CertMag at Five: Certifiably Strong

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This special report marks the fifth anniversary of Certification Magazine, which began publishing in September 1999.

CertMag staff editors Norm Kamikow, Tim Sosbe, Emily Hollis, Kellye Whitney and Brian Summerfield compiled this report.

We don’t have to tell you the certification industry has seen a fair amount of ups and downs over the past few years. In fact, since Certification Magazine began publishing in September 1999, just about everything except that title is different:



  • Back then, certified professionals were practically fighting off employers with a stick, with industry experts and analysts citing a half-million more jobs than qualified experts to fill them. Today, even with an economy in recovery, job prospects can be slim.
  • Once upon a time, employers were concerned about paying for certification, falling back on this little mantra: “What if I certify them and they leave?” The tide is still shifting there; according to CertMag’s 2003 salary survey, 57 percent of nearly 20,000 respondents reported their companies paid for all or part of the costs of attaining certification.
  • In the last century, just about every issue of CertMag had a then-familiar phrase somewhere (often more than once): “Paper MCSE.” For those who don’t remember their history, that was a derisive term for certification-holders from any vendor who managed to pass certification exams without the skills to competently perform the required on-the-job tasks. The industry upheaval of the past few years has tossed that classification right off the map, helped along by hands-on testing, the use of simulations and a stronger awareness among the IT community of the need to protect valuable credentials.


But the old saw is also true: The more things change, the more they stay the same:



  • Certification today may have different players, but it was vital then and it’s vital now. New programs are appearing, new alliances forming, new tools and procedures emerging.
  • When CertMag debuted, security was on everyone’s mind, with the inevitability of Y2-chaos sparking a golden age of IT work. Y2K went away, but five years later, security is an even more stable career choice for IT pros, and the prospects extend far beyond year’s end.
  • In the early days of CertMag, we talked about these topics: Linux, performance testing, the use of brain dumps and top trends. In recent issues, we’ve discussed Linux, performance testing, the use of brain dumps and top trends. What’s more, we haven’t really repeated ourselves, as the information keeps evolving with the industry.


Over the years, we’ve interfaced with many of you to keep the magazine’s resources working for you. That’s a tradition carried through and sparked by this reader note from the fall of 1999: “I received your first issue and thanked God that finally there was a resource for those of us lost in the proverbial cyber-forest of information.” It’s five years later, and we’re all less lost, now happily navigating and blazing new trails through those woods.

So, happy anniversary to all of us. Don’t feel the need to get us anything; to quote the old saying, your presence is your present. Without readers to serve, Certification Magazine wouldn’t even be a voice in the wilderness, and without readers to let us know when we have (or have not) served them, we’d be proverbially spitting in the wind.

But we are offering something to you to help mark the occasion—a retrospective of the past five years of all our lives, the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the good, the bad and maybe even the ugly. We can’t do justice to an entire industry or half a decade in one article, but we’ll share the flavor of where we’ve been and ponder briefly where we’re going.

Five years is certainly a long journey. But folks, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

5 Favorite Articles
From top certifications to the best study tips, CertMag has been covering the hottest issues in the industry for half a decade.

Here’s a look at some of our favorite feature articles:


1. “Certification Top 10 Lists”

      The title may be misleading, as we didn’t pick “the best” certifications of all time. But this fun feature did include many of the top credentials in specific areas, like the most technically advanced credentials and the certs with the toughest recertification requirements. (November 2003, see




2. “Top 10 Reasons Why Training Fails”
For IT pros, lifelong learning is an imperative. Still, there are times when training doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. This feature looked at the characteristics that lead to training failure and recommended fixes to help get training leaders’ heads out of the sand. (June 2002, see www.certmag.com/whytrainingfails)

3. “IT Certification as a Winning Corporate Strategy”
Convincing the boss to foot your certification bill can be tougher than passing the exams themselves. In this feature, CertMag outlined the steps necessary to get management buy-in for certification programs. (November 2000, see www.certmag.com/winningcertification)

4. “Certification Bashing: Myths and Realities”
You’ve heard the complaints: “Certification didn’t get me a job.” “Recertification is a money-making gimmick.” “Computer tests don’t measure real skills.” In this feature, CertMag uncovered the truth behind the myths to help improve the industry and further build the value of certification. (February 2002, see www.certmag.com/mythandreality)

5. “Test Piracy: The Darker Side of Certification”
Argh! A lot goes on behind the scenes of certification, and the shenanigans are pretty nefarious. Alongside advances in technology have come advances in methods for pirating certification exams, and this feature walked the plank between the issues and the potential solutions. (January 2003, see www.certmag.com/thedarkside)


5 Incredible Authors
From Time to TV Guide, any magazine relies on the strength of its expert authors. That’s especially important for specialty publications like Certification Magazine, reaching a technical and discerning readership with specific needs. Over the past five years, we’ve proudly published articles from industry executives and all manners of experts, and we thank them all equally for their contributions. But the following five authors are proven favorites with both CertMag staff and readers:


1. Ed Tittel

      What can you say about the man who writes everything? CertMag technical editor and the author of more than 100 IT books, Ed has authored everything from cover stories to columns, and has been the chief contributor to the series of CertMag’s Study Guides. Perhaps most importantly, Ed’s been the unofficial voice of CertMag, sharing expertise, advice and assistance with countless CertMag readers.


2. Dr. David Foster
The most consistent thread you’ll find in CertMag, Dave has written his “Examinations” column since that first issue in September 1999. With advice and opinions tempered by a dry wit, Dave’s made each column fresh and brought a crucial topic home for many readers.

3. Martin Bean
Another long-time CertMag author, Martin ends each issue of the magazine on a thoughtful note with his “Final Thoughts” column. Writing both this column and the occasional feature article, Martin’s industry insight and dynamic personality blend into a style that CertMag readers have responded to.

4. David Garrett
Columns come and columns go as the natural evolution of any magazine, a necessary pro

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