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The Value of IT Certifications

Technical certifications can boost your income by making a job candidate more attractive. In addition to being used during an interview process, certifications can be used to evaluate employees. Certifications are best for those who do not have considerable work experience in IT products, services, and technology.

Certification is a measure of a person's knowledge and skills. A certificate is awarded; it is not a college degree, although some programs do include both a degree and certification. Technopedia defines IT certification as "a designation demonstrating a professional's competency in a certain aspect of technology. Certifications often follow some assessment, education, or review." An expanded definition of IT certification is available on Wikipedia.

Certification can be valuable to both the individual and the employer. It is one way to evaluate a consulting firm's or contractor's employees. The more certifications with the technology required by the enterprise, the more likely the consulting firm or contractor will be awarded the work for the enterprise.

When an enterprise is hiring, certification in the area of interest can be used to eliminate applicants that do not have the required knowledge and/or skills. This does not mean the certified applicant will be successful. It does mean, however, that the chance of hiring the wrong person is decreased.

There is one aspect of hiring by certification that can be problematic: If the hiring manager focuses too much on certifications, they may over look other important factors such as personality, teamwork attitude, and experience.

Sometimes when a certified employee does not succeed in the job he or she was hired to perform, the hiring manager hides behind the certification: "Don't blame me. The employee was certified. How was I to know they would not work out?" The employers want those who can do, not those who only know. Certification is not a guarantee of career success, nor a guarantee of hiring the right employee.

There are usually four levels of certification: basic, specialty, professional, and mastery. The basic level is for those entering the market or who want to create better employment opportunities if they have limited experience with a product, service, or technology.

Mastery certifications cover the advanced practice of a specific discipline. Candidates for these certifications need to be able to integrate multiple enterprise disciplines through the application of advanced skills. Security certification is a candidate for the mastery level.

Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. Personal branding is the ongoing process of establishing a specific image or impression in the mind of others (potential employers) about an individual to be used by that individual to promote career success. By extension, individuals can brand themselves through the acquisition of certifications. The personal-branding concept now includes self-packaging for success.

This can be a hard decision for the technologist. Employers would prefer not to pay for certification training and testing, so a prospective employee with the desired knowledge and skills is in a better position to be hired. When a potential employer already has the IT technology from a vendor, then vendor-specific certification is most desirable.

If the prospective employer does not have the vendor technology or a mix of vendors, or wants to changes vendors, then vendor-neutral certification is the better choice. If you are new to the technology, then a vendor-neutral certification may open up more opportunities than one that is vendor specific.

If a vendor-specific certification is acquired, the number of opportunities may be more limited than it is for one with a vendor-neutral certification.

There are two avenues open for the certified person. In either case, the employee becomes more valuable. Many certifications may require continued certification (CEUs) and possibly re-testing to retain the certification.

One option is to pursue more advanced certifications in the same product or service. Another option is to expand knowledge by attaining a broader range of certifications. Either of these choices will extend the possibilities for employment. Consulting firms and resellers also look for certifications because they produce a better chance of acquiring work as a consultant, sales as a reseller, or contracts as a managed service provider.

CompTIA is the voice of the world's information technology (IT) industry. It is a non-profit trade association that advances the global interests of IT professionals and IT channel organizations. It enables them to be more successful with vendor-neutral IT certifications and IT business credentials, IT education, resources, and the ability to connect with like-minded, leading IT industry experts.

Global Knowledge is an IT and business skills vendor-specific training provider. Their business skills solutions teach essential communications skills, business analysis, project management, ITIL service management, process improvement, and leadership. Thousands of courses cover foundational training to specialized certifications. Their IT training is focused on technology partners, including Amazon Web Services, Cisco, Citrix, IBM, Juniper, Microsoft, Red Hat, and VMware. There are many other training and certification organizations like Global Knowledge. Look for one that is local and fits your budget.

There are hundreds, maybe thousands of community colleges, technical institutes, and four-year universities and colleges that have IT degree programs that provide the knowledge to pass certification exams. But exams can be taken without attending any of these organization's education programs. Live classes, online courses, textbooks, and experience can provide the necessary knowledge to pass the certification exams.