none
Are IT certifications worth it? RRS feed

  • Question

  • I have multiple IT certifications, and these days they appear to mean nothing to an employer.

    MS go one about how employers value their certs. But, I don't see any evidence to support this.

    In fact, I don't think that MS are doing enough to maintain the value of their certs.

    The IT industry in the UK is poorly paid and it is becoming an undervalued sector.

    How can this be? Especially when everyone is so reliant on IT!!

    Something is wrong somewhere. Employers don't seem to care how much knowledge you have.

    It's all about how little they can get you for.

    Plumbers, Carpenters, Bricklayers, Tiling people can all earn more than your certed IT worker.

    For example : It used to cost around £1000-£1200 to attend a week long MOC Instructor lead course. Multiply that by around seven and add in the exams fees and you could be looking at around £9-10k for a MCSE.

    In comparison an NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) in any Construction trade (Plumbing, Carpentry, Plastering, Electrician) would only cost you £3-£4k. After that you would have a trade for life and you could work when and where you want. It will also pay around the same or if not more than your certed IT worker. And you don't have to renew the cert or keep trying to gain new ones for the rest of your career.

    Something need to change in the IT sector because the certifications are becoming like the McDonalds employee stars to working on the tills.

    An IT employee used to mean something. Now all we have become are people that sit in front of an automated box. Waving a bit of meaningless paper. That's costs around £99 a sitting.


    • Edited by midi25 Sunday, January 19, 2014 10:08 PM
    Sunday, January 19, 2014 10:06 PM

Answers

  • Hi, midi25.

    The question you are asking (Are certifications worth it?) is a request for opinions so I will offer mine.

    My answer is: Yes, usually.

    Based on your statements above, it seems you feel your employer is not valuing your certifications or anyone else's certifications where you work. Perhaps they have become too comfortable with you working for them and mistakenly assume you will always be there for them. Perhaps they mistakenly feel your job is easily replaced. I don't/can't know. However, you simply cannot make blanket statements that all employers do not appreciate their employees who earn certifications.

    Most IT workers (novice and experienced) who want their resumes to float to the top of the stack for consideration of an interview or promotion will become certified and maintain it. You stated that you have several certifications; perhaps you did this as well. When you were earning those certifications, you obviously believed that they had value or else you wouldn't have earned them. What changed?

    Another example: in order for companies to be Microsoft partners, they need to maintain a certain number of certified employees to keep it. As well, many employees do respect the value of their employees when they update their certifications. Some even offer certification bonuses. Many make it part of their yearly goals (KRAs). As well, many employers recognize that a current certified employee is also one who will have an easier time making the move to a higher-paying position somewhere else. Does your employer consider certifications when hiring new staff members? That's a tell if they mean something at your organization.

    Yes, Microsoft does "go on" about the value of certification and, yes, they are the ones selling the exams. Thankfully, they are not charging as much as other IT exams. For example, Oracle Java exams in the US cost $250 while MS exams cost $150. That's not including all the exam discounts that Microsoft also offers, like their Second Shot program: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/second-shot.aspx

    Here is a 2007 (albeit old) PDF document that Microsoft offers stating the value of certification. Note that a quick Google search for "value of certification" brings up several articles and blogs - most of which are not Microsoft related or even IT-related:
    http://download.microsoft.com/download/e/0/0/e00405a0-1130-47ba-b628-fa2bd0d25d50/MSLEARNING/Value%20of%20Certification%20-%20English%20version.pdf

    I am a consultant and a MCT trainer. I have to maintain my certifications or else Microsoft will not let me renew my annual MCT certification, nor will they allow me to teach the expensive MOC courses you mentioned above.

    By the way, you do not have to take these expensive training courses to be come certified, especially if your employer is not helping you with the costs - I wouldn't. Instead, consider the free online training at http://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com or pick up a current study book from an online book store.

    I am surprised by your statement about the UK undervaluing certification and their IT workers. Usually, good IT workers are hard to find and employers want to keep them. They are usually willing to pay a competitive rate. However, I don't work in the UK so I have no idea.

    I worked for a large banking organization as a junior programmer over 15 years ago. When I told them I wished to become certified, they balked and refused to pay for any training, study materials, or the exams. I soon left and went to a company that did value them. My income more than doubled in just two years.

    When do I say No to your question? I believe keeping certifications current is of little use to IT workers who will soon be retiring and for those considering a change from IT work to something completely different.

    You are correct that many of the trades can pay quite a bit of money after learning the trade. However, even they have to stay up to date with the latest technologies. They also have trade shows and sometimes have to certify with vendors to install the latest products. For example, a roofer must become certified to install certain types of steel roofing. They also have to apply and keep licenses, insurance, and have their work certified by local building inspectors for every job they complete. As well, these people work very hard and many wear out their bodies by the time they reach their 50s or 60s. Whether you work in IT, as a tradesman, or in any other job role, employers will always try to pay you as little as they have to keep you for profit reasons. That's business.

    You bring up an interesting point though. We can't all be doctors, lawyers, or IT professionals and there is no shame in working the trades. Unfortunately, it sometimes seems that society pushes us to think so. Mike Rowe (from TV's Dirty Jobs) has an interesting theory about this and has been promoting the younger generation to reconsider taking up professional trades. Check out his site:
    http://profoundlydisconnected.com/

    I don't know about a job as "sitting in front of an automated box." Most IT professionals have a huge list of responsibilities with impossible deadlines. I had a really boring IT job (at that bank) and I couldn't take it; I looked for more interesting work.

    I wouldn't call a certification a "meaningless piece of paper" like I wouldn't call dollar bills meaningless paper. Both are earned and are valued by those in our field - especially by those that don't have them yet!

    I wish you the best.


    Best wishes, Davin Mickelson

    Monday, January 20, 2014 4:25 AM
    Answerer

All replies

  • I have multiple IT certifications, and these days they appear to mean nothing to an employer.

    MS go one about how employers value their certs. But, I don't see any evidence to support this.

    In fact, I don't think that MS are doing enough to maintain the value of their certs.

    The IT industry in the UK is poorly paid and it is becoming an undervalued sector.

    How can this be? Especially when everyone is so reliant on IT!!

    Something is wrong somewhere. Employers don't seem to care how much knowledge you have.

    It's all about how little they can get you for.

    Plumbers, Carpenters, Bricklayers, Tiling people can all earn more than your certed IT worker.

    For example : It used to cost around £1000-£1200 to attend a week long MOC Instructor lead course. Multiply that by around seven and add in the exams fees and you could be looking at around £9-10k for a MCSE.

    In comparison an NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) in any Construction trade (Plumbing, Carpentry, Plastering, Electrician) would only cost you £3-£4k. After that you would have a trade for life and you could work when and where you want. It will also pay around the same or if not more than your certed IT worker. And you don't have to renew the cert or keep trying to gain new ones for the rest of your career.

    Something need to change in the IT sector because the certifications are becoming like the McDonalds employee stars to making working on the tills.

    An IT employee used to mean something. Now all we have become are people that sit in front of an automated box. Waving a bit of meaningless paper. That's costs around £99 a sitting.

    The only people that are making the money are the ones that are selling all this stuff to people. IT Hardware and Software sellers are making 2 - 3 x what an so called MS Certer Engineer is.

    Sunday, January 19, 2014 10:14 PM
  • Hi, midi25.

    The question you are asking (Are certifications worth it?) is a request for opinions so I will offer mine.

    My answer is: Yes, usually.

    Based on your statements above, it seems you feel your employer is not valuing your certifications or anyone else's certifications where you work. Perhaps they have become too comfortable with you working for them and mistakenly assume you will always be there for them. Perhaps they mistakenly feel your job is easily replaced. I don't/can't know. However, you simply cannot make blanket statements that all employers do not appreciate their employees who earn certifications.

    Most IT workers (novice and experienced) who want their resumes to float to the top of the stack for consideration of an interview or promotion will become certified and maintain it. You stated that you have several certifications; perhaps you did this as well. When you were earning those certifications, you obviously believed that they had value or else you wouldn't have earned them. What changed?

    Another example: in order for companies to be Microsoft partners, they need to maintain a certain number of certified employees to keep it. As well, many employees do respect the value of their employees when they update their certifications. Some even offer certification bonuses. Many make it part of their yearly goals (KRAs). As well, many employers recognize that a current certified employee is also one who will have an easier time making the move to a higher-paying position somewhere else. Does your employer consider certifications when hiring new staff members? That's a tell if they mean something at your organization.

    Yes, Microsoft does "go on" about the value of certification and, yes, they are the ones selling the exams. Thankfully, they are not charging as much as other IT exams. For example, Oracle Java exams in the US cost $250 while MS exams cost $150. That's not including all the exam discounts that Microsoft also offers, like their Second Shot program: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/second-shot.aspx

    Here is a 2007 (albeit old) PDF document that Microsoft offers stating the value of certification. Note that a quick Google search for "value of certification" brings up several articles and blogs - most of which are not Microsoft related or even IT-related:
    http://download.microsoft.com/download/e/0/0/e00405a0-1130-47ba-b628-fa2bd0d25d50/MSLEARNING/Value%20of%20Certification%20-%20English%20version.pdf

    I am a consultant and a MCT trainer. I have to maintain my certifications or else Microsoft will not let me renew my annual MCT certification, nor will they allow me to teach the expensive MOC courses you mentioned above.

    By the way, you do not have to take these expensive training courses to be come certified, especially if your employer is not helping you with the costs - I wouldn't. Instead, consider the free online training at http://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com or pick up a current study book from an online book store.

    I am surprised by your statement about the UK undervaluing certification and their IT workers. Usually, good IT workers are hard to find and employers want to keep them. They are usually willing to pay a competitive rate. However, I don't work in the UK so I have no idea.

    I worked for a large banking organization as a junior programmer over 15 years ago. When I told them I wished to become certified, they balked and refused to pay for any training, study materials, or the exams. I soon left and went to a company that did value them. My income more than doubled in just two years.

    When do I say No to your question? I believe keeping certifications current is of little use to IT workers who will soon be retiring and for those considering a change from IT work to something completely different.

    You are correct that many of the trades can pay quite a bit of money after learning the trade. However, even they have to stay up to date with the latest technologies. They also have trade shows and sometimes have to certify with vendors to install the latest products. For example, a roofer must become certified to install certain types of steel roofing. They also have to apply and keep licenses, insurance, and have their work certified by local building inspectors for every job they complete. As well, these people work very hard and many wear out their bodies by the time they reach their 50s or 60s. Whether you work in IT, as a tradesman, or in any other job role, employers will always try to pay you as little as they have to keep you for profit reasons. That's business.

    You bring up an interesting point though. We can't all be doctors, lawyers, or IT professionals and there is no shame in working the trades. Unfortunately, it sometimes seems that society pushes us to think so. Mike Rowe (from TV's Dirty Jobs) has an interesting theory about this and has been promoting the younger generation to reconsider taking up professional trades. Check out his site:
    http://profoundlydisconnected.com/

    I don't know about a job as "sitting in front of an automated box." Most IT professionals have a huge list of responsibilities with impossible deadlines. I had a really boring IT job (at that bank) and I couldn't take it; I looked for more interesting work.

    I wouldn't call a certification a "meaningless piece of paper" like I wouldn't call dollar bills meaningless paper. Both are earned and are valued by those in our field - especially by those that don't have them yet!

    I wish you the best.


    Best wishes, Davin Mickelson

    Monday, January 20, 2014 4:25 AM
    Answerer
  • Your are right that we can't all be Doctors and Lawyers etc.

    But when you think about it, we could with the amount of time and effort that some of us that put into this.  

    These qualifications are starting to become meaningless, in a sector that is being driven down by cost reductions. Because IT is no longer deemed to be an area of concern.

    It's been simplified and companies don't want to spend the money on it.  ROI has been drummed into their heads by a bunch of sales men in suits.

    Now the IT Director can tell he boss that he can do more with less.

    (Less Hardware, Software, Staff, and wages)

    This is Microsoft's selling point.  ROI!!  

    That's great for the company and I can all see them rubbing their hands together. But it's not for exactly great news for the employees.

    I don't see Ford, GM, or Honda making their cars maintenance free or easy to repair. If they did, their technicians and thousands of approved Garages wouldn't get any work.  

    I was made redundant last year. My employer changed our job descriptions, made us reapply for our jobs, and took out the requirement for any MS Certifications!!!  So everything that I had worked for became meaningless in my role. It didn't give me an edge over my colleagues, they didn't care who left the company and I was put on the same level as someone who had never opened a MS book in their life. All their cared about was reducing the cost of IT.

    Why pay for staff when you can get someone on the cheap that can do it all. Like an outsourcing company?

    I've noticed this trend, and the requirement for certifications in the IT job market is low. It might apply for some roles but from the majority of positions don't ask for it.

    This is why I would advise anyone thinking about going into IT to re-think about their strategy.

    As I point out, there is a huge skills gap in the market for trades. Too many people started going into jobs like IT thinking that this was the way forward in the world. But from what we are seeing now, it's not. We will always need Construction workers and Engineers to build the infrastructure that we rely on.

    IT is just one of those things that can be put aside and left for years to get on with itself. And this is what companies are doing.

    Sadly, IT has become a dying sector and employers skimp on the people that keep it running.

    XP and Server 2003 are your prime example. I've even seen people clinging onto NT!!

    Why spend the money on hardware and software when you can keep it going on a shoe string budget?

    We have little or no representation by any Professional bodies and employers can do as they please.

    In London, an Underground Tube Driver earns more than someone in IT. If something happens to their pays and conditions they threaten to go on strike!! Hence why their salaries go up every year.

    Could you see BALPA letting the airlines erode the pay of Pilots every year? It only takes 16 months to qualify for an ATPL. And, if you can get on an Airline cadet scheme your training outlay will only be around £30k. After qualifying as a Captain, you could be earning anything from £50k-£150k after five to ten years time.

    My point is. IT is one of the biggest underpinning factors for success of an organisation. But remuneration wise it's not that great.

    The MSCE qualification wasn't something to be laughed at. I think MS compared it to a degree in Computing. But again, employers didn’t see it that way and people coming out of University could earn more than you.

    As for my qualifications, I don't and will never pay £1000-£1200 per week for an MOC course. When I have been on them, I have got my past employer to pay for it. I mainly do everything online or out of a book, but what about the less fortunate people?

    IT can be a minefield and there are so many directions to go in. I have seen many people throw plenty of money at rubbish and been taken advantage of.

    Right now I don't know what to do. I have a couple of options.

    1. Try to become a trainer in IT.
    2. Go back into what I see as low paid IT position.
    3. Or a total career change.

    Your right in saying that Construction is hard, and that it takes a toll on the body. But have you also tried looking for anyone that is over 50 years old in IT?

    The over 50 year old ratio to Construction workers is probably about the same. It's not the fact that the over 50 year olds in IT are past it. It's the case that employers don't want to employ older people in IT. So what can they do after 50?

    This brings up a whole new argument about employment law. Ageism is supposed to illegal in the UK but I've seen IT project managers with over 20 years struggling to get work.

     

     




    • Edited by midi25 Monday, January 20, 2014 3:57 PM
    Monday, January 20, 2014 11:26 AM
  • It sounds like things have taken a turn for the worse at your company.

    I did a quick search on MCSE and found 205 job listings on the UK version of Monster.com
    http://jobsearch.monster.co.uk/jobs/?q=mcse&cy=uk

    It seems there are some people that do care about the MCSE title offering jobs. Maybe it is time to make a move. I suspect with the drastic changes you mentioned at your company, others may also leave.

    Getting another job is a painful experience. You end up being a new guy somewhere else and have to work your way back up again. However, it doesn't seem any more painful than what you are going through now. It might even get worse.

    One of my previous employers changed their business model from consulting to software development. I loved working there but I didn't want to work for a software company so I left. I am glad I did.


    Best wishes, Davin Mickelson

    Monday, January 20, 2014 6:10 PM
    Answerer
  • I was made redundant in Autumn 2013.

    That's the problem, employers want you to start at the bottom again. Even though I have 10 years experience ranging across 1st to 3rd line support.

    Maybe the trick is moving from job to job and not staying anywhere for longer than 5 years.

    It is a painful process and there is no job security.

    Some of those jobs on Monster.com are asking for everything. MCSE, VCP, CCNA, Exchange, SQL, 1,2, and 3rd line support. So when you look at the wages and think about it, they are not that great.

    Another case of employers trying to do more with less. Looking for a one man IT department.  

    We used to have a team of network (CISCO), systems (Microsoft) and development (SQL DBAs)

    Yeah, some places take the mick. There is nothing wrong with you or your skills. They are effectively making you redundant by changing the company or your job specification.

     


    • Edited by midi25 Monday, January 20, 2014 10:03 PM
    Monday, January 20, 2014 10:02 PM
  • Based on the situation, I recommend taking advantage of everything they are willing to contribute to your career. That could be a book budget, CBT training, a course, or if nothing else, time on an easy job to coast for a bit while you are busy ramping up and earning your MCSE ASAP.

    If I was in your situation, more than ever I would be preparing my resume, studying which IT positions are in the greatest demand in my area, networking with other fellow IT pros/friends, making myself marketable and valuable to potential employees by earning the latest certification(s).

    I would be so busy doing this because I love working in IT and I would want to stay in it with a more secure position. Maybe you do not and are considering a bigger move.

    It doesn't sound like they deserve you. The shift happening at your company is beyond your control. Take charge with what you can control - your career. You should always put yourself ahead of the company, especially when the company is putting itself ahead of you.


    Best wishes, Davin Mickelson

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014 5:56 AM
    Answerer
  • I've lost my mojo with it all really.

    There are some good positions out there, but the standard of pay is being eroded in IT.

    It's fast becoming an under paid and over worked choice of work.  

    Monday, February 3, 2014 10:30 PM
  • If you are doing what you love, you will do it well - and the money will follow.

    If your boss doesn't see that, find a new boss. It's one of the best ways to get a pay increase.

    A lot of people enter into IT for the money but only the folks who have a passion for computers stay in IT and eventually earn the $$.

    How we spend each day is how we spend our lives.


    Best wishes, Davin Mickelson

    Tuesday, February 4, 2014 4:03 PM
    Answerer
  • I hear what you are saying Davin.

    I can't say much about it on here, but moving about appears to be the only answer.

    Thursday, February 6, 2014 3:26 PM