IT Career JumpStart

Jul 21 2009   1:54PM GMT

The enduring value of IT certification

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

In running the contest to select winners for some MCP exam vouchers graciously donated by Microsoft, and in profiling four of the six winners (so far, I’m still chasing the other two) I’ve found myself revisiting several thoughts and ideas that have confronted me throughout my dozen years toiling in and around the IT certification marketplace. I’ll state these ideas briefly and directly, then comment a bit on the thoughts and observations they prompt.

  • Earning IT certifications takes real time, money, and effort.
    As obvious as this is (and should be) lots of people don’t really get just how much time and effort is involved (the money is pretty straightforward) until they go through the process a few times. We’re talking about giving up evenings and weekends, sacrificing on leisure or family time, and knuckling down to get some real work done.
  • Acquiring and maintaining IT certifications really can help an IT career.
    If there’s one thing that pops out at me from my interviews with the winners, and from thinking about those I know who’ve earned major certs and then put them to work on the job, it’s that the same interest and passion that goes into earning IT credentials can also be employed to help people advance their careers. Does that mean there’s no real connection with the IT certifications themselves, but only with the drive required to earn them? No; rather, it means that you have to talk them up, use them, and build on them to do your career some good.
  • For some, IT certifications are like potato chips: they can’t earn only one.
    All of the winners had passed at least a dozen IT cert exams, and many had earned half-a-dozen IT certifications or more. Most started with A+ and/or Network+, then went on to chew through two or more mid-range Microsoft certs such as MCSA and MCSE, with MCTS and MCITP credentials either earned or underway (why else would they want to win an MCP exam voucher?)
  • IT Certs build confidence as well as competence.
    To a person, all the winners talked about how earning IT certifications helped them in their careers because they improved their attitudes and confidence about encountering and handling problems on the job, as much because of the experience they gained in developing problem-solving, research, and learning skills in earning certifications as because of the various subject matters they had to master to pass their exams.

I’ll be commenting further on this experience in upcoming blogs, but thought you would find these observations interesting. I’ve seen this all before, but it’s refreshing to see it again, especially in such a positive light in these times of economic crisis and uncertainty.

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