IT Certifications – Hype or Necessity

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It is now around 2 decades since the IT certifications have made their appearance. Around then, certification was a surefire way to enter the growing IT sector. There was a purpose behind introduction of the certifications by various IT majors.

With the proliferation of IT, the company managers (who may not be so techie), always wanted that there should be some agency to assure the competency level of IT professionals they wanted to hire. Of course, the best judgment would be made by the vendors/originators of particular technology. So major IT giants like Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco, Linux, Sun etc. picked up this demand and defined in their own way the criteria, some definite curriculum and on-line exams, or practical exams or a combination of both and deputed some third party agencies to conduct / monitor it.

For a while after pursuing this original agenda, the franchisees probably saw a huge market in it and thus they engaged into aggressive marketing and targeted mostly the beginners, fresher and undergrads in the process overstating the importance of the certification. This has caused IT certifications to fall out of favour in the eye of many and thus industry’s perception of the certification has waned, is a fact.

However, this is not to say that the purpose of IT certification has failed. But due to a huge number of “certified” job seekers, without having any real exposure to the technologies flooding the market, the purpose seems to have been lost.

This article is an effort to identify some of the systemic problems and reasons for its downgrade and also to advise those, who are considering IT certifications, on when it could be useful to them –

Certification as a qualification –

Unfortunately, all the campaign material – brochures, hoardings, newspaper ads, teleads, presentations and seminars, tend to point to just one thing : Certification and the training needed to get “certified” is the only way for a career in IT field, either to get a good job or quick growth. This has given rise to a mad rush and the fact is that there are people who may hold as many as 5 to 6 certifications, all unrelated to each other, just for the sake of qualification.

They don’t test skills -

Most certification exams, being object oriented, test the ability of the candidates to memorize the answers rather than their understanding of the technology. The questions in those exams do not relate to the candidates’ experience or exposure but only to the attributes, aspects or facts about the subject / system. Moreover, those multiple choice type exams are not very difficult to pass. This is evident from high passing percentage of candidates with equally high score, but not able to crack questions asked on the practical track in the interviews. There have recently been stories about some 7 year and 13 year olds passing these exams. What does it indicate? Let alone the little IT background of these kids (commensurate with their age and educational level), but it is also hard to believe the kids could have analytical abilities as supposed to be tested by these exams. So that should drive the point home.

Exam crams, Brain dumps and Study guides –

Most vendors have published and publish regularly exam crams and exam manuals in the name of study material. Whereas if these exams are touted to test the ability to implement the concerned technology and skills, the material provided by the technology vendors themselves only provide the attributes and facts about their systems, and in most cases in question/answer form. They don’t contain any real world studies and cases, their analyses and the way the remedies were arrived at by the experts. This is an obvious pointer to the fact that has been discussed in the previous point. If it is not the vendor providing such study material, then the market is flooded with such third party material. As if this is not less the training/exam franchise centres are observed to be providing the dumps is an open secret. Or how come that the centres are offering guaranties of passing the examination and also keeping their word? Availability of such exam crams or brain dumps itself point to the flawed examination system, which is based on answering the questions based on the facts about the system and not the knowledge about their practical implementation or their use.

“Certified” faculties, not “experienced” –

Most of those franchise centres, if not all, advertise that they have “certified” trainers. But are they experienced? They keep mum. Nothing is far from truth. A “certified” faculty at the very most may pass on the techniques of solving the certification exams not the real knowledge about the system. How much regard do those vendor companies have about their own certification? If it were, then those IT majors simply would not have gone to top technical institutions’ campuses on their recruitment drives to pick the untrained / fresher engineers rather than picking from their own “authorized” centres. They have their own expensive training centres, they provide every facility to trainees, apart from fat salaries and perks for the training period which ranges anything from 3 months to 8 months. Would they not have saved money if they pick the so called “certified” candidates from their own “authorized” institutes?

Is certification a hype or necessity? –

The question is very relevant, since almost every certification requires substantial time, efforts and is highly expensive. Their life is short in the sense that they are valid only until a new version of the technology arrives in the market, and then you have to go for an upgrade. Click Here to visit an online survey conducted by “about.com”, which is part of The New York Times Company. There are many such surveys you may google and locate. Most of the surveys and preceding discussion should make one point clear – Certifications are not nearly as important to most of the employers as your ability to apply knowledge and skills that contributes to the organization; which of course comes through exposure to technology and practical oriented training coming directly from a trainer/faculty having experience from the real field, rather than targeting an exam oriented learning.

Notwithstanding this fact, well chosen certifications that reflect your skills and interests and reinforce your experience are definitely worth considering. With an overwhelming number of certifications, the current trend in fresher grads of pursuing certifications indiscriminately, just with intention to keep up with stream of new designations, is certainly hype. They are hot, mandatory, and lead to better job or pay package is a myth.

Another angle to look at the certifications may be – Use them as an opportunity to study further and enhance existing ability, which was exactly the purpose of certifications when they were introduced. Doing certification neither is about keeping pace on a treadmill and outsmart others by number of decorations you earn, nor perceiving them as license for getting a job, which they are actually not. An article was written by Warren E. Wyrostek in the year 2008, which you may Access Here . This article was countered by Prometric, a leading certifying franchise in another article, which you may Access Here .

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