Do IT certifications really matter?

Twice in the last week people in IT have asked this question of me.  My answer has been it depends.  When I first started my career I hated certifications.  This is mostly because in college I attended a Microsoft certification course.   This course was a memorize the content don’t worry if you don’t understand type of test/course.   It seemed pointless to me… I passed the test and still had never worked with half the stuff I was tested on.   The memorized information was soon lost and nothing other and a piece of paper was gained.   This tainted my view toward certifications.  For many years I did not see the point and avoided them.   A few years ago an employer encouraged me to get a VMware certification.  They also offered to pay.   So I took them up on the offer and got the VCP certification.   The required course for the certification was good because it allowed a lot of time for question and answer sessions.   The instructor knew the material very well.   It was a good course.  With a little additional study I passed the test and had another IT certification.

What did I learn?

Knowing I was going to have to take the VCP test made my course learning more meaningful.   I was able to learn with intent.   I now realized that certifications might not have value but the knowledge did…  So since that time I have used certifications to motivate myself to learn.

Wait… certifications should translate into more money right?

While it is true my jobs continue to pay more as time goes along I do not believe this is because of my certifications.  I think it’s because of what I learned while doing the certifications.   Will certifications ensure more money?  Not always.   But more knowledge and skills will translate to more ability to do.

So you convinced me … what certs should I do?

Well here is the tough one.  I can tell you what certifications I see a lot of resumes and job postings:

  • ITIL – This one is on every resume.  Buy a book off Amazon and take the test… it’s not hard and people want it a lot.
  • VMware certification – Virtualization is hot… but only a few places have virtualization only admins..  VCP is normally enough.  VCAP and above are not seen much on job postings.  (Don’t get me wrong I am all about geeking out with VMware certs… as shown by my VCDX but in translation to jobs VCAP will not help you more than VCP… VCDX will but it’s a long journey)  Best fun test on that journey VCAP-DCA (it’s a live test that makes you do it’s so much fun)
  • RedHat certification (normally RHCE) redhat is still the leader in enterprise linux and their cert is a practice test that requires that you do things not just know them.
  • Windows Certification – They are a lot better than they used to be and look great for Windows jobs
  • PmP – if you want to get into technical project management this is the cert.
  • CCNA – If you are interested in networking start here… even if you don’t have Cisco in your shop.


Live Tests

My final note is a shout out to all testing systems that require you to work with a real environment like the VCAP-DCA, CCNA or RHCE.  These tests require you know how to do things and are awesome.  No pointless memorization required.  We need more IT tests like this…

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