Information technology certification programs are bound to run into problems, especially as the industry becomes more and more crowded. In an Future Challenges of IT Certs Part 1, we identified these four problems that have been plaguing I.T. certification and will continue to plague it this year and the years to come:
- There are just too many I.T. certification programs from a lot of vendors available.
- There is no easy way to sift through the different I.T. certification programs to find what is the most relevant to an I.T. professional.
- I.T. certification is vendor-centric.
- There is no regulating body to oversee the whole I.T. certification industry, making it difficult to know which vendors are reputable and which programs are valid and accurate, while also making it more difficult to address the first three items.
However, these are problems that are outside of the I.T. certification programs, and while it may take longer to fix for anybody interested in I.T. certification, they are not really that detrimental or negative.
For this installment, we are looking at the problems and challenges that are more or less inherent with the processes involved with I.T. certification. Basically, these challenges would prompt interested I.T. professionals to question whether I.T. certification is still worth it or not.
So is pursuing an I.T. certification still worth your time, effort and money?
1. Does the value of most certifications decreases if learning a skill from experience or encountering the technology first-hand?
For example, CompTIA, the association that handles several I.T. certification examinations, promotes “study materials” for each of the certification courses they have. They even have instructor editions and student guides. For CompTIA A+ certification, they have more than 50 of these study guides.
We are not saying that these study guides give you the questions in an exam, but these give you a hint of what the live questions would be. That means that you can be a novice in terms of knowing the technology in the real world setting, but you can still get certified if you hit the books diligently.
Other people do not have the know-how or the experience, but because they are certified, they advertise themselves as “experts” in that particular field.
And of course, there is the problem of cheating. A February 2011 report from Network World, citing CompTIA director of exam services, Jill Burroughs, reported that incidences of cheating on I.T. certification exams have increased by 10% as more and more people are getting more desperate to get certified to land a better paying job or any job at all. Or, in the case of military personnel, to keep their jobs!
Network World related that some people pay others as much as $2,500 to take a certification exam in their place, buy brain dump materials, or steal test questions online.
What’s more bothersome, the publication ran a poll that showed that 42% of I.T. professionals did not even think that cheating is wrong. There is no shortage of websites that offer these cheats, too. At that time, there were 130 websites that offered brain dump materials.
This, however, does not entirely mean that I.T. certification has been rendered useless. Just as with other professional careers where licensure exams need to be taken regardless of experience, I.T. certification is still a valid gauge of an I.T. professional’s knowledge. True, certification exam guidelines are available and answers can practically be memorized, but in memorization, one still retains relevant knowledge and information.
As for the issue on cheating, it’s an issue that almost all exams are plagued with. There just needs to be a sort of protocol to address this problem, which is not very difficult to come up with.
2. Technology is ever-changing.
Technology is very dynamic and the body of knowledge behind it changes constantly. Because of this, I.T. certifications have a generally short-term life cycle. Software versioning and updates are moving so rapidly forward that most software and hardware technologies and their bodies of knowledge easily become obsolete in just three to five years.
There is also the problem of having too many platforms available. Physical locations are not the only considerations anymore; now, you could take technology everywhere with you on smartphones, mobile devices, tablets and even the cloud.
On top of all these, because certification is vendor-based, Microsoft, Novell, and other vendors are free to revise, update and redo their certification exams as much as they like, making it necessary to get re-certified.
For instance, Novell’s Certified Linux Engineer is now on its 11th incarnation, while others such as CompTIA require those who were certified after January 1, 2011 to renew their certification after three years. These practices, or versions and combinations thereof, are being done by other vendors as well.
With your certification credentials expiring at any time in the near future and because companies are focused on getting professionals who have the latest certifications under their belt, is it still worth it to get certified?
The answer to this is an affirmative YES. Aside from technology and systems, everything else is changing dynamically, and everyone just needs to up their games. I.T. professionals who value their knowledge and skills and who want to keep themselves up-to-date with current technologies would not mind renewing their certifications and “upgrading” their qualifications. That is the measure of I.T. experts who are true to the profession.
3. Do certifications provide value for money?
Tests are very difficult to write, that is why these are very expensive in the first place. But over time, as vendors try to improve or revise the tests that they have, it also necessitates more investment, which is passed down to the test takers in the form of a price increase.
This was highlighted when price increases were announced by Microsoft for some of its Microsoft Certification exams in April 2011. While the prices differed, it meant an increase of 20% to around 25% for some of their products, or as much as $25.
The rising costs of I.T. Certification had been noted almost a decade before, and it has no signs of stopping any time soon.
So yes, I.T. certifications are costly and the prices are continually getting steeper and steeper. But this is something that should be seen as value for money. The rewards of getting certified exceed the costs. Plus, to get certified, you would need to allot a specific amount, and this only serves as a guarantee that I.T. certifications are no laughing matter and it’s not something that people can just obtain easily and mindlessly.
4. Training and certification are first to go in budget cuts.
The sad fact is that in any move to reduce company expenses, training and certification are always the first to go. This is because it is very difficult to justify the benefits of certification when your employer is looking to save up on some unnecessary expenses.
I.T. departments are getting their training budgets cut, and as a result, more and more employees have to pay for their certification and training by themselves.
The solution to this is simple. Companies that are reliant on technologies and whose I.T. professionals are core personnel should not scrimp on certification support.