Does IT Certification Matter Anymore?

The value of IT certification changes as technology changes, so it benefits tech workers to stay current with employers’ attitudes toward certs.


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You can hear the grumbling from a far distance. It’s the sound of tech workers complaining that IT certification gets you nowhere. Perhaps tech certs worked magic in the past, but now they’re just a waste of time (and worse, money).

In contrast is the sound of companies that sell certification tests to IT staffers. Buy one of our courses, they say, and employers will open their doors wide. Fame and glory in IT is just one $750 cert test away.

In truth, an accurate assessment of IT certification’s true value appears to lie somewhere between the vendors' drumbeating and some workers’ “just say no” attitude.

“Some companies believe more in certification than others,” says David Foote, CEO of Foote Partners, a firm that tracks tech salaries. But frankly, he tells Datamation, "The news that we’ve been putting out recently is that certifications don’t mean much anymore, because people are not paying for them."

Adding clarity to the topic is Cushing Anderson, an IDC analyst and author of “Worldwide IT Certification Training and Testing 2006–2010 Forecast.” He sums up the value of IT certification: “It always comes down to ‘it depends.’”

“Certification is still valuable in areas where there is a lack of talent,” he tells Datamation. In those specific tech sectors for which employers have a hard time finding qualified workers, a cert establishes bona fides immediately.

In those cases, the right certification really does open doors.

The areas that Anderson points to: security, high end architecture, and complex networking. Employers have a hard enough time filling these posts that if you have the right cert (and some experience, of course) you’ll have an edge on the competition.

And if you’re shopping around for certs that will serve you well in the years ahead, Anderson recommends these “emerging certification” areas: RFID, Wireless, VoIP, SOA, SaaS, and Grid Computing.

In short, IT certification does count – but you have to earn the right one at the right time.

IT Certifications that Matter

There are areas in which certification really isn’t profitable for an IT worker, Anderson notes.

“We don’t need low-end server administration certification anymore, because the tools are better, and you can pretty much get all you need to know by working at it for a year and a half,” he says. “And there’s enough people out there [who know it] that employers don’t need to have special talent.”

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Tags: SOA, wireless, IT certifications, IT career, VoIP

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