Why Certification Is Great


Whether or not certifications have value is a back-and-forth argument that’s been going on since before Novell launched its CNE program in the 1990s. Developer David Bolton recently incited some discussion of his own when he wrote an article for Dice Insights entitled, “5 Reasons Certifications Aren’t Worth It.”

But there are lots of reasons why certification is worth it—most notably as a route to more pay, faster promotion, and higher job advancement.

Certifications Get You Noticed

As Javvad Malik writes in The CISSP Certification Handbook, a CISSP certification lifted him up from the lower rungs in information security, where he spent his days checking IDS logs, configuring firewalls, and managing privileged IDs. Once he had CISSP on his resume, however, he started landing interviews for higher-paying, more prestigious jobs. “With that certification,” wrote Malik, “doors were flung open and recruiters welcomed me with open arms.”

Malik isn’t alone; certifications are a good way of quickly announcing your skill set to the world at large, not to mention to the recruiters who don’t necessarily know the finer nuances of the technologies you’ve spent so many years mastering.

More Money

Certifications can add an 8 to 16 percent premium to your base pay, according to a survey from Foote Research Group published a few years ago. The type of certification, as well as the tech pro’s years of experience and other qualifications, will obviously have an effect on the size of the increase.

Considering the money and time necessary to land a certification, a sizable pay bump is all but required. Ed Tittel, author of an annual certification-evaluation guide offered on Pearson’s IT Certification website, told Dice Insights in late 2014 that a certification costing tens of thousands of dollars “had better… improve its holders’ income potential by at least one-third of those costs in yearly compensation increases.”

No One Ever Got Fired for Buying IBM

Back in the 1980s, if you had to decide which hardware to buy your company, the conventional wisdom (more of a cliché, actually) was that IBM represented your safest bet, given its pedigree and reputation.

In a similar fashion, when hiring managers invests time and money on a new hire, they want the assurance that the employee has the experience and education necessary to achieve the company’s objectives. Sure, the hiring manager could conduct a series of interviews to gauge the candidate’s know-how—but by insisting on certifications, employers can say they at least did their industry-approved due diligence.

Arvind Sarin, founder and CEO of Dallas-based mobile development firm Copper Mobile, said that, while he probably wouldn’t offer more money or benefits to someone who walked into his office with a certification, he believes certifications are invaluable when trying to secure an interview: “Certifications in many verticals can also be a good way to filter relevant profiles, but companies run the risk of leaving worthy candidates out.”

Even if employers are looking for more than just a certification, some HR departments won’t approach job candidates who don’t have one: Resume-tracking software scans for all the right certification-related abbreviations, and won’t act on a resume that lacks them.

Certifications Are Expensive

The expensiveness of certifications is a double-edged sword. Yes, they can cost you thousands of dollars in books, boot camps, and tests; and when they expire, you must re-certify. Industries have built massive profit centers around the certification process, and that’s frustrating for anyone who just wants to get ahead.

On the other hand, if you go through the process, it broadcasts to everyone that you have the drive and passion to master a technology and put it to use. When you’re looking for a job, that message is invaluable.

Certifications Only Prove One Thing

Malik’s supervisor, who worked his way up through the tech-industry ranks for 20 years without ever earning a certification, asked him how a career powered by certifications compares to one built primarily on real-life experience. Malik said anyone can pass a test given enough time to prepare for it; but that being said, certifications allow you to apply and interview for a role from a position of strength.

The answer of whether or not to certify is more nuanced than a simple yes or no. Take Sarin, for instance, who suggests companies look for employee traits that can be encouraged or cultivated beyond what they might learn as part of the test-taking process, even as they encourage employees to earn certifications while on the job.

What ultimately matters is if the candidate’s opinions about certifications align with those of the hiring manager. But with certification requirements not exactly going away, why not play it safe and take on the extra effort? If you guess wrong and skip getting the certification, you could lose out to the person who passed the test.

5 Responses to “Why Certification Is Great”

  1. Saul Carpenter

    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”

    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 XYZ’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 XYZ was to his 60 yr old Miss Fluffy . They want to CUT THROUGH THE CRAP and come to facts

    – coming to a critic’s 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 alawys stick togather for many reasons 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 say pakistani’s. This happened in fact with 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 .

  2. SMaguidhir

    I have had certification really not worth the paper they are printed on, I have hire people in a hurry based on certifications, none worked out particularly well.
    Certifications are mainly of benefit to lazy IT companies who couldnt be bothered or just dont know how to interview people. They are marginally better than some of the bachelors degrees going around these days. All in all if you want to get good IT people your going to have to invest some time and find out what they’ve been doing for the last number of years. So far any one I’ve worked with or hired with experience as opposed to qualifications and/or certificates has been a much better hire both in loyalty and performance. When I let myself be lazy and hired based on certs etc. my experience has been, on balance, negative. But to anyone reading this remember most companies are lazy in their hiring habits, you will probably have to spend the equivalent of a years pay so they dont have to expend any effort finding out about you. Be aware however that going to work for a company that lazy will probably not be your final career move. Employers who are that lazy are generally mills where you may gain something worthwhile to put on your resume while you find a real career position in a year or two.

  3. Praxia

    In 2015 certifications are a joke. Useful knowledge and skillset needs change practically every quarter these days. The way to keep on top of change is through cutting edge online training resources that can facilitate a developer show EXAMPLES of what they can do in real world applications. Every single college or certification company I’ve analyzed teaches information that is at least two years old. In tech time, 2 years is practically like 5 – 10 years for most other fields. But, yes, some companies, companies not knowing how to distinguish a real skillset from paper will perceive a candidate or current employee is slightly more valuable. Savvy cutting-edge firms, however will not buy the certification paper game.

  4. Attila Urban

    When you have an Associate Degree from a well credited U. Is in it a good enough proof that you have a well established Cirtificate?
    For a job you’re applying for?