You have to understand that most of the IT certifications are your marketing tools. When added to your resume, it sounds more solid in the eyes of potential employers (see the example below). While most certifications aren't good for much except demonstrating to clients that your staff is well trained, there are a few certifications that still valuable. They allow the certified professional to show better education and more skills. They allow HR people to pretend to know what to look for. A few certifications have gained some broader respect. The reason many certs have fallen in value is the proliferation of "Boot Camp" training programs. These programs quickly prepare individuals to pass certification tests. As Andy Swenson, managing director for security and infrastructure at Tribridge in Tampa, Fla. indicates, "Pretty much it's «Instant Expert � Just add water,». "The problem is very little of the knowledge sticks after the test and there is no real world experience to back it up. Put them on a project and it is not likely to have a good outcome." Certifications that require real job experience, however, are standing up in value, Swenson says.
While certifications are always a good thing to see from a candidate, proof of knowledge is normally something that is required during the interview process. Just because a candidate passed the certification requirements does not necessarily prove anything other than they knew how to pass the tests.
Read more about certifications at our IT Certifications
You have to recognize two types of certifications. There are vendors certifications such as from Microsoft, Cisco, Sun Microsystems, Check Point, and there are vendor-neutral certifications.
To answer this question fully we want to use an e-mail of one of the IT engineers.
"IT Industry Certifications roughly follow a career path, and career paths will vary:
- PC Technician, Helpdesk Technician, Customer Support Engineer
- Network Administration
- Network Engineer
- Technical Manager
With this in mind, entry level certifications
A vendor specific hardware certifications related to specific hardware such as Hewlett Packard (HP) or Cisco hardware certifications that are model specific or types specific. For instance, HP offers warranty authorization certifications for all of the various models of printers, plotters, net servers, etc.
These types of certifications as well as the industry non-specific certifications such as A+, Network+, MCP, Linux, etc. are field entry-level certifications
. Also, any user certifications such as HEAT (or one of the other helpdesk programs) would be an entry-level certifications. In addition, there are users' certifications for user level programs such as MS Office, Outlook, or Star Office. The entry into the IT field is at this level. Sitting on the helpdesk, thorough knowledge of Excel is more helpful to your user than knowing how to setup a network server or Domain.
These certifications along with a year of real experience should get you a job that allows to work with network servers. This is basic Network Administrator stuff. Setup new users from templates, overseeing basic daily drudgework the senior guys don't have time for, report problems to them, etc.
Towards the advanced end of this category
and beginning of the Network Engineer category are advanced Microsoft and Cisco certifications. Mixing and dual certifications in Cisco, UNIX, and Microsoft training in WAN technologies becomes essential
. These allow, with experience and previously learned detail on operating systems and communications, the beginning of the design phase of the career. This phase should also include training or certifications in project management, a broadening of the knowledge base into telephony, programming, databases, budgeting, and personnel management, mixing O/S environments. After a few years in this environment you should be at the Network Engineering level
where you can plan, design, budget, and implement on a time schedule, larger and more complex networks.
At the Network Engineer level you should also begin training back out of the proprietary systems. Look to SCNP, SCNA, GIAC, and (ISC)² for training in security issues
for instance. It is only at this level where you can fully understand the implications/costs and business tradeoffs involved in these topics. A certain amount of specialization should occur again as in specializing in Database to Internet issues, advanced WAN technologies, security, crypto, etc.
After Network Engineer you reach the Technical Manager level
. You know you are here when you feel comfortable enough to tackle independent standalone projects such as manage the planning, design, budgeting and implementation of a new or complete replacement of a business system that is used by more than 500 people concurrently. Manage vendors, techs, the budget and your own VP's to implement a project that spans 6 months to 2 years. At this point certifications are not as important as the last project you managed or participated in
. But you will get some of the more specialized ones anyway such as your University degree, SCNA, CISSP, or GSNA. You should be comfortable with all aspects of business and technology to decide whether to go it alone and open a consulting business or a technical business to service a particular market segment such as computer forensics or systems for medical offices."
Let's quickly review the certifications that are valuable today.
This is the first certification almost everyone gets when first starting in the IT field. It is by far the most popular entry level certification. It certifies your knowledge in PC and server hardware and basics of the desktop operating systems.
Coming in right behind A+. This is usually the second certification that most IT Professionals acquire. As you may guess, it certifies your knowledge in Computer Networking.
MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional)
As one of the online bloggers said, this will probably always be number one for the next 1,000 years. There are over 2 million people with this certification. Now, there are variations of this certification
for different speacialties.
CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate)
This one comes in 2nd as most network administrator jobs right now are IP related and they are in more demand at higher professional level as compared to Microsoft Certifications since you must manage the network of local area networks joined in certain fashion.
MCPD (Microsoft Certified Professional Developer)
This has been a rocket since last year. Demand for these developers are up over 80% compared to last year, and does not seem to be slowing down any time soon. There are only a little over 3000 currently with the certification. If you are looking for a certification track, we would give this one a lot of consideration.
SCJP (SUN Certified Java Programmer)
Today, a Java credential is one of the most valuable credentials that a programmer or developer can have. About 70% of business entities' development projects are done through J2EE (Java technology).
MCTS SQL Server 2005/2008 (The Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist)
A lot of companies are switching to SQL Server 2005/2008, and SQL Server certified professionals are going to be in big demand. Companies of all sizes need these professionals to manage everything from planning a new database to managing and supporting existing databases.
RHCE (Red Hat Certified Engineer)
About 25% of enterprises will be running mission-critical business applications on the Linux open source operating system by 2009, according to a survey by Saugatuck Technology and Business Week Research Services. RHCE is called the 'crown jewel of Linux certifications'. In addition, 75% of world Internet servers are running on Linux.
Growth in Security+, which covers topics like communication security, infrastructure security, cryptography, access control and authentication, shows no signs of slowing down. Comptia's Security+ credential is a must have in today's world.
CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional)
One of the elite certifications. With CISSP's earning $94,070 a year on average, it is easy to see why this one is on the list. The exam lasts up to six hours and includes 250 multiple choice questions.