Hot for ’08? Not So Fast

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As 2007 came to a close, CertMag forum posters engaged in a spirited discussion involving what would be the hot certifications of the new year. Forum member Wagnerk posted his thoughts on the matter: “Because I work in education, [I anticipate] more Web-based, Web 2.0 and SharePoint integration, coupled with security, along with Internet bandwidth, reliability and the changeover for some companies from Server 2003 technology to Server 2008 technology.”

He also posted a controversial list from that indicated the following as the hottest certifications for the year: MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional), CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate), MCPD (Microsoft Certified Professional Developer), SCJP (SUN Certified Java Programmer), CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional), CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, MCTS SQL Server 2005 (Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist), RHCE (Red Hat Certified Engineer) and CompTIA Security Plus.

CertMag forum member Wayne Anderson took immediate issue.

“As this community well knows, I tend to be honest and forthright with my opinions: This guy is an idiot,” he said. “MCP is going to be a hot certification in 2008? No, it’s not. It was. Almost all of the new Microsoft tests are on the MCTS or MCITP track now. So, no new MCP offerings will be out there. Why would SQL Server 2005 certification be really hot next year when everyone will be transitioning to the SQL Server 2008 certification? And there are six or seven versions of the MCPD to be looking at next year! Three on .NET 2 and another three or four on .NET 3.5! As for listing each of the CompTIA certifications, I would challenge those assertions, as well, and also ask what in the world the criteria is here for a “hot” certification: The number of people who get them? The number of jobs that list that acronym? I note that this list almost completely fails to take into account the effect that DoD 8570.1 will have next year and in early 2009. This coming year is the real pressure year to make sure that IAT and IAM personnel are properly certified in order to ensure 8570.1 compliance in 2009.”

Some weren’t as outspoken as Wayne Anderson but added criticism just the same.

“It really is quite the eclectic mix of certs he has listed!” said CertMag forum poster Kieranm. “Looks like many of the usual players: CompTIA, Microsoft, Cisco. It’s nice to see Red Hat in there. Interesting to see the Java cert listed; I don’t know about demand, but J2ME is certainly a big thing for mobile apps these days. I worked for a company about a year ago that was starving for J2ME folks, they were even willing to take nonmobile people and fully train them on J2ME. I’m not sure how hot the CISSP will be, just given the work experience requirement. CCIE could, of course, arguably be in there. While it doesn’t have the throughput that some of the other certs see, it’s certainly steady and popular in proportion to the cost and skill level. One that isn’t there but will be interesting to watch is Juniper’s new Enterprise Routing cert, the JNCIA-ER. There’s certainly ample access to it now, what with the free courseware and exam voucher program they have been doing recently. I just tonight stumbled upon a listing at Amazon for a study guidecoming in the new year.”

Experience vs. Test Scores

We’ve asked the question since early in our academic careers: Will this help me in real life? As the cushion of academia fades and the reality of being employed becomes a reality, it’s asked more and more. Study another hour or tweak the resume? Seek more experience or more certs? Is perfection worth pursuing when obtaining a cert? Or are other things just as important, if not more so? Judging by the exchange below on the CertMag forums, the answer may lie in the generation or geography you were born in.

“I did manage to pass Microsoft Certification in Developing and Implementing Web Applications with Microsoft Visual C#.NET and Microsoft Visual Studio.NET with 92.4 percent, yet I am unable to get a good job here in India,” forum member Virandi said. “I don’t know what to do or what not to do. Do my certification marks or certificates really matter in real life? Will I not be able to get a good job until I gain some experience? I am fresh in experience, but I know I can do my best to achieve my goal. Why don’t Indian companies understand this?”

Wagnerk took the less perfection-oriented stance.

“It doesn’t really matter what score you get on your MS exams; at the end of the day, MS professional certs are pass/fail,” he said. “The score is really for you to see where you’re weak or strong. Professional certs aren’t there to guarantee you a job; they are there to validate your skills. No certificate, diploma or degree can guarantee you a job. They do, however, increase your chances of getting a job. Not getting picked or hired can be down to a multitude of things, not just education. It could be that your curriculum vitae isn’t that good or is a general curriculum vitae not geared to a particular job or company. It could be that your interview skills aren’t up to scratch; maybe you freeze during the interview. It could be your presentation isn’t up to a certain standard or that you don’t have the skills a company requires for the job.”

He then offered some age-old, go-get-’em advice and aimed to give the young man a broad perspective.

“Getting the first job in IT is one of the hardest things to do; it took me approximately five years to land my first IT job,” Wagnerk said. “So hang in there; remember, every time you send out a curriculum vitae or go for a job interview it’s also experience. Learn from them; if you get knocked back, call or e-mail them and see where you failed or didn’t quite make it. Turn a negative into a positive. Good luck.”

As anyone with a college-age kid will tell you, sometimes advising him or her to see the forest for the trees can rub him or her the wrong way.

“I think my question wasn’t clear for you,” Virandi said. “I am working in a CMM 4 level company and I did manage to clear my interview on my first attempt. I was asking if these marks actually matter in real life, as my company still thinks that I am not capable of developing anything, but I did prove everyone wrong until now. My ambition is to work at Microsoft before I turn 25, so I still have five more years to achieve my goal. I want to ask people who are experienced in this field if I can achieve my goal within five years.”

Wagnerk got the last word in this geographical and generational discussion.

“Both the short and long answer is a strong ‘no,’” said Wagnerk. “Because each MS exam is different (one 70-270 will be different from another 70-270 exam) as each exam pulls questions from a pool of questions, you can’t really compare one score from one exam to another.”

While it’s hard to quantify what Indian corporations base their hiring on, we can assume based on Virandi’s experience that, as Wagnerk said, it’s not what one cert gets so much as how it’s coupled with experience.

So What Certs Make More?

While it’s never an exact science, the best way to determine which certifications are more lucrative is still through word of mouth and surveys. A recent post on our forums asked the salary difference between the popular certs MCSE and CCNA, and forum member nyle responded.

“Your question is not going to net you any relevant answers, since salaries fluctuate based on local economies,” he said. “For example, here in the city of Atlanta, a competent CCNA-certified professional can get close to $40K yearly (the average is $32-35K from what I’ve seen). If you go out to parts of rural Georgia, a CCNP (!!!) may barely command $50K. In the city, it’s wort

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