The importance of certifications

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Certifications, how important are they? I’m talking about the big ones in IT: A+, MCSE, CCNA, etc.

I’ve always had a somewhat cynical view regarding these certifications. How much do they really mean? The sponsors (in most cases, the companies behind them) will lead you to believe that you can’t succeed without them and that the level of your certification defines you, professionally.

Obviously, that’s not true, but I wonder how many recruiters, HR people and corporate managers DO think its true. I’ve been turned down for jobs strictly based upon it, thats no surprise, but by now wouldn’t you think more people get it?

Get what? My cynical view comes from articles I read when I was researching this topic years ago. The premise is simple and it makes sense and it is probably very true. Companies like Cisco and Microsoft saw that there is a great deal of money to be made by creating these certifications. First, it produces residual income. Unlike the vendor neutral A+, Network+, etc. series by CompTIA, you have to renew your MS and Cisco certs regularly. Yes, it keeps you current on technology but its great for profits. Second, wouldn’t someone certified in Cisco be MORE likely to recommend and buy Cisco products? Definitely. And thirdly, once that person is a manager, wouldn’t he or she be looking for someone with that entry level CCNA to run his or her network?

Is a CCNA equivalent (knowledge-wise) to a Network+ ? Maybe so and maybe not. I don’t know any recruiters that would substitute the CompTIA exam for the Cisco. Today, it seems that not even 20 years of experience would substitute for an MCSE. To me, that’s just nuts. The Microsoft exams are cheapened in value by the hundreds of boot camps. An MCSE (Must Call Someone Else) doesn’t mean you’re ready to engineer an Exchange rollout. The test needs reform. At least the Cisco exams are lab-like in nature. You do need to understand the underlying technology and theories to pass.

The point? The value placed on corporate sponsored certifications today is not properly adjusted to the work experience required to have the knowledge, skills, and abilities. Work experience should far out weigh the value of a certification. And the certification should definitely NOT be a requirement.

That being said, I think the certifications do have a purpose and are definitely relative. Perhaps there needs to be some reform so that not just anyone can get certified. I’m definitely for that. I don’t have any certifications, I could, but I’ve chosen not to. I know people will say that because I don’t have the certs, I’m writing negatively about them. I’m simply stating that people who are not in the know, overvalue them. I welcome any thoughts on the topic.

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2 comments… add one
  • SACRIFICE Feb 7, 2008

    I agree with the above statement. My own experience after being certified is that if you have no formal experience, you are not going to get the job you studied for, example; CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+ with no formal network administration training != netadmin job. You will more likely begin in a lower level tech support job until you have at least 2 years work experience.
    That being said, I do believe that certifications present proof to your current or future employer (who most likely doesn’t know you before employing you) that you have a genuine interest in expanding your theoretical knowledge and a certifiable motivation to apply your acquired knowledge within the practical framework of your field. Thus certification in my opinion only functions as one of the foundation mechanisms which enables you to start building the true skills which you need to succeed in your chosen field

  • SACRIFICE Feb 7, 2008

    I agree with the above statement. My own experience after being certified is that if you have no formal experience, you are not going to get the job you studied for, example; CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+ with no formal network administration training != netadmin job. You will more likely begin in a lower level tech support job until you have at least 2 years work experience. That being said, I do believe that certifications present proof to your current or future employer (who most likely doesn’t know you before employing you) that you have a genuine interest in expanding your theoretical knowledge and a certifiable motivation to apply your acquired knowledge within the practical framework of your field. Thus certification in my opinion only functions as one of the foundation mechanisms which enables you to start building the true skills which you need to succeed in your chosen field

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