Myths About IT Certification
18 April, 2022
Technical certifications in Information Technology were “born” almost 40 years ago, and over time there have been preconceptions about how relevant and useful they are. At a time, when the shortage of qualified IT professionals has reached unprecedented levels, and as professionals from other sectors are starting to switch their careers to the tech field, it is relevant to revisit some of the most important myths.
Myth #1: Certifications are product-focused
This statement is not completely false. There are many agnostic technical certifications, such as CompTIA, EXIN, ISACA, ITIL, PMI, IIBA, and others, but many of the most recognized certifications are created by the vendor; the connotation that this is something negative is wrong.
The actual information systems of organizations are not agnostic; they are based on one or more types of technologies or platforms, and organizations need professionals who know how to make the best use of those tools. There is no one better qualified to develop a certification program that assesses the mastery of a particular product than the vendor who created it. Depending on the path and specialization that the IT professional intends to develop, a vendor certification may be much more relevant than a product-independent certification.
Myth #2: Certifications are not real-world oriented
This myth suggests that because certifications are product-oriented, they do not prepare you for the real world. This is a valid concern, but it has less and less justification.
Both vendors and certification bodies have made great efforts to focus their certifications on validating useful and practical skills. They strive to align the content with the real-world tasks that professionals perform in their daily routines, and also with the way these tasks are performed, taking into account real-world work environments and situations, which provides a more genuine and authentic experience. There are also an increasing number of technology certification exams that incorporate elements of performance-based testing, or that test knowledge in a simulated or emulated environment, allowing candidates to sit down at a workstation and be required to work through an actual problem on an actual system.
Portuguese IT professionals, who are certified, dispute this statement. In a study conducted by Rumos in 2021 (IT Certification: Yes or No – The Portuguese Reality), 75% of surveyed people stated that certifications have provided them with useful and practical knowledge that helps them in their daily work tasks.
Myth #3: The life cycle of certification is short
Technological advancements happen at an increasingly accelerated pace every day, and to remain competitive, organizations need to adopt these advancements rapidly and efficiently.
Although it may seem inconvenient, the life cycle of certification must keep up with the pace of technological evolution. While outdated tech certifications end up losing their market value or recognition, those of emerging technologies must be updated to attest to new competencies and skills, and ultimately reflect how those new competencies and skills are used in one’s current role.
The validity of certification should not be seen as something negative but as a warning of how quickly our skills become outdated and, consequently, how they should be updated.
Myth #4: Certifications have been devalued
This is a myth without any justification. The value of certification is undeniable, and it is reflected in the growing number of professionals who choose to take a certification exam each year. According to the latest study by Pearson Vue, one of the world’s largest certification centers, there has been a 16% increase in the number of people registering to take a certification exam, which shows that even in times of crisis, such as the last two years, people still believe in the value of certification.
In Portugal, the trust placed in certification is also high: in the study conducted by Rumos, a huge majority of surveyed professionals (almost 80%) intend to renew their certifications or obtain new ones, and 92% recommend getting a technical certification to those who want to initiate or advance in an IT career.
International studies corroborate that this positive perception is also present in organizations, as IT managers and directors see the benefits of getting certified: increased quality of work, productivity, efficiency, and the ability to mentor others are cited as direct benefits of certification that have a huge impact on business profitability. Portuguese managers also recognize these benefits, according to the study conducted by Rumos.
Myth #5: Academic Degree vs. Certification vs. Experience
These three aspects play a critical role in an IT professional’s profile, ability to perform his functions, and attractiveness to potential employers.
In the IT market, certifications are crucial to the recruitment process. According to the answers provided in the Rumos study, technical certifications are considered the second most important aspect when assessing potential candidates, the first one being professional experience. 56% of surveyed recruiters stated that the fact that someone is certified has already been the deciding factor between choosing one candidate over the other. And why is that? Because certifications are impartial and demonstrate not only a deeper level of knowledge in a given area, but also the motivation, ability to achieve goals, and commitment to staying up-to-date and relevant.
Myth #6: No one knows which or how many certifications are enough
The myth argues that no one knows how many certifications one needs to be successful, which can be discouraging. In reality, it allows for all paths to be valid by giving us the freedom to choose our own path and area of specialization, knowing that having a certification is never a bad idea and that knowledge acquisition is always an asset.
Moreover, the premise that a person can be trained or certified in a particular field and start working in the desired role without doing anything else is not feasible in today’s world. Not only in the IT world, but in every field, professional roles are constantly evolving and changing at an ever-increasing pace, and it is up to the professionals to keep up with these changes by continuing to train and earn certifications throughout their professional paths.
However, there is a problem that comes along: the financial investment, time, and effort required to obtain a certification and to prepare for it. On this note, it is important to remember and focus on how certifications benefit not only the professional who receives the certification, but also the organization that employs him, and that organizations should contribute to the development of their employees, especially if they are interested in developing their skills and increasing the value they bring to their organizations.
Are you still wondering if getting certified is worth it? Discover what we learned from surveying over 200 Portuguese IT professionals in the e-book 👉 “IT Certification: Yes or No – The Portuguese Reality”.