5 Reasons Certifications Aren’t Worth It

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Having one or more certifications sounds pretty sensible in today’s world, doesn’t it? Many jobs demand proof that you’ve mastered a particular technology. But is the argument for spending lots of time and money to earn a certification as ironclad as it seems?

I’m arguing “no,” and here’s why.

Software Technology Moves Too Fast

If you’re attempting to master a subject or industry whose fundamentals don’t change much—medicine and engineering come to mind—then a test (or a series of tests) is a good way of verifying that you have the knowledge necessary to operate within that sphere.

But software is different. It evolves quickly, and knowledge that’s relevant today will seem hopelessly outdated sooner than you think. Let me pose a hypothetical. Say you needed a certificate to develop iOS apps; your shiny certificates would probably be outdated every year or two, as Apple rolls out new versions of the software.

“We’re now only recruiting iOS 8-certified developers with Swift certificates,” a hypothetical job interviewer might say about your hypothetical qualifications, “and by the end of next quarter, that requirement will change to Swift 2015 certificates only.”

Yes, I’m exaggerating for effect, but the principle holds: The evolution of technology makes many certificates obsolete pretty quickly (with some exceptions—some software, like the Linux kernel, doesn’t change all that rapidly).

The Certifiers Are… Who?

In theory, anyone can set up a certification business: Create a few online tests, charge x for taking a course online, pay for a little marketing, and—hey, presto—you’re ready to issue certificates. But what can online tests really verify?

I’m a little cynical of programmer tests that demand exact syntax knowledge, for example. Such things only test a small part of what programmers do—and with the increasing sophistication of IDEs, I’m betting that many programmers rely on automation and other tools to get the bulk of their work done. For example, iOS 8 added over 4,000 new APIs, and I certainly haven’t used more than a small fraction of them.

Employers Don’t Really Care

Recruiters sometimes have trouble determining a developer’s degree of technical experience, and so insist upon certificates or tests to judge abilities. If you manage to get past them to the job interview, the interviewer (provided they’re also a developer) can usually get a good feel for your actual programming ability and whether you’ll fit well with the group.

My personal experience—and I don’t think I’m alone, by a long shot—is that employers just want someone who can do the job and fit in. Most don’t care if you have a certificate.

It’s a Rip-Off

A few years ago, a job agency insisted that I become a ScrumMaster. While the underlying principles of Scrum seem okay, there’s a whole certification-related ecosystem that seems designed solely to extract money for training and certificates (i.e., Certified Scrum Product Owner, Certified Scrum Developer, and so on). It’s one thing to choose to pay for training; it’s another to be forced to pay for it.

And if you’re forced to pay for it, it’s hard not to think that the certification’s whole purpose for existence is as a moneymaker.

It Only Proves You Can Pass Tests

Certificates are only as good as the people who create the certificate tests. I’ve done a few online tests and, despite being highly experienced in C#, there’s a set of online tests that are so syntax-oriented that I have never scored more than 35 percent on them. I doubt if anyone knows C# syntax to the depth required by these tests; passing them would show you know only a narrow segment of the language, not that you can use it in a real-life context.

Conclusion

I’m obviously not a fan of formal certification. While many jobs require one or more, lots of tech pros have forged perfectly fine careers without them. Don’t let the complicated world of certificates impede you from pursuing what you want.

Image Credit: Radu Bercan/Shutterstock.com

Comments

89 Responses to “5 Reasons Certifications Aren’t Worth It”

July 10, 2015 at 5:18 am, Matt said:

I totally agree with this article. Certification these days seems to be a method by which recruiters screen candidates and businesses promote there services.
Working within many IT departments I see numerous ‘certified’ people who don’t actually have the first clue what they are doing. You speak to them and they list certification after certification but don’t have much in the way of practical experience. I admit there are some exceptions to the rule.
Unfortunately until the people responsible for recruitment start to understand this I feel certification is here to stay.

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July 10, 2015 at 12:29 pm, emilov said:

That is the typical excuse for massive problems due to offshore outsourcing… it is u and your skills that are duh… problem.

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July 10, 2015 at 3:17 pm, don't agree said:

the argument that certificates are meant to generate money is dubious; afterall, the same can be said about education from a university. Does the author devalue education as well and see it as a means for universities to make money? It does not hold.

Those who value certifications understand them as a means of unification for a like minded approach to a problem. Organizations benefit from certified staff because certified staff understand common concept, speak in like terms, and grow synergy within the organization. This reduces conflict and, ultimately, risk.

It is a valid point that many certifications exist but using the number of available options as a premise to strip away the value of education that certifications provide is absurd.

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July 11, 2015 at 6:24 pm, menlo said:

I think this helps HR people to qualify potential candidate resumes before handing them off to hiring managers. I don’t feel like it validates anyone’s ability to think on their feet, resolve “mixed network” environment problems, etc. All the points in this article are great reasons. The bigger question is – if we deny the value of certifications, how to we find a full time job? How do you side-step the ‘certs’ that HR is looking for? We can’t FIX the hiring process, but we can actively change how we look for work.
I actually believe that CCNA (and the like) are helpful in general. Once you have that in your head, then the CompTIA Security+ and Network+ tests are simple sub-sets

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July 12, 2015 at 3:37 pm, Sam said:

Here is an example of a non-programmer level of certification. PMP – exam given by PMI. Every recruiter and company wants a PMP certification for a Project Manager. I have over 27 years in the industry and worked as a PM for more than 12+ years and don’t hold a PMP certification. I have worked with a large of PMI certified PMs who do not even have a basic knowledge of the IT industry. Many of them are ‘programmers’ and ‘developers’ who just passed an exam. In fact they lied on their applications and sat for the exam and passed the exam. Many of them are, without doubt, H1B visa holders.

Here is an example: In one of my projects, the company wanted someone with thorough knowledge of PERT/CPM. I hold a degree in Operations Research in addition to my Masters in Business and Masters in Math and Stats. When i offered my help I was told that I don’t have a PMP and hence, it was not possible for me to know PERT/CPM. Briefly OR deals with PERT/CPM, Design of Experiments, Assignments/Allocations, etc.

Another example is Six Sigma. A degree in Statistics from a good university is more than sufficient to get started in Six Sigma. Those who claim to be certified have not even scratched the surface of statistical knowledge. I can confirm this to be true. Four members of my family, including me, hold advanced degrees in Statistics.

In general, the US IT industry and some other industries, give more weight to these certifications than they give weight to the degrees earned at Universities. This is pathetic.

Basically what the industries are telling you is; We don’t trust the education provided by our Universities in the US. We trust these ‘paper’ certificates more.

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July 12, 2015 at 7:04 pm, Jay Parikh said:

I disagree. You yourself mentioned, software technology moves too fast. Above 50% of the people may not have luck to work with everything greatest and latest. Certification does imply that dev atleast have guts to look into the new technology that had nothing to do with his/her work responsibility in order to adapt to the new world. It tells employers that developer is not stubborn and can adapt to changes.

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July 13, 2015 at 6:31 am, colin said:

ever hear of pass4sure? i got a couple of certificates for java with the help of these “revision aids”
never written a line of java in my life

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July 13, 2015 at 6:52 am, What Rubbish said:

I respect the writers opinion I can also see where they are heading with the argument. HOWEVER… If you have genuinely passed a certification via hard work and study you have gained MORE than someone who hasn’t. Even if you don’t pass the test, because they are far to syntax based.. you still know something you didn’t before. By your logic people shouldn’t study for A levels etc as well. Things do move fast, certifications are less valuable thanks to cheats but it is the person who gains the benefit from the certification. A good interview screens out cheats and clueless, a certification shows motivation at least and should show a basic level of knowledge.

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July 13, 2015 at 7:34 am, Jeff Cave said:

I think it depends on your career goals.

Many years ago, I worked for an organization that put heavy emphasis on “ability to solve problems”. It was a software development company run by an Economist (one of the best developers I’ve ever worked with). We had an algorithm while hiring:
1. each Degree +5
2. each Certification -1

While this metric was not iron clad, it did give a means by which to measure people that whose career objectives were not in line with position objectives.

Recently, I have noticed that at a certain point (management), organizations put *more* emphasis on certifications than they do on skills. Certifications like PMP, or Scrum Master, can be career makers or breakers in a management heavy organization.

In a non-IT organization, certificates are the only means for managers to judge skills. In regulated industries that must demonstrate fair hiring, they are the only means to avoid an accusation of bias.

What is your career objective: be an engineer, or be a manager?

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July 13, 2015 at 8:01 am, Ken said:

Certifications are primarily a money-making business for the certifying agency. Often, they are contra-indications of practical expertise due to “teach to the test” mentality.

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July 13, 2015 at 8:04 am, Geoff said:

Nearly 20 years ago I began down the certification path for the MCSE, the be-all, do-all Microsoft certification that said you knew your stuff about Windows NT 4.0 networks. When I got about halfway through the tests, I had already earned a Microsoft Certified Professional title, which I immediately put on my resume. It resulted in a 50% pay increase in my next job.

I never finished the MCSE cert, it was no longer important.

I’ve toyed with certifications now and then since that time. I’ve moved from systems administration to full-on development, and I’m employed right now as a C# developer. Do I need the Microsoft developer cert? Probably not. The employment market is so hot for .NET devs right now that all one has to do is put it on their resume and they’re guaranteed to at least have a conversation with a recruiter that turns into an interview. That’s all certifications are good for. Is it an accomplishment to earn these certs? You bet. The Microsoft tests are demanding, as you’ve noted. But worthwhile? Probably not.

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July 13, 2015 at 8:25 am, Greg Howe said:

I wish you had focused on what the key point of the article was (or should have been). Tucked into your Conclusion, without any tie to it in the actual article, is this: “lots of tech pros have forged perfectly fine careers without them. Don’t let the complicated world of certificates impede you from pursuing what you want.” I have a couple certs but don’t RELY on them. But don’t underestimate one of the best benefits of a good certification (throwing away all the crap ones like those you mentioned…oy, those are a waste): what you learn as you pursue the test. You DO have to follow it up with project work, but make your own! The depth of stuff you learn while trying to get there far exceeds what you would learn for your projects, and it does pay off on future projects when you remember the bigger picture you learned.

Certifications are just a tool in the toolbox. They are only what you make ’em. And, since we decide where our money goes, we should only be investing in good education that suits what we need it for.

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July 13, 2015 at 8:51 am, Charles Gallo said:

And one HUGE reason to get them, when your employer says “We need you to get certified so that we can maintain our Solutions Partner (of fill in the blank here) certification” and gives you the time and pays for the test to get it.

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July 13, 2015 at 9:25 am, Nightkiller said:

@Greg Howe
“lots of tech pros have forged perfectly fine careers without them.”
The (hopefully unintentional) pun is hilarious.

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July 13, 2015 at 10:19 am, ComputerScience is Neither said:

The word Computer Science implies “Metrics”. It shoudl be called Programming Philosophy, not a science or engineerin at all.
Any other profession from a plumber, CPA, Lawyer, Doctor or maritime engineer requires a License / certification.

Computrer Science has become nothing more than a non-professional worker. A CEO can lay off programmers / DBA and replace them with H1-B workers who spell programming or outsource it to countries that have no valid backgound checks.
As evidence, these CEO take the profits, allow data personal informaiton to be hacked or stolen. Not one CEO has been held accountable, they just blame “the computer”.

No certification, no license, no accountability, no responsibility defines the new normal for Computer Science. And now, we are suppose to trust the Cloud with our data? Technology doesn’t solve the probelem. In fact, with out a real plan it makes it worse.

From Banking, Health Care, Government, to Retail shopping, the professionalism and responsibility has become a costly joke in this industry. This article just supports this trend.

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July 13, 2015 at 11:42 am, Elhan said:

Certifications in .NET and software developments are good, if person spent his time and understand at least 80% of training material. Basically, the processes of getting ready/learning for certification is very useful to advance some once understanding of particular technology/framework.

However, if your solo goal is just pass the certification then it is a waste of time. As that person will forget everything or cheat in exam 🙁

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July 13, 2015 at 12:37 pm, Andy Friedman said:

For some disciplines in the IT industry a certification might be more necessary than others, but to be a software developer you don’t need a cert any more than you need a college degree. They might help, they definitely don’t hurt, but unless you’re totally green it really comes down to skills and experience.

The author is right, employers generally don’t care, they’re going to give you a technical screening regardless. The only way I’d consider it is if I was an independent consultant and I was trying to build up my portfolio to attract business.

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July 13, 2015 at 1:41 pm, Steven Schowiak said:

The author hit the nail directly and squarely on the head: ‘It Only Proves You Can Pass Tests’ .

I have taken these kind of tests and only about one-third of the questions refer to real-world situations. The rest is pretty much useless trivia.

As an employer, I would take more credence from a thorough technical interview against a certification or any kind of written test any day. For the mid to senior level job seeker, I recommend bypassing any prospective employer that requires a written test as a prerequisite for a live technical interview or a certification for employment. BUT, if a prospective or current employer offers training on their dime, I say ‘Not a problem, where do I sign?’

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July 13, 2015 at 2:24 pm, Andy Friedman said:

@Steven Schowiak, my current employer required a pre-interview written test. The first time a recruiter approached me about this opportunity I actually turned it down, mainly because the test. But I was hearing great things about this company so 6 months later I decided to go through with it. And I’m certainly glad I did, so far it’s been one of the most tech-savvy places I’ve seen in my area. So while I dislike the whole idea of a written exam, it’s actually been a great pre-screener, and I’m working with some of the brightest people I have in my career. I wouldn’t advise people to turn away a potentially great opportunity just because of a written test.

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July 13, 2015 at 4:32 pm, Michael Craven said:

As Owner of an IT company for over 20 years, when I go to hire someone – I do not care about college degrees or certifications.
I have interviewed literally 100’s of candidates for various IT positions and have come across many that have Computer Science degrees (from some very top worthy colleges) and many certifications. More often than not – these people have spent all their time getting these degrees and certifications that they have no Actual experience in the current IT field. I have almost always ended up hiring someone with no educational background or certifications and that simply spend their life doing IT in the Real World.
Remember, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started out of their garage before college. Had no degrees or certifications. Steve Jobs was even awarded an ‘Honorary Degree’ by President Ronald Reagan. The president didn’t want one of the top Technological People in the world to be a ‘college dropout’. (which he was).

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July 13, 2015 at 4:41 pm, dantheman said:

Certifications are like pieces of flair! Useful if you want to work at chotchskies or innotech

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July 13, 2015 at 4:48 pm, Mark said:

Could not agree more with this article.

Certification is like saying that because you have passed a test knowing every word in the dictionary, you are able to write a novel.

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July 13, 2015 at 5:03 pm, Leo Cassady said:

The IT certification market is a vertical market type designed, for the most part, to generate continuous revenue for the certification company.The business model requires an individual to re-certify periodically, regardless of any lack of changes or advancements in a particular technology. Continuous revenue is generated by return business.

While certification of competence in a new technology areas should be deemed worthwhile pursuing, I seriously doubt the necessity for certification expiration requiring re-certification. The skills and knowledge acquired to pass the initial certification do not simply evaporate once a certification expiration date has been reached.

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July 13, 2015 at 6:51 pm, Michael said:

I have a few certs, SQL Server, C#, Windows Server etc. there are a few reasons I have them.

1. I read all the associated material when I was learning something new and figured the exam would be easy enough to pass with a bit of extra revision (it was in almost all cases).
2. Work pays for my certification and study materials.
3. I get a pay bump every time I get a new cert.

I would say their value is based on your current circumstances . They don’t necessarily indicate that you know everything about a technology but they might get your foot in the door with a recruiter if you are in the market.

Good article 🙂

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July 14, 2015 at 12:36 pm, Jay D said:

I agree with the sentiments of this article in principle. I, too, have met many “certified” people who have no clue about the real-life troubleshooting and/or software development skills that only come through experience.
In practice it seems to be necessary in certain fields, notably technical support. In my experience, invariably it is the customers that require the certification from the service/support -providers. The last major company I worked for paid for its engineers to get certified because they knew that without a certain minimum headcount certified in the specific technology they would not get/keep business from certain clients who had this requirement written into their support contracts. I guess it is the same principle as employing a certified plumber so that you don’t get major leaks everywhere!

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July 15, 2015 at 2:52 am, Louis M.G said:

I totally agree with your article most especially with this
“My personal experience—and I don’t think I’m alone, by a long shot—is that employers just want someone who can do the job and fit in. Most don’t care if you have a certificate.”

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July 16, 2015 at 6:28 am, Joe Clark said:

Two points:

Try finding a job today without credentials. I comment with first hand experience. No certs, and still no job.

What is the alternative to not pursuing certifications? Your article does not offer such alternatives that can be pursued, only that certs are bad.

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July 16, 2015 at 6:39 am, Steven B said:

Thank you David for your perspective. I agree that ultimately it comes down to ‘can you do the work’? As a graphic artist, the proof is in your visual portfolio, not whether you have the Gestalt Principles memorized. Secondly, when I ask if someone can code, they can either sit down and show me or they can’t. Pretty simple.

However, a point of consideration is that formal education from a university and many certification programs provide can offer a greater depth of understanding within each respective problem solving arena. There are several other advantages as well.

Lastly, HR recruiters are scanning resumes and linked in pages a mile a minute. The candidate with the degrees & certifications in their field will attract more interest than the candidate without them.

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July 16, 2015 at 6:46 am, John Garrison said:

I’m in total agreement, certifications only say that the candidate has learned to pass a test. More times than not, a candidate will present themselves for a position, with the XYZ Certification, but have no practical experience in XYZ. Yet the industry will hire the certified candidate, rather than the candidate with the experience; it is a logical fallacy. Having done the degree path myself, from AA to Masters in Technology Management, that has taught me more, and actually changed how I write and think and problem solve. Most importantly, it has changed how I research, analyze and create a better environment for my employees.

So long as hiring managers continue to hire the certified candidate, that industry will continue to flourish and the unexperienced will continue to be hired, over the experienced candidate.

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July 16, 2015 at 6:48 am, C Martinez said:

I am recently new to IT. I do not know about software development, but I got my Rhel 7, CCNA, and Security + certification. I got hired to a new job with an Associate’s Degree while everybody else that got hired had there Bachelor’s Degree largely in part because I had specific training through certifications. My job placement within the company was centered around the certification that I had taken. I explained in the interview that it does only mean that I can pass a test, but with the RHEL 7 and CCNA being companies that have established a reputation for the toughness of the test and the material you have to know to pass, it helped me. As I mentioned, I told my interviewer all the certs means is I am interested and willing to learn in a specific field and am willing to put my money were my mouth is because the test are not cheap. In closing, certs only get your foot in a door, experience counts for a lot, but to have been certified for my recent job interviewed payed for all they were worth.

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July 16, 2015 at 7:32 am, Jim McD said:

There is something to what the author says, but as is all too often the case, he paints a picture with tiny detail with a wide roller. Yes, often it is the case that certifications are merely used by HR personnel to sift through resumes, and once a candidate gets to the interviewer, the certificate becomes just a worthless sheet of paper. But, it did get you the interview, didn’t it? And as a more personal example, I am working on a US Army contract, and after having gone through the entire recruitment and interview process, and receiving an offer letter, the offer was contingent upon meeting certain US Army requirements, such as a Security Clearance, and completion of either a CISSP or CASP certification. Do either of those certifications help me in my job? No. But they are a US government requirement for everyone, including military personnel. Whether we like it or not, certifications are here to stay.

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July 16, 2015 at 7:37 am, Ken said:

This is a very interesting topic. I have 16+ years in accounting. No degree and I hated math in school. The NYC board of ED did such a horrible job in preparing me for real world experiences that I took my education into my own hands. I taught myself everything from publishing books, music, Fashion and project management. And yes, I’m certified in it all. I’m an award winning essayist/ Poet and currently a very well respected Accounts Receivable Coordinator. So certifications work, but like everything else, you have some liars, cheats and thrives. Everyone needs to value their own education for themselves.

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July 16, 2015 at 7:40 am, Jade said:

I am not sure about the software side of IT, but this logic does apply to networking and customer support side.

I am currently unemployed with 13+ years of customer support and networking. Even as a veteran I am turned down for jobs on the “low” end of the totem pole (tier 1 phone support). I am at the point where the timeframe of unemployment has red flagged me as undesirable.

My friend, also a vet, had similar problems but he has no IT experience, except how to turn on the pc and post nonsense on fb. He used one of those cert aids and grabbed a few IT certs. He was immediately hired….because he had certs. Now he is sitting at home with a 60k at home job as a database manager awaiting to be placed on the main contract which will net him 120k annual. Did I mention he knows nothing of databases? He comes to me for questions.

I would love to believe that business owners do their best to sort through “fake” IT applicants, but honestly, if their smart enough to pass these tests, they are smart enough to pass the interview.
And its sad to say but thats the businesses’ bottom line. Its easier to hold people accountable and validate a contracting company’s collection of personnel to the negotiating table. The company cares about how many bells and whistles a potential IT employee has, not the breath and depth of experience they have. The last thing they want is to hire a noncert screw up because if they do screw up, lawsuits happen, and the possibility of being liable is greater because they hired a noncertified person.

What companies SHOULD do is hire personnel with experience and then pay to get them certified if they lack a cert, but 9 times out of 10 they dont have the time and need to meet contract requirements immediately.

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July 16, 2015 at 7:43 am, Mostafa A. Hamid said:

Honestly I do not believe in this post at all. Since you were born, you are learning to get a better degree..!! Aren’t You?

Imagine your self without a certificate?
Uneducated. You are uneducated.

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July 16, 2015 at 8:32 am, James W Meritt said:

You obviously do not understand how many (not all) certifications are maintained or position (DoD comes to mind) requirements.

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July 16, 2015 at 8:38 am, Brenda Chaplin-Chase said:

The point of certification is to allow you to have some tangible evidence to show for the knowledge you’ve gained. Not everyone has been fortunate to attend college. Many more have been fortunate enough to have an employer that supports a culture of life long learning. I happen to hold a PMP which included learning not only how to put together a project timeline, conduct meetings, gather metrics for financial reporting but, also included managing people, contract negotiations, evaluating risks, developing contingencies, understanding broad based technology networks to effectively integrate them and most importantly, a code of ethics. After finishing all the above coursework since I didn’t have a college degree, I had to work in a PM role for a few years before earning enough ‘practical experience’ to be qualified to take the PMP exam and hold the certification. Unlike many other certifications, I also am required to earn 60 professional development credits every 3 years to keep it. A PMP is much more than a piece of paper and any good PM should be able to support that even when some employers do not.

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July 16, 2015 at 8:39 am, Jw said:

M.C.S.E.= Must Call Somebody Else

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July 16, 2015 at 8:48 am, Brian M said:

I agree with this article. Especially with re-certification it is a gold mine for learning providers. I worked over 10 yrs as a BA on major projects and felt it would be good to go for my CBAP. After paying for classes to meet the requirements to apply and the test fees, I had made a fairly good investment into it. Now it is time to think re-certification, which could cost me upwards of $10,000 for classes, time off from work and possible travel to the sites. I may learn some new information from the courses but I will not get my investment back in knowledge or salary. There needs to be a better way for PMI and IIBA to manage this so it is beneficial and cost effective.

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July 16, 2015 at 9:05 am, Shawn Irwin said:

I think that this article is somewhat prejudiced against certification.
For one thing, there are a lot of companies that encourage their employees to get certified, and pay for it. Also, if you look at the newspaper ads for IT positions, you will often see listings with certifications desired. The author makes it sound like getting certified is something as easy as pulling your certificate out of the Cracker Jack box, but that is far from true. The tests nowadays are designed to be tough and weed out people who just do not know the material. On top of all that, it says a lot about a person who takes it upon themselves, to take the initiative and learn all that is required to get through the certification.

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July 16, 2015 at 9:27 am, Juan Luna said:

I have been working for 25 years in the UNIX/Linux world and been working on DOS since 8080 and 8088. I have been working in that world now for well over 32 years. Now a place like T-Mobile have put such test that I have not failed a one. I have well over 40 Certificates and have worked for Dell/EMC as a SAN Storage Engineer. I know more that most on OS but only have have a them for SUN not Solaris. But have been working with SUN/Oracle/WHAT EVER IS NEXT FOR THEM. I see it is Linux because no one can use Solaris. Most people don’t even know Dynex PTX. Or even know SGI IRIX like I do. But refuse to want to pay me more than $30/hr because I have been out of work for a year. Nothing has changed that much even the Cloud is stupid because you now it put the burden back on the person who owns the system to pay for ever thing. Most people do not understand “Total Cost of Ownership”. So now that I have been doing the SA role for 25 years I have to show proof. That I worked as an SA. Linux is joke to me. Most people do not understand when I started that JOKE of an OS. Needing patching ever week not months. Having to try to understand the kernel what is there to understand. TELL ME. If I have not learned to understand what an OS does by now just shoot me like a dead horse. Most kid now days were not even born when I started working on the same system they tell me they are a SME. SO you ask them question and you no response back from them. I came from creating your own USER Defined Drivers. No Certification will show you that. Yes I am better but so would you if you are told you don’t understand how it works. Or what I like to hear from people is you are to much of a SME for us. We are looking for someone more junior. Why so you can push them around. Make them work 16 hour days and only put 8 hours on their time sheets. Then to have foreigners come in with worthless Certifications ask you how to install a device driver. Or what do I do I did not create a copy of a file and the system will not come up. Or I don’t understand what to do because there is not editor in single user mode. Or I don’t remember the pass word what do I do. There are people with BS degrees and higher asking me questions when they are the Senior person in change and you are just a $30/hr junior and they put that on your title. When you are 30 years older than the Moron who is asking the question. Who everyday has to tell you how much better they are than you. SO CERTIFICATIONS ARE WORTHLESS. If you do not pay attention to what the they are all about. KNOWLEDGE

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July 16, 2015 at 9:27 am, Tom tbone said:

Two things…
Once upon a time HP was trying to get 2000+ workers Brocade certified. They did certify over 2,200, but if you called in for support and tried to get to “back-line” (Level III) it was impossible, as every level I tech thought they knew the answers because they had been certified. sheesh! “Now where did I put my book?”

Second thing, a young lady begged me to take the training and certification for openview SAM. I gave in and let her take the training and she was certified. I then tried to send her out to a customer site because it was she who was now trained. She said, “oh NO, I can’t go out there, I just took the class for the certification”, so she was useless to me.

That’s about the time I stopped getting certified or taking training myself. Now I just go spend a couple hours with someone who knows what I’m trying to learn…

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July 16, 2015 at 9:32 am, Fouad Roumieh said:

The article should be continued with another one to state what is the best way to hire a developer.
I agree that for some of the tests already have their answers online, but some of the high level Certs worth it, since it becomes more serious and with development cases. Also the article didn’t highlight the fact that some are buying Certs form India.
Companies are losing the opportunity to hire good developers, I’ve done some test at companies where they don’t allow you to use internet if you are doing a development and not questions assignment and we know that developers always refer code snippets from online, even sometimes for some silly syntax.

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July 16, 2015 at 9:33 am, Jake Parks said:

There is nothing wrong with certifications. Sure, there are plenty of people that have careers without them and many others that are paper tigers; I don’t think anyone will argue that. The fact remains though, some certifications can prove more than others. In a competent professional it also shows that they have taken the time and used it as a tool to fill in gaps. There is also always the possibility that they are required to maintain some kind of partner relationship. The primary message in our industry should be “keep learning.” The test is just a validation.

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July 16, 2015 at 9:33 am, Michael Effinger said:

OK…. so here’s my dilemma…

I’ve earned a BS in Network Security and now working on the MS in the same. I have NEVER formally held an IT position. I’ve heard both arguments from friends who do: “Certs ARE worth it – Certs AREN’T worth it”. I need to get my foot in the door and so far just holding a BS isn’t cutting it.

Now what…?

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July 16, 2015 at 10:04 am, Harold Carruthers said:

As Project Manager I have found not having a PMP to be a HUGE impediment to getting a job. Increasingly recruiters will present only the cream of the crop while those of us without current, active, certifications sit on the sidelines. I’ve got 40 years in IT with 25+ years in PMBOK aligned project, program, portfolio, personnel, area and initiative leadership across 11 industries. I am now coming up on 11 months without a job. I’ve been asking for $70000 and only a few interviews.

Theories aside, trendy certifications count. The more the merrier.

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July 16, 2015 at 10:17 am, glynn said:

depends on the certification ….

Admin type certificates MSCE, CISCO, SAP etc. have some value since it’s not taught in university … jave .net etc certifications have little value for someone with a cs degree … but my have some value for those without degrees doing less challenging work.

personally, i think certifications have little value … but for some people it may prove worthwhile as a way in, without the necessary degrees. The issue is depth of knowledge, certificates simply don’t offer that.

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July 16, 2015 at 10:25 am, Mike Allen said:

The author of the article seems VERY bitter… Tell certificates mean nothing to those who have spent countless hours preparing for the CISSP, CISA, CISM, CRISC, GIAC certs., etc. It’s perfectly fine to have your opinion, but do not belittle those who have earned these credentials. It IS NOT a cakewalk by no means.

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July 16, 2015 at 10:38 am, Jade said:

@mike Allen
I didn’t think the author was belittling you. I think hes trying to say that you shouldn’t have to waste those countless hours and your paychecks to get those certs. If you have the experience that should be enough. If you go over to England (unless this has changed recently) they value your experience over your education. The U.S. (as far as i know) has a hard on for certifications.

The only people that are belittling you are the cert companies charging you an arm and a leg and those savant-like test takers like my friend that take those tests with 0 knowledge & experience, pass, and then take your jobs.

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July 16, 2015 at 10:45 am, BRIGHT SIAW AFRIYIE said:

I totally agree with the fact that most certifications have nothing to do with job experience and hands-on. I actually believe that CCNA is an exception. I take myself as an example. I have 27 years of IT experience with Computer Science degree and Masters in Business Administration.In my last job,I worked for 15 years as an Sr. IT Analyst without promotion, simply because I did have certification. This organization hires and promotes candidates/employees with certifications even with GED. I once interviewed for PM position and I was surprised to find out that three candidates holding PMP certification were unable to provide the definition of PM methodology. Though I scored the maximum points but I was not hired for the PM position.
It’s quite alarming to know how many certified candidates are hired and promoted, but the core jobs are shifted to those with degrees to perform. In my opinion, I think the fast pace evolution of the IT industry can be curved by hiring employees with degrees in the field and here are my reasons:
1. To obtain a degree in computer science students have proof of analytical skills and real world applications in a form of projects.
2. The fundamentals and advanced concepts learned will be certainly applicable in the future problems in IT.
3. Taking 3-4 years to study a field provides adequate preparation than taking months for certification.

Certification does not offer all the above

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July 16, 2015 at 11:00 am, Albert Diaz said:

Very interesting perspectives from both the author and those whom replied either for or against the author’s opinion. To an extent I agree with both sides of the argument.

A certification can add value as long as the institution where the skills are taught ensures effective use of the skills along with critical thinking. Same statement can be made for a university degree.

Critical thinking means analyzing and identifying the best solution for a problem. People who use critical thinking are able to accept critique and consider ideas from challengers. They are also able to accept failure when a solution is not optimal. Moreover, they are not afraid to challenge the status quo and do not succumb to groupthink.

From experience, and empirical and anecdotal evidence, institutions nowadays predominantly teach students how to apply a skill using only one technique. For example, in one of my Statistics classes, students were given verbose problems and taught to solve them by associating the variables with something they like (e.g. beer, baseball, fashion, etc.). Not a bad idea for beginners, but when dealing with complex problems, especially in a dynamic world with so much verbosity, students must also communicate with others to eliminate ambiguities and identify the root cause. In all, the skills gained either through a university degree or a certification, are valuable only if a person knows how to apply the skills and if critical thinking is used to solve a problem; otherwise, the degree or certification do not add value to an organization.

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July 16, 2015 at 11:01 am, GM said:

Good discussion! I agree with the poster who had the Operations Research background; when I did OR in school, it was my first exposure to PERT/CPM.

You can become and exhausted and broke chasing after certs. A lot of H1’s I know say that they are ‘certified’ in certain skill areas, yet they just do something on Brainbench, which isn’t the same as getting a real certification in a technology or a discipline.

Higher education has become an industry, but people are starting to question the high cost. There is a consolidation going on in this industry now. Eventually, colleges will have to go back to being more affordable or people just won’t enroll.

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July 16, 2015 at 11:25 am, Saul Carpenter said:

This article is written by a LOOSER who does not like his skills being verified objectively, because when it comes to hard facts , these are NOT socially acceptable. I guess one thing he is DEF trying to do is uphold a BARRIER that Certifications otherwise tend to remove in trying to help someone prove their mettle
So here go all my debunking the myths of certifications
The author CLUBS certifications into one massive category so that he can easily point fingers and make them totally valueless

When you look at certifications , the question is WHO is certifying. is it some small $200 course that automatically gives you a home brewed certificate or PROPRIETY certification . For the MOST the LATTER are industry recognized and goes to prove that “they know – you know”

His 2nd point IT is moving fast – and SO are certifications . In fact its MORE of certifications that FORCE you to update your skills for NEWER features of so many areas of a propriety software or methodology that you might not even be aware of.
CASE in e.g. is a Database Certification from Oracle 10g had no relevance to Big Data but 11g is a totally different ball game. SO THIS STATEMENT IS THE BIGGEST SHOULD I SAY GLARING contradiction to the fact.

— certifications MAY NOT tell WHO’s the best but just by listening to the author’s YA-DA-YA in an interview , you cant tell he’s a good PM either. BUT certifications DO establish that you KNOW stuff to a certain gradation.

— For I. T areas – EVERYTHING YOU DO HAS TO BE CONSPICUOUS AND MEASUREABLE. CERTIFICATIONS GIVE YOU THE OBJECTIVITY VALIDITY AND RELIABILITY that make the former 2 possible and that is the same reason by ALL SENSIBLY designed exams are objectively oriented. THEY DO NOT WANT TO LISTEN to the authors or some other critic’s DRAMA and long stories and they are NOT interested in knowing whether the author is blue brown or green AND they are not interested in knowing how “well connected” the author is ……or for that matter how pleasing and charming he is to his 60 yr old Miss lonely miss boss. THEY ARE ALL ABOUT FACTS.
IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU CLAIM TO KNOW THIS IS WHERE YOU WILL PROVE IT.
I HAVE FOUND CERTIFICATIONS IMMENSELY HELPFUL NOT JUST TO FIND JOBS AND MARKET MYSELF BUT A LOT OF THESE E.G. MCDBA TESTS HAD REAL-TIME SCENARIOS TAKEN FROM OTHER CLIENT SITES THAT GAVE ME A WIDER INSIGHT INTO THE KIND OF CHALLENGES ONE CAN FACE AND HOW TO HANDLE THEM
THEN WHAT I CAN IMAGINE.
WHEN PROPERTIES PREPARE THESE TESTS THEY ACTUALLY HAVE COLLECTED A TREASURE TROVE OF INFORMATION FROM THE EXPERIENCE OF THEIR OWN CONSULTANTS OR OTHERS AND CRYSTALLISED THEM AS QUESTIONS.
— FINALLY LAST BUT NOT THE LEAST : When it comes to picking candidates ( ESP IN I T WORLD ) ..THE MOST IMP FACTOR IS … IS HE THE MOST KNOWLEDGEABLE CANDIDATE? A LOT OF MANAGERS CLIMB UP THE MANAGERIAL STAIRCASE MERELY BY WARMING THEIR SEAT FOR 5-10 YRS AND THEY DO NOT REALLY Understand the technology or challenges in present day cos from the time of Microfocus Cobol or writing JCL they have’nt dirtied their hands. If certifications were trivialised they ppl would depend on smooth talk on choosing candidates who are good talkers but not the best doers .
— ONE VERY LAST PT – COMMUNITY CARTELLING

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July 16, 2015 at 11:45 am, Lynn said:

I both agree and disagree with the article. I am currently studying for the CCNA and even though I have a bachelor’s degree, I am learning quite a lot more studying for the certification. Now any of the programming certs, with the exception of Linux, seem to be a waste of time to me. Today’s go to language is tomorrow’s history lesson.

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July 16, 2015 at 12:38 pm, Shawn said:

I have 30 years of software development and consulting experience and have no certifications. Good software developers are constantly learning new programming languages and APIs to stay current and do their jobs. Where are the certifications for the more important people skills that so many software developers lack. How about a certification in “How not to be an [expletive] at work” or “Why your ideas are not always the best”?

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July 16, 2015 at 12:46 pm, Saul Carpenter said:

This article is written by a LOOSER who does not like his skills being verified objectively, because when it comes to hard facts , these are NOT socially acceptable. I guess one thing he is DEF trying to do is uphold a BARRIER that Certifications otherwise tend to remove in trying to help someone prove their mettle
So here go all my debunking the myths of certifications
The author CLUBS certifications into one massive category so that he can easily point fingers and make them totally valueless

When you look at certifications , the question is WHO is certifying. is it some small $200 course that automatically gives you a home brewed certificate or PROPRIETY certification . For the MOST the LATTER are industry recognized and goes to prove that “they know – you know”

His 2nd point IT is moving fast – and SO are certifications . In fact its MORE of certifications that FORCE you to update your skills for NEWER features of so many areas of a propriety software or methodology that you might not even be aware of.
CASE in e.g. is a Database Certification from Oracle 10g had no relevance to Big Data but 11g is a totally different ball game. SO THIS STATEMENT IS THE BIGGEST SHOULD I SAY GLARING contradiction to the fact.

— certifications MAY NOT tell WHO’s the best but just by listening to the author’s YA-DA-YA in an interview , you cant tell he’s a good PM either. BUT certifications DO establish that you KNOW stuff to a certain gradation.

— For I. T areas – EVERYTHING YOU DO HAS TO BE CONSPICUOUS AND MEASUREABLE. CERTIFICATIONS GIVE YOU THE OBJECTIVITY VALIDITY AND RELIABILITY that make the former 2 possible and that is the same reason by ALL SENSIBLY designed exams are objectively oriented. THEY DO NOT WANT TO LISTEN to the authors or some other critic’s DRAMA and long stories and they are NOT interested in knowing whether the author is blue brown or green AND they are not interested in knowing how charming the author was to his 60 yr old Miss Fluffy . They want to CUT THROUGH THE CRAP and come to facts

– coming to his pt on certifications being behind the changing software – THERE CANNOT BE A BIGGER LIE. IT IS SO VERY GLARINGLY OPP.
certification KEEP upgrading with versions and in fact DRAG you to come upto speed to the latest and greatest in tech.

– Besides helping prop your resume Certifications are EDUCATING. While giving an MCDBA test you are given so many SIMULATED and INTERACTIVE exercises to access your grasp. These are actually real world situations that were collected by MS from all its sites and Crystallized into these scenarios

–Last but not the Least – COMMUNITY CARTELING: Jobs often happen via REFERRALS. An employee “refers” someone whom he knows can work .
Referrals stand a chance for ABUSE esp with immigrant communities because they have CIRCUMSTANTIAL REASON TO DO SO. I have seen this happen
in many MINORITY communities that do not want to identify with the majority e.g. bangladeshi or arab moslems. NO ILL WILL towards these people – there are some very h good persons among these groups BUT I have SEEN THIS HAPPEN WITH MY OWN EYES. One such person “Lobbies” for his buddy or Brother in Law to “get him in” and then within a year that entire group is FULL OF BANGLADESHIs and PAKISTANI’s. If you think I am being a Xeno – take a look
at certain groups in Intel. This is called COMMUNITY CARTELING. The Cartel gives these people security that they otherwise perceivably lack. If you live by the rules of the cartel -the cartel will help “cover” all your shortcomings.The rules of the cartel are every member SUPPORTS the
other to the fullest. Certifications help BREAK COMMUNITY CARTELS . I BET you didn’t know about this one

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July 16, 2015 at 12:50 pm, Jack said:

To a degree, I agree. Back 1999, I went to a local Community College and got a certificate degree in Network Technology that pretty much mirrored the MCSE track for WinNT 4.0. I passed 4 out of the 6 exams for getting my MCSE. This didn’t amount to a hill of beans in terms of getting hired. At the height of the tech boom, colleges and “IT Boot Camps” were hellbent on getting people certified. There was very little hands on in the classroom. That said, some industry certifications like A+ and others are often required by employers and they will solidify the knowledge you’ve obtained through experience. I say couple your certification with experience, but don’t rely on certification alone to get you a job.

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July 16, 2015 at 12:51 pm, Cristiano Meneguello From Brazil said:

There two types of person: ones that don’t have the certification and say that it is not important; and ones that have the certification, and see the benefits for yourselves, without questioning the objective or if the market takes or don’t takes it in consideration.

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July 16, 2015 at 1:04 pm, Saul Carpenter said:

One last pt. I Missed out on . CERTIFYING WHAT AND HOW also matters. The more managerial the job gets the more complicated and “layered” would be the ways to access a person’s knowledge.
So PMP as a standalone may not have ( or should not ) have the same value as maybe a CCNA or Solaris . But an PMP certified candidate , who can reflect his PM skills while on interview or show some Visio’s where he saved $100K or give insights to problems is a lot more desirable candidate that one who hasn’t certified . An only PMP certified candidate in this context has less meaning. So depends on WHAT is being certified and Also HOW he is being accessed ( just plain TB questions or live scenarios or do an actual demo of your resource , cost calculations, scope creeps etc )
WHAT I think is that the author UNFORTUNATELY got the rough end of the stick when running against some other folks who were PMP Certified and got in solely on the basis of that .
But that is in PMP world. You can’t color everything with the same tinge.

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July 16, 2015 at 2:06 pm, Harold Carruthers said:

It not possible for me to agree more but still I am being forced to get a PMP. I have 25+ years as a project, program, personnel, portfolio, area and initiative leader across 11 industries. In 1991 I got a CDP which was the predecessor to the PMP but it NEVER counts today since PMP is trendy. I have found it true that no PMP means no job. Currently, I have been out of work for 11 months though I am looking for only $70K in a PM position. Rather than certify I find myself spending 12 to 16 hours a day reading and applying to job board ads. When the good Lord thinks it’s time for me to go back to work, I will. Until then, I steal 1/2 hour here and there to get that blasted PMP.

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July 16, 2015 at 2:46 pm, Mike said:

Spoken from the viewpoint of a stage 3 interview panelist who’s had his job for longer than he can remember. The reason you keep seeing all these certificate holders who don’t meet your standards is that they made it through the speedy screening process so essential to first stage recruiters. Those super programmers with no certificates you were expecting, guess what, they got turned away at the door. It takes just as much hard work and dedication to master “Syntax” as it does to master other aspects of programming and the whole body of knowledge in any software tech doesn’t change with every update. Most well recognized certificates are valid for at least 5 years. If “Many jobs demand proof that you’ve mastered a particular technology”, then I think you, sir, have a responsibility to the young, aspiring software technologists in today’s job market to follow this up with more balanced and relevant articles.

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July 16, 2015 at 6:23 pm, Money Makers said:

It’s all about money and certs are a great way to make it big. I’ve had enough tests and certs and I’m tired of the games. Say bye bye to certs and hello to localized organizational/corporate training specific and germane to that org/company. Say bye bye to idiot here get this cert crap.

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July 16, 2015 at 9:17 pm, Tom tbone said:

There is a third kind… the kind who used to get many certifications, but now realizes you make more money without certifications because you look more like a “poser” with them.

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July 17, 2015 at 2:15 am, Joe Bagadonuts said:

Some Certifications are worthless. Like the A+, but you see it a lot as a requirement for certain jobs. All the A+ is is a course on computer history. When I took mine it had material from Windows 98 SE on there. You learn about all the old hardware platforms and gradually progress into modern stuff. Its a certification that can be had by any random geek that has ever built their own computer. However, other certifications can only be passed by actually knowing the material (what a concept!). Like CCNA. You cannot brain dump that exam because it has a few questions that require practical applications of the material and they are heavily weighted on the exam. There might be only 4 of them on the exam, but if you miss them all you fail. The Linux exams do not have practical material, but you absolutely have to know Linux inside and out to be able to recall all the commands you need to answer the questions. Network+ is a good course if you are absolutely starting from scratch with networking. When you take that exam you would have to understand things like all the different network mediums and their capabilities. You get into wireless and learn common topologies. With Security+ you pretty much are certified to be a safe user at your place of employment. You learn a few common methods that breach security that some might take for granted. You learn about several methods hacker uses to steal information or disable productivity. After getting a Security+ you should be mindful of these things as you work your job. even if you brain dumped Security plus, you would still end up being familiar with the tactics used and, therefore, be a safer employee by default. Plus, some employers really don’t care about certifications, but the ones that do usually have solid and secure companies ran by competent personnel. For an employer to overlook someone that shows the initiative to attain certifications is quite funny. Its as if they would trust their company based simply on someone’s word. With a certification an employee at least gets the benefit of the doubt that they can walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

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July 17, 2015 at 6:18 am, Saul Carpenter said:

@ Harold Carruthers There is something what I called “JOB PATTERN” Inertia ” that we all suffer from. At least Me. What that means , that if I am coding JAVA and have drifted away from the . net world , I am just looking for JAVA work- I just can’t change gears and changing myself is like standing on a 20ft high swimming pool launcher and then just sit there standing – it so lofty , I dont think I can make it or the water is too cold. Once someone kicks your butt from behind and you are in the water , swimming – you CHANGE and hindsight tells you “it was not that bad at all ! ” .
I think your “Job pattern Inertia ” prevents you from getting PMP.You are MISSING Out on SO MANY OPPORTUNITIES .
You real potential is $200K. I have realized certifications is the ONLY way for old dogs to get the same or new bone , because… I dont know if you realized this … 10 – 15 yrs ago recruiters KNEW who Harold Carruthers was based on cross job referral or internal hush. These recruiters are NOW WORN OUT , RETIRED , have become ac managers or bench warming CEO’s . So there is a NEW YOUNGER generation of recruiter who have NO CLUE about the real Harold Carruthers Vs some other Harry Smith who has PMP. Harry Smith put his exp has 10 yrs in industry but his resume is out there for just last 2 yrs or so . In contracts you have to literally sell the resume like a product on walmart shelves with the uneducated push over HR girl as the consumer . PRETTIER THE BETTER.
Reg PMP – Piece of Cake if you have PMBOK and Learnkey
Videos. I have both – If you can afford original price – I can share them , though I DON’t know your contact info. I can send these to you if I knew where to . !!!

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July 17, 2015 at 4:14 pm, Sharon H said:

While very well written, I feel like this article doesn’t address several positive factors behind certificates:

1.Software Technology Moves Too Fast – I agree with this point somewhat, as halfway through my HTML/CSS training, I realized I needed HTML5. This doesn’t mean that the skill won’t still apply to companies using older (not outdated) technology. And completing HTML/CSS gave me a better understanding and background of the updated HTML5 material.

2. The Certifiers Are… Who? – I achieve certificates through the local JC. The certifiers SHOULD BE connected with a learning institution or trade school such as ITT Tech or a local Junior College. If you’re clicking on a banner add to get certified, chances are you’re already on the wrong path.

3. Employers Don’t Really Care – Absolutely false with my experience. Once I completed my Social Media for Business Certificate, my pay increased as I became more qualified and I was praised for the initiative of continuing my education.

4. It’s a Rip-Off – Again, back to number 2 – Any local Junior College or Trade School should have reasonable course costs. Any private diploma mill WILL rip you off, so if you’re there, you’re in the wrong place.

5. It Only Proves You Can Pass Tests – Beyond that, it shows you have gained info in order to pass the tests, and you have gained knowledge enough to complete a course. A certification in something work related proves way more than simply passing tests. That statement is more like if you were taking fluff High School Elective classes, not professional certification courses.

6. Conclusion – I myself take a course or courses every semester. Even if it’s not certification courses, (example – I am currently taking intro to Spanish) it still broadens your experience and creates new opportunity.

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July 18, 2015 at 11:36 am, Jan Kever said:

If you read the above comments and the article you can get the jest of what is wrong with the IT Industry today… it is completely filled with idiots. I would like to see any of them try to cheat on an actual certification from a renowned certification authority. The tests are randomly generated by a computer from a database with over 100,000 questions; no two tests are the same. If you don’t actually know what you are doing, you will fail miserably. Makes me wonder how many commenters failed all of their certification exams. I have both my Computer Science degree and seven certifications. Many people I have worked with whom do not have the certification seem to have cheated their way through college; and I knew a few doing that when I was getting my degree. Yes, there are a few certifications which are illegitimate and most companies know it; HelpDesk certifications are junk, brand-specific certs are junk (HP, DELL, etc.). However, the certification exams prove you know precisely what you are doing unlike a degree that can be earned by cheating. Cheating on any certification I have taken would be impossible. The test is randomly generated, you are checked with a medal detector and patted down, you are video/audio recorded and key logged. You can’t take so much as a wallet or wrist watch with you. A dry erase board is provided and a person is watching the cameras while another walks behind you checking that you are not cheating. You also have to score a 95% (950/1000 questions) to even get a low passing score. In comparison to a degree, it is far far cheaper to get certified. You are not just studying to pass an exam you’re studying to know the material, which if you only know it well enough to pass an exam… you are not going to make it into a career. I have a feeling that the person writing this article as well as with some of its commenters couldn’t pass the certifications to begin with. Another problem I see is that it depends on the area you live-in. Most places where I live demand both degrees and certifications… they can’t afford for you to bankrupt them because of being incompetent which seems to be a growing problem in computer science. Another problem is HR people doing hiring for stuff they have absolutely no knowledge of such as computers. My old HR person could barely turn a computer on..

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July 20, 2015 at 7:16 pm, jkdk said:

Too funny!

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July 20, 2015 at 8:35 pm, Tommy said:

I’m going to let individuals decide if certs are worth it, but will tell you my story.

From very good universities, I have a BS in MIS, AA in Architecture, AAS in Internetworking(CCNA), AS in General Studies, and am in my junior year for Comp EE (which I walked on to get to work).

I have at least a decade of work experience, have owned my own ISP for the development of web hosting and software development managing employees attending Iowa State and University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, and have worked in Silicon Valley for 3yrs and wrote a biotech’s complete IT infrastructure redevelopment plan and oversaw the entire process of rebuilding.

OK, so I’m a decade out of school too. I know for example that there are two main drivers right now that I can move in too: this “thing” called DevOps (process management & collaboration btw developers and IT administrators); and virtualization (VMware my chosen area).

So I set out to lean Python, “DevOps,” and VMware. I have my own Dell T-410 w 10 cores (4 + 6) w 64GB RAM, a nice Alienware Area 51 system, membership in Safari and Pluralsight. I also joined VMug and took advantage of VMware Advantage for FREE software. So far so good and quite a bit of cash invested.

I then took a course from a very well respected training center near my home in DuPage County (35mi SW of Chicago) on VMware. A VMware Bootcamp in 7 days. I also had VMware vSphere 5.0 installed and bought 4 recommended texts. I took additional courses but lets concentrate just on VMware. That course was expensive as well as you can imagine.

I’m on Twitter and am very active in the VMware community b/c I was told by a headhunter that if I did not have any social accts they would not interview me. I’m also once in a while training on VMware’s open site.

VMware has apolicy that in order to take exams, I must take some of their courses. And in fact b/c this training is so esoteric, and expensive, I’m probably going to have to take a number of VMware courses. I am NOT knocking VMware b/c Microsoft does the same thing. What do they do?

They charge an arm and a leg for the training. I’m not working so how and where am I going to come up with $10,000+ more to train when I have already spent more than $10,000? Had previous employers allowed me to take off time to train, I would not be in this pickle…but here is the catch, most employers only allow you to take time off for training if you train in their dead end technologies. And if there is a reimbursement program, they are adamant that the courses fit a very strict set of courses that req pre approval, and you may not be able to leave for 6 months to a year after training.

These technology companies are ONLY rewarding people with deep deep pockets and I am not one. What I am thinking of doing is dropping all systems administration activities and going after software dev b/c there is NO Python cert, and get back to work in DevOps, more so on the operations side. If that job pays well enough, then I’ll take VMware and Microsoft courses while at work.

This is a heck of a pickle to be in.

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July 21, 2015 at 2:49 am, john said:

The whole system is screwed up . It been geared towards dollars and cents rather that universal standards .
Some HR people want a degree , certifications , background and credit checks . Please !! Yet the some the the people they placed 10 years ago don’t even have the correct educational background that the position requires [ today ] . What one company titles a certain position another company with the same titled position requires a different skill set .
Icing on the cake companies don’t want to be regulated but they do what low interest tax payer funded and forgivable loans .

I could also get into accredited colleges or universities …. that was a big deal 30 years ago …. before out sourcing . Today ? Who knows ?

For certs the study guide can be valuable at a discounted cost . Taking the test for a score … is not a absolute way to achieve promoted or desired results [ a job or establish a career path ].

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July 24, 2015 at 9:19 am, TommyC said:

32 years in IT (the gamut, sw, hw, net, etc). Granted there are always some certs that are just paper proof of topic competency. However, the premise of most certifications is to demonstrate one’s ability to understand a product, process and terminology. Rarely do they reflect a person’s competency with a particular product or technology. Nothing can replace practical experience. But, as a few have already stated, a certification can definitely jump start a person in the right direction. I have a undergrad and graduate degree in compsci. I also have over a dozen certs along the way. Most of the certs were required by the entity or effort I was working on at that time. MCSE, Novel CNE (dating myself), CCNA, Sec+, etc. Some were general types of certs. Others, like MCSE and CCNA were unbelievably challenging. You can’t cheat on those exams. You either know the material or you fail the exam.

Based upon my skimming through the posts it sounds like there’s a lot of folks who are miffed they a) can’t pass certs or, b) believe they are ‘too good’ to even take cert exams. In my career, thus far, most of the certs I have been acquired because they were required. I work in the classified realm and, trust me, things have gotten even more stringent in the past few years. CISSP will become the norm very soon I believe. That’s not a cert one obtains by memorizing terms and definitions. You have to know the concepts and applicability.

Nothing can replace experience. However, in this day and time, a degree and 10 yrs of experience with no certifications or continuing education/training means that person is behind. One great thing about most certifications is they require continuing education. In other words, they force you to keep up with a product and/or technology.

I’d like to see Mr Bolten’s resume before I make any deep comments. But, I can say this, his points conflict with themselves.
-“Technology moves to fast”? Um, duh! All the more reason to be certified and keep that certification up to date.
-“Employers don’t care”? No idea where he got that idea. Just look at job announcements. They do care that prospects have not only proven themselves but also remain marketable by continuing their education(and certifications).
-“It only proves you can pass a test”. Then he describes a C# certification of some sort. I’ve never heard of a C# cert or any specific programming language cert for that matter. Also, I would discount anyone who has such a cert because of my background. Mastering syntax is easy. Knowing how the best language to a development effort is far more valuable in my opinion. Slinging code is the easy part in other words.

I would offer this suggestion to those reading this article and post; Take this article with a grain of salt. Continue your knowledge consumption. If that involves a certification, great. Just don’t believe this ‘all certifications are worthless’ mantra. As you develop your experience base you’ll know what certifications are needed. Lastly, I’d be quite leery of any company that didn’t have some sort of a goal/path to keep its techies up to date.

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September 07, 2015 at 11:50 pm, Tia G said:

Ok, so I am just entering the tech world. I was recommended to take a dev bootcamp training course instead of dragging out a degree in computer science. If certificates aren’t the answer then where is the best place to learn web development and programming skills?

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December 08, 2015 at 7:48 am, Tim Johnson said:

Some of you people crack me up with your avoidance of educating yourself beyond what’s absolutely necessary. What’s more, your dislike of those with certifications reaks of jealousy, apathy and a “crabs in a barrel” mentality. It’s easy to see some of you are threatened by anyone that takes initiative and tries to better themselves through attainment of certifications – which requires intensive study and self-improvement beyond the minimum required.

I have multiple current certifications in my industry and run circles around many. Why? I spent dozens upon dozens of hours studying and honing my skills in my profession – which just happens to be topped off with some exams and certifications as proof of effort. Yes, experience is important, which is why those without any are paid at a Jr rate. Certifications do not make you experts – but they do vastly increase your awareness and understanding of all that’s available in your tool set. Yes – expertise requires a combination of knowledge and experience.

Most who dislike those with certifications are likely just too lazy to get certified themselves. It can take a considerable amount of effort and time to attain the respected certs. In my experience, these are the folks that say they’re going to get certified but never do because they lack effort and ambition. That’s fine by me because they’re the first to get let go in bad times and the last to get promoted in good. Makes my life that much easier. I’ve also found that they’re the same people that do the minimum necessary to get by at work every day. I have an in-depth level of knowledge beyond what I specifically work with in my field of expertise. If I focused solely on what I deal with from day-to-day, I’d become irrelevant and stale very, very quickly. You cannot go stale in professions that thrive on constant advancements in technology.

Studying for the certifications exams forces you to think outside of your little box and have a better understanding of the total environment in your chosen field – not just the little piece with which you might be working day-to-day.

Using a handful of billionaires and millionaires in the industry as proof you don’t need certifications? That’s ridiculous. That’s what I like to call “Cinderella Story” advice. “Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and didn’t have any degrees or certifications – so you can too.” No need to work – because lottery. That’s the worst advice you can give someone. It’s the same as saying don’t try to achieve or master anything that might qualify as a credential – cause that’s just a waste of time. Would you let a doctor operate on you if he/she dropped out of med school and failed to pass any board certifications? H*** NO! Why? You want proof that the person cutting you open studied hard, got good grades and continually re-educates themselves to stay current. What’s more, employers DEMAND these credentials. That’s the whole point of degrees and certifications. You don’t just stop learning when college is over – and you want proof that you didn’t through certifications.

Even the billionaires and millionaires realize the importance of certifications for their own employees. Why do you think these folks pay their employees while in class and for their testing costs to attain them? The very people some of you use as examples of why you don’t need certifications encourage and pay their employees to get certifications.

Upon receiving my first major certification, my pay went up by 40K in one job move. I’ve kept my certifications current through the years and I’m now +120K over and above where I started out in terms of pay when I had no degrees or certifications.

The best advice I can give is to stay away from companies that know they’re going to lose good employees as soon as they get any meaningful certifications. Stay away from companies that won’t pay your certification costs as well. These companies constantly low ball hire kids right out of college and/or H-1Bs to maximize their profits and limit their salary costs – and they work their people like slaves. I’ve smelled a couple of those types posting in this very thread. If you find yourself working for such a company – get out quick and move to a company that values their employees and pays them well for a combination of their experience and credentials (and pays for their continued education and certifications). You’re selling yourself way short if you don’t.

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March 17, 2016 at 12:13 pm, Ron H. said:

I call it Certification Hell. In most cases a basic degree and demonstrable proof of one’s skills and capabilities should be all that is needed.
Add to the list..
People hire like minded people. “If I have certifications then so should you.”
CYA – Cover your A.. If the hired person is not a fit than at least HR did their job to ensure that person were certified.

I worked long before the certification nonsense became an impediment to my career. Rather than thinking outside the box most of the certifications instruct you on how to think inside a box.

I’m sure in today’s world of cortical blindness Yoda would have become get certified to get a job on a star ship.

At times I feel like I’m watching a mass flow of idiocy. We need symposiums for Business Analysts? Institutes for Project Managers? I’ve read my fair share of books and took courses on such subject areas years ago. It didn’t seem that complicated then.
In fact we played numerous roles in projects that today would take many more times the people to accomplish the same thing. “The Mythical Month” rears its head in part because of the sheer number of myopic people now involved in executing the simplest of tasks in simplest of projects.

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March 25, 2016 at 10:08 pm, Chris said:

These points aren’t true in complete generality (except possibly for the last one about only proving you can pass a test). They’re true for some companies and not true for others. I can say from experience because I have an Oracle certification. I don’t agree with this widespread anti-certification trend I’ve been seeing recently.

My rebuttals for the first four points:

1. Software technology moves too fast.
Not all technology. I work with Oracle 11g every day. New versions don’t come out very often, and when they do they aren’t so different from previous versions that “older” certifications become worthless. The author’s example of Swift is a good example of something that can become outdated quickly and often, but it is not representative of all technology.

2. The certifiers are… who?
The certifier for my certification is Oracle. Whether you like them or not, they’re well known.

3. Employers don’t really care.
Mine does. My employer covers the cost of the exam and most study materials, and offers a $500 award for earning a cert. To be clear, this isn’t just for any type of cert that can be found anywhere. There are some criteria that I’m unaware of that are used to determine what’s considered “valid.”

I recognize that certainly not every employer will care, especially start-ups run by kids new to the business. The big thing with a lot of companies is for prospective employees to have projects that demonstrate their work. I understand that and can agree that it may even be better than a certification. But that doesn’t have any bearing on my main point, which, as discussing things on the Internet has taught me, I should reiterate: The author’s first four points aren’t true in complete generality and I don’t agree with the increasing trend of anti-certificationism.

4. It’s a rip-off
Not in my case. Maybe for others. See my point for #3.

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June 24, 2016 at 12:29 pm, Noof said:

While i agree that certificates can be obtained through cheating, it is the employers job to do their due diligence when interviewing candidates. A paper cert candidate can easily be flushed out with some simple real world questioning. I value my certifications because i put time and effort into them. I want to learn and my employers respect that and take notice. Recruiters love certs, it allows them to market you and command a larger salary. I see tremendous value in this for short term or longer term positions.

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August 10, 2016 at 6:21 am, Martin Spacey said:

I disagree with the most of this article. The reason why:
A good training center is a benchmark and a minimum-baseline for a student. I just passed the Scrum Master Course at http://www.scrum.org and then passed the Certified Kanban Coach course at http://www.ibqmi.org and I can ensure: The exams are VERY hard.

Now I can show my employer a guaranteed minimum knowledge vs. somebody that “has worked with scrum and kanban …”

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October 14, 2016 at 2:44 pm, John Doe III said:

Working I.T for the last twenty years, starting out I only had A+, got job offers all the time.

In 2013 decided to get more certs, so I got 16 more in all within a year. Just from the knowledge I gained from the field made them straight forward for me. I did have to study as certain vendors what things done a certain way, that doesn’t mean it’s practical, but from a testing stand point its a wrong answer unless it’s their answer.

Today I can’t get a job. I have so many, with over 20 years experience. I did an experiment recently. I made a fake person up listed the same experience, removed all Certs minus a+. Got call backs. After the last year of silence.

There are certain Certs I think are a requirement to identify where you stand in I.T because the field is so Broad, such as MSCE, A+, it identifies what area you fall under. But having OS certs, Voip, WIFI, and all the others. Your just wasting your own time. They look nice on a wall, they look nice in an e-mail Signature. But they have don’t have value.

Why? Unless you have a degree today, it’s hard finding a job outside a field service tech or helpdesk or level 1.

HR non technical people can relate to a Degree. They cannot with certs .

To you the I.T Guy it comes out like this. Well i’ve been doing this for 20 years and can run circles around all these people. But that guy who has a degree in Zoology and a years worth of I.T experience got the job. Because he knows how to surgically repair a bullfrog scrotum that can apply in I.T in some way, like having your head up your ass with a degree requirement. HR can relate to that. MSCE what does that even mean says the recruiter.

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October 17, 2016 at 6:10 am, Peter Sorger said:

Certifications are a sign of interrest, too. If you have a person who likes to work with Oracle like me for instance, taking the certification is just for showing that I know what I do and what’s new in Oracle. You can have a DBA working for 15 years without a cert and with a cert. Both can speak about Oracle very good, but only one of them can use nearly all features he learned about, because he is Exadata certified or RAC Expert. Not everyone who works with Oracle for years must have knowledge of everything new. Now after I changed my work I see a lot of bad habbits my old colleagues have, even architects. Yes, the industry is so fast that only a certification is a way how to keep up with the news coming to the software.

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November 26, 2016 at 10:28 am, Glenn said:

With all the cyber threats that evolve today, and hacking effort skill sets that are being more sophisticated , certifications does not substantiate that a certification proves one has the fortitude to protect a network. If that were true, we would not have cyber breaches expanding today. Although there is some value to IT certifications such as the CompTIA Security + or having a CISSP certification is arguably a false sense of security if employers are requiring certifications as a requirement. As a senior IT professional, I have asked CISSP professionals if they can intelligently explain the CIA Triad to me, and most of them can not. Likewise, the OSI model. Many take these exams for the title and “checking the block” for CE’s when it’s time to take courses but many can’t answer simple Cyber Security basic questions. Being Security + or a CISSP requires answers questions through daily study, as if you were a surgeon triaging a problem or being proactive to protect a network from a cyber breach that could have been avoided.

In the real world, you do not have drop and drag questions nor a 4 choice exam. You have to be able to know your port numbers, understand defense in depth strategies by applying the concept daily. A certification on the wall does not cut it based on the global cyber landscape that evolves daily

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December 21, 2016 at 11:36 am, Ron H. said:

It seems to me that requiring certifications in methodologies is like asking an artist to paint by numbers, especially when you’ve been in the business for 25+ years.

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December 28, 2016 at 12:29 pm, Brice said:

Outside of the programming field and specifically for network/server and related, and being in the business for 30 years, this is what I have been experiencing.

Unless you want to work for 15 bucks an hr, you must have certs.

Thus the problem. To obtain AND maintain (they expire 3-5 yrs) all of the major certs, ie, CCNA CCNP, CompTIA, ITIL, A+, CCNP, MCSE, etc, the training, time and COST of of them approaches what the JOB PAYS. It’s turning into a zero game. Not only will most co’s not pay to cert and keep an employee current, they will not allow you 2-4 weeks a year off the job for trained EVEN IF YOU PAY FOR IT YOURSELF.

All done with IT.

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February 22, 2017 at 7:04 am, Ahmad Mayahi said:

I definitely agree with you dude, I think the most important thing for programmers is their Github account.

I passed ZCE exam and I wanted to take LPIC-1 exam until I realized that I’m spending money + time + effort for a cheap paper.

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April 08, 2017 at 8:03 pm, Marcus said:

We tech/science people always forget one important thing. The human aspect. You see, most managers, directors and HR folks are doorknobs. They got their jobs through connections not actual intelligence, knowledge or qualification. These people are easy to dupe. This is where the certs come in.

You can use these practically worthless certs as a talking point for a raise. The morons almost always think these things are good (with some exceptions). The like this stuff because their entire life is dependent on equally frivolous BS (worthless degrees, certs, licenses) so they have to support you else they will shoot themselves in the foot.

You can always count on a business persons greed to override any form of reason. Airport security is a perfect example of this. $200b spent on making an airport “look” secure when they could have fixed the action problems for about 1/10 of that price.

My philosophy is this, business folks have zero respect for workers. To them we are just tools to be used. Do the same to them. Turn them into the tools.

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April 29, 2017 at 8:10 pm, Ted said:

I think the real reason sometimes certifications are worthless now a days is because companies just want to hire anyone they like. If they dont like you “youre not a fit” it doesnt matter how many certificates you have. So the common phrase that they cant find anybody qualified is just plain Bullshit !! Thats not true they say we want someone that can do the job…BUT how the hell can you tell if someone can do the job just by interviewing him ? I mean the guy can be a very good bullshitter and good interviewing skills but that doesnt mean he is the best guy or that he can do the job. So the bottom is qualifications are not actually what they are looking for as anyone can be train. Look at newly graduates wh doest have any experience but yet they are hired right away with a big salary “if you fit in” ( means if they personally like you or have to hire you because of political correctness, etc )

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April 29, 2017 at 8:33 pm, Gilles said:

I’ve been in the industry for more than 30 years. Certs does matter. It’s a big deal. The better way to show everyone you stay current is to regulary pass exams to achieve certifications.

In our business, if you don’t have any certifications, your candidature is not retained. It’s as simple as that. Employers rely on certifications to identify candidate that stay current.

It’s a very bad advice to give reasons that certifications are bad and worthless.

Investing yourself in certification is one of the best investment you can do to boost your career. Dot.

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April 30, 2017 at 5:55 am, Gilles said:

@Marcus

“The morons almost always think these things are good (with some exceptions). ” – I don’t agree.

The real Morons are the people who are missing the opportunities to really learn about these. Because you never loose on learning more about the stuff you probably know, in a different angle.

Don’t get me wrong – There are some certifications that are totally useless, except for marketing tools – I won’t name the here, but they exist.

But if you follow the right certification tracks, the ones that are truly genuine and originals, like the MCSE, MCSA, CCNE, CompTIA, Oracle, etc, you can’t be wrong with these. They are not easy to achieve in 2017, and you really learn a lot of stuff from each course.

Happy learning!

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June 28, 2017 at 1:49 am, Zharptitza said:

Interesting read. After working in the middle east for a decade it became uncomfortably clear that, in some arenas, you’re considered useless (or, rather, valueless) without a piece of paper validating you “know” something. I worked under multiple people, usually men, who despite having Masters or PhDs in topics, had a bare fraction of my work experience, abilities or critical thinking skills. Also, they actually DID less work even on the simplistic things they undertook. Whereas without a piece of paper saying I was certified or degreed in something specific, I was disregarded. I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on Ivy league certification courses just to be “taught” things I already knew. Granted, I didn’t know their methodologies (I hate that word), but the content was instinctive for me. Only now, after doing so, do I kind of regret taking this step just to please people who don’t know any better. I shouldn’t have. And nothing ticks me off more than to be respected for a certification I didn’t actually NEED.

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July 21, 2017 at 4:01 am, Gail Ward said:

If you want to work for the government then you have to have Security+ and recertify every 3 years.

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