Will the Real Value of Certification Please Stand Up

I’ve heard some different perspectives on what the value of certification means. The value doesn’t come from just one angle, such as the price you pay for something. That’s great if all things are equal,but as most of you know it’s not equal among all certifications. I think the rigor of what it takes to achieve a certification also stress the difficultyand technical prowess required for its achievement.

For me personally, the value of certification is directly correlated to the recognition, respect, rewards, career advancement, and technical skills that come with achieving a higher level of certification. My certification should also enable me to better understand my job, be more valuable to my employers, and be able to quickly interact with other skilled members of an IT project team where I’m handling network administration, server or a technology deployment, or providing services to clients as part of IT consulting. 

I don’t mind paying a bit more for a certification if I think it’s valuable. I paid dearly for my MBA, more so than I did for my undergraduate degree. I haven’t seen the career advancement or all the money that usually comes with it, but I know I’m more competent in marketing, finance, and business development than I was in 2001, when I got my MBA from University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

You could argue that the certification will payoff in the long run, but I would argue that a certification is just one of the factors in advancing your career. It’s got a higher weight attached to it, more so than other factors,but still one of many significant factors to consider in moving your IT career forward. Nonetheless, I’ve found my certifications in MCSE in NT4 and Windows 2000 to have helped me get jobs that I wouldn’t have thought of prior to earning my certification. While I was managing the PC Systems group at Royal Bank of Canada – Dominion Securities (RBCDS), I got my MCSE in NT4. A few months after that, Microsoft contacted me looking for MCSE’s towork as dedicated Technical Account Managers(TAMs) in the New York City area to help their enterprise accounts ride out the Y2K scare in 1999. So, I left Wall Street and RBCDS to go work in the trenches within the Microsoft Enterprise Premier Support business in Product Support Services (PSS). I’m happy I got that opportunity, as it opened up other opportunities for me within Microsoft, such as getting my MBA, and working on MSDN Webcasts and now the MCP program.

I can’t complain. I think Microsoft has done quite a few things in the last few years to fight the perception that there is no value in certification, such as shutting down the online sites that sell test answers,cracking down on cheating, and making the testing more challenging. One area that I’m super excited about is what we’re doing around tasked based testing. Microsoft Learned showcased a really cool project this summer to internal stakeholders, where certifications will be tasked based so that you have to prove you can do the required tasks, whether it’s setup active directory, a DHCP server, setup a RIS server, or build an application or website. If we show the MCP candidate what right looks like, they’ll be able to perform to that standard every time, rather than just memorizing a bunch of answers for a test. I think tasked based certification will get the MCP candidate more ready for performing at a higher level on the job, and quickly getting the respect and admiration of their peers and employers. This for me falls squarely in the realm of increasing the value of certification.

If I had to do it all over again, would I have spent the time, money, and effort to get certified? You bet. My certification is valuable, and I know it. It’s worth keeping it updated. I’m going to work on my upgrade to Windows Server 2003 over the next few months, and then take th eupgrade path to Windows Server 2008 when it comes out.

I’ve love to hear your thoughts on if you feel your certifications in Microsoft, Novell, Red Hat, etc. are valuable, and what the value of certification means  to you. You can also reach me directly at georgeop@microsoft.com or just post you rcomments here.


George, MCSE NT4/Windows 2000

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Comments (5)
  1. Wayne Anderson says:

    Hey george, I actaully wrote a post on this, although from a slightly different perspective.  At the time, I was feeling very frusterated with the volume of folks out there asking which of these [list of 20] certifications to pursue.


    Hope you find this helpful.

  2. I hear what you’re saying. The certification itself is not a means to an end,but rather one of many factors that help you become successfule in your chosen profession. I’m an MCSE in Windows NT4/2000 and see it as being valuable to me in what I used to do and will do in the future… Which is and will be again one day…network adminstration/upgrades.

  3. Wayne Anderson says:

    Yeah, and I think that the value of certification is really a variable thing that is dependant on the career stage and focus of the individual.  For example, an entry level person who has worked through college and has some windows experience to backup coursework but needs a way to show it to an employer will see a far greater relative value in an MCSE for thier career.

    On the other hand, someone like myself who has been in the industry for a while, has a job, h as a cert collection is going to see a smaller relative value in a particular certification.  Certifications in my case are targetted forays into a particular space.  I need development in an area.  A client needs me to work with a specific technology so I need to train myself if I am not as sharp as I need to be and show the client I have that training.

    Going into a room of 30 professionals from any given company and asking waht the real value of certification is, you are likely to get 30 different answers.

    I will absolutely concede however that listed certifications will definitely get you more recruiter interest.  I have not looked for a job on an active basis in almost two years and since adding my MCSE and Exchange-related certifications to my online resumes as part of my regular update process, I almost cannot start Outlook without geting a couple of interview requests.

  4. I had a chance to have dinner with Wayne last night and chat about certification. Thank you Wayne, It was very helpful for me. If any MCPs are visiting Microsoft or in the Redmond area, email or call me. You can reach me here at georgeop@microsoft.com or (425) 707-6912.

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