9 great advantages of technical certifications

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I love being technical, and at least for the foreseeable future, I would like to stay that way. Is it worth the time and money to get a technical certification?

Yes it is and this is why.

I receive at least one question a week relating to this specific topic. Knowing that this was an important topic to write about, I serendipitously was introduced to Tom Woodring, the co-founder of Boss CBT, and thought it was time to bring this question to the forefront.

I asked Tom his thoughts on the importance of studying and receiving a certification in your area of expertise. Tom said that the right certification can provide value in many ways, including the following:

1. Most obvious is that the certification itself is a strong credential that helps illustrate your knowledge in a specific technology.
2. By their nature, certifications are generally designed in a way that provide a wide variety of topics. When using a technology in the workplace, you tend to always use the same set of configuration options, commands, and procedures. The reason for this is twofold. First, it’s what you know, so why mess with success. Second, your technical environment tends to drive you toward specific types of product usages and automations. As a result, it becomes very hard to develop an expertise in all features/options within the technology.
3. Certification preparation can provide the motivation needed to set aside the time and energy needed to truly study a topic.
4. If you are currently knowledgeable in the topic, studying for a certification can raise your conceptual understanding of the technology.
5. The organization through which you received your certification training is generally an ongoing source of information, networking, and career development.
6. Many certifications require a specified amount of continuing education to maintain your certification. This ongoing educational requirement provides additional motivation to keep current on your industry.
7. The best certification training provides not only the “what” and the “how”, but also the “why”. This “why” helps provide insights into the rationale behind the creation of seemingly unneeded or less obvious product features.
8. After completing your certification, your training/study materials can be a great technical reference and job-aid to assist you in your daily work.
9. Very often certification training includes the use of hands-on and/or simulated instruction. This ability to play with the technology in a non-production environment allows you to try new things and experiment with the technologies without the worry of causing harm to your production environment.

In addition, describing the many benefits of pursuing a technical certification, Tom went on to say that the sooner you take the certification the better. The reason was four fold:

• The sooner you have the knowledge, the sooner you can use it in the work place.
• The sooner you have your certification, the sooner you can make money because of it.
• As the technologies get more complex over time, there is the potential that the certification exams will also get more complex.
• Having an understanding of the technology’s technical foundation provides a great basis for a deeper understanding of that technology as it gets more complex. (This last item is further described below)

Tom gave a specific example of this last bullet point using Cisco routers, one of the areas where his company provides certification training. He said that the data communication industry is increasingly employing both device and network virtualization to provide innovative solutions. With each instance of abstraction, the difficulty in understanding/comprehension increases significantly. Without a solid skill set of networking fundamentals, one faces an even steeper uphill battle of staying current in the future.

In closing, having spent many years in IT management as a hiring manager of both consultants and permanent employees, is when looking through piles of resumes trying to find candidates to interview, all other things being equal (years of experience, job history, etc.), I, and many other managers, tended to give more weight to the people who had strong credentials/certifications in the needed technology. I did this for two primary reasons. First, because having the certification gave me some level of comfort that they knew the technology. Second, and quite frankly more important than the first, was that they cared enough about their profession and future career growth that they were willing to spend the time, money, and effort to maximize their professional knowledge, skill, and marketability.

Tom Woodring and his company Boss CBT can be found at www.bosscbt.tv. His company specializes in Cisco Certification Training for Network Administrators.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at
eric@ManagerMechanics.com
or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to grow.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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