The value of a credential can vary for a professional depending on the industry they’re in. For some, a degree is critical for success, while others can rely on their track record to showcase their competency. When it comes to the IT world, there’s actually a combination of degrees, certifications, and experience that can differentiate a professional from their peers, and that can make the industry a little unusual.
With companies like Microsoft and Cisco providing certification programs, there are plenty of valuable educational resources out there to get someone to the point of being able to handle the basics of any project, but in order to truly stand out, organizations should regularly invest in developing their teams’ skills.
Developing a team’s skills can take many forms, and one of the more rewarding ways for this to happen is gaining experience in solving diverse problems, because doing so will allow team members to think creatively about how to make an impact with clients. But getting to the point of experimenting with solutions requires a baseline understanding of how to use a technology, and that’s often where having up-to-date certifications can help the most.
How Do Certifications Work?
Broadly speaking, certifications are tools that can be used to demonstrate competence in a skill specific to a particular platform or product. Educational resources prepare professionals by developing their theoretical knowledge of a relevant industry or skill set, which can be paired with hands-on experience to maximize effectiveness.
For example, in the case of Microsoft certifications, it’s possible to get certified within a week, but it’s not unusual for most people to take a little more time before taking the final test. Both the Hammer Dev and Hammer Tech team members have found that there’s a roughly even split between time working on classroom-style learning and time working on projects, which can be beneficial for learners that prefer listening as well as those that prefer doing, but also allows anyone to translate what they’re learning into practice.
What’s the Value of a Certification?
How much value a certification from a provider like Microsoft or Cisco holds largely depends on the business. Maintaining certifications helps IT professionals stay sharp on the technical details of their focus area, which is critical as technology changes so quickly, often making skills learned at the beginning of a career obsolete within a few years. Reflecting this short horizon for IT skills, certifications often need to be renewed, so a professional that keeps their certifications up to date is effectively demonstrating their commitment to providing the best service possible.
Perhaps it’s this showcase of dedication that makes certifications equally valuable to the vetting process for potential clients. The skills IT professionals have are the main focus of an organization’s due diligence, so having a staff that’s up to date with their certifications can be immensely valuable to setting their minds at ease.
Are Certifications Replacements for Experience?
Given the fact that IT professionals often have a mix of experience, degrees, and certifications to showcase their ability to deliver to their clients, no single factor eliminates the value of the others.
Being able to put learning into practice is really the deciding factor on whether a certification can offer a replacement for experience, but even in cases like this, there’s additional value in having worked on projects that tested one’s knowledge and forced them to consider novel approaches that fall outside the bounds of traditional instruction. The reason is that a theoretical understanding of how to solve most problems doesn’t cover all problems, and getting hands-on experience helps a professional understand the best way to develop and deploy innovative solutions to the wide ranges of problems an organization may face.
However, this isn’t to say that theory isn’t valuable on its own. In many cases, certification programs help establish best practices for IT professionals, allowing them to quickly identify opportunities to fine-tune an environment without the need for in-depth assessments and complex solutions. In instances where fine-tuning is necessary, businesses are able to realize value in optimizing the implementation of their IT tools without requiring a massive investment.
Finding IT Professionals You Can Trust
Certification programs are an ongoing commitment; teams that rely on degrees and experience may be effective, but they do come with the risk of missing out on new functionality that companies develop for their tools. Microsoft and Cisco are always working to stay ahead of the competition, and they frequently roll out new features that teams can use to further integrate value into their organizations.
Just because an IT professional doesn’t keep up to date certifications doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be able to solve a problem for a business. However, if the organization wants to ensure that every tool is being used to the utmost, then there’s real benefits to seeking out professionals who do keep their certifications up to date, because they’ll be able to utilize the full functionality of a solution to deliver value to an organization.