Reasons to consider certification

February 27, 2009

I saw a link to a report by TechRepublic giving reasons to value certification in 2009. The idea behind the piece is that we are in a time of economic crisis, cutbacks and the like, and asking the question about whether or not people should be looking for certification or not.

Most of the points made come down to differentiating yourself from the masses. For individuals I would have to agree. If you are trying to get a job, and are looking for every possible argument to get yourself in the door, certification can’t hurt (don’t expect to beat someone with experience though). But from a company’s perspective, should a company be looking to train employees (and encourage certification)?

As a trainer, I’m going to flippantly say “Yes, you should send all your staff on training…”

…but don’t worry — I’m going to try to back it up as well.

At the moment, almost every company in the world is trying to cut costs. Whole departments are being sacked if they’re not being effective. And one thing that might differentiate your department from the next one could well be the skill level. You need to lift your game to be able to compete at the moment, so why not get your whole department trained up in an area that concerns you. If your team writes software, make sure they’re writing software as well as possible. If your team is in sales, you had better make sure that your salespeople are as good at making that deal as possible. Training can help with this.

And actually, certification can help too. If there is a certification available in a relevant area, and someone has the time to go and sit the exam, then get them to do it. It rarely costs much, and it will probably help your department if you can say “Our people are getting stronger”, or “Our people are active in professional development”. Not to mention the confidence boost associated with passing an exam, or the added knowledge gained by studying (if required).

If you’re reading this and thinking “Well my boss doesn’t see it that way…”, why not ask if getting certification might help the department’s viability? If the answer is no, then you’re probably no better off. But if the answer is yes, well… you might get some training and some new skills.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. TheRobDog

    I think providers offering certification need to tune their offerings to more reflect the ongoing style of IT work and the (typically) ongoing need for certification – to reduce the appearance of it looking like an ongoing money-sink with no end. In many (most?) instances, complete recertification is required ‘n’ years down the track, often when the individual has been using the skills on a daily basis and gaining experience with incremental releases as they arrive. This model might be suitable for a certification junkie who never touches the product in anger, but not for people who are certifying to meet a direct need. Sure there are a few ‘upgrade’ certs out there, but they seem to be in the minority to me …

  2. robfarley

    Microsoft does offer upgrade certifications, but I think just as importantly, it versions its offerings. If you have passed exams in SQL 2005, you have a SQL 2005 certification. That doesn’t mean you have a certification in SQL 2000 or SQL 2008. Then there are upgrade exams to shift to the SQL 2008 stream. This does put a few people in the situation of slowing updating their skills but without having updated their certification level, but also combats the problem of having someone with a 10-year-old certification claiming to have skills in the latest products.

    They’re increasing the hands-on nature of the exam with simulation and emulation questions too. And I would challenge people who feel they have enough skills to be worthy of a certification to go and sit the exams to see how they go. Most of the time, someone who already has the skills should be able to pass without any further study.


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