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Are IT certifications worth it? Or are they just one huge cash cow for vendors?

Over the weekend there have been some interesting discussions on IT certifications and their true value. But not just on their financial value for the certification holder.

But also in regards to the skills that they teach the candidates. Which are what businesses really care about when they seek out employees that have IT certifications.

Before we keep going.

What are IT certifications?

Great question!

Let’s say you go to college for four years. Spending 50k on a computer science degree with a minor in Turfgrass Science. Only to land a job making 40k while making payments on that 50k loan that has 6% interest. Then you realize that everything you learned in college is unrelated to what you actually do in the field.

This is where IT certifications come in. You can spend $500 on technical training, material, and exam cost. To make that same 40k. Just by passing one IT certification exam! Plus, you have the latest tech jobs skills.

Let’s be honest! Many people take shortcuts to achieving these certifications. Although it’s a huge no no to use certifications dumps. But people do it anyway. And some people unfortunately don’t know it’s wrong. For one, training vendors promote courses and boot camps that “prep” you for exams. Not for real job skills, but for exams. I mean why do most people go to certification boot camps? To learn how to pass a test. Right?

This is the problem in my opinion.

Few of us actually take the time to learn the technology to have a deep understanding. But how can you when most of the certification exams have 75 questions that are mainly trivial and not on real world applicable skills.

This is the conundrum.

Hiring managers want to hire employees with the best skills to do the job! Certifications are supposed to validate a candidate’s skill set.

HR uses certifications to filter through the hundreds if not thousands of applications that they receive. In most cases if you have a specific certification. They will call you. Some call this process lazy. But for sake of argument we can call it everyone's favorite buzz word, AUTOMATION!

Candidates get certifications to check the HR application box and to validate their worth. Competition is extremely high in this industry. Getting the right certification can give you leverage. But this can also be something companies use against you for not have a specific cert. When it’s time for that raise or promotion they can say I would pay you x amount if you had y certification. “But since you don’t, I can’t justify giving you a raise for the amount you are asking for. “ #Facts

Vendors create certifications to certify candidates on their products. But there are also vendors that certify that candidates are proficient in certain areas of IT. Like security, networking, and project management to name a few.

This loop is never ending. Especially with how fast technology changes. Degrees can’t keep up with the industry demands. Truthfully certifications are struggling to keep up as well.

You name a major tech company. They have a certification pipeline. This is where the question of cash cow begins.

Vendors have to make tests hard enough that everyone can’t achieve their certs. Because if too many people have their certification it loses its value and it cuts their revenue not only in the certification pipeline but in their product pipeline as well.

Think about this.

Company A has a product which is a server application. Company B buys a license to use Company A’s application. Company B has no idea how to install, support or manage this application.

Enter Company A’s certification program.

Company B has three options. Hire someone that is a certified expert in managing Company A’s app, they can send someone to Company A's training, or they can enter into a support contract with Company A. If Company B hires someone, they can filter through applicants that have the right certification for job. If they decide to enter the support contract this rate can and will be high because Company A is providing certified expert support for their product!

Do you get the picture?

Certifications are big business and we didn’t even talk about the training industry for these certifications. Right now, everyone wants a piece of this pie! To be honest the pie is big enough for everyone because the skills in demand are needed worldwide.

So, are IT certifications worth it?

In my opinion YES! But don’t chase certifications. Chase the skills. Because real skills are what pay the bills. Certifications help to validate your market value.

Are IT certifications cash cows?

Yes! But for everyone involved. My recommendation for anyone looking to enter or advance their career in IT is to map out a plan not only for your career, but for your finances as well. Go after the certifications that will teach you the skills that are in demand. And do it wisely. Research the certification, vendor, and the training resources that you use. Most of the information and skills you need for certifications can be found online for free. Through vendor documentation, white papers, RFCs, YouTube videos, and books at your local library.

In closing, IT certifications are in my opinion are a great thing for the industry. They are by no means a substitution for college. You will still have to build your soft skills, project management skills, conflict resolution skills and the many other intangible skills to be successful in this industry.

Good luck on your journey!


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