When it comes to IT certifications, there is significant potential for confusion. Which certification should I earn? When should I try to get certified? Where do I start? While some of those answers may come easier than others, these important decisions are often clouded by myths that have the potential to lead you down the wrong path.
Deciding which certifications to pursue and when depends in large part on your goals and interests. To help make the decision a bit easier, here are a few myths that you can safely ignore.
Myth #1: Certifications Replace Experience
It happens every day: People who are new to IT, eager to move forward, jump into the certification process with a more advanced position in mind. These people are often surprised when 1. They don’t qualify for the certifications they want yet and 2. They still don’t qualify for the jobs they want.
The fact of the matter is that certifications do not replace experience actually working in the field. Most certifications actually require applicants to meet minimum experience requirements before even taking the exam. When it comes to landing a job, a certification can put you ahead of other candidates with similar experience, but it by no means stands in for that experience.
Myth #2: Everyone’s Certified, So There’s No Point
Some people resist the idea of getting certified because they feel like it doesn’t actually set them apart. They assume that because so many people are taking the time to take IT training courses and study for exams, the credentials have lost their value. They assume that certified professionals are a dime a dozen, so why bother?
While it’s true that more people than ever before are working toward or hold certifications, there’s certainly no glut of credentialed individuals. The simple fact that employers prefer certified professionals over those without credentials should be evidence that getting certified has value. Not to mention, the ongoing development of new technology indicates that IT professionals cannot afford to remain stagnant, and continuing education needs to be a priority.
Myth #3: Certifications Will Get You a New Job
There’s no doubt that when you apply for IT jobs, holding a certification (or several certifications) increases your chances of scoring an interview. However, certifications alone aren’t going to get employers to start knocking on your door. Keep in mind that most employers require — or at least recommend — that applicants have certain credentials to even qualify for a job, meaning that your certification is likely to only be one of the factors considered in a hiring decision.
In some cases, yes, your certification will move you to the top of the list when other candidates have similar experience, and again, it can get you in the door where you might not have otherwise had a shot, but it’s unlikely that your certification alone will land you a new job, unless you’re seeking something entry level.
Myth #4: Certifications Only Benefit Vendors
Because so many certifications are vendor-centric, there is some perception that such programs were developed simply to create a revenue stream for those vendors. While developing certifications does help improve the bottom line, they aren’t designed primarily to benefit the vendor, but the user, by making the products more manageable to meet the unique needs of the organization. And frankly, who better to develop certifications than the people who designed the product in the first place?
It’s also important to note that not all certifications are vendor-specific, and some of the most in-demand credentials are actually vendor neutral. CISSP and other sought-after certifications are vendor neutral, negating the argument that certifications only benefit individual vendors.
Myth #5: Certifications Have No Oversight
The idea of certifications only benefitting vendors has led some to believe that the certification process has no oversight, and is therefore meaningless in the bigger picture. Without any sort of independent oversight, some argue, how can we be sure that the process is actually measuring knowledge and skill, and not just handing out credentials to anyone who applies?
The fact is, there is a great deal of oversight of certifications, ensuring consistency, accuracy, and authenticity in the process. The IT Certification Council (ITCC) was formed in 2010 to begin bringing that consistency to the process; as a result, many vendors are working together to oversee the various certification processes to ensure that they are meaningful.
Earning an IT certification is an investment of time and money, and can have major benefits for your career. Don’t let these myths and misconceptions hold you back, but instead make the choice that will most benefit your career.