IT certificates can demonstrate knowledge needed to work on a particular system or project, but prior work experience often carries more weight when hiring.
Many organizations offer certifications for technology workers and project managers, some of which can drastically increase an employee's salary. Some employers argue that these are important distinctions to have on a resume, while others say the quality of a candidate's work and experience are more important than a certification.
We polled the TechRepublic CIO Jury to see if they weigh certifications more than other factors, including education or experience. When asked "Do you think certifications are worthwhile for employees?", 10 out of 12 IT leaders said yes, while two said no—but almost all offered caveats.
"Experience is definitely worth more, but certifications still expose you to a lot of useful concepts and technology, especially the more robust ones like Microsoft and Cisco," said Dustin Bolander, CIO of Technology Pointe. "We're a consulting company and it is very important towards vendor partnerships and client confidence."
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Nothing can replace that practical experience, said Eric Panknin, IT manager of DMJ & Co. However, "certifications give employees something to reach for professionally, while they also serve as a benchmark for employers of the employees' capabilities," Panknin said.
For a job candidate who is right out of school, a certification can prove they have the knowledge needed to work on a certain system or project, said Jeff Kopp, technology coordinator of Christ the King Catholic School. And for someone already working in the field, up to date certifications can show that they are keeping up with their education. "More importantly for this group is there work on previous projects and experience," Kopp said. "Job requirements will state requirements but more influence is placed on previous performance."
Certifications are worthwhile, but separate and distinct from the quality of a candidate's work and experience, said Michael Spears, CIO and chief data officer of the National Council on Compensation Insurance. "This is probably most true for jobs in the earlier part of your career and roles with very specific skill requirements," Spears said. "For example, if we were to hire a Help Desk employee straight out of college with little to no work experience, candidates with relevant certifications rise to the top. It may not ensure mastery of a skill, but similar to a university degree, it shows the commitment to complete it."
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One caveat is that certifications must be aligned with IT plans, said Inder Davalur, group CIO of KIMS Hospitals Private Limited. For example, if an organization has an artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning project in the works, having employees certified in relevant courses would be beneficial. "Employee retention and satisfaction will also be boosted when the employees gain some knowledge that the company pays for, but is also something they can carry with them for the rest of their lives," Davalur said.
On the other hand, while any valid certification is a plus, "solid experience is more important," said David Wilson, director of IT services at VectorCSP. "The quality of the issuing authority for the certification is also important, in terms of how recognized it is."
Simon Johns, IT director of Sheppard Robson Architects LLC, agreed. "I generally prefer experience. But qualifications are a reasonable indicator," Johns said. "However, too many qualifications, and the candidate appears like a self-interested trophy hunter, more bent on learning for their own gain than benefitting my business."
This month's CIO Jury included:
- Dustin Bolander, CIO, Technology Pointe
- Mike S. Ferris, global IT director of infrastructure, Lincoln Electric
- Eric Panknin, IT manager, DMJ & Co.
- Jeff Kopp, technology coordinator, Christ the King Catholic School
- Michael Spears, CIO and chief data officer, National Council on Compensation Insurance
- Inder Davalur, group CIO, KIMS Hospitals Private Limited
- Richard Sasson, director of global technical services, Crestron
- Dan Gallivan, director of information technology, Payette
- Cory Wilburn, CIO, Texas General Land Office
- Shane Milam, executive director of technology infrastructure services, Mercer University
- David Wilson, director of IT services, VectorCSP
- Simon Johns, IT director, Sheppard Robson Architects LLC
Want to be part of TechRepublic's CIO Jury and have your say on the top issues for IT decision makers? If you are a CIO, CTO, IT director, or equivalent at a large or small company, working in the private sector or in government, and you want to join TechRepublic's CIO Jury pool, click the Contact link below or email alison dot rayome at cbsinteractive dot com, and send your name, title, company, location, and email address.
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