On Easy Street
Certifications can be challenging, no question. It varies, of course, but preparing for and then taking the test is a bear (with any luck, a bear worth bagging).
Most IT professionals just accept this as a matter of course — if the test wasn’t challenging, it wouldn’t be worth adding to your resume. But our CertMag.com forum discussion boards recently saw a posting that sought the path of least resistance to certification.
In a thread titled “Recommend two ‘easiest’ certs to get,” new member void wrote: “I need to take an industry-specific certification, but to qualify, you need a certain amount of points to take the exam. I need two points, and they give one point each for almost any IT certification.
Included are all CompTIA exams, any MCP [Microsoft Certified Professional] and a large variety of other certs, but because my older IT background was desktop support, help desk, light networking support, etc., I figured CompTIA and MCP are my best options. I also had an MCSE back on NT 4 that I never kept up to date (kicking myself now).
“Anyway, based on that information, I am looking for the two quickest certs to get. Is it just going to be A+ and Network+? Or is there any single MCP exam that is easier?”
Prolific poster Wagnerk quickly pointed out it was difficult to give a hard answer for this question but provided helpful advice nonetheless.
“The term ‘easiest’ is fuzzy — what may be easy for one person may not be so easy for another,” Wagnerk said. “With that in mind, I’ll tell you the two easiest for me. It was the two exams that make up the MCDST. If you take and pass the 70-271, you attain the MCP credential. After that, take and pass the 70-272 and attain the MCDST [Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician] credential. Once you have a MCP, you can do the MCP to CNST [Certified Network Systems Technician] rollover offered by ETA-i via StudyExam4Less. This includes a certificate approved by ICAC and a year’s professional membership with the ETA-i. If you follow the above route, you’ll end up with three certs: MCP, MCDST and the CNST. However, like I said at the start, ‘easiest’ is a fuzzy term.”
Void admitted it was a bad question to ask.
“I cringed when I wrote it, but fact is I just need the quickest one — doesn’t matter about prestige, hireability, etc.,” void said. “I need to see if they count MCP and MCDST as two separate ones to get my two points to qualify to take the exam I’m really interested in.”
Elsewhere in our General Discussion boards, we saw discussion of what Web development technologies and programming languages are seeing the most market demand, including an interesting call and response from a cert provider.
New member montie2 posted: “I recently contacted CIW about its Master CIW Web Site Manager certification. A part of the certification requirements is a test on Perl fundamentals. With ASP.NET and PHP being popular Web development technologies, I thought that they would be appropriate skill sets to have as a Web site manager. So, I posed this question to CIW: Is there not a significant market and demand for PHP/ASP.NET professionals, or is PERL still that much in demand? CIW’s response was interesting.
“Here is my e-mail to CIW: ‘Are there any plans to incorporate PHP or ASP.NET technologies in the Master CIW Web Site Manager Certification? A PHP/ASP.NET fundamentals test would be appropriate to this certification. Could the PHP5 certification from Zend suffice in fulfilling this requirement? Thank you.’
“Here is the response I received from CIW: ‘Although we are working on revisions to our CIW certification program, at this point, we do not have the resources to incorporate PHP technologies into our CIW exams and certifications. We have not seen the market demand to justify this investment so far. I’m sorry we’re not able to meet your requirements.’”
Forum member cpattersonv1 had this to say: “Unlike PHP and ASP.NET, Perl is a programming language. Network administrators have been using Perl for years to perform operating system functions in UNIX and now in Windows 2003. There are many more testable things in Perl that can be learned in a specific way. PHP and ASP.NET use a scripting engine (interpreter) to execute code, whereas Perl uses a compiler and compiles code for execution. For the Web, Perl (the language) uses a common gateway interface or CGI that allows the server to treat Perl (the script) as a scripting language.
“Perl is very much in use today. I feel PHP and ASP.NET change so frequently that there would be no point in providing certifications in small revisions of the scripting languages when main functionality may change tomorrow, as in PHP 4 to PHP 5 or PHP 3 to PHP 4. Further, depending on where you are working, it doesn’t matter what certification you would have if you are not able to write PHP or ASP.NET script as a developer. Your employer would see right through it.
“Certifications are meant to show an understanding of a concept at a certain point in time. With systems applications where someone uses the same functionality to perform industry-standard tasks, this is acceptable. In my opinion, in a scripting environment where creativity is rewarded by the community, the act of standardizing the creative process of Web site programming by requiring certain skills for a certification might hurt more than help.”
How to finance an IT education —particularly certifications — is a big issue for IT professionals (it was the subject of our September cover story). Regular forum contributor masterssullivan put the matter to our General Discussion board, asking other IT professionals how they pay for certifications: “How do all of you go about paying for new certifications? The study materials and the tests always put a huge dent in my pocketbook. Usually, the certs pay for themselves, but in the meantime, I find myself having to put things on eBay to afford it!”
No disrespect to tech support, but among IT positions, it tends to be one from which people look to transition. Our Career Development discussion board recently saw a posting from a person looking to do just that.
In a thread titled “HELP — stuck in tech support,” new member tech_ladi writes: “I am trying to transition out of tech support, but I’m having a problem finding the right direction. I have a bachelor’s degree in CIS and several Microsoft certifications. I’m thinking about getting CCNA- or UNIX-certified. I’m trying to determine which path I should take that would allow me to move on without the actual hands-on experience. Anyone else successfully leave tech support, and how did you do it?”
Forum member cpattersonv1 had this to say: “IT is a hands-on career path. You learn IT every day you’re working because something somewhere automatically sends you a patch that you can’t remove. Or someone in your office finds an undocumented setting that they can change within their permissions that brings their system to its knees with a blue screen error, so you spend an hour realizing it’s a driver setting for video after running system diagnostics. You have to have a hands-on knowledge of the systems to troubleshoot the issues that arise where there are no certifications available. Canned responses to classroom situations for the most part only work in the classrooms.
“By adding new hardware, you can change the dynamic of a system that is well-documented with something that is undocumented. Let’s say you install a new firewall that filters all traffic on port 80, and now you can’t authenticate some of your higher-end software licenses because the new firewall blocks their licensing rootkits. If there’s no certification available for the firewall, then you would have to have hands-on experience. It’s not like Monopoly, where you get to zip around the board. Everybody in life would do things the non-hands-on way if th