In contrast is the sound of companies that sell certification tests to IT staffers. Buy one of our courses, they say, and employers will open their doors wide. Fame and glory in IT is just one $750 cert test away.
In truth, an accurate assessment of IT certification’s true value appears to lie somewhere between the vendors' drumbeating and some workers’ “just say no” attitude.
Adding clarity to the topic is Cushing Anderson, an IDC analyst and author of “Worldwide IT Certification Training and Testing 2006–2010 Forecast.” He sums up the value of IT certification: “It always comes down to ‘it depends.’”
“Certification is still valuable in areas where there is a lack of talent,” he tells Datamation. In those specific tech sectors for which employers have a hard time finding qualified workers, a cert establishes bona fides immediately.
In those cases, the right certification really does open doors.
The areas that Anderson points to: security, high end architecture, and complex networking. Employers have a hard enough time filling these posts that if you have the right cert (and some experience, of course) you’ll have an edge on the competition.
And if you’re shopping around for certs that will serve you well in the years ahead, Anderson recommends these “emerging certification” areas: RFID, Wireless, VoIP, SOA, SaaS, and Grid Computing.
In short, IT certification does count – but you have to earn the right one at the right time.
One of those areas is high-end IT architecture, and there are several certs that are profitable, in his view. They include the architecture-related certs offered by Cisco, Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, and EMC.
Good Certifications vs. Worthless Certifications
Neill Hopkins, VP of skills development for CompTIA, a leading provider of certifications, concedes that some tech staffers feel unenthused about certs.
Still, he realizes that some IT workers – even knowing that some certs are well regarded – say, “Why should I get certified, I should go and just prove that I have the knowledge to do that.” But, Hopkins says, “The old question arises, ‘how do you prove it?’” It’s the immediate proof of competency that certs offer that make them valuable.
Naturally, Hopkins recommends CompTIA’s certifications as among those worth taking. The CompTIA certs are designed to lay the groundwork for a tech career at a fundamental stage.
Among those offered by other vendors, at an upper level, he notes the continued popularity of Microsoft’s MCSE and MCSA, and the more specialized niche offerings by Microsoft. Additionally, he points to those offered by Sun and by Oracle.
And, “I certainly wouldn’t overlook the open source products,” he says, pointing to certs by LPI, Red Hat, and Novell, which he calls the market leaders. “There are more and more Linux servers being deployed…I think those certifications are becoming a little bit more in demand than they used to be.”
Also hot: networking and security. “We’ve seen a huge surge in security certification,” Hopkins says. “There’s a huge demand for people with broad security knowledge in the IT industry – that seems to be one of our fastest growing areas.”
And don’t forget help desk certification, however unglamorous. “Surprisingly, the help desk is still a hot job,” says CompTIA’s Steven Ostrowski. “There’s a high demand for help desk technicians.”