Mistakes You Don't Have To Make,
Failing To Ascertain A Certification's Practical Applications
A key part of selecting a certification is to research its practical
value. Without doing this homework, you won't know the
real-world value of the program. What the certification
sponsor says may indicate that you've found the perfect
match between your goals and a certification program, but
that's only one part of the picture. And it's an understandably
On paper, the certification may appear to provide the
perfect entree to that new technology you've been coveting.
The curriculum looks sound, and your experience might
even get an exam or two waived. But what do people who've
been through it report? Has it helped them achieve what
they intended? Did it fall short of what was promised?
How do potential employers react to the certification?
Do employers shrug their shoulders and say, "So what?"
or nod approvingly?
The only way to answer these questions is to contact people
who know something about the program and ask them. Potential
sources include professionals who have earned the certification,
career counselors, recruiters, and coworkers you trust.
Seek them out online, through the certification sponsor,
and/or through professional organizations you belong to.
If your intention is to boost your position at your current
place of employment, ask your boss what she thinks about
it. Before committing to any certification program, gather
as much independent information about it as you can. And continue
until you're certain that the certification has practical
value that is relevant to your expectations.
Speaking of expectations, what are yours? Do you anticipate
that a significant career boost will result from gaining the
certification of your choice? Are you planning on earning
more money? Incrementing your level of expertise?
Moving into a new specialty? Switching to a different
(and better) job? If so, you've got lots
All of these goals are, indeed, possible outcomes
of certification. However, it's important to remember
that certification isn't a guaranteed cure-all for
what ails your career. If your boss is a jerk, getting
certified won't change him. It may, however, enable
you to find employment elsewhere with a boss who has more
positive attributes. Or it might serve as an impetus to go
independent and become your own boss. (Of course,
if the boss is still a jerk, then what are you going to
Similarly, the skills you add in the course of earning
a network management certification will improve your ability
to keep a large network up and running, but won't transform
it into a stress-free job. And that network management
certification won't do a thing for your Visual Basic programming
bill rate or get you a date. So to avoid unnecessary disappointment,
identify and assess your expectations first. Then line them
up against what a particular certification has to offer.
What You Know
I think some computer professionals believe that these certifications
alone will guarantee employment and command a high salary,
overlooking the fact that the individual lacks significant work
experience. This may be because of the salary surveys that say
a person with 0 to 2 years experience with an MCSE, for example,
can make $50,000. This is very attractive because that's
without a four-year college degree. The Certified Novell
Engineer certifications of past years showed that many people
became certified engineers but lacked the basics of computer
background and architecture, mainly hardware, and were
unable to perform such basic tasks as component-level troubleshooting
and repair. This has been a scar for computer certifications
Unfortunately, if you're sorely underqualified even
though you're certified, that will probably come out
in a painful interview with another engineer, or even worse,
revealed on the job when you can't perform to expectations.
Cameron Brandon, MCSE, CNE, CNA,
A+ Certified, MCPS/Internet Systems
Back to Beginning