IT Career JumpStart

Jul 29 2011   2:34PM GMT

CompTIA Certs: New IT Job Harbinger, or Wishful Thinking?

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

As I jumped up to the CompTIA Web site this morning and checked their latest press releases for signs of new programs and activities, I came across an item entitled “CompTIA Introduces Healthcare IT Technician Certificate.” In addition to prompting a “Hmm…that’s interesting” response from me, it also got me to thinking about other programs I’ve seen CompTIA introduce over the past decade and more. Some of these have gone on to anywhere from modest (Linux+, RFID+, Project+) to major success (Security+), while others have come and then gone as well (HTI+ or Home Technology Integrator+, DHTI+ or Digital Home Technology Integrator+, e-Biz+, i-Net+, and Convergence+).

Other than proving an assertion that not all CompTIA certs go on to fame and glory, what else does this tell us about the CompTIA certification selection and creation process, and any given new cert’s chances of success? For one thing, it’s important to remember that CompTIA is the Computing Technology Industry Association, a consortium of computing industry vendors, players, resellers and retailers, and representatives from leading research, academic, government, and public interests. Certifications are driven by requests from the membership, with surveys and measurements to determine levels of interest and support, then launched to meet perceived and stated needs for individuals who possess certain knowledge and specific skills sets that match up to well-researched job role investigations, job task analyses, and so forth and so on.

What the membership wants is to sell computing technology, and then to make sure the human and technical infrastructure is in place to make it succeed in the marketplace. But not all desires to sell translate into actual market uptake, or into genuine, long-term business or consumer needs. The HTI+/DHTI+ is an excellent case in point: there is an amazing amount of really cool technology available for computing-enhanced homes with alarm systems, media centers and home theaters, home networks, and so on. But it’s still the case that only high-end builders offer options for such things during home construction — and then usually only as high-dollar add-ons to basic home plans and build-out options — and that this kind of home remains the exception rather than the rule. And what with a moribund if not occasionally tanking economy of late, it’s proved hard to grow the critical mass necessary to sustain such a certification in the face of home buyers (and remodelers) who, above all, are keeping a very tight grip on their pocketbooks.

What does this mean for the Healthcare IT Technician certificate? I think it means two things: one, it’s a clear sign that CompTIA will never stop looking for areas of technical IT expertise to capture and distill into various certifications; and two, it reflects what I’ll call a “slam dunk” mentality for the kinds of new credentials the organization is most likely to back and foment going forward. Nobody can deny that healthcare is a huge sector of our economy, and one that an aging baby boomer population (of which I am a member) is likely to swell much further over the next 30 years and beyond. There is already a need for more qualified IT staff to work in the healthcare sector, and careful reading of this certificate program shows that it aims as much at clinics and smaller medical practices where technology is still taking root, as at larger clinics, hospitals, and mega-corporations that target the healthcare sector.

Does this mean I think the the Healthcare IT Technician certificate program is likely to succeed? I can’t say for sure, but it certainly seems to target an area where continued growth and activity is likely for the foreseeable future. That’s not to say CompTIA can’t get it wrong, but in areas where its membership has strong interests and expertise (which they do) and where the market rises up to meet them (as it must, for healthcare) I would have to say the odds are certainly in their favor.

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