As I was reading through the e-mails and forum entries posted this past week, I came across several stories and questions concerning the advantages and disadvantages of obtaining an IT certification. These were written in response to the article “Are certifications worth your time? ” by Support Republic Editor Jeff Davis.

Certification advantages
TrainingRepublic reader Paul feels that certification will only help his IT career. Paul wrote: “I recently started the process of Microsoft certification. I have about two years of hands-on experience in an ever-growing and extremely diversified company. Nothing can beat experience, but I’ve found that what experience I do have is only being helped by studying for these tests. I have never taken any IT courses before, and am, by no means, a whiz, but just by studying for my certification, I’m left with a greater understanding of the bigger picture. Studying has also shown me exactly where my skills need to be improved. As fast as the industry is growing now, certification can only help to make you a better IT professional and put you in a position to find a job that makes you happy. I’m making more money than I ever thought I would, and I love what I do. And to think I was cutting lawns just three years ago.”

Certification isn’t always the golden ticket
For some of our readers, certification hasn’t worked out the way they expected.

Bill feels he was taken advantage of when he was told that once he became an MCP, he’d have no trouble finding an IT job. “Your starting salary should be about $45 to $50K a year,” he was told. According to Bill, he “…fell for it—hook, line, and sinker,” and is still waiting for the job offers to roll in. He warns others, “being certified is not all that it’s cracked up to be.”

Certification vs. the it’s-who-you-know factor
Some readers found that, despite having certifications, the “it’s-who-you-know factor” still plays a significant role in finding a good job in the IT field—making it less about your skills and more about what connections you have in the industry. TrainingRepublic reader Andrew had this to say about his IT certification experience:

“I worked my @$$ off studying for my MCSE, and it took me five months of CBTs and a four-hour drive to complete each exam. Your article is the first to show both sides of the certification coin. Once I got my certification, friends bombarded me with articles entitled ’MCSE is overrated‘ and ’Certification—Is it worth it?’ Everything I read made me feel like I wasted not only five months of my life, but five months that I could have spent having more quality time with my family (a wife and one-year-old daughter).

“Unfortunately, there is still the ‘it’s-who-you-know factor’ in the IT industry, just as there is in every line of work. I’m a Certified Engineering Technologist in Computers and Electronics. I have a three-year diploma in Computer Engineering Technology as well as my MCSE—not to mention the fact that I feel very confident in my abilities since I have five-plus years of experience in NT/UNIX systems. Yet as far as salary goes, I’ve worked with consultants and IT managers that literally pull in twice my salary, and I’m surprised that they can even turn a system on. Certifications have done nothing for me in the private sector, so it looks like I’ll have to move into consulting to see if I can make them pay off.”

Is this the norm?
Please let us know what your experience has been with the advantages and disadvantages of certification in the real world. Post your comments at the end of this article, or visit our training forum to pose your questions to the training community. This site is for you, so let us know if there are any topics that you want to read more about by following this link to send us a message .