Why should you earn an IT certification (or certifications)? What is the value of an IT certification to you and to your employer? An IT certification is a quick and readily recognized benchmark mapped to a specific skill set based on standardized testing. A certification demonstrates your dedication, motivation and technical knowledge on a specific platform. Once you earn an IT certification, you join a select group of individuals - a peer group with demonstrated skills. Having a certification shows that you not only possess comprehensive knowledge of that technology but you also care enough about your own career to spend the time and money to get certified. Remember: You are your own best career manager!
1. Getting Hired
Having an IT certification will certainly give you an advantage when hiring managers look at your resume. Competition for IT jobs can be stiff, and having a certification is a significant advantage compared to those who do not have one. In fact, a certification can be a qualifier for a position. Keep in mind that when two otherwise equal candidates are vying for the same job, the one who has a certification will have the edge over the candidate that does not. A certification may do nothing more than get your resume a second look - which may be more than your competition gets.
2. Job Retention
In a volatile economic environment, businesses are always looking for ways to cut costs. That may mean jobs are on the line. This is when having an IT certification (or more) can mean the difference between keeping your job and having a chance to seek a new one. Earning a certification demonstrates that you are determined to enhance your skill set and knowledge - which benefits you and your employer. The bottom line is you must invest in yourself.
Want to move up the corporate ladder or into a better, higher-paying job in your company, then you will need to learn new technologies or enhance the skills you currently possess. There is no better way to show this than to earn a new certification or progress further up the certification chain in a current area of expertise.
4. Networking Opportunities
Once you earn a certification with a specific vendor or manufacturer, then you join a unique group of certified and skilled professionals. This can prove to be an invaluable peer resource group when seeking answers to problems or sharing the solutions to your own challenging scenario. This peer group of certified professionals can also pass along guidance on how to further enhance your career or where to seek specific technical knowledge.
5. Professional Credibility
Earning a certification, especially a series of certifications from the same vendor, will provide immediate professional credibility. Who is going to question a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE), a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) or a Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA)? Having earned one (or more) of these certifications demonstrates your dedication and motivation to professional development. Many companies will actively support their employees in earning these certifications that may even lead to promotions and raises as well.
6. Partner Programs
In some cases, companies may require that there be a certain number of certified individuals associated with their organization to maintain a current partner level (and more if they want to pursue a higher partner level). Most major manufacturers and many other vendors have this requirement. Earning a vendor's certification benefits you and your organization since it enables the company to meet the required number of certified associates on staff.
7. Certification Renewal and Retention
IT professionals may have a requirement by their respective certification bodies to recertify every two to three years. For example, Cisco requires that you either take and pass a recertification exam or take the next higher certification exam every three years. Red Hat requires you to recertify every three years. Microsoft requires you to recertify every three years for an MCSE or two years for an MCSD. In this instance, a certification or recertification exam can benefit both you and your employer. In some circumstances, customers may only want to work with companies that have certified individuals.
8. New and Current Technologies
Earning a certification on a recently released operating system, platform or application will demonstrate that you have achieved what few have done up to that point: become certified on a new product. Passing an exam for a recently released certification is challenging due to the lack of study material and advice available from other certified individuals. Earning an IT certification on a new product can make you the subject matter expert in your organization - putting you in a positive light for your early efforts.
9. Personal Goal
You may have set a personal goal for yourself to earn a new certification, whether for professional recognition or personal achievement. Certifications you earn this way may be the most satisfying, as you are rewarding yourself for your own efforts. If it happens to lead to a raise, promotion and recognition - so much the better. In many instances, these are also the hardest to earn because of the self-motivation and discipline required where there aren't any tangible rewards.
10. Professional or Corporate Requirement
One way to ensure that IT staff have the necessary skills and experience on existing and new technologies is through certifications and training. IT staff who have passed a certification exam or series of exams can be presumed to have the specific knowledge to be more productive members of the IT department and respond better to any incidents outside the normal environment. Companies that invest in their staff through training and certification will have a more technically advanced work force able to respond to new challenges quicker.
Instructor-led IT training, especially training that leads to certification, usually includes some type of hands-on work (whether through a virtual environment or with physical equipment and software). The benefit of this is that you get to learn, play and experiment with new technologies in a non-production (read: safe) environment. This will enable you to gain new knowledge more quickly that you can bring back to your work environment. Certification exams usually become more complex and difficult the longer they have been out, so there is no time like the present to get started.