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What's the Point of IT Certifications? 1100

Posted by Cliff
from the that-all-important-piece-of-paper dept.
erica_ann asks: "Fact: You can have the knowledge without having to pay to be Certified when it comes to computers. Another fact: Just because you have the certification does not mean you actually know the material as well as someone who is not certified. You might just be good at taking tests. So what is the point of getting IT Certifications? To have a piece of paper?"
"I have had this conversation with many friends and co workers. One thing I like out of all the conversations is getting more than just one point of view. I know my standpoint on it. I rambled on it for quite a while. But, what I would like to ask of everyone on Slashdot, is what is your opinion? Do you have certifications? Was it worth getting certified? How do employers, employees and management feel about them? Do you pay for them? Does the company pay for them? Is it worth being certified if you do not get a pay raise for it? What certifications bring more than others? Are specialized more employable than general certifications?

I think many people would benefit from hearing more than one side of the controversy. Maybe it will encourage more employers to reward for certifications. Maybe it will help the next person attain the career he or she wants. Is there such thing as being TOO certified for a job?

Or is the whole idea of getting alphabet soup behind your name just certifiably insane?"
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What's the Point of IT Certifications?

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  • by nokilli (759129) on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:12PM (#13429005)
    Do not try to understand the point -- that's impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth.

    What truth?

    There is no point.
    --
    You didn't know. [tinyurl.com]
    • by HTTP Error 403 403.9 (628865) on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:23PM (#13429134)
      How about IT certification is an attempt to create a barrier to entry in order to create scarcity and subsequently higher wages and professional prestige (i.e. chicks).
      • by jedidiah (1196) on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:33PM (#13429265) Homepage
        You make this stuff sound like a law license when all it really is is a few vendor supplied multiple guess exams. That's not much of a barrier really. Just cram for the things like you did in college or high school.

                  Barrier removed.

        --JEDIDIAH OCP,SCSA
        • by h4rm0ny (722443) on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:45PM (#13429411) Journal

          few vendor supplied multiple guess exams.

          There's the problem in a nutshell - the certification is a way for competing authorities to milk money out of people, and worse, if the model takes off amongst employers, then it will become a compulsory way to milk money out of people because independent learning will not be recognized.

          The Open Source community should start a project to establish a set of knowledge that must be demonstrated in order to acquire certain levels and areas of certification. There's no better way to make sure that the knowledge is up to date and comprehensive.

          That way, the accrediting bodies are little more than employed examiners who confirm that the applicant does indeed possess the knowledge on the checklist. This pulls the rug out from under any "educational" bodies that want to establish their own de facto certification scheme that they have a monopoly on.

          I'd be happy to help with organizing / co-ordinating such an effort, though I lack the skills to deal with the knowledge itself in most areas.

          Maybe we should look at beginning something like this. There is enough documentation out there for all this - it just has to be turned into a exam-style and gradeable format
          • by Loconut1389 (455297) on Monday August 29, 2005 @04:56PM (#13430575)
            This seems like a similar idea to HAM Radio examinations. You pay a very teeny testing fee of a couple bucks and people who've received a particular level of qualification can host the tests, though a minimum of two people is required IIRC.

            What I'm worried about with the current scheme is that I'll spend $7k+/semester on tuition and get my nice BS in computer science and then have to fork out another few k in redundant certifications. There are guys ive worked with that have had to do just that.

            I'm all for a HAM Radio Exam style setup with some sort of self-moderated body with partial governmental/other oversight.
        • You might be able to cram your way through the CCNA without really having a clue but I doubt it. There's too many simulations and troubleshooting questions, where you have to understand the fundamentals of IP in order to figure out why a setup isn't working. But CCNA is an entry level certification. I guarantee you that you will NOT cram your way through a CCIE certification.
          • by jedidiah (1196) on Monday August 29, 2005 @03:42PM (#13429937) Homepage
            Being forced to actually know a little something about the profession that you are being asked to practice is hardly a "barrier to entry".

            Even the CCIE is nothing to be impressed by compared to a legal, medical or engineering license.

            People that think that even Novell certs are an attempt at Guildsmenship need to get out of their cubicles and venture forth into the outside world a bit.
      • How about IT certification is an attempt to create a barrier to entry in order to create scarcity and subsequently higher wages and professional prestige (i.e. chicks).

        Bwah ha ha... what a laugh. As someone that is an admin, and interviews people for positions now and then, I can tell you that I (and everyone else in our group that interviews as well) see(s) certs as useless. Far too many people have gone to those quickie schools like MicroSkills and just learned how to pass a cert test without actually understanding the underlying technology.

        In fact, if someone really stresses their certs in the resume and/or while talking.. that tends to be a big negative. You can talk to your knowledge, telling me you have a cert isn't the answer to the question, and yes.. people have done that.

        It's actually almost scary how hard it is to find really good admins now. Putting up a job opening will result in tons of responses, but 99% of them seem to be people who think that since they were able to install Fedora at home, they're qualified to be a sysadmin.
      • How about IT certification is an attempt to create a barrier to entry in order to create scarcity and subsequently higher wages and professional prestige (i.e. chicks).

        You have it perfectly backwards. Certifications are a lot easier to get than degrees. This creates less of a barrier and allows more people into the field much more quickly. It serves to reduce wages. I think the quality of the exams seems to also display this point.
    • The truth? (Score:5, Funny)

      by deviantphil (543645) on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:26PM (#13429189)

      What truth?

      There are FOUR lights

    • Certification is an attempt to solve the problem of incompetent techs. Heck this past couple of weeks, I heard of a tech at Freak Squad wiping a drive to fix the virus or whatever problem, rather than
      1. actually fixing the system, or
      2. offering the service of backing up the drive first for the customer
      3. or selling the cutomer a new hard drive so the the old one could be set up as a secondary, with all data intact

      Certification is supposed to validate technical expertise. The system is obviously fawlty. Right n

      • I'm with you that certification is bullshit. It's just something to make HR work easy, because otherwise they'd have to really find out whether someone can do a job, the horror. *gasp* Yes, I am being a bit sarcastic on this one.

        However, the "Freak Squad" simply is correct. Simply restoring the standard installation from the disk image on the central server is the only way to go.

        1. Most spyware opens back doors. Even if you uninstall the spyware, there can always be other malware on the machine already.
        2. H
  • Interviews (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:14PM (#13429015) Homepage Journal
    The point of certs is to put them on your resume, which gets you interviews.

    That's all, really.

    -Peter
  • DUH! (Score:5, Informative)

    by ellem (147712) * <ellem52NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:14PM (#13429020) Homepage Journal
    To get past the HR Trolls!

    The only way to pass them is to point shiny Certifications into their beedy little eyes!
    • Re:DUH! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Ruprecht the Monkeyb (680597) * on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:34PM (#13429275)
      Not funny, too true.

      I've worked in places where I didn't get to vet the resumes or write the classified ad. The most HR would let me do was reject the subset of resumes they deemed worthy and ask them to set up interviews with those that remained. It's quite interesting when they post ads asking for experts in 'Windows 97' or 'Novel Netwear'.
      • solution (Score:3, Insightful)

        by samjam (256347)
        Put in your own recruitment ads using your team-building budget, but don't mention the company name.

        Interview them, and if they pass, re-write their application and resume so that HR will hire.

        Its more work than you should have to do, but it gets the results you want.

        Sam
        • I took option B -- switching to a job where I didn't have to hire people. On other words, I exchanged one set of frustrations with another, but at least now when I refer to one of my co-workers as a flaming moron, I can do so with a clean conscience knowing I wasn't the one that hired him :)
    • Re:DUH! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zerocool^ (112121)

      Laugh, but it's true. Having the MCP or MCSA gets you past the first round of minions who are just throwing out resumes that don't have X, Y, and Z (for example, the HR guy will trash the resume if you don't have "A Microsoft Cert", "2 years experience", and "A college degree". Once you're past the automotons, you get to the actual tech guys who interview you to feel out your actual skills.

      Another reason (and this is the reason I have one) - the company I work for is a "Microsoft Preferred Partner", and i
    • Re:DUH! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) on Monday August 29, 2005 @03:33PM (#13429857)
      Of course, that doesn't work, because a couple of holier-than-thou HR trolls [slashdot.org] consider certs as negative points.

      Damned if you do, damned if you don't... I wonder if it's permissible to say "Certs: I have passed relevant certification tests, but I prefer to stand on my own qualifications instead, as listed elsewhere in this resume. Contact me if you would like to see my certificates."
  • by Brigadier (12956) on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:14PM (#13429022)

    I used to be one of those few IT guys who had a completely unrelated degree (architecture). However I somehow managed to procure enough experience that I really didn't need all the certificates (MSCE A+ etc.) I also know of many others in the same boat. However if your lacking experience then certification is a good way to get people to take a chance on you.
    • by Uruk (4907)
      Certifications are for predictability and security in recruiting new employees. If you just hire anybody (say somebody who says they're really smart) then maybe you'll get something good, and maybe you'll get a real schmo.

      When you hire someone with a certification, they had to go through certain steps to get that. It doesn't make them smart, and it doesn't make them a hard worker, but from the perspective of someone doing the hiring, it makes it more likely that they're smart or hard working. After all,
  • by dsginter (104154) on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:15PM (#13429029)
    The point of a cert is the same as a degree - it demonstrates to a complete stranger that one posesses a certain skillset and dedication. Certainly, we all know that genious who is a high school or college dropout but if you hadn't known this person for longer than a few minutes, just how do you go about figuring out if they have certain qualifications?

    Yes - it is possible to do some quick testing in some cases. In other cases, certs are the only tool.
    • by danheskett (178529) <danheskett@gmail.OPENBSDcom minus bsd> on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:27PM (#13429201)
      The people who usually bitch about certifications are the ones who have met a person who is an MSCE and is an idiot. They think: "this guy doesn't even know X, how can he be an MSCE? That MSCE thing is a joke!" Usually people have this attitude because they have no idea what a certain certificationa actually certifies. Really, before you bitch, find out what tests the person had to pass. Chances are you imputing more value to the certification than is deserved! I used to get a lot of crap from a certain subset of "know it alls" when they learned that I am MCDBA certified (Microsoft Certified Database Administrator). They just assumed based on the name that it says I can write a few SQL queries and create a few tables. A really common bitch I heard was "it's not anything I don't know from writing my own CMS with PHP and MYSQL". A very typical, but wrong, view. The certification tells my boss that I have a specific subset of database administration knowledge. The implication is that the non-certified employees "could just learn it if they need it", which is probably true to a degree. The point is, for the specific job, it required performance tuning a huge database running against a clustered SQL Server backend. "Learning on the job" was not acceptable risk for management.
      • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Monday August 29, 2005 @03:16PM (#13429707) Homepage Journal
        ``They think: "this guy doesn't even know X, how can he be an MSCE?''

        Well...why would one need to know X [x.org] to be a MSCE?

        You don't expect an RHCE [redhat.com] to know Solitaire, either, right?
      • I bitch about certifications, not because I do not know what is on them, but because people who get certs without a degree will be considered for the same job as someone without a cert, but with a degree. If I were a hiring manager, the first thing I'd look for is a degree (CS, EE, CE, etc). Then I'd look for certs to refine the search.

        It pisses me off that many people who go to school for four years or more, who have paid quite a bit of money, and have been taught intellectual adaptability are passed ov

    • The point of a cert is the same as a degree - it demonstrates to a complete stranger that one posesses a certain skillset and dedication.

      The point of a college degree is not to demonstrate to anyone that you possess a certain skillset; it simply demonstrates that you have a certain amount of dedication. That's why "true" 4 year degrees from accredited institutions are worth more than condensed "equivalents" from places like University of Phoenix or some correspondence courses. I know plenty of people w
  • A Few Thoughts: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:15PM (#13429037)

    Fact: You can have the knowledge without having to pay to be Certified when it comes to computers.

    This was exactly my situation before I learned (to my chagrin) that most employers simply won't take you seriously unless you throw the alphabet soup at them.

    Another fact: Just because you have the certification does not mean you actually know the material as well as someone who is not certified.

    Again, something I'm uncomfortably familiar with, having to work with more than one 'paper MCSE' in the past...

    So what is the point of getting IT Certifications? To have a piece of paper?

    You got it. Unfortunately, that piece of paper is the only way non-technically-minded individuals have to gauge your technical prowes, so they tend to attach unreasonable worth to them.
    This isn't a problem...it's an opportunity. "Turn the problem on its head...that's what the Bishop always said..." (apologies to Harry Harrison).
    Most people in the IT field are good test takers...if you don't think of yourself as a good test taker, you probbly haven't worked hard enough at it. In a world where you will be judged all too often by your alphabet soup, test taking is a skill you must master. Myself, I've only studied for exams from books, rather than take expensive classes, commonly take about 20 minutes to finish a certification exam, and I haven't failed one yet. Am I that much of a genius? Heck no...I just test well, that's all.

    To my mind, the key to testing well (as well as actually coming away with knowledge you can useon the job), is to actually understand the material, rather than simply know the answers by rote. When you can answer the practice questions without looking at the multiple choice answers, and understand why your answer is correct, you're ready.
    • Just paper (Score:5, Insightful)

      by QMO (836285) on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:27PM (#13429199) Homepage Journal
      Certifications are just paper and don't guarantee any knowledge or skill.

      College degrees are just paper and don't guarantee any knowledge or skill.

      The trouble is that experience on a resume is just paper too, and doesn't guarantee any knowledge of skill either.

      If you're hiring, how do you tell the difference between paper knowledge/skill and real knowledge/skill?

      Until everyone's completely honest (and probably after too) hiring will always be a lot of guess-and-check.
      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday August 29, 2005 @03:16PM (#13429704)
        It's easy to verify a cert as being legit. So what it tells you is the person had enough knowledge to pass the test and enough drive to go and actually do so. Is that a guarantee of skills? Of course not, but it does tell you SOMETHING at least. If someone has an MCSE and they've got a few years of Windows support experience on their resume, you can be reasonably certian that they actually know what they are talking about, when it comes to Windows. Again, no guarantee, but more so than if they just listed a job with nothing to back it up.
    • Re:A Few Thoughts: (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Bonhamme Richard (856034) on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:52PM (#13429484)
      I actually recently had an economics professor explain to me why a college degree is worth something. I know that if I really wanted to understand a subject, I probably wouldn't go to a school of any kind to learn about it. I would buy a bunch of books, sit down, and read until I understood it. If it was something like programming I would code until I got it, if it was physics I'd build catapults and other toys to figure it all out.

      I would probably end up understanding my subject really well, but no one else would know that. My degree is going to say that Mellon believes I know enough about ECE to set me lose upon the world with its reputation attached to my name. So a potential employer knows that CMU trusts my skills, and he will too. While I don't know much about IT certification, I'll assume it has a similar idea behind it.

      Basically, a college degree is the economic equivalent of a warranty for a car. The university loses something (its reputation) if the produce (me) doesn't perform as expected. Is the reputation of a IT institute worth much? Probably not. That means that the warranty (the degree) is probably worth about the same.

      I always thought of IT institutes as a kind of community college for CS students. I would say that if you have no work record, no college degree, and a passion for CS, the IT institutes sound like a good idea. If you have a strong work record or good degree, just look for an employer who knows what to look for.

      Just my thoughts.

  • by Vodalian (203793) on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:16PM (#13429045) Homepage
    When a shop requires certifications (MCSE, Cisco, Novell, Solaris... don't care which), you can count on the following:

    1. You will have a pointy haired boss. This person will be a "manager", and have little technical skill. He/She will not be able to actually evaluate your work at a technical level. He/She will use "industry standard" metrics to evaluate your performance. The fact that you have a $CERTIFICATE makes you a safe bet for them to hire, since they probably can't tell the difference between someone walking in off the street and lying their ass off, and a seasoned 10 year IT vet.

    2. You will make roughly "industry standard" wage, since your boss will really have no idea what you may or may not be worth.

    3. Your chances of getting promoted to management are close to nil. After all, you can't go promoting the people that do all the work. They're too hard to find!

    4. Your shop will get dragged, kicking and screaming into new technologies, since these likely have no certifications, and therefore no way for management to evaluate their worth. Your positive opinion towards new technologies will be considered an attempt to fill your resume in a vain attempt at escape or promotion.

    Get certified... Work for the clueless.

  • CYA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheWanderingHermit (513872) on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:16PM (#13429048)
    Since I'm in my own business, this doesn't apply, but if I were a mid-level manager and needed to hire an IT person, and I hire someone with certification I can truthfully say I checked his qualifications. If they screw up, well, it's not my fault because I checked on what I could. But if I hire someone without certification, and they screw up, I can't prove I did all I was supposed to.

    At least that's how I hear it from friends. Personally, I'd rather throw out oddball questions that most people won't expect from a manager and see if they actually know how to do what they claim they can -- or can at least think through the process. I'd rather have a competent tech or programmer than a certified one, but if you're not a the top, it can be different. Then it's better to prove you checked credentials and certifications than that the person actually be able to do the job.
  • by MarkEst1973 (769601) on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:18PM (#13429077)
    I have neither a certification from a major vendor nor a CS degree. And I'm asked time and again how/why I got my computer skills. I'm knowledgeable and well read, but the lack of the "piece of paper" is glaring to employers.

    Students with the 4.0GPAs with CS degrees might come out of school and not know jack about shit, while the self-taught guy with a 2.8 in Liberal Arts might code rings around the former. That's a fact.

    I am in the process of getting certified and I would relish the opportunity to go back to school and get a CS degree. But the cert is a notch on my resume and a clear win in the short term. Once I'm in the door I know I can do well.

    It's all about getting the toe in the door. Get the "piece of paper".

    • I don't even think i'd worry about getting the certs.

      I am a 21 year old kid, who went to 3 years of college for computer science, and by the time the 3rd year came around, I was sick of it. The moment that made me realize it, was when I was in a 400 level class, about networking, and we were going over subnetting. The professor mentioned "binary". A kid in the class says "how do we count in binary?". Then everyone else started in saying they didn't know either.

      This was a 400 level class, designed for th
    • Students with the 4.0GPAs with CS degrees might come out of school and not know jack about shit, while the self-taught guy with a 2.8 in Liberal Arts might code rings around the former. That's a fact.

      Mights are not usuals. I would also expect a self-taught guy to code in rings, as a good CS program will stress that spaghetti should only be served on a plate.

      My experience: Self-taught guys do not have a good grasp of algorithmic efficiency, code documentation, and generally code with poor style. They a

  • ...was a good exercise for me. It made me dig into all sorts of nooks and crannies of Java that I don't usually work with - unsigned right shifts and nested inner class scoping issues and all that kind of thing.

    I've probably forgotten most of that stuff, but I thought it was worthwhile to have studied up on it once.
  • by Dugsmyname (451987) <thegenericgeek.gmail@com> on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:19PM (#13429092) Homepage
    Most heavily certified techs I've met have read the books, and taken the tests without any practical knowledge... They are surrounded by papers with their names Embossed between either a Microsoft or A+ Logo, and usually can't troubleshoot their way out of a paper bag. When hiring I pay no attention to certifications, but ask open-ended questions that give me insight to how the applicant would react... I never knew that the certification process spent so much time covering System Restore and System Recoveries....
  • Money (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cally (10873) on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:23PM (#13429144) Homepage
    The 'point' of any for-profit certification is to make money for those administering or awarding it. There are other effects, too, but that's the 'point'.

    Next!

  • by Saxerman (253676) * on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:24PM (#13429156) Homepage
    You might think you can code 10x better than the average code jockey, but that doesn't mean squat unless you can convince the people who count. The entire point of certifications is almost exactly the same as getting a degree. A potential employer needs some way of knowing what you know. Certifications are one way of attempting to demonstrate that knowledge when comparing you to other candidates. If you're already employed, the certs/degrees help your salary, as they influence what a competitor might pay if you decide to walk. You may have already convinced your boss that you know your stuff, but how well can you convince someone you've never worked for?

    Getting a degree might not mean you know anything, but it can demonstrate that you're dedicated and dependable, which are important qualifications in the work place. A certification is typically a lot easier to get, so they don't hold the same weight, but that makes them a good way of showing potential employers that you're staying current with changing technologies.

    Obviously there are other methods of demonstrating your worth to a potential employer, certs are just part of the 'ol resume toolkit.

  • by JakiChan (141719) on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:31PM (#13429247)
    I will say this - the harder a cert is to get, the more it is worth. The CCIE still gets a lot of respect. When looking for a contractor I specify it just to save time. The first few times I tried to hire a network contractor I got "qualified" applicants who couldn't answer simple questions. So call me lazy, but just knowing someone has a CCIE (and verifying it) tells me a lot. And judging by the rates they command, I'd say it's worth it to them too.
  • by jayhawk88 (160512) <jayhawk88@gmail.com> on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:34PM (#13429280)
    Others have already mentioned it, but yes certs are useful for:

    - getting past HR filters
    - impressing bosses, or more importantly sometimes, giving your boss ammo to impress others higher up the food chain
    - survivability? If the axe is threatening to come down, all other factors being relatively equal, who do you think will get hit: You with all your undocumented knowledge, or your buddy whom the company invested $5k in for an MCSE or whatever?

    Yes, it's unfair and it sucks. Yes, we all know people who go drop $5k with Global Knowledge or someone like that, get locked in a room for 5 days in Dallas, and come out with an MCSE and a bunch of crib notes about MMC. It's the way of the business world, and not likely to change anytime soon, even if Redmond were to drop into the Pacific tomorrow. If anything this sort of thing will only get worse, as IT departments continue to become more integrated and ubiquitous into companies.

    It's worth it to bite the bullet in this case.
  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:35PM (#13429286) Journal

    I know a lot of people think certification falls along the same lines as having a college degree. I disagree. Many if not most certificates are easily obtained. I've attended classes where others in the class barely attended but instead used the "trip" to vacation in the locale. Others clearly got through the week of training on sheer stamina but came away none-the-wiser.

    I suppose (as I've seen in some of these posts) I could claim I'd done my due diligence by ensuring my candidates/employees were certified and point my fingers at them, or the certification bodies if they turned out to be duds.

    A better way I think is the old fashioned way -- an in depth interview along subject lines germaine to the position being considered. Where I worked we used random questions from a set of questions collectively gathered from our team -- these questions were representative of the technology we used, the situations we encountered, and plans for future work. The only time we ended up with an employee of no use to ourselves was when after our screening process our selection was overridden by a PHB who felt he knew better. He didn't.

  • by Wingchild (212447) <brian@wingchild.net> on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:36PM (#13429294) Homepage
    I recall a job interview I attended in 1999. The job itself was a pseudo-network-engineer position with heavy client interaction; I would have worked out of a co-location facility and managed equipment for a tiny list of clients. The position was quite junior. This particular job required an MCSE, which I possessed.

    My interview was multi-stage, including a technical process. The questions they asked were laughable; "What is TCP/IP" and "What is DNS" and so forth. I pointed out that I was, in fact, an MCSE. They replied "We know - that's why we're asking."
    • Re:A telling point (Score:5, Informative)

      by gclef (96311) on Monday August 29, 2005 @04:10PM (#13430188)
      Actually, I've found that asking basic questions like that, even of the very skilled, can be very telling.

      If a network guy (or, in my case, network security guy) can't tell me the difference between TCP and UDP, this will be a very short interview. (Yes, I have had people fail that question.)

      People lie on resumes, and really "obvious" questions are a good first-level filter for the liers.
  • by sled (10079) on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:36PM (#13429296) Homepage

    Other people can't define how useful a certification will be for you. If you earn one with the expectation of gaining employment based on the certification alone, then you are probably not getting as much from it as you potentially could. Some people learn better having a well-defined objective such as passing a certification exam. And some certifications, like CCIE, are certainly not trivial and require signficant discipline and effort to obtain. Accordingly, they will provide a greater degree of recognition.


    If you find certifications personally helpful in skill and career development, then go for it. Just don't walk in to a job interview expecting the piece of paper to talk for you. Point out that you earned it, and in what ways it has or hasn't helped your growth. If you are dealing with competent interviewers, they will recognize and value your focus on real-world skills.

  • by Kenja (541830) on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:38PM (#13429317)
    Two people apply for a position. Both claim to know what they are doing. Both have the same amount of real world experiance. One has a cert/degree one dosn't. Which one do you hire?
  • ENOENT (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:39PM (#13429327) Homepage Journal
    There basically isn't any point, at least if you're looking at chances of getting hired. It's much more important to have relevant working experience, something to show that proves that you can do what the company wants done.

    And, most important at all, you have to get noticed by the company in the first place. The key here is networking: bring yourself and your skills to the attention of people in hiring positions, make friends with them, and you'll be one of the first people they ask for a new job.

    It doesn't matter if you have any certificates, it doesn't even matter if you're really good at the work that they need done; if they know you and they like you, you'll get the job no matter how many other people are more qualified.

    Most people I know got their carreers started because they either knew the person who was hiring, or they were recommended by a friend. I, myself, usually get offered jobs because of my website. Few of us have any relevant certificates.
  • by zoomba (227393) <mfc131&gmail,com> on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:44PM (#13429391) Homepage
    A bunch of people here have complained that certs mean nothing, that they don't guarantee knowledge, and a few of you have even say listing a cert on a resume makes you LESS inclined to consider someone.

    Look at it as a college degree is looked at. It doesn't guarantee knowledge necessarily. What it does is demonstrate some sort of commitment to taking a class and passing an exam, at that takes at least some work, time and money.

    A cert does not make you an expert, and the experts have no need of the certifications anyway, so what they really are, are baseline tools. If you pass the RHCE exams, you know the person has a certain set of knowledge at a minimum. It may not be expert level, but you know to some extent what they have proven (in a test at least) what they know.

    Also, look at the cert as a tool to the early professional. A training course and a few exams is a good way to quickly spin up into an area of IT you may not be well-versed in. Especially when it's an area dominated by older professionals who are well established. These guys tend to take up all the work and often don't want to delegate any to some know-nothing kid. The result is it's difficult for a new guy to build up his experience.

    Over time, the certs do mean less and less as their work experience section grows larger. The cert is not for the guy in the mid/late phase of their careers unless they're trying to shift to a new IT area. Certs are like college degrees... they're of the most value to someone trying to get their foot in the door and build up some basic skills quickly.
  • Summary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by value_added (719364) on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:58PM (#13429541)
    1. For the PHBs and everyone in management who rightfully insist on a core level of competency for new hires and need some sort of metric when references, years of experience aren't satisfactory or need to be validated.

    2. For the HR folks who are often ill-equipped to evaluate competency levels.

    3. For prospective applicants to improve on or dress up their resume. This applies especially to Americans who traditionally have had no opportunity to see abbreviations after their names.

    4. For anyone involved in teaching (or selling teach materials) to establish graduation status.

    5. For anyone who needs to determine or otherwise establish they know their stuff.

    The explosion in the use of certifications is admittedly fair game for fun, but when the tech field reinvents itself every few years, it should be understandable that everyone can be left wondering how well anyone knows anything.

    If you've been involved in hiring, or worked in management, you know that references can't always be trusted, and experience is not always a measure of competency. How many secretaries who have been using Word for more than 10 years really know the program? Similarly, I think it's a legitimate question how many regular /. posters professing knowledge could pass a simple A+ or Network+ test, let alone that something more involved like Cisco's base CCNA, or the Microsoft MCSE set of tests. And for all the Linux geeks laughing at the MCSEs, I'd wager more than a few dollars that if they tried taking a RHCE exam, many faces would turn red from embarrassment.

    Personally, I hate tests of any sort, and even tend to be suspicious of people that do well on them, but I'd be the last to dismiss their purpose or useful, irrespective of the test or who administered it. All the established professions have their legitimacy established using a test, and most have some form of continuing education that requires futher testing and certification. It would therefore seem fair, therefore, for anyone in the tech field be required (as needed) to do the same.
  • by TheLinuxWarrior (240496) <aaron.carr@NOsPAM.aaroncarr.com> on Monday August 29, 2005 @03:00PM (#13429560)
    That's one reason why I have certifications.

    Aside from the HR tards and the PHBs, compliance is actually something important.

    The last two places I've worked for have been pharma companies. If the FDA comes in to inspect, they ask who runs the servers, I say I do. They ask if I am qualified to operate the servers, I show them Solaris cert, questions end.

    It's a check the box for the validation paperwork. Required? No. Handy? You bet your ass.

  • by endus (698588) on Monday August 29, 2005 @03:07PM (#13429639)
    No certs and I don't feel they would have helped me even during my lengthy unemployment. Around here I really didn't run into any jobs that required them.

    As far as my personal opinion, they are mostly worthless. The certs test you on so much minutia that's not worth learning, and in the end you have people who don't know a damn thing more than those without them. I think some of the certs (CISSP and maybe some cisco ones) are worthwhile, but especially with the MS ones, that cert tells you exactly 0 about the knowledge of the person in question. If I had a dime for every question an MCSE has asked me about windows I would be chillin on an island somewhere and not worrying about this bullshit.

    You want to know what a meaningful cert would be? Have someone who has never done it before set up an SSH server and client and tunnel windows remote desktop over it. Have someone install and configure a linux box who has never done it. Tell someone to get OpenBSD up and running by using only information available on the web. Have someone write a program to check if a file exists and copy over the file if it doesn't in a scripting language they've never used before given only the web for research. You get people who can learn as they go and certs are irrelevant.

    Personally I'd rather have 10 guys who are *real* computer people...not just people in it because it's the new middle management...than 100 paper MCSE's who can tell you some worthless bullshit about printing protocols but can't solve a problem they didn't learn about in class without 10 grand worth of training and a $300 book. Problem solving skills and knowledge of how to find stuff online is ALL you need. I tell people to seach Google groups and they look at me like my head is glowing purple. Do you know how many problems I've solved with that? People have no ability to evaluate sources, cross reference, and learn quickly. 99% of the information you need to do any project is out there, you just have to find it and know how to process it. There are people who "get" computers and those who don't. Certs were invented for all the people who don't. I don't need to memorize this, that, and the other thing about Windows because I'll just learn it when I need to know it. The more critical the project is the more care you take in learning it. Simple.
  • Fact (Score:3, Interesting)

    by caudron (466327) on Monday August 29, 2005 @03:11PM (#13429662) Homepage
    You interviewer doesn't care whether you respect it or not. He only cares that you have it.
  • by tmoertel (38456) on Monday August 29, 2005 @03:26PM (#13429785) Homepage Journal

    Certification programs exist largely to commoditize platform-specific labor. They benefit vendors, such as Sun and Microsoft, that sell infrastructure technologies ("platforms") to large corporate clients. These vendors want to assure potential clients that their platforms are supported by legions of inexpensive, largely interchangeable laborers.

    The certification programs are the means by which these assurances are made real. They define the minimal skill sets necessary to be considered competent in a particular platform. What makes the programs effective tools for driving down the cost of programming labor is that most certifications are easier for unskilled and offshore laborers to obtain than more traditional means of qualification, such as four-year degrees and on-the-job experience.

    Whether certifications are good or bad depends on where you stand. If you don't have technical skills or experience and want to get into a market where certifications are prominent, go for the certification. On the other hand, if you have excellent skills and a track record that sets you apart, avoid markets where certification programs are rife because your abilities probably won't be appreciated. You should realize, however, that much of the work in the industry is going the way of commoditization, and it will be increasingly difficult to find corporate clients willing to pay much more than what the typical certification-holding employee is paid. For this reason, if you have the ability, you might want to start your own business or join a startup.

  • by JSBiff (87824) on Monday August 29, 2005 @04:08PM (#13430177) Journal
    I believe my certs helped me get my current job. While I agree with others that certs don't prove you know what you are doing, they can at least get you looked at seriously enough to get an interview. It's the interview that usually is going to make or break the decision by the employer.

    I was in the situation where I know a lot about computers, but don't have a good way to show that on a resume. I was a college student, who excelled at my computer science courses (but you don't usually put that on your resume - although I suppose you could), and had a few years of lower-level computer support/helpdesk work experience.

    My current job listed Linux/Unix experience as a desired skillset. I have been using Linux at home as a geek, and as a computer science student, for about oh, 6 years all together, but had never had a Linux/Unix job. There would otherwise be nothing on my resume to indicate that I actually knew how to use and configure Linux. So, I got the Linux Professional Instituge level 1 Certification. Sure, that doesn't necessarily prove that I'm ready to be a Linux administrator, but it at least shows I was serious enough about learning and using Linux to go out and pass a test about it. (In this particular case, I'm not a Linux administrator, but have a higher-level helpdesk job than I have had in the past, and supporting Linux is a part of this position - and to tell the truth, I know a lot more about Linux than some of the 'administrators' I support pretty frequently).

    It got me an interview, and in the interview I had the chance to explain my background and experience with Linux, and demonstrate my proficiency to the department manage, who was satisfied, and hired me.

    For people who already have years of experience and a degree under their belt, they can probably skip getting certs. For people just starting out, it's a great way to get your foot in the door.
  • Database hiring (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eminence (225397) <akbrandt@gmaiPASCALl.com minus language> on Monday August 29, 2005 @04:22PM (#13430269) Homepage
    It's an effect of what I call "database hiring [andybrandt.net]". As a human resource you are being chosen more or less like any other commodity using IT systems. In these a HR droid choses the parameters he desires the resource to have and runs a query on the resume database. You are more likely to be in the output the HR droid gets if you can click more fields while submitting your resume. More certs -> more fields -> more chances of getting through.

    Thank god networking stil works and even sites like LinkedIn [linkedin.com] exist, especially for those of us who have the rare ability of being able to learn practically anything without a need for institutionalized tuition.

  • Easy weedout (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spazmania (174582) on Monday August 29, 2005 @04:32PM (#13430342) Homepage
    When I hire for an Open Source guy, certifications are a red-flag for me. Unless you're very junior, the fact that you wasted space in your resume to tell me that you're certified in a dozen meaningless things tells me you're the wrong guy for the job.

    I just recently saw a resume with a bunch of certifications on page 1. He had a college degree... listed all the way on page 5. Roundfile. Goodbye.
  • by modi123 (750470) on Monday August 29, 2005 @04:34PM (#13430357) Homepage Journal

    I am not so sure about certs - I never saw the point, but as it sits right now I am wondering if my four year university degree was worth the student loans!

    I graduated with a Comp. Sci. BS from a Nebraska university two years ago, and I am barely at where I want to go. At the time: excelled at the classes I took (mainly programming c++, java, cobol, and perl), went out and obtained a side minor of Native American studies, and was planning on going to grad school for AI and complex adaptive agents. Due to financing I opted to not go massively in debt for my masters or PhD, and started to move up in the company I worked for. I worked up to a managerial level in a call center, then hopped the wall to our software testing team. Another guy and myself are the only two in the department of 40ish people that have IT degrees. I took the job in hopes of bouncing to the programming department, but I still had to stop and meekly say "Ouch!" at the prospects. I wonder if it was worth the four years of university to be where I am or could I have just gone and snatched up a bunch of certs and a two year technical degree. Would I be in a different boat or just the same situation two years earlier?

    The new dilemma is to peruse a masters degree or get another BS through a technical college in a year or so in "computer information systems technology" (read: programming specific). Would anyone care to comment on the use of a masters' degree over another BS or a barrel full of certs?

  • by EvilNight (11001) on Monday August 29, 2005 @04:48PM (#13430500)
    The "point" of certifications is the same as the point of work experience, references, college degrees, military experience, eagle scout badges or just about any damn merit-based reward you can think of... to sell your image to the people deciding who gets the interviews.

    Sure, you need some relevant certifications. You also need a college degree. Hey, and work experience, a couple of years at least. Having all three of those things on your resume is the only way you can reasonably assume it'll have a chance.

    None of these are perfect, all are fallible, and there is no magic bullet. Really, the closet thing to a magic bullet here is knowing someone who knows someone who is looking for someone to fill a position. It's networking. A list of IT professionals with whom you have worked in the past that have a good opinion of your skills is priceless when it comes time to look for jobs.

    The only way you can shortcut this process is if you can somehow land an interview with the team you'll be working with. This is hard to do at large companies, but often possible at smaller ones.

    There are bullshit certifications, degrees, work experiences, references, etc. If your boss can't tell the difference during an interview, frankly, there's no excuse for that and you shouldn't want to work for him in the first place.

    Typically it's the face to face with the new boss that sells him. Of course, if he's an idiot, that's another story. If he's an idiot, and you still take the job, well... you made your own bed on that one. Don't get to thinking interviews are one-sided.

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