This morning I found a message in my inbox from one of the readers of these blogs. I will paraphrase its contents as follows: “I am interested in a career in networking. I am taking A+ classes, after which I plan to earn Network+ and then the CCNA. Please tell me I am on the right track: although I have no university degree, I would like to believe I have some chances of landing a good job and of developing a good career. What do you think?”
Let me start off with the answer I sent in response to this inquiry: “Although obtaining the A+, Network+, then CCNA will get you off to a good start, these are all entry-level IT certifications. At best, they will qualify you for an entry-level position. Your prospects will vary to a large extent upon where in the world you are located, and what your local job market is like. Here in the United States, for example, the certs you are pursuing might be helpful, and they might not be helpful, because the entry-level job market is *very* competitive. On the other hand, a college degree here is probably even more useful than those credentials, because of its higher cost, longer time commitment, and broader range of required subject matter. If you’d care to tell me more about your work background, your location, and your actual job aspirations, I can probably respond in kind.”
Entering the IT job market is tough all over, and the degree to which certification helps is probably related to several factors:
1. how unique their possession is among the application population
2. how much real-world experience goes along with the certs
3. how much real-world experience those certs represent to the hiring manager, HR professionals, and others involved in the hiring decision
4. how many other candidates do have college degrees and/or real-world experience to offer instead of IT certifications
I have to believe that certification can do some good, and that an applicant with these certifications plus no degree and no real-world experience is preferable to a candidate with “none of the above,” so to speak. But then, the real question still remains: “Where does this profile position the candidate amidst the pool of applicants?” If it positions him or her in the top echelons, then earning those certifications is probably beneficial. If it does not, then their benefit becomes more questionable.
That’s why I believe it’s important to work through the ROI calculations I describe in my recent blog on that subject, and why one of my recent blogs is entitled “Why Entry-Level Certs Aren’t Enough to Get You a Job.”
Nevertheless, hope springs eternal in the human breast, even among aspiring IT professionals. Likewise, the continuing marketing efforts and advertisements from certification sponsors continue to amplify that all-too-human tendency to hope for the very best from one’s outlays of time, effort, and money in developing a career. But one must be tough and hard-boiled in calculating whether or not the risks and costs will be offset by at least equivalent rewards, if not something better than that!
In my next post, I’m going to provide a list of questions that individuals should answer if they want to ask me or other career experts for help in deciding their futures and their fates. As I get these e-mails, and read these postings, I keep thinking “Need More Information” as I figure out how to respond to those queries. To that end, I’m going to provide a template that should help interested individuals not only ask for, but get, at least some of the help they seek.