April 27, 2017 • Amanda Pullman
Are IT Certifications Worth It?
It’s become an age-old question for IT professionals across the country. At conferences, in email inboxes, and through conversations with peers, the topic of how to further one’s technical skill set is practically inescapable. The mentality has become so ingrained into tech culture that 69% of industry job seekers are currently looking for a new job because they want to advance their IT skills. But are IT certifications worth it? The short answer is it depends.
Narrow Down Options Carefully
Not all IT certifications or continuing education programs were created equally. The key is to seek out performance-oriented options that will truly instill new skills into your repertoire or advance current ones. These are the types of certifications that provide the most value-added, as opposed to programs that may be solely comprised of a single written test that simply verifies theoretical knowledge.
Some well-known examination-heavy certifications (such as the PMP certification) are respected by employers and are an expected industry standard for those looking to advance in project management roles. However, other IT roles are best advanced by learning hard skills. Examinations can bolster your resume and prove your knowledge, but your past work product should showcase the skills you possess without a superfluous stamp of approval.
Consider this scenario. In a future job interview you’re asked about skill X. You have proven experience from past jobs, hackathons, or open source projects in skill X, giving you concrete proof of expertise in that area. Will a certification in that skill that primarily uses a written exam really provide any additional proof of your proficiency? Instead of spending the time, money, and effort on a certification for skill X, think about the skills in which you have room to improve. Certifications in these other areas, skills Y and Z, will provide more value to you as an IT professional.
Determine Real World Value
Choosing a great IT certification or education program that will add to or improve your skill set is an excellent start. But will you use these new skills in the real world? It’s one thing to receive training in order to pass a series of complex practical examinations, but another to be able to apply your new skill in real scenarios for employers.
Is the technology you’re considering learning or building upon one of the most in-demand IT skills and expected to be for the foreseeable future? These include cybersecurity, app development, big data, cloud technology, and more. Does your current employer have a use for that skill? When you look at new job openings, do you see a pattern that many are requiring that skill or certification? If the answers to these questions is a resounding yes, then you can have confidence that the program you’re considering will be worth it.
Select the Best Certification for You
There is no single IT certification that is perfect for every tech specialist. What is sure to advance a Software Developer’s career will not have the same impact for a Network Architect. Nonetheless, here is a selection of the certifications we often recommend to various candidates that provide a great value:
- The Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) represents one of the most difficult but rewarding certifications that includes a performance-based lab and several specialization tracks.
- Cisco’s Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Data Center will be increasingly valuable as more and more organizations look to better operate their data centers.
- As businesses look to harness the full power of the cloud, a VMware Certified Professional 6 – Cloud Management and Automation (VCP6-CMA) can bring data virtualization to the arena.
- The Certified Business Intelligence Professional (CBIP) credential is a must for those pursuing deep BI and data warehouse careers.
- CompTIA’s Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) imparts practical, high-level security skills.
- A Java SE 7 Programmer Certification rounds out knowledge in the #1 programming language.
- The Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) is backed by one of the biggest names in tech.
- A Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) or Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) has proof that they can safeguard an organization’s data.
- Amazon’s AWS Certified Solutions Architect –Professional certification may be relatively new, but provides strong value and proves a tech pro is on the cutting-edge.
- The Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) distinction is the global standard for tech auditors.
- Larger businesses are paying more attention to governance, risk management, and internal controls, and a GRC Professional Certification (GRCP) can set you apart in their eyes.
Are IT Certifications Worth It?
If you aspire to rise through the ranks in the ever-evlolving information technology industry, then you will need to learn new skills regularly. IT certifications and continuing education can be excellent ways to ensure career growth, provided that a program is carefully selected prior to pursuing. At Smart Resources, we get to know your career aspirations in order to match you with the certifications and opportunities that will be of the most value to you.
Looking for a new opportunity in IT that will further your career? View some of our current opportunities here.