Do IT Certifications Really Help IT Careers?

A question I hear frequently is “Will Information Technology (IT) certifications really help my career or help me get a job”?

The answer is both yes and no. It depends on who you are and where you are in life.

Let’s look at some benefits of IT certifications:

  1. IT Certifications help with entry level jobs. To get your first job in a new IT career or with a new IT skill, an IT certification can help you prove to skeptical employers that you are worth an entry level job.
  2. IT Certifications help with technical mastery. To improve your technical mastery of UML, Networking, Java Programming, etc., you can get an IT certification. The preparation for these certification exams if done with integrity will expose you to a lot of valuable concepts worth knowing for their own sake.
  3. IT Certifications help with depressed job markets. In a slow job market, employers generally have a large pool of job seekers with similar experiences, skill sets and education to choose from. Your chances of getting an interview and a job in such a depressed economy or slow job market will improve with reputable certifications from companies like Microsoft, Oracle, IBM.

Let’s consider some myths and untrue assumptions about IT certifications:

  1. IT Certifications equate to more pay. Generally, recruiters and employers pay more attention to “on the job experience”, real world skills and personality traits of the job seekers. So, your real world experience, IT skills and negotiation skills will drive your compensation much more than your IT certifications.
  2. IT Certifications equate to more qualified candidates. Your IT certification is not the same thing as your job performance. Also, your certification does not make you a better professional than your colleague who is not certified. In the work place, the ability to get the job done is the most important factor employers use in judging job performance and not certifications or educational qualifications (at least in the U.S. job market).
  3. IT Certifications prove how smart you are. It is a joke, but even monkeys can memorize a cheat sheet of questions and answers 🙂 Look, these days, job seekers can buy the answers to some certification exams on the internet, memorize it and pass the certification exam. Also, you can pass IT certifications by memorizing your study material without any real world understanding or mastery of the questions posed in the certification exam.

Personally, I have noticed that IT career professionals get raises, promotions or land new jobs based on how they apply themselves to the job at hand and not based on their certifications.

Recruiters tend not to compensate certified IT career professionals more than their colleagues who are uncertified, especially in the Microsoft ® .NET Developer Community.

Certification may influence employers to look at your resume, but once you are hired, all the attention shifts to how well you do your job and not a second glance is given to your certification.

So are recruiters and employers right in not compensating certified IT professionals more or is my observation skewed?

How has IT certifications like MCDBA, MCSD.NET, OCP, MCSE, MCSD, MCP, CCNA or the lack of IT certifications helped or hindered your IT career?

My findings are that in the real world, experience and on the job performance are king.

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