Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Certifications No Longer Optional

A couple weeks ago, Bart Perkins, a Computerworld columnist and managing partner at Leverage Partners Inc., resurrected AGAIN the long-running argument: Are certifications necessary in IT? His opinion was a resounding YES: “Certifications are no longer optional.”

We here at TestOut agree and feel strongly about it. Certifications—and especially the training and hands-on experience that prepare you for them—are critical steps in professional development in IT (see LabSim online labs).

But let’s look at a few of Perkins’s arguments to show why it makes perfect sense that certifications are becoming increasingly necessary in today’s job hunt.

  • Overall, with so many applicants to choose from in today’s economy, certifications “help employers triage resumes.”
  • Certifications are “helpful in avoiding the costs and productivity losses associated with training new hires.”
  • Certifications “add credibility to project proposals” when a company is outsourcing a department.

According to Perkins, even long-time employees benefit from obtaining certifications, as it “demonstrate[s] that an employee has taken the initiative to stay current in an ever-changing field.” The certified will have a leg up when their boss is considering raises, promotions, or even whether an employee keeps his or her job when lay-offs are being considered.

As expected, Computerworld readers had some strong opinions for and against certifications. Here are a few:

  • “It is a complete disservice to the profession to imagine that certification inherently accomplishes anything.”
  • “I don't think experienced developers should just stick their heads in the sand and say things like, ‘I'm too busy actually working to worry about certification.’ At some point your degree(s) and experience do not mean as much as what new language you know."
  • “Eventually ‘certified’ will be synonymous with ‘employable.’ The reason is pure and simple: the HR department. Which department creates the usually impossible job descriptions for an absurdly low salary? The HR department. Which department usually, but not always, takes the lead in filtering, screening, and interviewing job candidates? The HR department. One has to remember that IT certifications are quick and easy items for the typical Human Resources lackey to understand and locate on a resume.”
  • “I know in my circle of IT employers, certifications have lost their appeal. Nothing beats a good old-fashioned, hands-on skills test.”
  • “Having a certification is practically useless in determining real ability and the current HR processes are better at excluding talent than finding it.”

So, what do you think? And if you do value getting certification, are you also preparing to get real hands-on experience or take a hands-on skills test to prepare for the job as well?

Kelly Wanlass

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