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Does Certification Still Count?

I used to co-own a company that did outsourced certification exam development, and we helped Microsoft on several projects a few years back. Like many of you, I also held the requisite certs: MCSE, MCDBA, MCT and so on. Like some IT professionals, certification has fallen a bit by the wayside for me. My position doesn't require it or, in fact, do much of anything to make me stand out from the crowd.

But certification is obviously still a factor. I know plenty of IT professionals are still taking first-party exams from Microsoft, VMware, Citrix, Cisco and so forth. Training materials focused on certification are still a big deal -- the SQL Server 2008 exam videos I did for CBT Nuggets, for example, still get pretty good viewership.

As an IT decision maker, however, what role does certification play in your life? Do you encourage -- or even demand -- that your IT team maintain the appropriate certifications? What certifications, if any, do you look for on resumes when you're bringing in headcount? Does a certified individual have a better chance of getting hired or promoted than a non-certified person?

I know for a fact there's still considerable concern about the "paper MCSE" effect (or whatever we're calling it now that the MCSE itself is defunct), wherein exam-crammers obtain certifications without really earning them, thus (according to some) diminishing the value of the certification itself. Is that something you've run into in your own organization?

I'd love to get your thoughts in comments below -- but if you have a moment to answer a two-question survey on the value of certification in your organization, go here. I'll share the results in a future post.

Posted by Don Jones on 12/16/2011 at 1:14 PM

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Reader Comments:

Fri, Jan 13, 2012 redstorm_ Earth

I'd rather employers help pay for the classes--not the exams. I've never had anyone ask me about the certifications that I had, only about the experience. For example, I took the VMware class which was excellent and I plan to take more to enhance my skills. I did try to exam a couple of times but it's just not that easy to memorize thousands of pages and be able to recall random information when the exam begins. The only people I know who passed used those paid for practice exams which are frowned upon as a way to cheat but tell us how to pass these. I've been supporting and managing a VM environment for 3 years now so I must know what I am doing and this is the skill employers are looking for...they don't care if I am VCP 410 which has now quickly become outdated with the release of VCP's a never expense that is not justified in my opinion. Having certs are nice to put on a resume but they've never gotten me more money or a guaranteed job so their worth is questionable. Classes and education are more valuable.

Thu, Dec 29, 2011

There are 2 opinions on this that are wrong. The first is putting all your faith in certificates when hiring. I don't think I need to explain why. The second is illustrated by a quote from a previous commentor: "that they would not hire a Microsoft MCP or MCSA or any other certification from Microsoft because they found them to be too brain-washed by the courseware and not easy to teach them the real world stuff." That is as foolish as the opposite and as untrue. Both are ways to remove thinking from the hiring process aka laziness. When you hire someone you have a lot of things to look at. Certifications are optional. I keep up with them, by and large, as one of the ways to keep up on technology. Let me say that again, ONE of the ways. Others are reading news, non-courseware books, forums (like and the ever-popular tinkering (IT is mostly a clean job so 'getting my hands dirty' would be too inaccurate a metaphor).

Wed, Dec 28, 2011 PCNS Bakersfiel, CA.

I used to be a MCT. Also was an instructor for a private college and instructed not only Microsoft courses, but Novell and CompTIA. What I found is that certification was optional, all companies want and need experienced IT people. It is hard to teach that when you have to follow Microsoft courseware, which was flawed and went into too much theory and not enough what you will be doing. I had to, when I could, setup labs that had my students setup a server, workstations, network(s) just as if I had hired them to do. They learned more from that and the scenarios that I told them that I ran into. The only courseware that I found was real world was CompTIA's A+ and Network+. Non-vendor specific training material that covered real world, what you would be touching and dealing with. I told all my students to get at least the CompTIA and they did and majority found jobs with just that. I know that most local companies are looking for CompTIA certifications (if any) and nothing else. Have talked with network administrators that told me flat out that they would not hire a Microsoft MCP or MCSA or any other certification from Microsoft because they found them to be too brain-washed by the courseware and not easy to teach them the real world stuff. Certifications had a place back 10 years ago, but now, it is an option that majority of employeers just don't care about. If they do, it is the CompTIA certification (A+ and/or Network+) that they want to see and nothing else.

Wed, Dec 28, 2011

Certs help to differentiate from the crowd pre-interview. They show a willingness to keep your skillset current as well as an ability to achieve a goal.

Fri, Dec 23, 2011

Ever wonder how many game programmers (which are in my opinion among the best) and 'real' hackers have certifications? I'll bet it's close to zero.

Fri, Dec 23, 2011 JOHN NJ

Certification does help but not a MUST. I do not have any certification and yet got selected at many big and medium IT industries. Point to note, while working @Prudential my colleague who got hired along with me had "paper MCSE" and got fired after a month when he proved to really know no basics.

Wed, Dec 21, 2011

Experience has taught me that certs are pretty much useless. Actually most of the best people I've hired over the years have had no certs whatsoever (and generally they have no interest in aquiring them either). Degrees are also not all that important to me either. Problems with most large companies: 1) They let HR decide who gets an interview - HUGE HUGE HUGE mistake, and 2) They often don't take the painstaking amount of time to really get to know the candidates - which is EXTERMELY important. Hiring a person is an investment in our company's future and like any investment, it pays to do put in the research time before making the leap.

Wed, Dec 21, 2011 David

THe link to your survey isn't working!

Wed, Dec 21, 2011 Rick Lemieux USA

Just look at the IT job postings at the job search site Almost all postings require some kind of certification.Now most list both a technical and service management (ITIL etc.) certifications

Tue, Dec 20, 2011 Nikolay London

Candidates with relevant certificates get sorted first when I am hiring. And even though certification is not really important for my current position, I still keep them up to date. I enjoy the process and the challenge, and as a side effect, it keeps me closer to the technology. Next one for me is MCA but I need to start from very basic SQL exams. By the way, link to your survey is broken

Mon, Dec 19, 2011 Thag

Not sure if my certs (and I have many) get me hired, but they certainly get me into the interview room. Most headhunters and corporate recruiters look for these things.

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