Why Get Certified If You Know How To Do Your Job? -- Part 1

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Having certifications since 1998 I get my share of questions from people in the field as to what my opinions are regarding certification in general.

I even get into some heated discussions with people that just seem to be vehemently opposed to them.

There are pros and cons to the argument and this article will make the case for getting certified and for staying current.

[NOTES FROM THE FIELD] – So I will start off by saying I've been a big fan of certification because it made getting where I am today easier however, at this point in my career the effectiveness of technical certifications is somewhat waning.

That has a lot more to do with just how far I have climbed and what part of my role is purely technical anymore and there is less of that since I started. There is more and more account management in my role than technical as the responsibilities have changed over the years.

There are other certifications of a non-technical nature and accreditations that I suppose I could go after to move farther forward but I am content to stay technical for the time being and to keep doing what I'm doing.

Part 1: The Argument FOR Certifications

Why would someone that's been working for a company even bother to get certified especially if they already have a college degree and have been working for a number of years for that one employer?

Here are some points to consider.


 

• Show Your Value Through Certifications

By showing your skills are up to date you might be more in line for the next promotional progression in your role or for the next role. Your also showing your employer that you're a valuable member of the team and that you're willing to learn new things.

Additionally, you'll be able to make a better argument for that next version of technology that you want to introduce into your enterprise. Perhaps part of the reason your company has been skittish is because they are concerned that the staff knows the current version better and would like to hold off on upgrades. You can take part of that argument away by getting certified on the new technology.


 

• Market Yourself By Getting Certified

There is also the marketability factor. You may not think you need to be marketable because you're not planning on taking a new job anywhere else especially in this job market.

But it is that exact comment -- this job market -- that should make you WANT to prove you're at the top of your game. If your job is outsourced and you're lucky enough to keep it with the outsourcer you want to be able to make sure they understand just how valuable of a resource you are to the company which is now their customer.

If the outsourcer brings in their own staffers you want to at least be up to their speed or faster and certifications help prove that on top of your own employment records and performance reviews that your skills are relevant.

Certifications are a particularly unbiased barometer of your skills.

This scenario is also true for any downsizing that may come from your employer. If they are going to try to do more with less they will need the people at the top of their game and this is another way to show that.

Mergers of business or buy outs of companies also fall into this category.


 

• Stay Up-To-Date With Certifications

Going back to the college point; you have your BA, BS, MBA, etc -- and just how long ago was that?

Certifications are an inexpensive way to show proof that you're keeping your expertise current and up to date. You're passing the industry's measurement of knowledge based on their skill assessments of the role where they are certifying the results of your testing efforts.

Some people in technology today have simply made their way up through the ranks and it is a way for them to differentiate themselves from their peers. Nothing will make you stand out to management like taking on additional education and getting business aligning certifications, especially when they are not required and you are setting a new bar for the organization.

[NOTES FROM THE FIELD] – As one example for myself, I dropped out of high school and tested out for my general equivalency diploma over the summer after I quit (I was 18 years old). I didn't get into the technology field until nearly 12 years later when I was almost 30 years old.

I did have a little “right place, right time” on my side as I got into technology in 1998 when anyone that had a strong pulse got into technology, but I had to survive the dotcom bust (with less than three years experience under my belt) and the current slowdown is shaking out some people as well.

What has helped me grow through the dotcom burst to where I am today was the fact that I had a strong employment track record, my skills were in demand (and they were in demand because I always kept them current to bleeding edge) and that I was certified on the newest relevant technologies for most major companies.

That is also part of what is keeping me afloat in the current storm.

Keep In Mind ...

In summary, getting certified:

  • Shows that your skills are current
  • Shows initiative when certifying is not required
  • Separates you from peers
  • Verifies to management that the certification provider is effectively validating your skills for them
  • Keeps you valuable and marketable in the event of a slowdown, takeover, merger, etc.
  • Raises management's confidence level when they need to move to newer technologies that the staff is ready for the challenge
  • Provides you with personal satisfaction that you've mastered new material

As with any point there is always a counter-point. And as I mentioned, I am a fan of certification but there are some sensible points that come from the rabid "I wouldn't accept a certification on a technology if the owner of the company offered it as an honorary gesture."

I'll take that up in the next installment of Why Get Certified If You Know How To Do Your Job? -- Part 2: The argument AGAINST certifications.

That's a wrap for this segment of the article and I hope you've enjoyed it.

I am always looking forward to any feedback you have on this or any of the articles I've written -- so feel free to leave a comment below.

Additionally, I would welcome any topics of interest that you would like to see and based on demand and column space I'll do what I can to deliver them to you.

Best of luck in your studies!

Read Part 2 of Why Get Certified If You Know How To Do Your Job:

The Argument Against Certifications

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Contributor

Jason Zandri

is a Senior Technical Account Manager at Microsoft Corporation. He has worked as a technical trainer and consultant for a variety of corporate clients in Connecticut over the past ten years. He also has written a number of CompTIA and Microsoft prep tests for Boson Software as well as a number of published articles for 2000trainers.com, MCMCSE.com, Serverwatch.com and Certification Magazine. His professional CompTIA certifications include: A+ Certified Technician, I-Net+ Certified Technician, Server+ Certified Technician, Network+ Certified Technician, and Security+ Certified Professional. His professional Microsoft certifications include: MCT, MCP, MCP+I, MCSA, MCSA: Security, and MCSE.