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5 Keys to Deciding on a Certification

Jan 27, 2008
There is clearly value and knowledge gained with earning professional certifications. The key to success is choosing the right certification. The best choice that is most likely take you toward your goals is usually one that you can apply as soon as possible.

There is some controversy surrounding certifications, as many dispute the value or are critical of the process. Really, just about anything is subject to scrutiny and controversy, but here are some key points to be considered about earning certifications.

1. Some say that the requirements for many certifications have been dumbed down. However, if you look into it, it looks like quite a bit of effort (not to mention money) goes into earning many of the more valuable IT certifications and the Project Management Professioanl (PMP). There is clearly value and knowledge gained, and the key to success is choosing the right one.

2. An IT certification is relatively short-lived. Generally, you cannot go to school for it, as it will become outdated within a few years. Then you will need an update, if not a total re-planting in a different direction. IT certification is meant to be a demonstration of a specific piece of knowledge, often related to a particular implementation of technology. The mobile work force in technology needs a mechanism to adapt and reinvent itself every few years. Certification is a big part of that mechanism.

3. IT certifications provide evidence of a minimum level of knowledge of the subject. It definitely takes work to earn one, and often it is very difficult to do if you do not have some experience in the particular technology. The purpose is to enable vendors to have an up to speed workforce in place with sufficient expertise to implement and support their products. It is in the best interest of both the vendors and the individuals to attain as high a level of proficiency as possible. In other words, there is every reason for the vendor and the practitioner to maintain the highest standards.

4. Where I have a concern is with the offering of degrees in lieu of certifications. In my opinion, a degree should be an exercise in maturing, learning to think, and seeing a pretty broad view of things. It should provide a person with a foundation so that as they progress in their career, they can learn what they need to know as they go. A strong formal universtiy educational foundation can make it easier to earn appropriate certifications as desired and needed.

5. The true rating system for a given certification is the market. If a particular certification is not that valuable, or represents a dumbed down achievement, it probably will not be worth much in the eyes of employers. There is a lot of information on the internet that can provide insights on the demand for particular certifications. Just go to Google and search, or go to some job boards, like DICE or Monster, and search on the particular certification.

In my opinion, certification is worthwhile, and individuals must make the choice on what subjects to spend their time. While many situations do not require it, mobile employees and contractors that move from position to position, as well as internal employees who want to advance, will benefit the most from certification. If nothing else, it gives confidence and indicates a high level of motivation, which are not bad things to have!
About the Author
John Reiling has worked in mining, manufacturing, metal fabricating, and environmental services, and later information technology as a Lotus Notes developer, then project manager. Today he consults mainly in IT Project Management and runs several web sites, including pmtrainingonline.com, leansixsigmatrainingonline.com, and PMcrunch.com .
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