Now that we have talked about what certifications will be hot in 2004, we should at least talk briefly about what certification areas should probably be avoided in the coming year.
When identifying what certifications to avoid, it is not just a case of identifying specific certification programs or exams. It is more a task of looking at what factors might reduce the value of a certification, and then making a judgment accordingly. It could be said that there are really no 'bad' certification choices, but there are certainly some that are better than others.
Visibility and employer awareness continue to play a major part in the popularity and acceptance of any certification program, and it is something certification candidates need to be conscious of. If you have to explain what a certification listed on your resume is for, it's unlikely that your prospective employer will place much stead in the skills that you have attained in completing it.
For this reason alone, you would do well to avoid minority manufacturer-specific programs unless you can readily correlate your experience and job aims with their certification.
This is more than just a concern about recognition, however.
Gaining an advanced certification in, let's say, superwidget configuration and troubleshooting, is only likely to be of true value if you are looking for a position that specifically requires you to work with superwidgets, or a close variation thereof
Other, more macro-economic factors also will drive the IT job market in 2004, and these too should be considered before you choose a certification.
For example, everyone seems to agree that outsourcing is having a huge impact in some job areas. For skill areas like programming and system testing, outsourcing will reduce the number of vacancies for people with the requisite skills. Pursuing certifications in this area may be less wise than opting for one of the, shall we say 'hotter' areas.
This is a matter of simple supply and demand economics. More jobs being moved offshore will result in the demand for personnel shrinking over the coming years.
Whether you choose 2004 as the year to update and market your IT skills, or merely as a year of preparation before going to the market in 2005, the demand for skills like strong security knowledge or a background in IP telephony is sure to add value to your skill set. If you are thinking of using certification as a means of verifying these skills, the key is to start thinking about what certification to take now.
By the time the expected job wave hits later this year, you should be ready to go.