Salary Survey Extra: Rating certification study and training options (Part 1)

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Salary Survey Extra is a series of dispatches that give added insight into the findings of both our annual Salary Survey and our smaller Salary Survey PLUS polls. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.

There's more than one way to skin a cat, as the old saying goes, although it's never been quite clear where and when the thriving trade in cat pelts that gave rise to this grisly aphorism was established enoughThere’s more than one way to skin a cat, as the old saying goes, although it’s never been quite clear where and when the thriving trade in cat pelts that gave rise to this grisly aphorism was established enough to become a topic of casual conversation. Regardless, most challenges or problems have more than one solution, and the challenge of making oneself sufficiently familiar with a given technology to pass a certification exam is no exception.

In our Salary Survey PLUS covering the IT realm of networking, we examined that subect head on. There are many different options available to the average established or aspiring networking professional preparing for a certification exam. Indeed, there’s an entire industry devoted to helping individuals learn and practice the skills addressed by this or that certification.

That being the case, it’s probably of interest, certainly to newcomers in the field, which of the all training and study options available are deemed most effective. What will actually prepare the average person to take and pass a certification exam and, perhaps more importantly, succeed succeed at performing real-word networking tasks? Who better to ask than a large body of certified networking professionals?

We inquired about several options, asking respondents to rate them as Excllent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor, or Does Not Apply (meaning “in my personal experience”). Let’s address the results one-by-one:

[Note: This is Part 1 of 2, covering 6 of the 11 options we asked survey respondents to rate.]

Self-Study Books
Excellent: 38.7 percent
Very Good: 32.2 percent
Good: 19.9 percent
Fair: 4.5 percent
Poor: 1.8 percent
Does Not Apply: 3.0 percent

Our past salary surveys have shown fairly consistently that books are the highest-rated option for most certified IT pros. In addition to being rated Excellent by the highest percentage of respondents, books also have the lowest Does Not Apply score, at just 3 percent. Which is to say that, whatever their opinion of reading as an effective approach to learning, almost everyone uses books to accomplish at least part of their training and study.

Product Documentation
Excellent: 17.3 percent
Very Good: 30.9 percent
Good: 29 percent
Fair: 10.8 percent
Poor: 4 percent
Does Not Apply: 8 percent

Only 8 percent of those surveyed don’t use product documentation, which may be a reflection of the fact that IT networking certifications tend to be highly product-oriented. There’s also the fact that product-centered networking training is generally held to teach general principles effectively — that is to say, you can effectively master many networking skills by pursuing, say, a Cisco certification whether or not you ever work with Cisco equipment again. It’s worth noting, however, that product documentation is noticeable lacking in ratings of Excellent, with most deeming it either Very Good, Good, or Fair.

Instructor-Led Training (Training Center)
Excellent: 24.9 percent
Very Good: 25.5 percent
Good: 19.2 percent
Fair: 5.4 percent
Poor: 2.1 percent
Does Not Apply: 22.9 percent

Instructor-led training can be pricey, which probably accounts for the high percentage of respondents who don’t use it. Among those who do, however, most are highly satisfied, rating it either Excellent or Very Good. That’s worth noting if you’re the type who would rather have someone explain something to you than attempt to pick it up from reading.

Vendor-Authorized Boot Camp
Excellent: 12.1 percent
Very Good: 16.8 percent
Good: 18.7 percent
Fair: 8.1 percent
Poor: 3.3 percent
Does Not Apply: 41 percent

The Does Not Apply score says it all: Boot camps are either passé, or they just don’t work for most people with an interest in networking. Even among people who attend boot camps (which, like instructor-led training, can be pricey), more rate them as being merely Good than deem them Very Good or Excellent.

On-the-Job Training
Excellent: 24.9 percent
Very Good: 26.7 percent
Good: 22.3 percent
Fair: 7.6 percent
Poor: 3.7 percent
Does Not Apply: 14.9 percent

Many people use the learn-by-doing model to pick up at least some of their networking acumen. While on-the-job training is generally viewed as being effective, however, it’s largely a toss-up as to whether a newcomer could expect to find it Excellent, Very Good, or Good at helping the skills learned to sink in. And there is a notable group who would apparently rather learn to do networking before being seasoned in a workplace environment.

There's more than one way to skin a cat, as the old saying goes, although it's never been quite clear where and when the thriving trade in cat pelts that gave rise to this grisly aphorism was established enoughInternet Mailing Lists or Forums
Excellent: 11.2 percent
Very Good: 17.3 percent
Good: 23.7 percent
Fair: 13.5 percent
Poor: 6.5 percent
Does Not Apply: 27.7 percent

They aren’t as common as they used to be: Nearly a third of survey respondents don’t use them at all. Mailing lists and forums, however, can still be an important source of knowledge, often letting visitors pick the brains of more experienced professionals likely motivated by a “Pay it forward” mindset. Also, note that ratings of Excellent are scarce, and the Fair score is relatively high. Don’t take everything you encounter at face value.

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CertMag Staff

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Certification Magazine was launched in 1999 and remained in print until mid-2008. Publication was restarted on a quarterly basis in February 2014. Subscribe to CertMag here.

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