Recently I’ve been asked on numerous occasions by students and customers what’s the real value in obtaining IT certifications? I thought it would be a good opportunity to write an article on this question as so many people keep wondering the same thing.
Certifications, so why bother?
Well this really depends on the person at hand, but for me as an IT consultant I like to keep my skills up to date and show potential customers that I have the maintained the required level of knowledge to take and pass such a prestigious certification.
Many people I’ve worked with in the past have simply gone after certifications for the money. I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t motivated by money (who isn’t) but that is never my primary reason for wanting to pass a certification. The people who are purely driven by money to pass a certification will inevitably hit a ceiling and won’t be able to earn any more money, when they do their motivation will cease and they begin in to an ever declining spiral.
Most people choose to take certifications to gain a promotion, job proof (from redundancy) or for a career change. For these people they want the certification to prove they can do a particular job and have the necessary skills required to perform that role, this is the reason certifications were created in the first place.
Which certifications are best?
It does really depend on what route you want to take in IT. If you’re a seasoned IT professional then you will probably already know the path you want to take, but what if you’re new to the world of IT, which certification is best?
Every year hundreds of IT magazines and websites conduct their own surveys to find out what are the top certifications and what their respective salaries are. For the past 10+ years Cisco certifications have consistently been in the top 10, most of the time they are in the top 5 certifications to obtain!
Back in the late 1990’s it was the CCIE (still the pinnacle of all certifications) that was the best and most sought after certification to have, but in the past several years the entry certification CCNA and intermediate certification CCNP have been consistently ranked in the top 5 showing they are always in high demand. Although Cisco has release many new professional tracks such as the CCSP, CCVP and CCIP, the CCNP is always held in high esteem as it’s the most relevant and useable professional level certification Cisco offer.
What about Microsoft, Redhat, Sun etc?
All of the respective certifications offered by Microsoft, Sun, Redhat etc are all worth taking if you feel they will benefit your career. I personally have obtained the MCSE as I originally started my career in server support (before Cisco was a well known brand) and it has certainly never harmed my progression, if anything it has helped. But first and foremost I am a network consultant and don’t wish to be a server engineer any more, I find networking far more challenging and enjoyable. The MCSE has helped on numerous occasions when troubleshooting as I know how servers operate, I consider my MCSE as a secondary certification to backup my Cisco certifications.