To Recertify or Not to Recertify

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Many of you likely have been faced, perhaps even a few times, with the decision of whether or not to go through the process of recertification. Companies and associations that sponsor industry certifications must also think about the recertification process at that critical time when technology has been changed or upgraded. These sponsors must decide whether to force their existing certified population to take new exams or simply make new training and certification exams available.


There are pros and cons to both strategies that can be looked at from many different perspectives—from the perspective of the certification holder, the sponsoring organization, the organization employing the certified professional and the customer that may use the services provided by the certified professional. For this month’s article, I briefly looked at five major IT certification sponsors and their approach to the dilemma of to recertify or not to recertify. (This is not meant to be an all-inclusive source of information regarding these organizations’ recertification policies. Please consult their Web sites for more details.)


Cisco requires the timely renewal of certifications. If certificants do not recertify, the certification will expire or become inactive. Specifically, the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification, for example, is valid for three years, and after that point the certification holder must demonstrate proficiency with the current technology by passing the appropriate recertification exam. If the certification expires prior to renewal, the individual must complete the entire certification exam process in order to become recertified.


Microsoft does not require individuals to recertify. However, when a technology upgrade is released, the fact that the older certification becomes obsolete acts as a major incentive for recertification. For example, Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) certification on Windows NT 4.0 is still valid even with the release of Windows Server 2003. So an individual who chooses not to recertify can still say they are an MCSE. However, if they are asked which version they were certified on, they may wish they had become recertified. Microsoft has also said that it has made the process easier with an upgrade path that allows current MCSEs to earn certification on Windows Server 2003 in a time- and cost-effective way.


Novell manages its recertification program through continuing certification requirements (CCRs), a defined process for recertification. When a technology upgrade occurs, Novell will release a CCR. However, even if the CCR is not met, the certification holder is still certified. In other words, once you have gained the Certified Novell Engineer (CNE) credential, you can always say you are a CNE. But if Novell receives an inquiry about an individual’s certification and they have not met the CCR, Novell will disclose that the individual has not been certified in the most recent technology. Plus, the individual will no longer receive any of the benefits Novell provides its CNEs.


Oracle doesn’t require recertification, but it does make it quite easy if you do choose to upgrade. For example, for a certified database administrator (DBA) to stay current with the technology, he only has to take an upgrade exam every few years and even then, it only requires the passing of a single upgrade exam.
CompTIA’s certification policy is very simple: CompTIA certifications are lifetime certifications. The organization does regularly update its exams—in fact, the A+ exams were upgraded in November 2003—but it is completely up to the certification holder whether or not to take the upgrade exam.


It is clear from the policies outlined above that there are many different approaches when it comes to recertification and keeping certified IT professionals skilled in the use of the latest and greatest technology. The best advice I can give you as a certified professional is not to look to anyone else to force or compel you to keep your skill level up-to-date. Recertification is not just about your credentials. More than ever before in this turbulent job market, your career could be at risk due not only to the economy, the state of the industry and the offshore outsourcing of jobs, but also due to the fact that technology continues to change and evolve at an amazing rate. Because of this, your value as an IT professional is only as good as your ability to prove you can keep pace with the changes. In answer to the question, to recertify or not to recertify, it’s completely up to you. I think the better question to ask yourself is: Should I continue to learn and thrive or stop learning and hope my career will survive?


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

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