especially contractors) require certifications for legal reasons. Let's say you work for a ABC Computer Consulting, which has a contract to perform work for XYZ Corp. Something goes amiss with the project and XYZ looks for a loophole to sue ABC. XYZ finds out that that ABC's techs don't have the appropriate Microsoft, Cisco, A+ or whatever certifications. They can then claim that the techs that ABC provided weren't qualified because they didn't pass industry standard certifications. It's also a selling point for a contractor to say that they have certified technicians, programmers, and network admins. It shows the client that their people meet industry standards for what's expected of them.

techmichelle
techmichelle

For years its been you don't need a cert, but I started to realize that is wrong. In a perfect world okay, but right now you need to look at the company you are at or at the company you would like to be at. And more often than not you need the cert to get your foot in the door or to help you get the promotion. CPAs, Engineers, Lawyers, etc all sit for tests to become professionals, certs should not be the end, but the beginning, they should say I know the basics. Michelle

Craig_B
Craig_B

If you are a busy HR person who gets tons of resumes for job openings you need to filter them. If you are a busy highering Manager the same holds true. So most companies insteading of taking the time to find out if an individual knows enough or not put requirements of Certifications or Degrees or whatever. Now instead of 1000 resumes they get 100. As the market changes these filters change. In todays market (more of an employer market) the filters get greater. This is why everyone says to network for jobs because you can bypass a lot of the filters and get seen. So Certifications or any paper does not really mean that much it's the work you put into things that matter. However it takes time for someone else to figure out what you can do and most companies do not want to invest that time.

projects
projects

As a branch committee member in the British Computer Society, I know that events are a great oppportunity to find out more about IT issues, meet other IT professionals or open doors to unadvertised options and non-members are welcome to attend most events too!

sunilguptasg
sunilguptasg

There is truth in the article. But, like most everything in life, blanket statements cannot be true. As an example, I had once suggested to several of my experienced colleagues who could not afford the PMI cert to take up the Microsoft MSF exam. Despite all the reading they did and two attempts, they could not get certified. While I have never come across a MSF certified professional, I know that I will value this cert. I too took up this cert, and frankly, felt that the PMI cert was easier!

Delk1
Delk1

This is for all of the none Braindumpers like myself. You can't look over someone else shoulder and understand how Server permissions flow, You can't look over someone else shoulder and understand the whole concept of the Windows Server group policies, DNS, WINS, NDS, Cisco Routing, etc etc. Any body can make a few clicks, type in the ping command and get a reply, but what happens if you get nothing, What protocol does the ping command use? Are those packets being blocked at the router?At some point you WILL have to pick up a BOOK and READ. Certification gives you the inter-concept on how the product really works. Why do you think doctors have to READ and certify. You guys really don't think a doctor need to go to school for 7 to 10 years to learn how to cut out tumor in a human body do you. Man, you could learn that in a day, by LOOKING OVER someone elses shoulder, but what happens if that person stop breathing while you are cutting and the length of your knowledge is looking over someone elses shoulder. YOU need to have both. Experience and Certs. Remember, most of the people who disagree probably don't have the discipline to buckle down and get certified anyway.

skicat
skicat

I realized that if I am certified, I should be able to reflect that either with my work, hobbies or knowledge and I have focused my continuing education in that direction. There is no reason for me to be certified in an area "just to be".

sr10
sr10

If you look at the offerings, there are really three classes of certs. The CNC class is named in honor of Novell, who introduced it, although Microsoft and Cisco have jumped on the bandwagon hard. It is a specialization in one vendor's technology. It is all about marketing: once a practitioner has invested in getting the cert, s/he will be an advocate of that vendor's technology. The biggest payback for the practitioner is that it will be easy to get another job. The CDP class is named after the Certified Data Processor; certs such as PMP and ISSP fall here as well. At least this is not in the service of a vendor. The problem here is that the cert encourages a craft mentality and the belief that storing up knowledge of arcana equals effectiveness. Then you are going to want the practitioner to be aligned with business objectives, and it's not going to happen. Business certs include the APICS family, NASD series 7 and friends, and any other cert that the busienss you support has to have. Even though the CPA and CMA are not business-specific, they at least broaden the perspective beyond the IT craft. If you want a cert in something, at least this class will help your organization understand the realitites of the business you serve. Ideally, you can develop enough fluency to be able to talk the business about their issues, assisting you in moving up the perceptual ladder from vendor to partner. It's not reasonable to expect the practitioner to invest in multiple classes of certs.

Kyser Soze
Kyser Soze

I update my certs when it is time to find a new contract, because that is as far as the HR Dept reads on the resume. As a 45 year old career changer my MCSE gave me another advantage over more experienced, younger indivduals. But the certs did not help me much/any on the day to day work. As a contractor my employer is prohibited by Federal (IRS) law from providing me training or paying for tests. I guess the theory is contracters just know everything without training. In the real world, it is learn as you go and catch as catch can.

jfp
jfp

I have been preaching for years that it is more important to be trained and experienced, than certified. Only to have that preaching fall on deaf ears. I am glad to finally hear someone else express the same opinion.

kpak44wh
kpak44wh

Take your chance on some questions that could be wrong, no thanks. I would rather study. I do study multiple questions for proprofs.com, but these not cheat answers. It helps me organise my study habits so i can pass the test. I made a better score if i read the book about three times, and went over mutliple choice questions for about 3 weeks. I would go back to the book when I didn't understand something, but i kept quizzing myself.

dspeacock
dspeacock

Matthew I am also a CISSP, and hold some of the same views on "paper" cert as you do. The CISSP was the hardest thing I've ever done. I didn't go to a boot camp, just studied my guts out. (btw...the people who wrote the test with me who were at the boot camp had less than a 50% pass rate). To me, an MCSE doesn't hold as much weight now as it did 8-10 years ago when it really meant something. It has gone the way of the old Novell CNA....write a test, pass it, add the letters to the resume and NEVER have seen a live system. When I am looking to hire someone for a position here, I look at experience, attitude, people skills etc. and then MAYBE certs. That said, there are a couple of certs I still "have" to get like CISA and CISM, just so you know I'm not totally against certs.

wshawnmelton
wshawnmelton

In studying for CCNA, which does have a level of difficulty to it. Myself, I do not have a full year in physical experience working on a Cisco router/switch/etc. However I have tinkered around with them and I am beginning to work with switches and routers more in time at my job. Looking around for study guides for CCNA or Microsoft there are some study guides out there you could give to your Grandmother and get her to pass them. Now mind you any type of test that has that much information does take a certain type of person to just be able to study it without knowing what he/she is reading. There are probably alot of those people out there now. I have meet with a company that has told me they do not look more at certifications but more at my experience and what I have done. However it is true I believe that more companies do use Certs on job requirements to weed out people. Overall I would say Certifications and degrees are still worth their weight. It is mostly going to depend on the person, whether they have the background knowledge and how much information they come out with it. It does show a level of determination, just as some of the other threads have mentioned, spending 4 years to get a degree or studying 4 or 6 months to get a certification. I plan on being able to learn alot more of Cisco routers and switches in my studies for CCNA. Then in time I will be able to put that knowledge to use. It is helping me understand people that do work on them. A window has opened up on what they are talking about.

dmhoward157
dmhoward157

Your sentiments echo mine very well. certifications by themselves without experience and education to back them up are not worth much, but when added to the other two are a part of a combination that impresses customers and employers. i did not see a single argument "totally against certification" in this message board that was impressive at all. Those totally against it seem to me to have completely missed out on the purpose of the certifications, but I hope they never figure it out. I like competing against people who can't possibly beat me because in a 3 part qualifier they pull up a ZERO in one of the three areas.

markxxiv
markxxiv

The plaintiff (XYZ Corp) can make any claim it wishes. Plaintiffs often make claims, and file suit, in hopes that the defendant will pay rather than contest the suit. The price of litigation is so high that even suits without merit (e.g. those based on frivilous or legally irrelevant claims) are often settled by payment of substantial sums in order to avoid incurring the much greater costs of litigation. To show negligence the plaintiff must show that the defedant ACTED in a manner not consistent with the applicable standards of the profession. The acts of the defendant, not the certifications, are what must be negligent. For example, if a person who is not a licensed physician performs surgery, he may not be found negligent IF his surgery is performed in a manner consistent with standards of the relevant medical community. He may be guilty of violating criminal law, but conviction on that charge does not get the plaintiff any bucks. The plaintiff only gets bucks by showing negligent acts, causation, and damages.

James B.
James B.

Certifications follow the same learning conventions as college degrees. Read, quiz, dabble a bit in the field, read some more, memorize, pass tests, get a sheet of paper to hang on the wall. There is nothing wrong with this process. There will always be cheaters. The should be exposed at every opportunity. There actions don't invalidate the certs though.

smith
smith

Chuck Smith * P.O. Box 6695 * Syracuse, New York 13217 (315) 476-0643 smith@traknet.com Experienced IT professional with a dedication to support, systems administration and problem solving. Willing to learn and teach, while working well both independently and as a member of teams. Computer Training and Certifications Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) ID #3336523 CompTIA Network+ Certified Support Specialist ID# COMP001002938122 CompTIA Certified Computer Service Technician ID# 0019733096 Network Engineer (Syracuse University) Windows XP Certification, Network + Certification, A+ Certification Managing and Maintaining a Windows Server 2003 Environment Computer Skills and Experience Microsoft Operating Systems: Windows 9x, Windows NT 4.0, Windows NT Server 4.0, Windows 2000 Professional, Windows XP (Home and Pro), Windows 2000 & 2003 Servers Networking: Design and Installation, Server/Workstation Installation and Configuration, Internet Operations, Administration and Troubleshooting Professional Computer Work History John Milton Inn, Carrier Circle, Syracuse, New York 2003-2005 Southwest Community Center, South Avenue, Syracuse, New York 2001 St. Joseph?s Hospital, Prospect Avenue, Syracuse, New York 2000-2001 Veteran?s Administration Medical Center, 800 Irving Avenue Syracuse, New York 1997-2000 Professional Business Work History Self-employed owner/operator in various construction and food service industry settings 1973-1997 Military and Telecommunication Work History United States Air Force 1963-1967 Honorable Discharged US Army/Naval Communication Unit, Hancock Field, Syracuse, N.Y. 1967-1973

dmack58
dmack58

From someone already in the industry: Very few if any, software platforms run in a vacuum. The integration of the enterprise with such things as: virus protection, the internet, email, SPAM reduction, compliance, security, audit, backup and restore and disaster recovery priorities greatly reduce the importance of a single vendor certification. How many companies roll out zero releases of software? Some, but not many. In my experience, over the last 14 years in I.T., I have found that many large companies wait months if not years until a new software product becomes stable, as patches are applied, before deploying it to an entire enterprise. From a business perspective there is a widely held belief that a delay in the roll-out to clients will reduce or mitigate the risk and exposure a business faces that is inherent in new software deployments. With software manufactures rolling out new versions every few years it makes keeping multiple certifications current impractical - unless it is mandated by an employer. I think the saying goes: "Jack of all trades, master of none." The window between software upgrades are so small now that by the time a new certification study guide comes out, the next major release is just around the corner. Anybody out there that is NT4 certified who skipped Windows 2000 and went straight to 2003,? or better yet is just waiting for Vista? The training materials associated with new releases are ALMOST always a first edition copy. On the contrary I think the math course I took in college was a 5th edition text and was classroom tested over 20 years. I find it difficult to justify the time and money a certification takes (and I have two vendor certs) for the minute return on investment you receive upon completing it. Why pay a training center thousands of dollars to get a piece of paper that is only good for maybe 18 months to 3 years max! Experience in my opinion is the key, even if you have to start at the help desk - real world hands-on troubleshooting of everyday problems is what you want to build your confidence and your resume if you are just starting out. A transferable skill set should be a number one priority. The alternative, if you are going to have to study all the time, would be to go back to college and get a four year degree - (almost) any degree. In hind sight, after studying software for the past 14 years, I believe once you get your base understanding any additional study ONLY for certification is like trying to hit a moving target - I could have gotten a masters degree in law, finance or medicine with higher pay AND studied about the same amount of time that it took to keep my current certs. I think the real question should be: Do I go back to school or do I get another cert? I suggest that you chose wisely, it can save you years of frustration. NOTE: Finally for you hiring managers, if I was looking to hire a new employee, I would look for an individual with a strong writing and math background with a mix of technology experience as opposed to strictly an IT candidate. In the long run - technology will change but the ability to analyze, document and harness its power will not.

Mark VII
Mark VII

I've never been a fan of certs for several reasons, but the first and foremost is that employers use them as a crutch. Instead of actually getting to know your people and their aptitudes, the employer just looks at what certs the employee has. Similarly, instead of looking for ways to help the employee grow and providing appropriate opportunities, the employer just expects the employee to spend his time and money getting more certs. When recruting, the employer looks on the resume for certs, instead of a pattern of accomplishments that show the person has "the right stuff". And then they say they can't find qualified candidates. The cert game fosters an attitude of people as generic commodities. And the employers wonder why folks aren't loyal...

Super Scooter
Super Scooter

i heard from my instructor (still in high school here) that i could get my Net Plus Certificate? Should i go for it then or not at all?

rjrizzi
rjrizzi

It is responsible and commendable that you clearly say that certification is a waste of time in many situations. Experience from years of on the job and situations in the real world are far more important than the accolade of a piece of paper. Would you prefer the fresh from business school MBA or a seasoned veteran to take the helm of your venture startup? Not if your house depended on it! With Cliff Notes for passing and the fact that they change in consort with every passing upgrade of an application .Rev the TRUTH is they are really a source of REVENUE for the software vendor. A resume and a REAL exploratory interview will reveal more about a candidate then a keyword search for a certification!

ramesh_rajamoni
ramesh_rajamoni

in my exp in IT - experianced guys fare well than ceritified guys. Certs are total waste of time. Incase certs need to be used to select/shortlist candidates, the certs must be mandatory and free (atleast affordable!.) -RR

ramesh_rajamoni
ramesh_rajamoni

In my experiance I have seen that guys with experiance fare well than certified ones!.. Certificates can be used to shortlist candidates only when they are free(atleast affordable) and mandatory during all recruitments.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

At at LEAST $150/cert with bootcamps thrown in, it isn't cheap to get certified. Most certs are at least 2 tests, if not more. What really irritates me is that there is a total lack of reality in most of the certs. CompTIA is VERY dated and MCSE is just marketing drone garbage. Until certs can grow up and test real world skills, I don't care for them, but you gotta have 'em.

Eddie N
Eddie N

I have run into MCSEs who couldn't format a floppy disk -- I kid you not. It got to the stage where I started saying that MCSE stood for "Multi-Cram Session Education". Employers who place a higher emphasis on certs than on solid experience do themselves harm. You have to have a balance between industry certifications and work experience, as well as formal education (college degrees).

anthony.berni
anthony.berni

Absolultely agree with this track. I personally have experience and certs and they both give me the edge. Certifications are the best way for this industry to move forward to true professionalism. All they need is to introduce practical exams. But for now what we have is good. And another thing. Why is it that the people who dont think certifications are worth it are the usually ones without any?? Regards Tony

kpak44wh
kpak44wh

rescue.com is based in newyork state, look them up. They tried to hire me, but I didn't like having to buy parts from them for a job. You might try it. I hear they pay well.

dadministrator
dadministrator

...and add more context to the list of server support positions. Were you part of a team, with roles? Did you save your client money, improve efficiency, save time and effort, or add other specific business value? Did you deal with any software other than the infrastructure/OS products? Monitoring/Management? The resume listing is very dry, and certifications really don't mean anything without demonstrable application, imho. -TNM www.technicalresumereview.blogspot.com

dmack58
dmack58

Short answer: Start with a contract house Long answer: In general, you may have noticed consolidation in the computer industry when Oracle bought Peoplesoft a few years back and Microsoft explored purchasing SAP. In my opinion, there has been a significant shift in technology from strictly client server technology to a web service architecture over the past several years. This has been driven by the average I.T. departments decreasing Return on Investment (ROI) and increasing Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). If you listen to any major vendor webcast on-line, you will hear terms such as service oriented architecture with "self serve" applications, or "composite" applications. Four years ago Microsoft created a company called Avanade to address integration with SAP and IBM has something called "Project Harmony" to do the same. These two examples are just to name a few. As a matter of fact, today's headlines are now even talking about leveraging the assets of Google and SAP! Unheard of just a few years back. As for your specific situation. Ask yourself a couple of questions first. What size company do you wish to work for? Do you live in a metro area? Will you work for a contract house? It looks like you have a very broad background - which means you can plug in anywhere and do almost anything. Unfortunately this may result in just average opportunity and pay. Of all the things you listed, what do you do BEST- better than anyone else, the ONE thing that makes you stand out from the crowd (ie client support or training, hardware or software, server work or programming etc) By specializing in just this one area at this point in your career you will undoubtedly increase your earning potential. After you determine what you do best, then I would research what pays the most. Does your natural skill set match the technology with the highest pay? If not, can you learn the new area with relative ease? (Remember if you like what you do, learning something new should be less of a struggle.) Once you have picked one talent - Master it, and become an expert in it. When you marry your diverse background with just one concentrated discipline you can market yourself to contract houses and head-hunters which are always looking for experts in their given field. (regardless of a certification) If you can do the work, they will find you. And don't forget to use your past positions, contacts and employers to find new opportunities. - peer networking is important no matter what business you are in. So check in with your old co-workers from time to time. Even if doing so only leads to short term contracts of 3 to 6 months. These can be invaluable when looking for a permanent position (if there is such a thing anymore) Good Luck & God Bless

dldigital
dldigital

The first time I attended a cert class, I knew it wasn't for me. I'm an older IT guy I've been doing this for almost 20 years, all my experience is practical and I don't do the "what if I had all the resources" very well. Too many of the certs are based on the perfect world and we all know that ain't out here. I can't "Blue Sky" because all the practical realities get in my way. I know a lot of the dogma they teach and I can usually get by but what really bugs me and usually has me seriously irritated by the end of the class is the lack of practical skills and common sense so many of these kids with an armload of certs have. I think I'm going to start a cert I call it YIHCSAPS "Yes I Have Common Sense And Practical Skills" Don't know if anyone would attend though it doesn't sound quite as glamorous as some of the others.

Jaqui
Jaqui

on exactly what you expect acert to do for you. the MS certs have become meaningless. [ to many unemployed people with them ] any VENDOR specific cert is focussed on the Vendor's products, not the underlying technology, making them less usefull in real work terms, but the NAME BRAND recognition of them makes them more usefull for recognition by HR departments. a Novell Netware cert, useless because netware is a dying product, very few new networks use it. Usefull because of the Novell name. A University Fellow teaching networking in Utah went and wrote the MS cert exams, the multiple guess questions he picked the answer that best sold MS software and aced the exams. [ obviously, they don't require real technical knowledge for those answers then, making them useless from the getting the job done veiwpoint in any mixed os work environment... possibly even in an MS only environment, but the MS name gets you past HR for an interveiw. ]

Tig2
Tig2

By all means- get it. You can leverage it to an entry level position. But for someone who has been in the industry for years, it may not be as valuable. A cert doesn't take the place of years of OTJ. By the same token, it won't hurt you either. And the paper helps to validate you to the HR folk who do the screening. I think what I have heard in this discussion is that those of us who have been in the trenches for our entire careers are now being judged for the lack of something we have never needed before to do our jobs. And that is frustrating. At the same time, if you are willing to put the work into that certification, it will likely do you good. Bottom line, the certs help. Experience is key. Knowledge is power.

Steven S. Warren
Steven S. Warren

I have over 10 years experience and I still certify once a year to give myself the edge. Yes, experience beats out certs but experience and certs ---TO THE MOON!

kpak44wh
kpak44wh

I have 13 years of experience, and took my a+ certification last month. I studied for 3 months, and learned things I never heard of. Yes, experience is good, but so is a certification. The brain dumpers only take seconds to know they're not able to do the job. You need both now days, or they will not even look at you. The more certs, more better. Try to get as many as you can, and don't cheat. You are only hurting yourself.

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

IN the MCSE cert we had one specific exam: the 70216 exam, is called "the beast"... you know why?? I always encourage to take certifications. I work in a lot of projects and I work with consultants, only if they have certifications. If you told me you have certifications, with one day working with me I CAN SEE if you have experience. If you have both, you are gold. Because my team have lot of certs, we request the big paycheck to clients and for projects... I told them: this guy wants 1000usd, I want 1500 because we are certified. And when the clients told about us to other companies, they say: this guys are good! they are gurus! they are ITpros! they have lot of certifications and knowledge!! We had a server farms with complex AD structure, we see 15 different techs with "expertise" trying to fix a KCC error for a week. One guy with MCSE fix it in a second, and he say: you can read a lot about KCC in the MCSE MOC book2, chapter 6...... I know the answer to this problem because I had the same question in my exam! :)

dinotech
dinotech

Most universities have not embraced IT; you have to go outside to a for-profit college like Devry or ITT to get the formal education. Even if they do offer some technical degree programs, the content is rudimentary with very limited real-world situations. Training is costly whether it comes from a university, college, or trade school. As Eddie said, a combination of both is mandatory to be successful in an IT career. Yes, I believe that one should be certified in at least three disciplines. The certifications from Microsoft, CompTIA and Cisco should be sufficient. I also believe that paying for the certifications should come from both employee and employer; it is an investment 1)for you to increase your skill set and 2)the employer to employ skilled technicians. Splitting the cost gives you incentive to do well and gives the employer the committment to providing you with the education you need.

vinc_1969
vinc_1969

What if your a student and want to get certified so that you can have the knowledge and cert to get that dream job? When do you tell yourself that it's just not worth the money? Do you get certified or go after the experience part of getting that job? Thank you in advance Ken

Murali Bala
Murali Bala

There is no way Certs can compensate for experience. Though certs can help you keep focused.

carmela.martinez
carmela.martinez

When looking for a new job after many years of experience I see that employers ask for a certification but not as a "must", instead they are more interested in the trusted experience I can bring into the organization. It?s a nice to have but I my opinion it?s not really worthed.

randy.dale
randy.dale

Amen to that! I work in a place that requires certifications and constant updates. Well, all those certs prove is that someone can study and remember the canned answers long enough to pass a test, then go out and do real harm to the network. I've been teaching MCSE's how the real world works for a few years and I am frequently reminded that these people are being forced into this "brain dump" strategy and then having to learn the basics afterword. I'll take experience over certs anytime.

kpak44wh
kpak44wh

I went online an recieved my associates in less than 15 months, because they wouldn't hire me otherwise, even with all my certs. Then they end up hiring a salesclerk from walmart with no certs, or any degrees. Life is a pain, and you have to deal with it. I left them and found out I made more money as a troubleshooter for other companies.

bg6638
bg6638

I certainly wish that were true, however my experience has been that employers *demand* a Bachelors degree along with a slew of certs(MCSE, CCNA, CCDP, RHCE, etc., etc.....) AND experience. If you have don't have all three, your resume is filed under "T" for trash! I have been a COBOL/Foxpro programmer for 20 years, and have worked with Msoft products from DOS 1.1 thru Win2k3/XP as a Sys Admin for over 10 yrs. With an AAB degree and a few minor certs, employment agencies have told me I'm not employable because I lack a 4 yr degree, and a requisite number of high level certs.....even for an entry level position such as Help Desk I!

Bill Elmore
Bill Elmore

I took the time to get certifications when I first got into the IT field 12+ years ago. After a few years of actual experience though, maintaining and adding new certs became unnecessary. Certs should only hold water for IT newbies to demonstrate that they have the aptitude for this field...

jinteik
jinteik

I am still a student and i am going to graduate soon.. i guess everywhere (outside my country) or in my country every company wants those (just graduate/working) who have certs..most of the time they want MCSE or CCNA.. I am an IT student and i would love to hear how you all started out your job line..Did it ever come into your mind that certs are important?how about the jobs that you choose?

pathma
pathma

Certifications should be taken based on what you do and your career path. If you are working as network admin, and plan to specialize in that area, then you should work on Network +, MCSE or Cisco certs and later stages on Project management related certs. That will take you in the right direction in your career... Proper planning is vital otherwise, certs will be useless.

SciFiMan
SciFiMan

I agree. You can walk on water but you'll never get past the HR monkey or computer that scans resumes for the Certs listed in the job description. That probably won't change because it makes a lot of companies tons of money, and hiring companies think it's impressive. To bad very few companies pay for training these days. I can't afford MS or Cisco certs on my own. But over the next 6 months I plan on getting, for whatever they're worth, A+, Network+, Security+, Server+, Project+. At least that's just buy a study guide and $250 for each test. Same stuff I've been doing for 24 years, but until I can list it the HR people assume I've never even seen a computer before. It sucks.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

generally. If you can't show experience on your cv, certs are not optional. Even with the experience a lot of HR types want the cert and a degree and you to agree to be paid in peanuts. Whether you can do the job when you get there, that's another matter entirely. When you are out looking, beware of the boot camp, knowledge dump boys. You know what they say about something that's too good to be true! Do it the hard way, learn it, then get certified that you HAVE learnt it. The goal is not to pass the exam, but to learn enough to pass the exam. You will get past HR with the cert, after all they don't know anything but that the letters after your name mean something. You won't get past an IT professional unless you can demonstrate your understanding though. The job you should dream of is entry level, when you've got that then you can dream bigger. There's no academic qualification of any kind that's a substitute for having worn the tee-shirt. Set yourself manageable goals. I'd recommend you setting up your own lab and practising. Remember every time it goes wrong on you is an opportunity to learn why it did, how to avoid it happening again and ways you can undo the 'mistake'

bg6638
bg6638

My experience is that employers want at least a Bachelor's degree -AND- experience -AND- a raftload of certs, i.e. at least an MCSE coupled with *several* Cisco certs at an absolute minimum! A degree w no certs or experience, or certs with experience and no degree equals resume earmarked for the trashcan.....

Bob Oso
Bob Oso

I have to say yes these people are nuts! And Cheap too.

smallbiz-techwiz
smallbiz-techwiz

Reminds me of the time that I saw a job description where they wanted someone with 5 years of experience with Windows XP. It had only been released a year earlier. Makes you wonder if anyone from IT ever proofreads this stuff. In one company I worked for, I was told they ask for the ideal candidate at a ridiculously low salary - then settle for the best of the ones that responded and assume you will negotiate upwards on the pay.

bg6638
bg6638

My feeling about the certs, is that they are a mechanism used by HR Depts to screen people, without realizing what type of individuals that they may actually be getting. It amuses me to see job listings where they list multiple years of experience, a Bachelor's required, with a Master's preferred, with an MCSE, every CISCO cert, Redhat, Sun, Citrix, etc., etc., etc. Then toss in several years experience with C#, C++, Visual Basic 6.0/.NET. Does the employer truly want a person who is good at test taking, but when they are in the real world they stumble because they forgot material they crammed in a couple months ago to pass the latest cert? I guess that job experience alone no longer counts....... It's sad because it use to count! Late in the afternoon, I interviewed for a state job for a local sys admin job. Before I left, the interviewer told me that their "ideal" candidate would have a Bachelor's in Finance along with the following certs: MOUS, CCNA, CCDP, MCSE, and RHCE. The pay rate for the job was $30k/yr., and NO this was not considered an "entry level" position! Are people like this nuts???????

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