The Diminishing Value of Certification?

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As I talk with IT professionals, I hear concern about the value of certification diminishing. Some believe there are too many folks already certified; others insinuate that the difficultly level of certification has lessened, in turn lowering their merit. Any way you look at it, this is a dangerous myth, so I am writing to prove to you that certification is just as valuable as ever.

To do this, I have picked the brains of some of the leading industry experts. I thought the perfect place to begin was with a couple of staffing agencies that fill thousands of positions annually.

“Certification is still the tiebreaker in a tight decision for hiring managers,” said John Cramer, branch manager of the Adecco Technical office in Chicago. “Also, many scenarios still exist where companies are required to have certified employees on staff to comply with specific vendor requirements, such as performing warranty work and for the Microsoft Solutions Partner programs.”

Other staffing firms, such as Kelly Services, have seen certification heighten placement probability.

“A large percentage of our customers list certifications as part of their requirements for obtaining a position,” said Andy Trestrail, vice president of Kelly Information Technology Resources. “Certification is essential in the lifelong learning process, helping IT professionals home in on specific technical skills, and a varied level of certifications helps us build a stronger platform for them to gain employment. I highly encourage students to go after certification and gain as much diverse work experience that relates to those credentials.”

Of course, experience plus certification is the best way to build your resume, but technology-testing vendors are certain that certification is here to stay.

“While critics are quick to say certification was nothing more than a fad created by ‘the bubble,’ Prometric takes a different view,” said Alison Indrisano, senior vice president of client services and support at Prometric. “When we talk to leaders of enterprise organizations, we ask them, ‘Is your network safe?’ ‘What is your day like when e-mail is down?’ and ‘Are your prized customer databases fueling growth in your business?’ Understanding if the technical staff is prepared is just as critical today as it was in the late 1990s, and research confirms that certified professionals are more productive, better prepared and have more credibility with employers.”

And finally, as we look at the benefits of certification, we reaffirm that they are not just for the individuals. Companies also experience the positive results of having certified their employees.

“Consistent, high-quality training—and the proof that the training has been successful via certification—is key to competitiveness for an organization,” said John Venator, president and CEO of CompTIA. “I have seen many examples of this success, where providing personnel with the appropriate skill sets has improved service and customer satisfaction for the company, with a direct effect on productivity and job satisfaction for the employee. We are seeing companies continue to use a combination of training and certification to support their leadership position.”

As you can see, the value of certifications has not changed. However, their worth may lie in what is hot or not.

“I don’t believe the value of IT certification has diminished, but we do have to be aware of changes and trends in the industry,” said Jeffrey Lewis, vice president of IT business development at VUE. “Certification programs that were once hot are now less in demand, while new programs, such as those focusing on security, step up. Another trend on the rise is cross-acceptance of certification between programs.”

So, when a lot of people are seeking positions, how can a credential that sets you apart be anything but an asset?

“In the current economy and job market, experience and certification credentials are a powerful combination for professionals to be able to distinguish their skills,” said Dan Truax, director of strategy for Microsoft certification. “Certification is one of the best ways for people to set themselves apart from their competition, and the value of certification is higher than ever.”

Certification remains the standard within the industry for skills and competency. Keep in mind these key ingredients: There are no substitutions for experience; you need to stay current so you don’t get left behind; and watch for changes in technology and stick with what is hot.

Martin Bean is the chief operating officer for New Horizons Computer Learning Centers Inc., the world’s largest computer training company.


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