A certified futility

Since I work as a computer engineer and a consultant, there’s always the pressure to take certifications. Certification is a peace of paper that document’s your knowledge within a field of expertise. This is something that consulting businesses are especially fond of because then it’s something they can show their customers and it’s easier to sell a person’s services and claim a higher hourly rate.

It all sounds just so great and dandy so far doesn’t it?

I happen to have two certifications at the moment:
Microsoft Certified Professional, Developing and Implementing Web Applications with Microsoft Visual C# .NET and Microsoft Visual Studio .NET (70-315)
Microsoft Certified Professional, Developing and Implementing Windows Applications with Microsoft Visual C# .NET and Microsoft Visual Studio .NET(70 – 316)

And I’m currently working on getting the LPI (Linux Professional Institute) level 1 certification as well since it’s a requirement in the department I work.

So what are the benefits in getting certifications? It has to be looked at from two perspectives – the business and the personal.

Business benefits:
– Document areas of expertise.
– You are considered an expert and therefore will be able to do a good job.
– For consultant firms, you can ask for higher rates.

Personal benefits:
– Feeling of achievment
– Feeling that you’re good at something.

Unfortunately, that’s were the benefits stops. It seems like the benefits for a business far outweights the individual benefits which involves a lot of “feelings”. So what’s missing from the picture here:
– It has been stated that with certifications comes higher salary. I have yet to see or hear of that happening.
– You will become a senior to your colleagues. So far I have only seen that experience have any importance at all.
– You will go farther up when applying for jobs. This is something that I haven’t seen or experienced either. At one place they didn’t even notice my certifications, and even if they did, they considered certifications as a bad thing.
– Outdated exams (this especially applies for LPI Level 1 exams)
– The certification becomes outdated very quickly (give or take 2 years).
– It requires a lot of studying to pass the exams.

So how come certifications are seen as something bad?

Many cheats when taking the exams. Just make a google search with the word braindumps and the exam number. There’s many sites where people that have taken exams writes down the questions and answers. That makes it difficult to see who’s the real deal and who’s not. I studied very hard for the certifications I have taken, and learned a lot, but that isn’t visible to anybody but myself.

As stated above the certifications becomes quickly outdated, and you have to take the exams every 2-3 years to ensure their valid. So let’s say one person have 6 certifications. That implies that he have to take 3 exams each year, and use a little time to study them beforehand.

Now, why do IT people have to be superhumans? Because that’s what’s expected.
To study for this usually require your spear time, because even though businesses likes certifications, they’re not willing to pay for it by you using worktime for studying. And the benefits for an individual is low to zero.

Unfortunately, I don’t see the practices changing on this. There’s a need to re-examine the certification practices on the business level, but the people in charge will not do it simply because they don’t have a requirement to take certifications. It’s easy to demand something of somebody else as long as it doesn’t require something of one self.

About Haridasi

integrity - the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished.
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