Certification Spotlight Series: What the heck does my certification mean?

So, when you are looking at hiring or being hired in IT (or maybe more aptly named in the old days, managing information systems staff) you will always hear about certifications.  Great, let’s get some!  So, you have a cert now.  What does it matter?  What do they really mean?  As the first in a series of articles on certification on this site, I am going to take a look at a variety of certifications and help you understand what they mean and help pin a little bit of valuation on them.  Not in cash, but in skill level.

Today we live in an age where everything we do is cataloged, blogged about, qualified and quantified. But in the end, all people can say is where you worked and what people say you have done.  Think of certifications as putting up headers or tabs in those catalogs of you.  Headers saying: yes, I can do that.  In the end, one caveat: remember when discussing certs, certs do not equal experience; certs validate experience.

So how does your certification stand up to other certifications?  To look at that we look at a variety of things.  One is how much time is expected of the certified person to work in the technology before taking their certification.   An additional view is how specialized is it? Sometimes what makes a certification different is that it is on an obscure technology.  In these cases even a low ranked certification, such as an MCTS could be valuable, for its rarity.  An example of this is the “Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS): Forefront Identity Manager 2010, Configuration”.  Ninety nine out a hundred people have never even heard of the technology, but if you need someone to manage or implement it: it can take years of effort just to find someone.

Here is another piece to remember, when prepping for this certification can you really just study a book and pass the test?  One example is the A+.  Everything I have heard is a yes.  Granted, that is heard, I have never taken it.  On the other hand, “Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS): Forefront Identity Manager 2010, Configuration”?  Good luck.  I don’t think 99 out of 100 people could pull it off.

And lastly, there is another component that that should always be looked at.  That is a simple question of: does this certification enhance or get enhanced by another certification?  This has to be taken into account when doing a valuation of certifications.

For my reviews I will be rating certification on a 1-10 scale.  Ten will be the highest, with one the lowest. So on a ten scale, with MCM, CCIE and JNCIE at the top as a ten, and Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA), A+, CCENT at the low end as a 1.  Well, I hope you weren’t waiting for me to rate those six certs… they just were rated as my baseline.

In this series I will review many certifications.  These certifications will all be IT related in some way or another, and I will try and qualify these so you can think about what your headers will be.  One thing though, always keep that one caveat in mind: remember when discussing certs, certs do not equal experience; certs validate experience.

What do you think?  And what certification would you like me to take a look at and grade next week?

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