Why I Decided to Pursue the CIW Certification

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As a contract IT instructor and systems engineer since 1996, I have taught classes focused on network operating systems from various vendors, including Novell NetWare and Microsoft Windows NT. About a year ago, there was a momentum shift. Not as many people were enrolling in Novell or Microsoft classes. Classes were being canceled. The constant flow of students was slowing down. To keep my classrooms full, I had to deal with the questions, “What technology should I look at next?” and “What technology will survive the ebb and flow of the IT marketplace?” When I found my answers, I also learned the value of a vendor-neutral certification for someone who is already vendor-certified.

After I had nearly run out of ideas, the former COO of training for a well-known company, who is also a friend, suggested that I become certified to teach the CIW curriculum. He said that CIW is ProsoftTraining’s vendor-neutral certification, organized by IT job roles. Fortunately for me, the certification was becoming so popular that there was an increasing demand for instructor-led classes.

My COO friend also told me that my theoretical and practical background in teaching operating systems and Internet technologies made me an ideal candidate for this comprehensive Internet certification. I was curious and proceeded to research the CIW curriculum. If I had known what I would gain by becoming CIW certified, I would have become a CIW Certified Instructor (CI) when the program first started.

My research on CIW had to answer the following questions:

 

  • What is CIW?
  • What is the value of the CIW to someone who is already highly skilled and vendor-certified?
  • What are the learning paths to CIW certification?

 

I found answers to these questions, obtained the CIW CI, Master CIW Designer and Master CIW Administrator status and have been teaching several of the CIW courses for nearly a year. As a CIW instructor, I have noticed that all of my students come to their first CIW class with these same questions. Most students are not hoping to become instructors. Rather, they are looking for the skills required to work in the ever-changing IT marketplace. The decision to become CIW certified, and a CIW CI, was easy when I answered the questions. I hope the decision will be easy for you as well.

The Answers

What is CIW?
A certification for the knowledge economy, the CIW certification is a comprehensive job-role curriculum and certification that demonstrates an individual’s competency in Internet industry standards, concepts and best practices and provides familiarity with leading hardware and software technologies. Anyone looking at the IT job advertisements cannot help but be overwhelmed by the number of job listings for Web developers, graphic artists, e-commerce developers, system administrators, Internet security specialists, programmers and so on. In response to this need, the CIW is shaped as a multi-track curriculum based on Internet job skills and job roles. CIW is the hottest Internet certification on the radar screen right now. The CIW program has been growing exponentially since 1998, with more than 1,000 CIW Authorized Training Providers (ATPs) and more than 20,000 CIW certifications earned.

CIW is a comprehensive program, designed to prove baseline competency and advanced skills for Internet, Web and e-business professions. The best jobs in today’s market are going to candidates with Internet skills. The CIW certification is a concrete way of validating a skill set that is in demand today. Both the Association of Internet Professionals (AIP) and the International Webmasters Association (IWA) endorse the CIW certification.

What is the value of the CIW to someone who is already highly skilled and vendor-certified?
At the beginning of every course that I teach, I ask students what their objective is for the course-why they are taking the course and why they want the CIW. Most say they are coming to class to get the skills to do their jobs. Employers generally ask my students to earn CIW certification. Additionally, a large number of students are independently pursuing the CIW certification so they can change jobs and gain more responsibility. My students choose CIW because they have heard from recruiters and potential employers that CIW proves they have the necessary job skills. So the answer to the question is that it offers the most opportunities for IT job candidates.

For those who are already vendor-certified, CIW offers more opportunities. Although CNE and MCSE give a phenomenal career boost to their holders, these certifications lead to opportunities that are limited to single operating systems. Because CIW is a job-role certification and covers leading technologies from a variety of vendors, CIW bridges the gap from a particular vendor’s operating system to a variety of Internet opportunities. In essence, the CIW certification validates the presence of a set of Internet-based skills, which in turn enhances vendor-based skills and opens doors to employment. The CIW curriculum exposes candidates to a variety of programs, skills and operating systems, such as Linux, FrontPage 2000, Dreamweaver 4, Homesite 4.5, Flash 5 and numerous other Web server administration and security tools, all of which are used on the Internet.

What are the learning paths to CIW certification?
A variety of learning methods are available, including instructor-led training, online training through the CIW 2GO Web series and self-study using the CIW Self Study Suite. CIW instructor-led training is offered by global CIW Authorized Training Providers (CIW ATPs) such as IBM, Executrain and CompUSA, as well as regional partners such as Focus Learning Systems in Florida and ICS Institute in Pennsylvania. Upon completion of a course that focuses on a job role or set of skills, the student takes an online exam to prove competency. These tests are administered by VUE and Prometric.

I compare the CIW certification to a liberal arts degree. Participants are initially exposed to a variety of introductory skills. They then choose a focus, comparable to a college major. Students can “major” in Design, Administration, Development, Web Site Manager or a combination. The first step toward the CIW certification is the CIW Foundations course. Students who successfully complete the Foundations exam are awarded CIW Associate certification. The CIW Associate can also be obtained by passing the i-Net+ exam. The CIW Associate, in the minds of many industry leaders, is equivalent to the Microsoft MCP or Novell CNA. Candidates who earn this certification have been exposed to the language of the Internet job market.

Next, CIW participants can choose a job role or “major.” Once they select a job role and successfully pass the corresponding test, CIW Professional certification is awarded. Currently, the CIW Professional certification is awarded for eight job roles: Server Administrator, Internetworking Professional, Security Professional, Application Developer, Database Specialist, Enterprise Specialist, Site Designer and e-Commerce Designer. Candidates receive the CIW Professional certificate by passing the exam for any one of these courses. Each job role will equip the participant with a set of portable and marketable skills and is likely to increase the number of Internet-based job opportunities.

After obtaining the CIW Professional, students can decide to stop or continue on to the Master CIW certification. There are four paths to the Master CIW status: Master CIW Administrator, Master CIW Designer, Master CIW Enterprise Developer and Master CIW Web Site Manager. Those who pursue the Master CIW Administrator can take the exams for Server Administrator, Internetworking Professional and Security Professional. Those who pursue the Master CIW Designer take the exams for Site Designer and e-Commerce.

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