To Get Certification or Not to Get Certification—That Is the Question


There are many reasons for getting a certification, including professional advancement and promotion, pay raises, and recognition that you are at a certain level in your career, but there are still some factors you need to to consider before you take the plunge.

Three postings on ComputerWorld and its companion magazine, NetworkWorld, have recently caught my attention. All three deal with the benefits of certifications, which ones to get, and the cost of getting certified. The first story contains information on whether IT certifications will get you a job or a pay raise, the second looks at certifications from a value perspective, and the third explores the ways in which a person can get free and cheap certification training.


The debate in certifications has been going on for a while in IT. Some will say that a certification without experience is useless or that with enough experience, certification becomes unnecessary. As an IT professional, you have to weigh the cost, time, and effort that would result in a gain either professionally or personally.

Computerworld points to a survey of 700 IT professionals that shows that certifications may be a good idea if you want a pay raise, promotion, or new job. My personal take on certifications hinges on motivation. First and foremost, you have to ask many questions. Who will be paying for this certification, you or your employer? If you are paying for it, what will your current employer think or say when your certification is posted in your cube or on your email signature? If your employer is paying for your certification, you may be forced to pay back the cost.

You also need to be aware that many in the IT field have biased opinions about certification. Some people think negatively about certifications and view them as being worthless, whether you have experience or not. So, be aware that some folks will not be enthused or impressed by your certification, and some will even hold it against you. Know that your certification is not a substitute for being able to do a job, and it does not mean you know everything about a particular subject.

I have a funny story about certifications at one of my workplaces. On a project I worked on, two new guys came in on their first day and stapled about twenty different certificates on the wall. When they went to lunch, all of us in the workplace gathered around and looked at these certifications for just about everything imaginable, from Advanced Network Experts to Master VB Programmer. The bad part was that these “certifications” were all gained in a matter of days. No matter what certification you get, nothing can be substituted for the knowledge you possess, certified or not.

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