Whether you’re new to the industry, or switching careers (or specialities) – there are a dizzying number of acronyms: MCSD, SCJD. RHCE, ACSA. If there is a prominent technology, you’re likely to find a certification program for it … and often it’s the same company selling the product and then touting their certification.
With limited time (and resources), you want to maximize your ROI -which has more and more IT applicants asking: are certifications necessary – or are they a waste of time and money?
This question is by no means new – the short answer is: it depends. Your knowledge and experience overall – what projects you’ve worked on, and in-depth knowledge of a system counts for more than “whether or not you passed some arbitrary, one-time test”, according to Jeff Atwood, co-founder of Stack Exchange and Discourse. His response is, “That’s nice, but show me what you’ve worked on.”
For those trying to break into the industry, however, certifications give a solid foundation for roles such as helpdesk and network systems, according to Clif Bar and Co.’s director of IT Gary Hensley. His advice to those embarking on an IT career is to think about the most commonly deployed technologies, such as Microsoft’s MTA certification – great for as an entry-level certification as it focuses on server, networking, security and desktop systems. Cisco’s CCNA remains a well-respected credential in the network field.
Don’t know if you should invest in a certification, or which certification is worth your while? A few tips to start you on your way: search out the right certification for the role you’re aiming for -check job boards and company job openings to see what experience and certifications they’re calling for. On entry-level to mid-level roles, certifications may often trump experience. Browse LinkedIn and industry discussion groups – chances are professionals are discussing the job market, and what it takes to stay on top.
As with any career, investing in education and training depends on what path you want to take. Experience in the field still demonstrates the most competence – however getting one or two certifications demonstrates your ability to learn and retain knowledge, willing to invest in your own career and well versed in the technology.