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The Real Value of IT Certification

While IT professionals and salary surveys alike may seek to stress the increase in earnings potential that comes from acquiring IT (and other) certifications, their real value lies in what they teach you. It's really about skills and knowledge they add to your portfolio, not about a bigger paycheck (though that's not too bad, either...).

As I wrote an IT Career JumpStart blog post this morning (see "IT Earnings Down, Cert Values (Slightly) Up") I found myself thinking that in the vast majority of cases, IT certification really isn't about money.

Sure, those people who earn coveted pinnacle credentials like the CCIE, CCDE, SAP R3 Consultant, and so forth can more or less count on solid six figure incomes for the rest of their working lives. But for those of us who stop somewhere short of such lofty summits, there are lots of other good reasons why earning IT (and other professional) certifications make great career sense, leaving aside the modest salary gains that might occasionally result from adding another bit of alphabet soup to your business card.

Here are some of my favorites, among those other benefits:

  • Professional credibility: You earn the cert,  you gain some respect and possibile recognition. It may often be limited to others in the know on a certain topic, tool, or technology, but that's usually good enough as it is.
  • Professional currency: When you certify on a current tool, platform, environment, or application, you can honestly claim to be "caught up" with current (but not always prevailing) state of the art.
  • Skills and knowledge transfer to the job: To me, the best certs are those that really do cultivate and develop useful on-the-job skills and knowledge. More alphabet soup is nice, but something you can use day in and day out to do your job better, faster, and more confidently is worth its weight in gold, if only to you!
  • Personal and professional development: There's something satisfying about tangible achievement, about tackling and finishing a substantial chunk of learning and effort. I think it helps build character, better work and study habits, and a more positive and professional outlook on work and life. This, too, has merit in and of itself, irrespective of "mere pelf."

What are your favorite benefits to certification, leaving cash out of the equation? If you've got others to offer, post some comments here and let's chew on them together. I'm all ears.

PS: If you want to check out the skills and salary survey cited in the image, visit its download page on the Global Knowledge Website (registration is required).