IT certifications are a big business. With prep courses, boot camps, training materials, and exam fees, obtaining certifications can be a costly endeavor especially if your employer doesn’t offer tuition assistance. For a job seeker, the question then is, do employers really care about IT certifications? Are they worth the time and money it costs to obtain them?
The Controversy Regarding IT Certifications
The importance of IT certifications depends on who you talk to. Organizations that provide training and conduct exams will tell you that they are absolutely necessary. HR professionals will tell you that certifications make their jobs easier by being a tool to validate candidate skillsets. Finally, technical professionals will say that while certifications can help, they are not a good gauge of a candidate’s knowledge base and that hands-on experience will always be more vital. So, what is a job seeker to do?
Employer Opinion: By the Numbers
First, it’s important to look at the numbers regarding IT certifications and employer value.
- 72% of employers require IT certifications for certain job openings.
- 67% of employers use certifications to measure a candidate’s willingness to work hard and meet a goal
- 60% of employers use certifications to confirm subject matter expertise.
In looking at the numbers, it’s important to point out that not only are certifications being used to validate skills but they are also used to determine a candidate’s drive.
IT Certifications: Let’s Get Personal
Secondly, IT certifications and their value are dependent on the person obtaining them. For example, if you are a low-level security professional and you obtain a CISSP it may be a huge benefit since it demonstrates capability. In certain parts of the IT industry, such as the security arena, certifications are quickly becoming essential.
Return on Investment (ROI)
When deciding on whether to pursue a certification, a job seeker must think about the ROI associated with the certification in question. Since certifications can run thousands of dollars, it’s important to determine if the investment will be able to be recouped in a reasonable time frame through salary improvement or increased opportunity. This greatly depends on your industry, your experience, your geographic location, and future career goals.
Finally, when deciding if a certification is best for you, research is key. One good practice is to look at the LinkedIn profiles. View the profiles of professionals who have the jobs you are aiming for and see what their certifications are. View open job postings to help you get a better idea of required certifications versus desired or preferred certifications. When in doubt, consult a recruiter, preferably one that specializes in your field, to get an idea of what certifications are setting candidates apart in the current market.