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Should I Earn a Certification?

Certification isn't the only means of pushing yourself to achieve greater things in IT. So how do you know when it getting a cert is the best way forward — and when to consider other options?

There are many different ways to keep your IT career on an upward trajectory.There are different ways to learn, grow and thrive in information technology. These include project experience, university education, vendor-neutral and -specific certification, online presence, mentoring, and networking. While experience is essential, relevant credentials and other approaches can advance one’s prospects depending on the context.


Take stock of your aptitude, career goals, background and the big picture. What are your strengths and interests? What do you aspire to become? Are you an independent worker, a team player, or a combination of both? To ascertain how best to take your career forward, consider your individual attributes and objectives against the backdrop of a constantly-evolving industry.


Opinions vary about the value of IT certifications. While some say certs can help advance an IT career and boost earning potential, others think certs are a waste of time and money. There’s also a nuanced perspective that certifications can make a difference depending on the candidate’s level of experience, his role, field of work, and his current or prospective employer’s requirements.


Certifications are never a substitute for experience, but they can be useful tools in a person’s career kit. Given two candidates with similar experience, the one with the right credential could have an advantage over the uncertified contender.


The Benefits of Certification


Some employers think current certifications can contribute toward enhancing a candidate’s knowledge. For example, Jerry Irvine, CIO and Partner at Prescient Solutions and member of US Chamber of Commerce’s Cybersecurity Leadership Council told CSO Online that they “look for certifications” when hiring security professionals. He holds several certifications himself.


Relevant credentials are necessary, or could weigh strongly in your favour, in cases such as the following:




Specific certifications are useful if you work for an employer that needs a certain number of people certified in specific technologies, products and services. For example, Microsoft requires Certified Partners to employ a specified minimum number of Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCP).


The U.S. Department of Defense, much like various other U.S. government departments and agencies, requires specific certifications for certain roles. Certification is often necessary if you’re looking to be a full- or part-time instructor at a training institute. Training companies look for relevant credentials when hiring trainers.


Résumé boost for a beginner


While it’s unlikely that certification alone will get an inexperienced worker a job, a valid certification could add some value to her résumé. Some employers might consider it an indication of basic skills, as well as a demonstration that the candidate knows what she wants to do and has invested time and effort in preparing for her role.


Learning tool


All certifications are not the same. You can acquire in-depth knowledge preparing for certifications that require a few years of experience in specific domains and hands-on lab work.


Certification can help if you want to learn something new, or assess your existing expertise. One does have the opportunity to gain knowledge in the process of preparing to get certified. Training and performance on the exam help you ascertain your level of progress vis-à-vis other candidates.


Also, the more expertise a candidate gains during the learning process, the more confident he is likely to be. People who are confident in their knowledge tend to perform better at interviews.


Demonstration of expertise in new and specific technologies


Given the pace of development in cloud computing and security, certifications that validate current virtualization skills and knowledge of information security management definitely have value. It’s not always easy for employers to find skilled professionals to work in state-of-the-art virtualized data centers, facilities management, and specific areas of information security.


Indication of interest and seriousness


To some employers, credentials demonstrate that a candidate is serious about his career and understands the importance of keeping in touch with the latest trends in his field. Having a willingness to invest the time, effort, and money required to prepare for a certification exam often indicates commitment and drive.