8 Ways to Assess if a Given IT Certification is Actually Worthwhile

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Which IT Certifications Are Worth Getting? Here are 8 Questions to Ask While Deciding

Information Technology (IT) is an incredibly broad field that continues to broaden as businesses rely on it more and more for their day-to-day operations. As a result, there are certain areas of IT that you may want to focus on and obtain certifications for. IT certifications help to demonstrate your competency in specific areas of technology that can be very appealing to potential employers. In order to obtain an IT certification, you’ll usually need to undergo a certain assessment or review. Essentially, it’s proof of education regarding a certain aspect of IT.

However, because there are so many different types of IT certifications available, you should carefully consider your options before making a decision. IT certifications require time and money, and in some cases you may need to continuously update your certification. Keeping that in mind, the following are eight questions you should ask to decide whether any given IT certification is worth getting.

1. How Fast is the Technology Changing?

It’s important to have a grasp of the future viability of the technology you’re thinking about getting certified for. The last thing you’ll want to do is invest time, energy and money earning an IT certification for something that will soon be made obsolete by other technology (such as automation).

The same goes for technology that is still in the process of changing drastically, which is something that can happen with new tech. In this case, your certification may soon be outdated and would require you to get re-certified within a short period of time. Do your research to determine where the technology is headed and how quickly it’s changing before getting certified.

2. Who is the Certifier?

The reputation of the certifying company is important if potential employers don’t recognize who certified you, they may not take your IT certification seriously. Even worse, if they recognize the company that certified you as one with a bad reputation, it could hurt your chances of getting a job.

Do your due diligence when choosing your certifying company. Certain developers provide certifications, which can look great on a resume. For example, companies like Microsoft, Red Hat, Google, and Adobe all offer IT certifications. Employers will recognize these names. However, be sure to avoid any certifiers that have bad reviews online. If you can’t find anything at all about the certifier online, this may be a red flag as well. No reputation is often as bad as a bad reputation. Even though it could mean that they are just starting out, there’s a chance that they may not be reputable.

3. Will it Further Your Career or Your Team’s Capabilities?

It can be tricky to discern whether an IT certification will actually help to further your career. Employers often don’t give as much weight to a certification as they do to real-world experience. IT certifications tell them you are familiar with a certain aspect of IT, but they don’t tell you how well versed you are in it or how much experience you have with it.

Additionally, if they can’t see how your IT certification is going to help you do your job or help improve the capabilities of your team, to them it’s about as valuable as a blank sheet of paper. However, if your certification matches the skills they are looking for, it can certainly help. In such a case, it could make you seem more qualified in the eyes of the employer and could even help provide a boost in your potential pay.

Boiled down, it all depends on what job you plan on applying for or what direction you’re trying to move your career towards, in addition to the kind of skill sets the employer requires. If your IT certification is relevant to the position you want and those skill sets, then there’s a very good chance it could benefit your career.

4. Will it Sharpen Your Skill Set?

The point of an IT certification isn’t to just bolster your resume, it should be to develop the skills you need to become proficient in a certain aspect of technology. Obtaining an IT certification can go a long way towards improving your skills. Because of this, you don’t want to waste your time getting certified in a skill that is irrelevant to the career path you’re interested in. In fact, you can chart a course over the career you want to have and determine what skills are needed so that you can identify what IT certifications will be most effective in assisting with your professional development.

5. Do You Have a Degree?

IT certifications are proof of education, that you have learned certain IT skills. They aren’t a reflection of your experience; however, if you are a self-taught IT specialist, getting certified proves that you know what you need to know regarding certain aspects of IT. If you earned an IT degree, whether you went to a traditional four-year program, a two-year program or even an online program, then you may not need to obtain IT certifications — you already have proof that you learned certain IT skills. In fact, IT degrees often show employers you have a well-rounded IT education. They will often be more impressed by degrees than certifications, which could make any certifications you get on top of your degree unnecessary for some employers.

6. How Long is it Good For?

Pay attention to the lifespan of the certification. Because technology is changing rapidly all the time, some certificates may only be considered valid for a year or so. After this period, you will need to be re-certified to maintain your certification. When researching an IT certification, learn exactly when and how often you will need to be recertified and factor this into whether it is worth your time and money to do. If you don’t plan on getting recertified and the certification only lasts a year, it may not be worth getting in the first place.

7. How will it Affect Your Wallet?

IT certifications vary widely in cost. Some certifications even require taking more than one exam, each of which can cost hundreds — in some cases thousands — of dollars. However, don’t forget to factor in the cost of actually studying for the exam. Studying in a classroom setting is going to put you back a decent amount. Even if you decide to study on your own, you’ll have to purchase study materials and textbooks.

As you can imagine, this can all add up. Consider how often each certification lasts. The more frequently you have to get recertified, the more it will cost you. If you are attempting to advance your career within the company you are working for, you may be able to convince your employer to help out since some employers encourage in-house promotions as much as possible.

8. Will Having Employees with This Certification Create a Better Workplace?

It’s worth noting that some companies have been implementing standardized certifications to ensure that all of their employees in specific roles or departments have the same knowledge and skills, thereby making integration easier. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that getting additional IT certifications is a waste of time. You could develop skills and talents that may end up being very valuable to your team or department even if they weren’t required. It’s something that’s worth thinking about if this is the case in your company.

Not all Certificates are Made Equal

IT certifications can be very helpful in obtaining the job you’re looking for as well as helping to advance the career you want. However, it’s very important you do your research as not all IT certifications are made equal. Some certifiers are more reputable than others, while some require recertification sooner than others. Keep this in mind and be sure to weigh other factors as well, such as the cost of getting certified and the relevance of the skills being learned to your current job and future career path.