Certification at the Entry Level

I should have studied history.

If I’d studied history, I wouldn’t have to learn new material every two to three years. History is constant; I could’ve learned it once and known it forever. Instead, every couple of years I have to learn an entirely new technology, then drag myself to the local Prometric or Vue testing center and
vie for a certification to prove my IT worth.

By waving the MCSE and CCNP around, I not only overtly profess my technological genius and skill, but I’m also portraying a degree of experience.

Early on in the certification business — and in many cases, this is still the case now — that’s exactly how the certification was viewed: as a measurement of skill with an expectation of a certain amount of time on the job. Traditionally, certification tests were specifically designed to rate an individual’s progression along a career path.

For example, a hiring manager could use a CCNA or CCNP entry on a resume as an indicator of time, experience and knowledge. The CCNA candidate most likely had three to five years in the business, whereas the CCNP was a more senior person. A casual glance through CompTIA’s Web site shows what it expects of candidates before they even attempt an exam — 18-24 months of experience before attempting Security +, for example.

But the new reality is that certifications are sometimes used as a shortcut to a career. While a person working in academia, for example,…


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