What’s the point of IT Certifications?

Slashdot posts What’s the Point of IT Certifications?. erica_ann asks: “Fact: You can have the knowledge without having to pay to be Certified when it comes to computers. Another fact: Just because you have the certification does not mean you actually know the material as well as someone who is not certified. You might just be good at taking tests. So what is the point of getting IT Certifications? To have a piece of paper?”

Always a good question. A couple easy answers come to mind:

1. Marketing: for SMB, having a logo on your business card or website implies *something*. That you made the effort to show your abilities. That you want to be recognized for your achievements. Or that you’re trying to bluff your way into something you’re not qualified to do.

2. Self-education. As I mentioned, I pass the MySQL Core Certification last week. As part of six or eight weeks of evening studying for the exam, I ran across little niches of information about MySQL I hadn’t had a need to learn up to that point. So I know more now.

3. Passing the HR filter: As some posters in the Slashdot article mention, there are HR departments that separate resumes into degreed/certified and not. The “not” basket is circular. I’m not saying this is the right thing to do (I don’t think it is in most cases), but it is the reality of the business.

4. Qualifications: Some day, legislators are going to get sick of IS screw-ups and require licensing of computer professionals (maybe). Engineers, lawyers, doctors, plumbers, electricians, beauticians and automobile drivers all have to get licensed. A computer professional with a string of certs is more likely to get grandfathered in or earn some sort of partial credit for the credentials. I hope.

A number of folks seem to react over-defensively to testing, and there are a lot of good reasons to do so. Any program can be corrupted. Some people test more poorly than others, but may be very skilled at their jobs. Most tests test how well you can take a test, and only reflect to some extent how well you can do the job the test is supposedly for. Certificates should be viewed as only one aspect of many in determining the competence of a professional. Remember, “What do they call the guy who graduates at the bottom of his med school class?”

“Doctor.”

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