by Richard Chang
If you happened to be browsing IT Jobs section on a major newspaper or famous career web site, you will
easily come across one of these fancy terms MCSE, MCP, CCNA, CCNP, OCP, etc. These are all abbreviations
for the hotly contested subject that we are about to discuss today - The Real Value of IT Certifications
Information systems today play a key role in nearly every business in this industrialized world.
Certification training provides a blueprint for IT professionals to plan, implement and manage
those information systems. Over the past couple years; the number of certified individuals has
increased dramatically. For example, according to the latest figures the number of MCSE's is about
to break the 400,000 barrier (if it hasn't already).
On the other hand, the number of vendors who have introduced certification for their various
platforms and applications. Here's a fresh quote from the new rival of Cisco System - Juniper
"Juniper Networks, Inc. (Nasdaq JNPR), a leading provider of Internet hardware and software
systems, today announced the introduction of the Juniper Networks Technical Certification Program
(TCP), the first such program tailor-made for Internet professionals in large-scale Internet Service
Provider (ISP) environments."
Juniper is just the latest entry in the crowded fray of vendor certification, joining popular programs
from Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle and Novell, among others. The list of vendors who offer certifications
increase on an almost daily basis.
What come together with the rapid growth of the IT certification market are the questions for the real
value of these IT certification.
Here are the most common ones:
1. How much should I be making if I have this certification?
2. Could I get this certification even if I am no experience at all?
3. What certification(s) should I choose?
We will go over these questions in the following sections.
How IT certifications can really help you?
- People with zero IT experience
For people with zero IT experience, mostly new graduates and people who would like to switch
from another field to IT. A common barrier that they will find is that most company would require
work experience. Well, I understand that even a senior engineer would have to start from zero IT
experience when he first started. However, in order to persuade the HR manager, a IT certification
would be a great tool to use to knock down this no-experience barrier. As quick reality-check to the
common question 1 posted above, you won't be making a fancy salary just because you get a certification.
Be prepared to start from the entry-level IT positions and combine your work experience with what you
learned from certifications. This would be the right way to built up your portfolio.
- For people with some IT experience
If you already have some IT experience, one common problem people will face is the bottleneck in your
career after you have been working in the same position for more than 2-3 years. In most cases, it makes
the most sense to seek for an certification in the field that you are working on currently. Another nice
thing for this approach is that you could ask the employer to sponsor you as these IT certifications
tends to get more and more expensive. In this way, you have a great excuse to bring it to your
employer's attention that you finally get the IT certification - translated to " I need a raise".
The right attitude to get that magical piece of paper
After you decided to start taking an IT certification, one thing you should keep in
mind a good attitude to get that magical piece of paper. There are commercials saying
that they can help you get a IT certification in 5 days even if you have no experience
at all. That actually won't help you too much. Employers aren't just paying for a piece of paper, they
are paying for what you can do. You must not only be able to do the job assigned; you must do it to meet
high standards, within budget and on time. While paper certifications have made the whole thing much
more confusing, your ability to perform the job well is still the bottom line. All the skills tested
in certification exams (product knowledge, logical thinking, structured approach to problems) are
necessary, and will be found helpful once you are in the real-world work environment.
Recommendations of the hot IT certifications
If you're interested in obtaining certification to give your career a boost or validate your IT skills,
here are some hot programs worth considering:
Cisco is the leader in the world of Networking. Therefore, Cisco certifications would be a great choice
for anyone who would like to work with networks. You will find the certification to be helpful either in
dealing with a big corporation's LAN(local area network) or configuring a WAN( wide area network) in an
ISP environment. Another plus point for Cisco certifications is that Cisco does a job on keeping the
quality of their exams so that certified professionals do get great level of respect in the industry.
One good example would be their CCIE certification, which is almost an guarantee and 6-figure salary.
Who should take it: Anyone who is interested in networking technologies
Certifications Offered: CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate), CCNP (Cisco Certified Network
Professional), CCDA (Cisco Certified Design Associate),CCDP (Cisco Certified Design Professional),
CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert)
Similar to Cisco, Oracle is the leading company for their robust database product. DBA is just
another hot position to take because of its high average salary. This can be proved by running a
simple search on dice.com or monster.com.
Who should take it: Anyone who feel comfortable with databases.
OCP DBO Oracle Certified Professional -- Database Operator
OCP DBA Oracle Certified Professional -- Database Administrator
OCP AD Oracle Certified Professional -- Application Developer
Microsoft certifications are probably the most widely -known ones among all the IT
certifications. Microsoft did an impressive job on the marketing of their certifications.
One problem that comes together with the popularity is the control issue that Microsoft
has to face. If we look at Microsoft's MCSE program, there are almost 400,000 IT professionals who
currently hold it, with many thousands more in the pipeline. In fact, with this many MCSEs, you could
argue that the MCSE is entirely too popular and that's where the term "paper MSCE" was coming from.
However, Microsoft exams are perfect choices for new -comers in the IT industry since they
are comparatively easier and cover a lot of the fundamental technologies. Also, because of
the widely use of Microsoft products, people who have Microsoft certificates do have a
bigger job pool to choose from.
Who should take it: Anyone who have nothing against Microsoft.
MCP Microsoft Certified Professional
MCP+I Microsoft Certified Professional+ Internet
MCSE Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer
MCSD Microsoft Certified Solution Developer
After all, once you decide to take IT certifications as your career option combined with the right
attitude and hard study, you will surely be rewarded with all the effort that you put in. Good luck!
Other Helpful links for IT certifications:
http://www.boson.com - Probably the most popular simulation exams.
http://www.brainbuzz.com - Great place for technical documents and all sorts of interesting bulletin board.
http://www.bestwebbuys.com - A free service for you to compare book prices online, especially all certification-related books tends to be pretty expensive.
http://www.2test.com - Prometric's online exam registration site.
http://www.vue.com - Virtual University Enterprises, another choice for register exams online
Cisco®, Cisco Systems®, CCDATM, CCNATM
, CCDPTM, CCNPTM, CCIETM
, and the Cisco Systems logo and the CCIE logo
are trademarks or registered trademarks of Cisco Systems, Inc. in the United States and certain other
countries. All other trademarks belong to their respective owners.
About the author:
Graduated from Claremont Graduate University, Richard Chang
is working as a senior network engineer
in an ISP envirionment and is currently preparing for his CCIE lab exam. Please feel free to contact
him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you happened to be around the LA metro area and are interested in
setting up a Cisco study group.