LPI discontinues lifetime certifications

“All certification designations earned before Sep. 1, 2004 will no longer be considered “lifetime” designations”

Shades of TiVo! What is it about “lifetime” that the Linux Professional Institute doesn't understand? Ah, they meant the lifetime of the certification, not of the certificate holder. LPI missed the boat on that one.

Over at Linux Watch, Stephen J. Vaughn-Nicholls outlines the changes to the LPI certification program. IT professionals who've been through the ringer with Novell and Microsoft and Cisco and A+ will recognize the tune: the program gallops along at first, realizes that they might be allowing holders of “legacy” knowledge to claim currency, and cut off their own revenue stream. Consequently, they beef up their renewal requirements.

I ran the certification hamster-wheel with Microsoft in the nineties: 16 exams in over 7 years, earning the MCSE designation for NT 4.0 and MCSD for Visual Studio 6. The certifications along with a liberal sprinkling of the logos on business cards, web sites and correspondence certainly helped the marketing efforts of my employers, and I worked hard to maintain the credibility of those programs.

The problem that happens with these kind of designations is that the effort to maintain the certification begins to exceed their value. With four, five or six exams needed to stay current in a single year, you can start to devote more time to studying for recertification than is practical. Staying current for the sake of your clients also means maintaining systems that are four to ten years old. Despite the vendors best wishes, old versions just don't go away, with “Don't fix it if it ain't broke” as a good engineering practice. At Ted Roche & Associates, we continue to support clients with applications that date back to the 80s in a couple of cases. We support clients with FoxPro 6, 7 and 8 applications (a couple of them ported from FoxBASE), PHP4, PHP5, MySQL 3.23, 4.1 and 5.0 applications, and lots of stuff in between. While there's sometimes an opportunity to jump onboard with the latest stuff, it's often the case that a couple of years pass before a new development opportunity comes along that provides the practical hands-on time to master new features and hence qualify to pass the new certification.

Microsoft faced wholesale mutiny when they attempted to discontinue some titles, or force the expiration of some titles like MCSD in favor of a .NET-centric specialty, long before the .NET platform had a reasonably large base in the real world. Certification authorities need to think long and hard about the way to support the lifecycle of their certifications. MS split off new certs, like MCAD, to distinguish the old from the new as they chose the road less traveled into DotNetLand. With Linux, it can be trickier to quantify: are you getting certified on the 2.4 kernel or the 2.6 kernel? XFree86 or X.org? Fedora, Kubuntu or OpenSuSE?

I'm in favor of ongoing continuing education or the equivalent; many professions have CEU requirements. However, certifying agencies have to recognize the balance needed between ongoing certifications and the value of their cert. Lawyers would find other professions if they needed to pass their bar exams every year.

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