Certification: Sharpening your competitive edge

Some see certification as a sure-fire path to success, but there is still no substitute for experience.

If you believe the buzz, certification is a sure-fire way for networking professionals to boost their salary and marketability. But according to experts in IT career counseling and test-taking, there is still no substitute for experience.

"Certification will definitely give you a competitive edge," says Jackie Connor, a recruiter at Jesse Garon Associates in Paramus, NJ. According to Connor, the Jesse Garon agency fills an average of about 500 IT positions at any given moment in time. "What we're seeing," she says "is that companies like certification credentials but what they really want is someone with expert knowledge and hands-on skills."

The observation is borne out by a poll of 1400 chief information officers (CIOs) conducted last fall by high-tech headhunters RHI Consulting. According to RHIC, approximately 44% of the CIOs surveyed said that certification was "somewhat important" for advancement in a networking career and 39% said that it was "very important." Roughly 16% said certification was unimportant.

The CIOs reported that the most valuable networking certifications were: MCSE (Microsoft certified systems engineer, CCIE (Cisco certified internetwork expert), CNE (certified NetWare engineer), MCSD (Microsoft certified solution developer), OCP (Oracle certified professional), and A+ Certification.

It's easy to see why employers like certification, particularly when it comes to networking skills. "It's the one neutral benchmark that shows that job candidates can independently perform certain tasks," notes Kevin Brice, president of MeasureUp, an on-line IT certification exam simulation site.

But Brice warns that certification alone isn't enough to accelerate a networking technician or administrator's climb up a career ladder. "You need to work with the technology directly and not just target the material on the test."

Cohodas is a freelance journalist in Newburyport, MA.


This was first published in July 2000

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