Cashing In: Make Your Certification Pay Off

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You invested your time and money to certify your IT skill set. You were proactive in seeking training and now you have accomplished your goal, proving you are a knowledgeable and skilled IT worker. Friends, family members and co-workers congratulated you on passing that exam. You are feeling confident, perhaps even relieved. Now you are ready to reap the rewards of your hard work.

So, how do you turn this career navigation tool into money? Prometric, a part of The Thomson Corp., and its sponsors formed a partnership of industry leaders, including Cisco Systems, CompTIA, Hewlett Packard and Sun Microsystems, to create the “2002 Global IT Training and Certification Study.” Prometric and its co-sponsors contracted Thomson Marketing Resources, an independent research firm within The Thomson Corp. (, to conduct the research.

The objective of this study was to reconfirm existing beliefs and uncover new ideas or trends about the IT certification industry, and to measure the value of certification among IT professionals worldwide, including financial gains. More than 8,000 IT professionals from more than 50 countries participated in this research. According to the candidates in our study, having a certification can be the ticket to a better job and more financial security. Re-energizing your resume and continuing the learning cycle can help you turn those certifications into money.

Reaping the Rewards
Certification is a personal journey. Test preparation can be an added stress to IT professionals who are already working full-time and are trying to balance that with personal obligations. Most test-takers experience an intense preparation and study period with the intention of gaining career rewards, technical knowledge and personal satisfaction. All of these benefits can be achieved through certification, and many organizations recognize their employees for this accomplishment.

Fifty-four percent of the certified IT professionals who participated in the study received a reward at work. This percentage is up 20 percent from last year. This reward includes salary increases at 18 percent, new responsibilities at 20 percent and promotions at 9 percent.

Even without these tangible, monetary rewards, there are other personal rewards that can help increase your financial freedom. The strongest agreement between the test candidates and already-certified professionals in the survey were the personal benefits derived from achieving certification. These include the actual achievement of the credential—the result of hard work and personal sacrifice—the self-confidence boost and resulting professional growth. The positive emotions you feel at work once you complete your certification journey include empowerment, respect from colleagues and increased credibility. These emotions can grant you a competitive advantage, providing job security and job freedom.

Certification is an excellent framework and supporting structure in the lives of IT professionals—it provides the road map for career direction and the future of your professional journey. Many of the test-takers surveyed agreed that a main benefit of achieving certification is that it provides job mobility and acts as a powerful navigation tool for career advancement.

Interestingly enough, last year’s study concluded that 38 percent of already-certified respondents believed that increasing compensation is important, but this year that percentage dropped down to 25 percent. Finding a new job as the reason to obtain certification dropped from 33 percent to 15 percent. Thirty-two percent of candidates and 34 percent of already-certified respondents cited credibility as the top reason for seeking certifications.

One certification candidate said, “Certification has benefited me, and it’s benefited the company that I got certified in [technology]. I think my employer believes they can rely on me now, and I am even more competent in my job. In two years it’s gone from, ‘We’re not going to let you touch this system’ to ‘Now you can decide who you want to use your system.’ That’s true in the certification, I think personally. With the training and the certification, I was progressed into the senior engineer role when somebody left.”

You must have something to show for investing in learning. You wouldn’t have taken the time and effort if you didn’t. Obtaining certification provokes feelings of achievement and pride in mastering the technology. These feelings in turn can boost your confidence in the workplace. Being confident that your professional and financial future is bright is a great comfort during times when many IT professionals are fearful of losing their jobs.

Management Buy-In
IT managers are looking for proof of performance and a commitment to professional development among their employees. The study confirms that 97 percent of managers believe certifying their staff is valuable. But for those of you who have yet to see an extra bonus in your paycheck and haven’t picked up on any hints at a promotion, it may be worth speaking with your manager about your newly acquired talents.

While managers perceive certification as a valuable asset for their workforce, they want to see specific evidence that you have the skills and experience needed to perform the required IT job functions. Managers are most concerned with how your certification brings value to the business. They want you to link that validation to job experience.

Our findings suggest that some education is needed to help managers understand how and why some certification programs will specifically benefit the organization as a whole and not just the employee. It would not be out of the question to sit down with your manager and explain how your hard work in obtaining the certification and understanding the knowledge and skill requirements will translate into success for your team and the business overall. Focusing on the benefits to the business instead of to you as an employee will help managers determine your growth potential and will help you influence training purchasing and allocation decisions.

You may want to try bringing your test scores to the meeting with your manager. Showing the high score you received demonstrates how well you know the technology and furthers your credibility as a qualified candidate. The more you can demonstrate your skill set on the job, the more chances you have to increase your financial freedom.

Learning and verbalizing the technology theory and how it’s applied within the workplace will earn you the respect you deserve. Learning the job functions and practicing these functions in the workplace regularly is sure to get you noticed. Once current and potential managers recognize that experience, they will know what they can expect from you in terms of job performance—one more reason you deserve that raise.

In addition to providing monetary rewards and personal satisfaction within your chosen profession, certification is viewed as improving productivity and status among your organization’s customers. In fact, the IT professionals in the study believe that certification is helpful in improving customer relationships and relationships with colleagues. According to management’s point of view, the major benefits of having a certified staff include higher levels of customer service, increased productivity, organizational competitive advantage and higher credibility with the company’s client base. Other benefits cited include more access to vendor information and support, increased employee retention and the ability to sell a better solution to customers.

Here are some other facts for you to mull over. Overall, IT managers believe training and certification adds value to their employees and remains a key focus for their departments. Training purchases are expected to remain constant or

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