Top Four IT Certification Categories

Should you earn a certification? If so, what types of certifications are the most profitable?


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Posted September 28, 2006

James Maguire

James Maguire

(Page 1 of 3)

When it comes to deciding whether to earn an IT certification, many tech professionals have decidedly mixed feelings. Some just groan and say no.

Their options are considerable – from Microsoft’s MCP to Novell’s CLP – but so is the workload. Certification takes plenty of time and effort, and sometimes plenty of money. The long exams are as enjoyable as a rousing session of root canal.

Consequently, many tech staffers wonder: is it worth it?

That’s a good question, especially considering that a certification guarantees neither a job nor a salary boost. Some techies grumble that, while a given certification opened doors earlier in their career, it ceased to matter later on. Others point out that employers scan a resume for experience, placing far more weight on hands-on knowledge than classroom hours.

Yet while it’s true that certifications offer no guarantees, they continue to be worthwhile – in fact highly valuable – for IT job seekers.

Earning a certification is “part of the process of bettering your IT career,” says Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology.

Certainly there are instances where tech staffers are over-educated and under-employed. “Just a certification – or just a couple of certifications – isn’t going to get you a job in IT,” she tells Datamation. Job experience continues to be absolutely essential for job seekers.

However, even those who don’t know COBOL from FORTRAN know that technology is ever changing. By one estimate it reinvents itself every nine months. "Getting a job in IT is a process, not an event, and keeping a job in IT and progressing in your career is a process, not an event,” Lee says. Continual learning is not optional.

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To those IT pros who dismiss certifications because they earned one earlier in their career, but now say its benefit has faded, she notes: “You don’t stop with one certification and quit – your best IT professionals are into ongoing education.”

A Little Soul Searching

Still, as valuable as earning ongoing certifications can be, tech workers need to ask themselves a few questions before committing to a new class.

1) Is your employer willing to pay for the certification, even partially? Or are they willing to open up access to an online program?

2) What exactly are your career goals in IT, and to what extent will a given certification help you attain them?

There’s not, of course, a “one size fits all,” answer to these questions. “It depends on your company, what you want, and what technologies you’re specializing in,” Lee notes.

But there are plenty of situations where the answer is yes, get the certification.

“If your job is rolling out operating system upgrades, and the only certification you have is Windows NT, now that most companies are going to a terminal environment – and may in the future go to Vista – you may limit your career potential by not investing in new technologies.”

The point is to keep your overall career in mind. Certifications “are valuable as long as they are part of a process,” Lee says. “It’s a little bit like learning how to swim. You can learn how to hold your breath. But If you don’t learn how to kick your feet, you’re not going to go anywhere,”

“As long as it’s approached from a perspective of ‘Hey, this is a part of my career, part of the investment in my career,’ then I think they’re outstanding.”

Page Two: Online vs. Real World, Plus: Extra Benefits

Page Three; Top Four IT Certification Categories

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Tags: Microsoft, IT certifications, Vista, IT career, instant messaging

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