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3 Reasons Why Certifications Matter for IT Professionals

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If you're a modern-day technology professional, you may be wondering if certifications are really necessary. They are. Here's why.

The IT job market has changed. When I began my career, applicants usually needed a degree filled with years of courses built to teach the ins and outs of code, security, hardware, software, and so much more. But as this industry continued to expand and technology boomed alongside understanding and application, IT became a career for anyone—not just college grads.


Today, a great number of the experts on our site and many I work alongside are self-taught. They combined a desire to learn with a passion for this industry and devoted time to practicing and mastering their craft outside the traditional classroom.


But passion alone isn’t enough to make these self-taught individuals marketable to hiring managers. Hiring processes these days largely rely on searching resumes and cover letters for keywords before human resources will even take a look at an applicant. For those companies that still thumb through each application, seeing a lack of solid professional education can be a red flag. What’s the solution? Pad your resume with certifications. Why is this important?


1. Traditional Education Methods Have Gone By the Wayside

To give some perspective on how this career path has changed, consider in simple form the way society used to approach new technology. People would receive (or buy) a new gadget and carefully take their time to read instructions for a thorough understanding before they use the tool. These days, we dive in, head first. We rip open the packaging, toss the instructions aside, and begin exploring the tool’s capabilities, choosing to experiment through use instead of instructional learning. The same transition can be seen in the current technology workforce. This industry is teeming with individuals who have the drive and the ability to dive head first into new technologies and products, exploring along the way toward useful application of a technology.


When you bought a smartphone the first time, chances are the sales clerk told you to go home and play with the new phone. Only by spending time exploring apps and playing around with commands can you get a true feeling for how some technologies really work.


This approach is even more critical in certain avenues of the technology industry, like security. By exploring vulnerabilities in programs and products and testing penetration of databases through hands-on applications, an individual can gain a well-rounded and effective knowledge of best security practices. Simply writing “Self-taught security expert” on your resume, however, is not enough. It may be impressive that you taught yourself, but you need to provide hiring managers with a bit more information. Completing certifications that highlight your knowledge is the best way to showcase your abilities.


2. Clout and Physical Proof for Job Applications are Vital

If you show up for a job interview and your resume doesn’t have the educational background to support your expertise in this position or a list of certifications, I’ll likely put it in the “No” pile. The certifications provide a starting ground for evaluation and conversation to test where you really excel and what you know how to do. Yes, past experiences matter, but if you’re knowledgeable of technologies that aren’t listed under past job descriptions, that skill set goes unnoticed.


Armed with a wide variety of certifications, today’s technology applicants can walk confidently into job interviews with a laundry list of experience and capabilities written down on paper. When asked, they’ll also be equipped with the know-how to demonstrate the skills behind these certifications.


3. Continue Learning While Growing Your Network

To stay competitive in this industry, you need to always be learning. If you show up for a job interview with a large gap in continued education, the prospective employer may not believe that you’re interested enough to stay up to date with the latest technologies and practices. Invest in your continued education and expand your knowledgebase to prove just how dedicated you are to maintaining your expert status.


E-learning courses, certification prep, and certification exams can also help expand your network of tech professionals. No need for happy hour mixers, where you have to wear name tags and make small talk. Through online courses and training that push you toward certifications, you automatically rub virtual elbows with others in the industry interested in the same topics who may have similar roles, similar tech questions, and can provide you with technology help when you need it most.


Curious where to get started with certification courses? Check back with me Monday for a list of some of our most popular certification courses, built to help further your career.


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Expert Comment

by:Justin Pierce
Hi Gene,

Unfortunately, I ran smack into this wall. I made the mistake of thinking my traditional education and work experience would carry me through in this industry because I didn't factor in the most important of variables "change".

Being born in the 70's and growing up in the 80's (my generation is called The Net Generation)  I was taught that degrees were vital to grabbing a good job, and that work experience was proof of your skills. For the most part if you went to a 4 year college (prestigious or well-known was better), maintained a good GPA, had an inside connection to the company you wanted to work for, were willing to conform to a dress code, you were almost guaranteed a job. Not so anymore.

To keep things short, my work as a government contractor kept me deployed out with my customer (US Army Air Defense) for months at a time where I taught officers and soldiers how to be System Administrators and run tactical networks in austere environments. Needless to say, I didn't have much time to work on grabbing certifications, but when I found an hour to use, I worked on grabbing certs that were tied to universities. That was a mistake.

Why?

Because "change" happened and industry recognized certs became a thing. Certs became so important my colleagues and I were told that DoDD 8570 was being put into place and that we would have to grab a few certs to prove our skills or risk being dropped from the contracts we were working on (of course we all laughed). We laughed not because we were arrogant, but because the team was comprised of Warrant Officers, Navy Chiefs, and Army SFCs, who all had 20+ years each in specialized military training. Not too long after we were told about DoDD 8570, Sequestration took place and killed the contract. That left us guys with work experience and degrees scrambling to get a few certs that pertained to the fields we were already working in. It was very hard for many of us to train up, grab a cert, and apply for a job before the mortgage payment became an issue (it worked out for most of us).

Not the fairest of lessons to learn, but when has life ever been fair, or change been halted in its tracks?
6
 
LVL 17

Expert Comment

by:Kyle Santos
Justin's comment should be an article.  My kid is almost 2 and I'm thinking about how I can prepare him in the work force already so he has better advantages than I ever did!
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