Are technical certificates worth pursuing?
I am a college student studying information technology, and I am wondering whether it would be to my advantage to pursue technical certificates in conjunction to my degree. Does having certificates such as A+ and Security+ give a leg up to those pursuing a career in the information technology field? #tech #information-technology
Absolutely. Technical certifications are extremely useful when pursuing a career in a technical field.
At Dell we encourage all staff members to complete technical certifications on a regular basis, and Dell provides support.
Good question! In some circumstances, a professional certification can make all the difference between landing a job or not being considered for it at all. In others, it's not really useful and most hiring managers will look for experience or skill over a set of letters after your name. If you can't tell, it's not cut and dried, and the answer is a little complicated. Let's cut through the fog and help you understand when certs are really valuable and when they're just nice to have.
First, Not All Certifications are Created Equally
Some professional certifications require that you study hard and pass a test, others require that you have years of experience in a specific field before you can even apply to be considered. Before you decide that maybe getting a certification is your ticket to a career jump or a promotion, you need to determine whether or not the types of certifications that will get you ahead in your field are the ones that require skills, experience, or just a few classes.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective), this can also tell you how valuable that certification is to a potential employer. Some certs are very much "pay a fee to take a test and get your cert," and those are probably the least valuable. Others require you pay to join a professional society first, then prove you have the relevant experience to be considered for the cert, then you get to pay again to take the test. Those certifications, where you have to demonstrate not just that you've studied a topic, but also that you have the knowledge and at least some experience to back it up, are likely the most valuable.
The first thing you should do is start looking at the people in the positions you'd like to aim for. See what certifications they have, and what it takes to earn them. See if there's a kind of certification "ladder" that can get you from where you are now to where you want to be. Whether it's a technology certification or a professional title, there's usually some series of stepping stones to help you get there. Here are some places to start your search:
Check the job listings you're interested in. Whether you're surfing big job boards or company-specific openings, see whether they professional certifications along with their experience requirements. Many jobs—especially entry to middle-level ones—will list education as a substitute for experience because the company wants someone with applicable knowledge on day one that they don't necessarily have to train.
Browse LinkedIn industry groups. LinkedIn's industry groups and pages can offer a ton of detail about the types of positions available in an industry and what it takes to fill them. Search for a group full of professionals in the field you want to move to, or even who share the same job title. See if any of them are talking about a specific cert, or just pipe up and ask if there are any certification programs for their profession. You'll get detailed responses and war stories, promise.
Browse LinkedIn Company groups. Even if there are few professional certifications in the field you're interested in, there may be some certifications in the tools that field uses. They're often less valuable (since some companies may use different technologies or tools than others for the same jobs), but they can still offer you a leg up over the competition, especially if more companies use the same tools, hardware, or software than others. Look around at those job postings again and see what skills and technologies are often required for the job. Then head over to LinkedIn and search for that software package, or that hardware vendor. There may be a group for professionals certified in that application, or by a company for people certified in their hardware..
Look for professional groups and societies for your field. Another great way to find out if there's an industry-standard education program for your field is to check in with any professional societies for people who do what you do. For example, when I was a project manager, the PMI, or Project Management Institute, offered a number of certifications for professionals in project and program management. Of course, you have to be a member to apply and test for those certifications, so looking for professional societies may be a great way to find out about those programs as well as get an inside track on what's required to get them.
The Most Valuable Certifications are the Advanced Ones
I used to work in a company that all but required its staff to earn new certifications every year or so, and even our entry-level desktop support technicians were urged to start with with certifications like CompTIA's A+ and Net+, very basic certs that prove you have a working knowledge of technology concepts. We were then encouraged to work their way up to things like the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) program, or the Apple Certified Support Professional (ACSP) or Technical Coordinator (ACTC). You might think those lower level certs aren't tremendously valuable, and in fact unless you're applying for a job that requires them (or you're making a switch to technology as a career and want some training before you make the jump), they're really not—especially not as a replacement for real experience. However, they served as great stepping stones to get you into what's required to earn a certification: the training classes, studying, training materials, and ultimately, taking the test.
It's those higher-level, industry and position-specific certifications that are the most valuable, and while the lower level ones shouldn't be dismissed, they don't make you stand out as much as they may have a few years ago. Will an A+ or a Net+ help you get the edge over someone else? Maybe, but someone else with experience or knowledge they can demonstrate in an interview can easily edge out someone with little more than a cert to their name. On the higher end though, some companies won't even consider a security professional that doesn't have a CISSP or a project manager without a PMP, so if you don't have it (or the experience required to get it), you're out of luck.
That's the big takeaway here. The value of certifications goes up with the difficulty and experience required to get them. Several years ago, when competition for the same types of jobs was a bit thinner, you could potentially beat someone out with a few certifications under your belt in lieu of experience, especially if you were otherwise knowledgeable and had a real desire to learn (and it wouldn't help if you interviewed well). In some cases that may still be true, but these days people are coming to interviews with both experience and certifications, so it's not one or the other anymore.
Technical certifications definitely provide an edge over other applicants when applying for jobs and do well in the interviews. However certificates alone do not guarantee success in the interview or in the job. Knowledge one gains while preparing for certifications and the focus they demand in a particular subject does help in building a career.
10 Certifications to Improve Your IT Career
By Sam Grier
one-step-at-a-time IT is constantly changing as new technologies are implemented. Certifications are one way IT professionals can keep up with current trends in IT technology, build their IT resume and open new doors of opportunity.
Which certifications are right for you depends on your career path. A certification in your current line of work will certify your skills and increase your value in your present position. If you are looking to move into other areas of IT a certification can give you the skills and knowledge you need to make the jump.
Certifications should be looked at for what they can do for you now and in the future. If you look at your career plan as a road map a certification is just one stop on the way to your next destination. If you do not already have a career plan read “How To Develop Your IT Career Plan and Why You Should Do It”.
10 Career Building Certifications
Below in no particular order are 10 certifications that can certify and improve your present skills and add valuable stops on your IT career path.
ITIL V3 Foundation Certificate in IT Service Management
ITIL v3 is a best practice framework for IT Service Management that is being adopted by IT departments around the world. There are four levels of ITIL V3 certification. The Foundation certificate is the entry-level certification that shows general knowledge of the key parts of ITIL V3. ITIL V3 certifications are most useful to managers and leadership.
For more information on ITIL V3 certifications visit the ITIL website.
CCA – Cisco Certified Architect
Cisco offers a range of certifications from entry-level to master. The Cisco Certified Architect is the highest accreditation achievable within the Cisco Career Certification program. This certification is intended for experienced Cisco network professionals and puts a large gold star on your resume.
For more information about CCA visit the Cisco Certified Architect website.
MCTS – Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist
MCTS offers a variety of certifications you can specialize in. MCTS certifications prove your ability to successfully implement, build on, troubleshoot, and debug a particular Microsoft technology, such as a Windows operating system, Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft SQL Server, and Microsoft Visual Studio.
For more information about MCTS certifications visit the Microsoft MCTS website.
Network security will always be an important part of IT. The CompTIA Security+ certification is an international, vendor-neutral certification that proves competency in system security, network infrastructure, access control and organizational security.
Although not required, it is recommended that you have at least two years of technical networking experience, with an emphasis on security.
For more information visit the CompTIA Security+ website.
VCP – VMware Certified Professional
Virtualization is a hot topic in IT and will continue to grow in the future. The VMware Certified Professional Program is designed for people who want to show their ability in virtual infrastructure and increase the potential for career advancement.
For more information visit the VMware Certified Professional on vSphere 4 website.
PMP – Project Management Professional
Since so much of what IT does today is project related a Project Management Professional certification from the Project Management Institute is a valuable certification for project managers. The PMP certification shows you have demonstrated the knowledge and skills in leading and directing project teams and in delivering project results within the constraints of schedule, budget and resources.
For more information on PMP certification visit the PMI PMP website.
CompTIA Strata Green IT
CompTIA’s Strata Green IT certificate is designed to improve an IT professional’s experience, knowledge, and existing IT credentials to incorporate emerging technologies shaping the global green IT industry today.
This is one of CompTIA’s newest certification programs. It is designed to show that a candidate is schooled in power management as well as virtualization techniques. The certification also includes training on developing and calculating ROI for green IT initiatives and knowledge of environmentally sound waste disposal techniques.
For more information visit the CompTIA Strata Green IT website.
CCNA – Cisco Certified Network Associate
CCNA has become the standard for network and IT professionals who work in network related areas. Cisco Certified Network Associate prove your ability to install, configure, use, and troubleshoot route and switched networks, including implementation and verification of connections to remote sites in a WAN.
For more information about CCNA certification visit the CCNA Certification website.
MCITP – Microsoft Certified IT Professional
Microsoft Certified IT Professional certifications are Microsoft’s newest lineup of specialized certifications. Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) certification enables IT professionals to show comprehensive skills in planning, deploying, supporting, maintaining, and optimizing IT infrastructures.
For more information about Microsoft Certified IT Professional certification visit the MCITP website.
MCPD – Microsoft Certified Professional Developer
For those who create and support the software solutions in IT the Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) credential certifies a comprehensive set of skills that are necessary to deploy, build, optimize, and manage applications successfully by using Microsoft Visual Studio and the Microsoft .NET Framework.
Technical certifications are probably more relevant when looking for a job outside of your current company. If an open position comes down to you or another candidate, it can give you an edge if they are on the fence about who to chose. Having said that, my opinion is that if you are trying to make an internal move within your same company then networking and your reputation plays a bigger part. Technical certifications are important but probably of more value when you want to change companies. It can also give you a good negotiating position when discussing salaries too.
If you are starting out in your career, ask the potential employer about how they invest in training for their employees. I have 3 certifications (PMP, ITIL, Cloud Master Analytics) and for each of them my company provided the option for training. I still had to put in the time to study and pass the certification exams but the companies that I worked for paid for the training at no cost to me. Take advantage of those opportunities if a company offers this.
Yes certifications are extremely helpful to build technical expertise and grow in your career or interests.
Like if you are in IT industry , you see lot of technology changes to by these certification you can gain expertise and help organization to migrate from legacy to new tech.
As Darren said, certifications are extremely useful, especially when all the candidates have the same type of education. Most certificates show not only your education, but your experience level. Using the A+ for an example, that one shows you have the same experience level as a field tech who has been doing the job for one year.