Certifications in IT – Worth it or not?

My good friend, and partner at CIOEssentials.com,  Gene Delibero asks a few interesting questions in a post titled “Certification: No Guarantee of Competency – But it Can’t Hurt” on CIOE.

In this post Gene highlights the pros/cons of IT Certifications and asks these questions:

Do you rely on IT certification when hiring? What has your experience been, good or bad, when hiring IT resources with or without certifications? Do you have an IT certification or more than one? Have they been helpful to you in your career as far as being a gate item or helping you get more money?

Some interesting questions here that might be worth looking at.

When I’ve hired folks in the past, I’ve looked at certifications as part of my overall view of the candidate.  If I’m hiring for a Database Administrator, a DBA certification helps me understand that this person has knowledge in the area…but it doesn’t help me determine their experience or skills in the area.

On the other hand, if I’m hiring for a Project Manager for a large enterprise implementation, a Project Management Certification like the PMP really doesn’t do much for me.  The PMP certification tells me that the user has experience in the project management world and has passed a test…but it doesn’t tell me anything about that person’s real abilities.

At the end of the day, the certification helps quantify a candidate’s skill-set but not their abilities and experiences.

The certification is a piece of the puzzle but, in my mind, a small piece.

What’s your thoughts?  Leave a comment here or jump over to Certification: No Guarantee of Competency – But it Can’t Hurt and leave a comment there.

17 responses to “Certifications in IT – Worth it or not?”

  1. Certifications in IT – Worth it or not? http://ff.im/-haZWX

  2. IT Certifications – worth it or not – http://bit.ly/9iWWiP – follow up to @cioessentials Certifications post (http://bit.ly/brpryI)

  3. Brad Avatar

    I have found that a certification holder usually got said certification to make up for their lack of ability or experience. Thus I see having a certificate or some thing or another as a negative thing.

  4. ericbrown Avatar

    Hi Brad,

    I've seen some of these situations too….I know a few folks who I could easily point to as examples of a lack of experience being made up for with certifications.

    That said, I know many more people who are certified and are extremely experienced and skilled.

    Like most things, I think the certification game is a wash…you have to take the certification into account and weight it against the person's skills and experience to determine the certifications true value.

  5. RT @ericdbrown: IT Certifications – worth it or not – http://bit.ly/9iWWiP

  6. #baot Reading: Certifications in IT – Worth it or not? http://ow.ly/16KHTO

  7. Elliot Ross Avatar

    I think I must have been reading you mind 🙂

    I broke the same idea down into an exercise on Cognitive vs Experiential Learning

    To quote myself; One thing we commonly use is a proxy that we hope proves that particular candidates have the skills that they claim they do, and that proxy?; The certification.


    Best Regards Eric!


  8. […] Certifications in IT – Worth it or not? (ericbrown.com) […]

  9. Shim Marom Avatar

    Ok, my priorities:
    1. Relevant experience and PMP
    2. Relevant experience and no PMP
    3. Just having a PMP – mmm…not good enough.

    Cheers, Shim

  10. ericbrown Avatar

    Hi Elliot – Good stuff…thanks for the link.

  11. ericbrown Avatar

    Excellent Shim. Basically the same way I look at it.

  12. Shim Marom Avatar

    One other comment though. I still believe in project management training, and the PMP, through its certification program, enforces a learning regime that might have otherwise get ignored. So it is not that the certification itself is important as the fact that the person holding the certification must have spent some study time in learning key principles in project management. And that can't be a bad thing, can it?

  13. ericbrown Avatar

    Very True Shim. Certifications can help show that a candidate/person has spent time studying….but I want to see that they've spent time doing as well.

    Certs can help with that because theoretically, you have to have experience as a Project Manager before taking the PMP…but we all know people who aren't good PM's and have passed the PMP.

  14. Gary Drumm Avatar

    As a “certification holder”, or rather a holder of several certifications, both technical and managerial, I'm a big believer in their general proof of competency, based of course on which certification we're talking about. The PMP was an incredibly in-depth certification, requiring proof that I had been doing project management for several years prior to even being able to sit down and take the test, regardless of the fact that I took project management specific classes from one of the best online schools in the country.

    The A+ was probably the second most complex, because of the dpeth of technical knowledge required to pass it. I also have the CIW, which was, in my honest opinion, pretty useless, but that's likely because I had already had so much technical training by the time I sat for this test, that it was incredibly easy. Project+ was just a mini-PMP.

    But the certification I'm perhaps most proud of is ITIL. This was an extremely comprehensive certification with relation to IT operations and service management and I didn't take a single class… I did it the hard way… by reading the books.

    So I think there is real value in certifications, certainly, but when hiring you're not interviewing the certification, you're interviewing the candidate. You assess the candidate's skills by the way they answer your questions. The certification demonstrates that they certainly take their career seriously enough to study for and pass an exam, but it does not prove that they know how to actually do the job you might be interviewing them for.

    Interview the candidate, not the certification. Check references. Professional references. Get references from former bosses who may not have liked the cadidate personally, but can't deny the quality of their work. The job is the job, the certification is merely an invitation to the party.

  15. ericbrown Avatar

    Gary – thanks for the great write-up.

    I agree…there is real value in certifications but they shouldn't be the only thing you rely on for 'proof' of experience.

  16. […] Does “best” mean the most technically competent? The most experienced? Someone who’s certified in the specialty you’re hiring for? Does the certification matter to you? […]