What Is the Immediate Value of Certification?
One question I hear quite often from people contemplating the pursuit of an IT certification is, “What are some of the immediate benefits I will receive after completing the certification program?” When these programs were first created, one of the key determinants when deciding whether or not to earn certifications was directly tied to the benefits provided by the vendor or owner of the certification. These benefits typically consist of support calls, special access to technical information, certificates of completion, badges of honor such as lapel pins and more.
As certification programs have grown, the sheer number of candidates has necessitated a dramatic change in the tangible benefits provided upon completion of a program. So, I thought now would be a good time to take stock of what benefits the major certification programs offer. Here is a summary, put together from program representatives and Web sites, to give you an idea of what you are likely to receive upon completion of some of the most popular programs.
Microsoft: Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers (MCSEs) receive direct access to valuable Microsoft technical and product information through the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) member site. New MCSEs also receive a certificate, transcript, wallet card, lapel pin and use of the MCSE logo. Access to Microsoft’s online magazine for certified professionals is provided for free, and discounts are available for other subscriptions, services and products, such as TechNet, a portable IT survival kit for MCSEs containing the complete Microsoft Knowledge Base.
Cisco: Cisco alumni have access to a number of information resources such as a career connection Web site providing career development and job placement services. Cisco has also developed the Cisco Certification Community, a discussion forum where Cisco-certified professionals can share questions, suggestions and information. Certificate holders receive a hard copy of their certificate and a wallet card identifying the candidate’s Cisco Career Certifications ID and valid registration dates.
CompTIA: CompTIA provides career support to certified individuals through its IT Professional Membership. Membership helps individuals meet career goals and provides information on emerging job trends and skill needs. Through this membership, certification holders receive recognition, exam discounts, discounted training, career trend information and access to online communication forums. In order to be eligible to receive these benefits, members must have a valid CompTIA certification and pay a membership fee. CompTIA also provides a certificate to all individuals who successfully complete their certification program.
Novell: Novell’s Certified Novell Engineers (CNEs) have access to a wide range of benefits. A relatively new benefit is a free six-month trial of the Novell Tech Select Service, which provides a combination of Novell support tools and services. After the six-month trial, CNEs can continue this service at a discount. Discounts are also offered for courses, magazine subscriptions, resource libraries and more. Novell keeps its certified professionals updated on new information through e-mail notifications, CNE-specific links and webcasts. Direct access to public beta products and special opportunities for private betas is also available. And, of course, Novell provides a certificate and wallet ID card for verification purposes.
Oracle: Oracle’s benefits differ somewhat depending on your level of certification. All three levels, Oracle Certified Associate (OCA), Oracle Certified Professional (OCP) and Oracle Certified Master (OCM), receive a certificate, access to the respective member site and permission to use the program logo. OCPs and OCMs receive additional benefits of an ID card and discounts on Oracle press books. A benefit exclusive to OCMs is the ability to post a profile on the Oracle Technology Network Web site.
Clearly some of the tangible, in-your-hand benefits outlined above can be enormously valuable to those of you pursuing a career in the IT industry. These benefits can actually enable you to do your job more effectively as you are able to get access to information, resources and some of the most valuable on-the-job tools. The real benefit of training and certification, however, remains the ability to keep pace with the ever-changing nature of technology, being able to prove that you have the knowledge and skill to support the technology and being part of a community directly supported by manufacturers. If you have not made up your mind which certification program to choose, I advise you to look at both the tangible benefits outlined above as well as the intangibles of career security and mobility so that you can arrive at the best and most complete decision.
Martin Bean is the chief operating officer for New Horizons Computer Learning Centers, the world’s largest independent IT training company.