As the IT job market increases, the need to stand out among the competition also increases. Attaining a specialized certification has become a very common way for technology professionals to differentiate themselves against the job pool.
Determining whether an IT certification will be worth it for you depends on several factors. Outlined below is a list of the most important considerations – and a list of the most sought-after certifications by employers. Choose carefully to get the biggest bang for your buck.
Which ones do you really NEED?
There are many different IT certifications; and some may seem similar. The number one way to evaluate which one is right for you is to outline your current job duties and what future skills you think you will need in your career. Here is a list of the most common certifications companies are asking for in a candidate:
- Project Management Professional (PMP) – This certification is super common, but it is geared toward the senior level person. Some companies even require it for any project management role. The PMP signifies that you speak and understand the global language of project management and connects you to a community of professionals, organizations and experts worldwide.
- Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) – ScrumMaster jobs require this certification. And it can sometimes be required for project management roles. This certification is designed to give professionals getting started as Scrum practitioners an understanding of the project management methodology.
- Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) – If you’re someone who is comfortable with the “business side” of projects, you are probably the right person to aspire to achieve a CSPO certification. As a CSPO, you create the product vision, order the product backlog and make sure the best possible job is done to delight the customer.
- CCNA Routing and Switching certification – This is an associate-level Cisco-specific certification. This certification is good for cyber security positions, but it’s really for all careers in networking. The CCNA will not only prepare you with the knowledge of foundational technologies, but ensure you stay relevant with skill sets needed for the adoption of next generation technologies.
- CCNP Routing and Switching certification – The is a professional-level Cisco-specific certification with the CCNA as a prerequisite. This certification validates the ability to plan, implement, verify and troubleshoot local and wide-area enterprise networks and work collaboratively with specialists on advanced security, voice, wireless and video solutions.
- ITIL v3 Foundation – This certification introduces candidates to the key elements, concepts and terminology found in ITIL (formerly an acronym for Information Technology Infrastructure Library). We haven’t seen many candidates with this certification, but it can benefit anyone who has an interest in IT service management
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) – This certification validates you have the skills needed to run a highly efficient and modern data center, identity management, systems management, virtualization, storage and networking. MCSE is a highly valued certification in the IT world.
- Certified Ethical Hacker – A certified ethical hacker is a skilled professional who understands and knows how to look for weaknesses and vulnerabilities in target systems and uses the same knowledge and tools as a malicious hacker, but in a lawful and legitimate manner to assess the security posture of a target system(s). Being certified in this area is good for cyber security positions.
How much will it benefit you and your career?
Before jumping into certification courses, do a little research. Scan forums, articles and tech-related chat rooms to discover any articles or discussions about the certifications. Often, other people have the same questions and concerns as you do. Speaking with individuals who have dealt with the certifications first hand may be the best source of knowledge. If possible, ask about the preparation and time commitment involved with the process, and get their opinion on the perceived benefits.
Is the cost justified?
Certification tests aren’t cheap, so it only makes sense to take them if you know the ends justify the means, so to speak. Some websites and publications such as Dice.com publish research outlining which certifications are most in demand and an average salary of individuals who have those certifications. Once you determine the cost of the test and have an average salary estimate, you can quickly determine your return on investment.
Can you learn from it?
While a salary bump is always a great benefit, the main goal of attaining a tech certification should be about increasing your skillset. Simply getting a certification and not actually putting it to good use will eventually render the certification obsolete. Hiring managers don’t just look for certifications on resumes, they look for individuals who have the certifications and can demonstrate mastery of those skills. Proving to employers that the certification is more than just a few words on paper is the key to making the most of your certification.
Focus your efforts on completing certification programs that will directly benefit you and grow your skills as opposed to racking up certifications simply to put them on your resume. Whether you have a certification or not, we have open IT positions. Search our open jobs and find a great fit for you!