Earning industry certification is no walk in the park. In fact, many seasoned IT professionals will tell you it’s one of the most difficult achievements they’ve experienced.

Everyone from chief technology officers to systems and network administrators to support desk personnel rely upon certification and industry accreditation to communicate the skill level they possess with different technologies.

As you may have read in the Paperchase TechMail, if you earn certification, you owe it to yourself to maximize the accomplishment. This includes updating your business cards, resume, and more.
Did you know Paperchase Digest can be sent directly to your e-mail box every Friday and that the e-mail includes tips and news not found on the TechRepublic site? Don’t miss a single installment! It’s easy, and it’s free. Just go to the TechMail page and select Erik Eckel’s Paperchase Digest under Getting Ahead. Ensure that you keep up-to-date on the latest certification tips, shortcuts, news, and more!
But what happens when others begin fraudulently claiming rights to the certification you’ve legitimately earned? If they misrepresent themselves, and then perform badly, how does that reflect upon you? Can a few bad apples ruin an entire certification program?

Judging from Microsoft’s response and its moves to strengthen its MCSE program by adding an additional exam, making the tests more difficult, and permitting only a single shot at passing the NT 4 to Windows 2000 migration exam, I’d say yes. Redmond has dropped a heavy hammer in an effort to forge a bolstered program that eliminates the infamous “Paper MCSE.” As a result of tougher certification requirements, less-scrupulous individuals will either continue claiming the MCSE designation after it’s retired, or simply claim MCSE status when, in fact, they haven’t earned it.

As for Paper MCSEs, that’s another story.

Be careful!
Emotions surrounding the term Paper MCSE run so high you could find yourself in a scrap! Call someone a Paper MCSE, and you might learn the hard way that those are fighting words in the Information Revolution.

Why is that? Because there’s resentment in the industry. And I believe that resentment is borne of frustration.

The industry possesses tens of thousands of IT professionals who have worked diligently, and often at their own expense, to earn certification after transferring from another profession. What happens when they go out in the field or interview for a new post? They find themselves being compared to Paper MCSEs, whether they have IT experience or not. And, well, you know how that ends.

It’s going to get worse
Now I’m hearing from certain segments of the IT population that they don’t care that Microsoft is retiring the NT 4 MCSE. They couldn’t care less that Redmond will no longer recognize the certification on Dec. 31, 2001.

In fact, some have indicated they’re going to keep right on going, even though they won’t maintain the certification according to Microsoft’s standards. Their MCSE will stay on their business cards, resume, e-mail signatures, and more. They’ll keep right on trotting into work with their polo shirt bearing an MCSE logo on the chest. They earned it, they say, and they’re going to keep it.

What’s up with that? What’s that going to do to your certification? Imagine you walk into a shop, with NT 4 certification in your past and a new Win2K MCSE on your resume, and some freak with a WinNT 4 cert challenges you for a job as if he or she, too, had Windows 2000 expertise?

Talk about getting into a scrap! IT professionals are going to be incensed (and you thought they were hot under the collar already).

Make it a felony
Sure, Microsoft provides an MCSE-hologram-proof-of-purchase-I-really-did-it credit card for those completing the program. Redmond also keeps a transcript on hand. But who’s ever had an employer check their status? Have you?

Do employers have a responsibility to check every candidate’s credentials? I think they do. I’m sorry that it’s come to that, but in order to protect my certification, I have only one other answer.

Make it a crime to misrepresent one’s accreditations. That’s what law enforcement officials, physicians, and attorneys have done. A very strong argument can be made for the role IT plays in everyone’s lives. After all, law enforcement officials, physicians, and attorneys can no longer perform their jobs properly without IT.

Find someone misrepresenting their credentials and charge them with a criminal offense. That’s what I say. I bet folks would think twice before saying, “Oh yeah, I’m MCSE, A+, and CCNA” when they’re not! Let’s keep the playing-field level.

Is there another answer? Can you think of a better solution?

Tell us, and your colleagues, what you think!
I’d love to hear your feedback.

Will you promote yourself as an MCSE after Dec. 31, 2001, without pursuing Windows 2000 certification? What do you think should be done to those that do? Post your comments below.

Erik Eckel has earned a BA from the University of Louisville, a Microsoft Network Engineer diploma from Sullivan College, and MCP+I and MCSE accreditations from Microsoft. It raises his ire when he learns others fraudulently claim accreditations when he’s invested thousands of hours and dollars obtaining his.

If you’d like to share your opinion, please post a comment below or send the editor an e-mail.