Do Your Certifications Stack Up?

When nearly 40 percent of companies say that new IT grads are insufficiently prepared to do their jobs, proof that you’ve got appropriate training is essential. Getting an information technology degree is still a basic necessity, but you also need the right certifications to show that you have the skills employers need.

IT certifications have become a contradictory and debated topic lately. The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) says that employers tend to rely heavily on certifications when hiring IT personnel. Almost two-thirds of hiring managers rated certifications as having “extremely high or high value in validating skills and expertise.” However, 80 percent of HR specialists thought that IT certifications would “grow in usefulness and importance” over the next two years.

That said, according to IT research firm Foote Partners, the pay premium that 225 certified skills provide has been declining for years, while the premium of 241 non-certified skills has been on the rise.

Seem like a contradiction? It isn’t, really. Certifications may have become a just a foot in the door, rather than part of a professional checklist.

According to Foote, IT departments are primarily focused on obtaining a workforce with the right skills, and certifications can help prove that, whether directly to a hiring manager or to a third party outsourcer that wants an easy way to demonstrate the expertise of its personnel.

Even if the pay increase from certifications has declined, it will be difficult to get many IT jobs without the appropriate certifications trailing your name. Often it’s no certification, no job.

Also, according to Foote, not all of the certifications dropped in earning power. Some gained, including several of the certifications that CompTIA offers, including Network+ (network technician), Server+, and Linux+. And none of CompTIA’s certifications were among the group with significant declines in market value. In that organization’s experience, it could be that certification seems more important than ever.

For those that want to maximize their market opportunities, the best strategy is to obtain a proper mix of the most demanded certified and non-certified skills to impress employers. Some of the top certifications include those in networking and communications, systems administration and engineering, security, and database management. Such applications development and programming language certifications as Sun Certified Enterprise Architect for Java Platform, IBM Certified Solutions Developer WebSphere, and BEA Certified Architect – SOA Enterprise Architecture are among those that bring high premiums to employers. So do Project Management Professional and Master IT Certified Architect.

The Foote report also lists top non-certified skills, including many SAP application areas, agile programming, Java, Microsoft .NET, WebSphere, storage area networking, business intelligence, and ERP.

Of course, all your preparation and education is of little value if you don’t appropriately document your skills and experience on your resume.

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