The Value of Certification for Technology Professionals in 2021

The Value of Certification for Technology Professionals in 2021

By Tom Carpenter On 03/10/2021

IT certifications have existed for decades. I acquired my first certification in the mid-90s. It was a Windows 95 Support certification. Since that time, I've acquired many other certifications and have been heavily involved in the certification industry (obviously). Writing books for seventeen different certifications, creating elearning for more than sixty certifications and helping to set the direction for certifications at CWNP since 2012. In all that time, one question has surfaced most frequently. It is usually phrase, "Do certifications have value?" or "Do certifications matter?" Depending on your interpretation of the question, the answers may vary, but I will attempt to address them in this post.

It is my conviction that the answer to both questions is yes, an incontrovertible yes, if you interpret "certifications" as the entire concept of the knowledge/experience acquired and the credential gained. In some cases, commentators look only at the value of the credential and ignore the value of the knowledge and experience. When I address this question, I include the entire collective of all that "is" a certification. Assuming the certification is designed to test the candidate appropriately and covers relevant concepts, it is about much more than the credential.

For this reason, I will present three arguments for the value of certification and the fact that it still holds value today as a general concept.

1 - Certification is Validated Training

Whether you do self-paced learning or attend a training class, certification is not just about knowledge acquisition, but about acquiring that knowledge and then proving it. Training without testing would be like going to college for four years, getting a degree at the end, but doing nothing more than sitting through lectures and participating in labs that may or may not have been successful. Thankfully, colleges (mostly) do not work this way. Certifications (not just in technology) attempt to bring this learning rigour to the continuing education market and, in my opinion, most certifications do it well. I've often told people that passing a certification exam proves you can pass the exam. Not passing it proves nothing. It's my minimalist argument for getting certified [smile].

2 - Quality Certifications Take You on a Journey

As I observe the Job Task Analyses (JTAs) we perform at CWNP each year, one thing has become clear: well-design certifications take you on a journey that would be less organized and nearly impossible, in some cases, to take on your own. A room of experts get together and talk about what an administrator, analyst, designer, integrator, or some other role must know and do to fulfill the role. Experts have built the certification content, which leads to learning materials and exams that teach and prove knowledge of and experience with that content. While I cannot speak for all certifications, I do know that most quality certifications use a similar JTA process to CWNP's process and the results are usually beneficial to the candidate. I have had significant experience with AWS certifications in the past few years and feel that they also do an excellent job of ensuring the credential has value. I've also gone through some vendor certifications and can say the same for them. They take you on a journey that is designed by experts to help you build expertise.

3 - Credentials Still Matter in 2021

Credentials that mattered in the past do not necessarily matter today. For example, less and less weight is placed on Windows-related certifications, but Linux, Programming, IoT, and networking certifications still provide value for job candidates (Windows certifications do as well, but, oddly, many companies now assume technologists have that knowledge [hand to forehead]). Many IT job postings still list certifications desired (though infrequently required). If I am applying for a job with the same experience as my competitors and I interview as well as them - all else being equal - my possession of certifications that they lack will frequently put me over the top. Even lesser-known certifications can provide value in this way. Many have reported being asked what a particular certification is during a job interview only to be informed later that it was a big part of their selection - particularly if the certification was one requiring a rigorous process.

In the end, my response is, YES, certifications have value and they matter in 2021. It's about selecting the right certifications that guide your learning journey and provide you with credentials that add value to your experience.

Tagged with: certification value, certification, value, 2021
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