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How Important is IT Certification?

How Important is IT Certification?

By Joe Issid
Monster Contributing Writer

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: all accredited certification looks good on your resume. It shows an employer that you have discipline, are serious about your career and that you have some form of demonstrated technical ability. You can never go wrong beefing up your resume with some relevant and recognised certs.

But the million dollar question is: how much value does IT certification actually add to your resume?
Worth the Investment?

As with anything in life, you need to determine the value that performing certain tasks holds. Getting some standard IT certification (CCNA or MCITP, for example) costs both time and money. So, it stands to reason that you would think carefully about the value that obtaining said certification brings to your career. The last thing you would want to do is invest in a program that is not going to provide the return that you expect.
As an IT Manager, there are a lot of things that I look for in a resume. And yes, relevant certification is on the list. Let’s take a look at some of these factors
A College/University Degree

I always prefer to begin a candidate search with applicants who have a relevant post-secondary education. This is by no means a deciding factor, but it is preferable to look at candidates who have a well-rounded and diverse knowledge base. My preference is to find a person who has a strong fundamental understanding of what is required.

To me, I would rather hire someone who has a strong foundation and to provide the necessary training on the job. Within reason, of course.
Conversely, a resume that boasts a collection of very specific certifications but lacks any extended relevant education could suggest a narrower area of focus.

Of course, depending on the open position, this can be both a positive or a negative. Which brings me to my next point…
Specialised Positions

Many post-secondary institutions do not focus on specific products but rather focus on platforms or technologies. As such, it is possible that you can graduate with a BSc in Computer Science as a veritable SQL master but have never worked on an Oracle database. As such, it stands to reason that no company would hire you to manage their Oracle database systems. But combine your education with an Oracle certification, well, you give yourself a great chance.
In such a situation, a well-placed certification can really enhance your resume.
Relevant Work Experience

This is the most important factor for me when dissecting a resume. Unless I am specifically looking for a very junior position, a candidate’s prior relevant work experience trumps all else. They say that a band playing a live gig learns more in an hour than they do practicing for a hundred. Well, the same is true in IT.  A candidate with a demonstrated ability to, say, perform critical system back-ups and respond well to middle-of-the-night emergencies is worth more to me than a Masters in Computer Engineering. For experienced candidates, certification can mean less.
IT as a Service

The role of IT within an organisation is consistently shifting. Companies are relying more and more on IT services to help participate in the growth of the company and to minimise any inherent risks. IT teams are being relied on more heavily to manage projects and complex situations that are closely aligned to evolving business needs. As such, the role of the IT team member is undergoing a paradigm shift.
IT teams are starting to place increased focus on non-technical competencies. The roles of Project Manager or Service Manager or Change Manager are becoming increasingly important to an IT environment.

Certifications such as PMP or ITSM are becoming increasingly valuable in today’s business world, including IT. It you are an IT professional with a bent towards management, these certifications can be worth a great deal to your resume. They not only teach you a new skill set but can propel you into an entirely new (albeit closely related) career.
As with any decision related to education, take the time to research the projected value that it may bring to your career. If you are in a fortunate position where your current employer would be willing to pay for some certification, then take a full advantage. If you have to pay out of pocket, think carefully about which track to follow and evaluate as to whether it is worth the time and money.


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