I recently ran across an interested article by Lynn Haber at ITCareerPlanet entitled “When IT Certifications Retire.” It got me to thinking about what IT professionals can and should do to keep their knowledge, skills, and credentials fresh and up-to-date.
First, let me explain what retirement means in the contect of IT certification. A great many IT credentials–including those from Cisco and MIcrosoft’s latest crop (MCTS, MCITP, and so forth), plus countless vendor-neutral certifications like the CISSP, PMP, SANS, and more–come with what can only be described as maintenance requirements. Typically, this either means meeting yearly continuing education and professional development milestones, or repeating certification examinations at two or three year intervals. This all comes in the name of keeping current.
But when a certification stops being tested, or is no longer available to newcomers–the older Microsoft certs such as MCSA, MCSE, MCDBA, and MCSD are good examples, as are older versions of CompTIA credentials–what then? The answer depends on how relevant those credentials remain to the tasks still at hand, and the jobs that IT professionals perform on a day-in, day-out basis, as opposed to their perceived value and persisting ongoing name recognition.
For IT pros with lots of alpabet soup on their transcripts, I recommend a dual-labeling strategy for resumes and face-to-face career discussions or interviews, including annual reviews, performance reviews, and so on. Divide your certs up into “Current Certifications” (those that remain valid, up-to-date, and still enjoy relevance and name recognition), and into “Certifications Earned” (those that are now out-of-date, expired, or that no longer enjoy name recognition).
That way, you can concentrate on what remains relevant to your current job, or the job you’re going after, while still presenting your entire certification history to those who may be interested in seeing your previous accomplishments and activities as well as your present focus, skills, and knowledge bases. It’s not exactly the best of both worlds, but it is a strategy that lets you demonstrate your understanding of current market needs and requirements, as well as enumerating your professional development and activities over your entire working life in IT.