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The Certification Debate

By Steve Jones,

Today's editorial was originally published on Aug 7, 2007. It is being re-run as Steve is on holiday. 

Is it worth getting certified? What do you get out of it? I've noticed a few debates on the site, and many threads asking about the exams, preparation, and even requirements for certification. Since we're primarily a learning site, publishing new information for you on a daily basis, the whole certified v real world experience question is interesting to me.

I read this interview with the CEO of New Horizons and it kind of annoyed me since the guy has an inherent bias towards certifications. Most of the New Horizon's classes are "official" classes from Microsoft designed and built to move you along the path to certification, not really to do your job.

And make both Microsoft and the training company money.

I have to admit that I have a bias here since I used to own part of a training company that delivers custom training in Orlando. However our intention in starting the training company was to help those with a need for SQL Server training that would teach them things needed in the real world, not just things needed to pass some test. There's a difference and I might not feel quite the same way if Microsoft offered an SSIS certification, an HA certification, a replication certification and more. Heck, I write the QODs, granted sometimes badly , but I know there's enough stuff to test people on in each of those areas.

I think the idea of certification is a good one and it has the potential to really help differentiate those with the ability to perform well in a job and those that won't do as well. However the testing has to be geared towards that and we need ways to differentiate the skills and abilities. Without some type of internships, residencies, and focus on some specialty, attaining some certification doesn't really help. And I'm not sure that many of us know what we want to do and are willing to invest 5 years in training in one area.

Most employers now realize that a certification, or at least most certifications, in the IT industry is one small measure of an employee's skills. It shows a commitment for someone with experience and shows a desire to work, but not necessarily skill, for those new to an area. It's usually a filter these days, and a low one at that, with no guarantee of employment.

I still argue that certification exams are a good thing IF you have experience. You can use them to bolster your claim of skills and show that you care something about your profession.

That's if you pass.

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