You think there’s a lot of MCSEs now? If the results of TechRepublic’s IT certification survey prove true, Cisco’s certification program is poised to take over.

Just a few weeks ago, we asked you how you felt about IT certification. You didn’t hold back; you voted on everything from the value that certification provides in the industry to who pays for it.

After the dust settled, one thing was clear. Cisco certification is winning the hearts of IT professionals.

How valuable is IT certification?
I asked how you felt about IT certification. In your experience, I wanted to know whether you thought IT certifications were not representative of an IT professional’s expertise, were representative of an IT professional’s expertise, or were not worth the paper they’re printed on.

Some 61 percent of you felt IT certifications didn’t represent one’s IT expertise. Meanwhile, 34 percent felt “paper” accurately reflected an IT professional’s expertise. However, only 4 percent of those voting felt IT certs weren’t worth the paper they were printed on.

How should IT certification be used?
I then asked whether you felt IT certs are a good ticket to an entry-level job, nothing but another line on a resume, or something to be considered only if you have considerable IT experience. Here, the results might surprise you.

How’d you answer? Thirty-eight percent felt “paper” is a good ticket to an entry-level job, while only 14 percent said certs are nothing but resume fodder. Some 46 percent of you responded that certs should only be considered if you have experience in the field.

How should cert programs maintain pace with the industry?
As software and hardware packages are updated, how should their respective certifications be revised? Should certs flat-out retire or should they carry designations indicating the appropriate version or platform?

Your results were overwhelming. Label certifications by platform and version, 68 percent of you said. However, 12 percent claimed certs should retire without continued education, 9 percent said no certs should retire, and 4 percent voted that certifications should retire.

Which certifications do you have?
Enough talk about the value of certs. Which programs have TechRepublic members completed?

Here are the certs you possess (note that the numbers exceed 100 percent, since many IT professionals have multiple certifications):

  • Microsoft—60 percent
  • Novell—24 percent
  • No certifications—23 percent
  • A+—22 percent
  • Cisco—7 percent
  • Network+—5 percent
  • Lotus—less than 1 percent
  • Citrix—less than 1 percent
  • Oracle—less than 1 percent
  • Red Hat—less than 1 percent
  • Java—less than 1 percent

Which certifications will you maintain?
Here’s where it gets interesting. You’ve ponied up your dollars, you’ve spent your time reading books and studying. But did you receive enough from your certification training to warrant maintaining the accreditation?

How loyal are you? For example, of those 60 percent responding that you hold a Microsoft certification, how many indicated you’ll work to maintain it?

  • Network+—96 percent
  • Microsoft—92 percent
  • Citrix—75 percent
  • A+—72 percent
  • Novell—68 percent
  • Java—50 percent
  • Lotus—38 percent

I was confused by the answers supplied by those with Cisco, Oracle, and Red Hat certification. As it turns out, I received more responses saying you’d maintain these certifications than I received responses saying you actually possessed these certifications. I take that as a sign these certs will be growing in popularity. (Please remember this isn’t a scientific survey audited by a five- or six-name accounting firm.) You’ll find more information on this next.

Where are IT pros headed?
Are you curious as to which certifications your IT colleagues are interested in? If the survey responses are any indication, Cisco is the program to beat.

Here’s a breakdown by popularity of the certifications you said you’re going to pursue (remember the values will exceed 100 percent, since many of you indicated you’ll pursue multiple certifications):

  • Cisco—51 percent
  • Microsoft—39 percent
  • Red Hat—19 percent
  • Network+—17 percent
  • A+—15 percent
  • Novell—14 percent
  • Oracle—10 percent
  • No certs—10 percent
  • Java—6 percent
  • Citrix—5 percent
  • Lotus—3 percent

It’s interesting to note that for the first time in my memory, preference for the Cisco track exceeds that shown for the Microsoft program. Could this be related to Redmond’s antitrust issues, or is it fallout from the rapid retirement of the Windows NT 4 track, in which so many IT pros invested significant time and energy? I don’t know for sure, but I’m willing to bet both factors are contributors.

Also notable is Network+’s outdistancing of A+, which surprised me. I have long felt a greater number of IT pros gravitated toward A+, but as I move forward and consider pursuing my own hardware cert, I’m more likely to select Network+ as a result.

Who pays for it?
When the decision is made to pursue IT certification training and add those letters to one’s business card and resume, who opens their wallet?

Our survey shows that more than half of you, some 55 percent, foot your own bill. However, 28 percent of you said your employer chips in. Only 16 percent of you said you actually have the fees paid entirely by their employer.

Erik Eckel MCP+I, MCSE is editor in chief of TechRepublic’s IT communities. He’s unsure whether he should pursue Cisco, Win2K, or Network+ certification next. He welcomes your suggestions. Send your opinion to the address below.

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