As we prepare to go into a new year, it is worth considering the relevance of Microsoft certifications in 2013. Microsoft certifications have always been valuable to IT professionals, but they may prove to be especially valuable in the coming year for the ten reasons described below.
1. 2012 Was a Banner Year for New Releases
The most obvious reason why Microsoft certifications will be especially important in the coming year is because 2012 was a banner year for new releases. In the past year Microsoft has released Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, Exchange Server 2013, SharePoint 2013, and Microsoft Office 2013, just to name a few. Most of these products come with a relatively steep learning curve, and certifications are the best way to demonstrate mastery of the new products.
2. Unemployment is Still High
With unemployment rates in the United States still hovering near 8%, the competition for good paying IT jobs is fierce. Employers view the situation as a buyer’s market. There is no shortage of job candidates, so those with the best skills get the jobs. Having an up-to-date portfolio of certifications is one way to help ensure employers that you have the skills that they are looking for.
3. Mistakes on the Job are Costly
In any organization, it is the job of the IT department to facilitate business processes. When IT makes a mistake, there are often very real consequences. A mistake might result in data loss, or even finds from regulatory boards.
Making a mistake of this magnitude is every IT professional’s worst nightmare. Having an up-to-date Microsoft certification helps to ensure that you are well versed in Microsoft’s recommended best practices. Knowing and following these best practices goes a long way towards preventing catastrophic mistakes on the job.
4. Certifications can Enhance Your Resume
As previously mentioned, certifications can be a tool to help you land a new job. In the case of someone who is just starting out, however, certifications can be especially valuable. Those who are just getting started in IT typically do not have a lot of experience to list on their resume. It may be possible to compensate for this lack of experience by enhancing a resume with a long list of certifications.
5. Fill in Knowledge Gaps
IT professionals who work with a particular Microsoft product on a daily basis often use only a subset of the product’s features. Studying for a Microsoft certification exam forces you to learn about the features that you do not normally use. This can help you to become more skilled with the product and may help you to derive additional benefits from the product.
6. Your Current Certification May Be Obsolete
Microsoft has long had a policy of expiring certifications after a certain length of time. In recent years, however, certifications seem to be retired much more quickly than they were in the past. Additionally, Microsoft has been restructuring their entire certification program over the last several months. Consequently, there is a good chance that your existing certifications are obsolete or that they will become obsolete in the not-too-distant future. Pursuing the latest certifications is a great way to avoid being left behind.
7. There is Always More to Learn
Even if all of your certifications are current, it might still be advantageous to pursue additional certifications. Higher-end certifications prove that you have a greater depth of knowledge for a particular product or technology than those who possess lower-end certifications. If you already have a Microsoft Certified IT Professional certification, you might consider getting a Microsoft Certified Masters certification this year.
8. Raises are Tough to Get
Because of the state of the economy, employers are often reluctant to hand out raises. Often times when an employee asks for a raise they are asked to justify the request.
On-the-job performance can be tough to quantify, especially in IT. However, when it comes to asking for a raise you may be able to use recent certifications as a bargaining chip. The fact that you have earned certifications recently groups to an employer that you are serious about learning new skills. Furthermore, employers know that employees with long lists of certifications are valuable and that such employees could potentially leave the company if they are not happy.
9. You May Be Able to Cut Operating Costs
IT professionals know all too well that the IT budget is never large enough for everything that needs to be accomplished. One way to stretch your IT budget is to reduce operating costs. In some cases, certifications might actually help with that.
Preparing for a certification exam forces an IT professional to learn material that they might not otherwise be exposed to. As a general rule, Microsoft certification exams place a heavy emphasis on topics such as licensing and on best practice configurations. These two areas of study can help to reduce operating costs.
For example, I recently heard of one organization that decreased management costs and licensing costs for their antivirus software and backup software by combining several servers into one. Someone on the IT staff had attended a Microsoft learning class and discovered that a single virtual machine could host multiple server roles without violating Microsoft’s best practices. It was this one simple discovery that led to significant cost savings.
10. Because Microsoft Products Are Still Relevant
One last reason why Microsoft certifications are important in 2013 is because Microsoft products are still relevant. If you were to listen to the news media it would be easy to get the idea that Apple is the only computer company in existence. In spite of the fact that Apple currently dominates the tablet in smart phone market, most corporations continue to run Microsoft products on their servers and on their desktop computers. As such, Microsoft certifications remain valuable in the business world.