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There was a time(before y2k) when being an MCSE or CNA was a notable achievement that showed dedication and knowledge.

In the last decade or so IT certifications became less noteworthy. Boot camps popped up that were dedicated not to teaching the skills to achieve the certifications but just to get you through the tests. I went to one and do not think that I actually learned anything that I put to use after getting my certification.

Are there some certifications that are still acknowledgments of knowledge and skill? Specifically do they help people get jobs?

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This question was inspired by this question @ Programmers –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Jul 5 '12 at 18:21
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There's a question at Programmers SE that seems to answer your primary question: Are certifications worth it –  jcmeloni Jul 5 '12 at 22:31
    
@jcmeloni - Agreed I have removed that part of the question to avoid duplication. I think that question was getting more attention that I intended anyway. I specifically am interested in if it helps candidates land jobs. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Jul 6 '12 at 12:29

5 Answers 5

They rarely hurt. Whether they help enough to justify the expense both in time and money to obtain the certification depends on a number of factors not least of which are the position, the certification, and the company.

In general, consulting companies tend to look more favorably on certifications than do companies that are hiring for internal staff because a consulting company is constantly selling its consultants and certifications can be a good selling point. Frequently, consulting companies also participate in partner programs with various software companies (Oracle, Microsoft, etc.) where the number and types of certificate holders they employ helps to determine the company's level in the partner program (i.e. being a Gold Partner requires X people with Y certifications). Since most consulting companies have a bench of consultants that are not currently billing hours, they'll also often encourage their consultants to obtain certifications during this down time to keep them productively busy.

Different certifications have different reputations. In the Oracle realm, for example, if I knew nothing about a candidate for a DBA position other than that he was an Oracle Certified Master (OCM) DBA, I'd hire him (or her). That's because the OCM exam is a two-day practical test that is blindingly difficult and there are a relative handful of people that have taken and passed it. On the other hand, there are plenty of people that have an Oracle Certified Professional (OCP) DBA credential that I wouldn't trust anywhere near my database. I'd still consider it a positive that the candidate got the credential-- if they did it well, it indicates some level of initiative and indicates that they were at least exposed to a broad base of features and functionality even if they weren't using it at a prior job. If the candidate did an "exam cram," retained it for a few hours while taking the exam, and then immediately forgot everything, I would expect that to show up in the technical interview process and the certification probably wouldn't mean much. Most certifications are in the latter category-- they're potentially useful but they are not, in and of themselves, going to get you a job.

Having a certification is often helpful for getting yourself at least to the interview process. It's something that HR (or whoever is doing the initial resume screen) can use to try to winnow down a crush of resumes into a reasonable set of people that are worth reaching out to. It can often give the person doing the initial round of technical interviews at least some hope that you're going to get enough right to be worth the time to interview. It often gives non-technical managers some level of confidence in your technical skills.

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I can't imagine a certification such that 'If I knew nothing about a candidate for a [SUBJECT] position other than that he was a [INSERT SUBJECT HERE] Certified Master [SUBJECT], I'd hire him (or her).' To me that's crazy talk. There exist a far number of people who are better at test taking than implementing practical solutions to problems, and vise versa. Other than that, I agree with Justin's answer. They can help get a resume through an HR screen and don't really hurt anything. –  Jim In Texas Jul 6 '12 at 15:30
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@JimInTexas - There aren't many, but the OCM exam definitely is such a beast. It's a two day practical exam where the candidate has to complete a series of practical exercises in a tight timeframe, recover the database from all sorts of different failures, etc. and are graded by experts in the field so you have to accomplish the task and do it according to best practices. There are probably fewer than a couple hundred people in the world that have passed. I've been privileged to meet probably a dozen and they are all amazingly competent. –  Justin Cave Jul 6 '12 at 15:41

As you say:

Boot camps popped up ... I went to one and do not think that I actually learned anything that I put to use...

So it sounds like there are some certifications that don't really mean anything. But, if a job posting states that you must have Certification ABC++ then having such a certification will help. Otherwise, it might help a little but not a whole lot. The only exception I have seen is some of the advanced Oracle DBA certifications and the people that I have met who hold them really do seem to have a very good in-depth knowledge of the subject.

Of course, holding a certification is only relevant if it will be used in the job you are applying to. Applying to a CSS/HTML/web dev job with Oracle DBA certifications may look impressive but if it is not relevant, it probably won't help you get the job.

It might be more useful to get certification in the business side of the industry you are working in. I know programmers who have taken industry-taught finance and insurance courses to help them advance as programmers in that industry.

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+1 for industry certs... though that was not what the question was focused you made a good point. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Jul 5 '12 at 18:50

There was a time(before y2k) when being an MCSE or CNA was a notable achievement that showed dedication and knowledge.

I look back at the 1990's with a great deal of respect, in 1994 I recieved my first computer, and I paid $200 for an extra 2MB of memory in our family computer. I also look at the dozen or so companies that were closed in 2001 because they all had a single product to supply, Y2K conversion support, sort of sad that an entire industry was wiped out with a single tick of a clock.

People might be asking what the point of that story was, honestly while I have respect for many people in this industry that were around then, I have to take many of these certificates with a grain of salt. If they were really that notable of achievement I would hope that an entire industry would not have based their entire business plan, on providing a service, that in many cases was not required. Perhaps its because in 2002 the very same computer had no problems caused by Y2k, of course not being turned on for 5 years, did cause its own problems.

In the last decade or so IT certifications became less noteworthy. Boot camps popped up that were dedicated not to teaching the skills to achieve the certifications but just to get you through the tests. I went to one and do not think that I actually learned anything that I put to use after getting my certification.

The problem our industry has created is there is no standard, anyone can come into our field, and declare they are a _ expert. I believe it was some where around 2005-2007 that IEEE CS started to offer its certification. Anyone that wants to offer a certification can offer a cerification. Unless you are getting a certification from Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, Apple in something they have created, which proves you have at least enough knowlege to pass their exams, I don't really hold a great deal of respect for people who have a certification.

I even believe that in many cases even those certifications don't hold a great deal of weight, because as I said, they only proof you passed the exam. Show me actually extensive breath knowlege on the subject and we can talk.

Are there some certifications that are still acknowledgments of knowledge and skill? Specifically do they help people get jobs?

If you have extensive knowlege in an area, then having a certification can help, because it something to talk about during an interview. Of course most people don't have extensive knowlege in an area which they hold a certification, a few years doesn't make you an expert, you have not even reached the novice level at that point imo.

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They were all they were cracked up to be. That is why the industry popped up in the first place. In the 90's you knew a CCNA or CNA(Novell) or MCSE knew what they were doing because the tests were hard and there was no easy way to get them. Then the industry developed around getting one for everyone. This lowered the bar by breaking down the tests and teaching to the test. Before you just had to know it to get through because of how comprehensive the test was, and how seemingly random the topics covered. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Jul 6 '12 at 14:06
    
I would also like to point out that Y2K was a non issue because companies dedicated signifigant resources to making ysk a non issue. There were quite a few of us who fixed the problems before they arrived. And many more who were dedicated to finding the problems and others to implementing our solutions. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Jul 6 '12 at 14:10

Speaking from experience, I'd have to say yes, they do.

By improving prospects, I have to say my certifications (A+ & Network+) helped get me the interview. I didn't have a college degree, but I had certs and experience. I wouldn't have gotten the job without some hands on knowledge, because I had to put a desktop together on my 2nd interview for one particular company.

A note about those two certifications in particular(and maybe other certs in general), They are good for gaining basic knowledge for a particular specialty, however unless you're applying for the most basic or entry level position, not having any experience is probably a limiting factor. The certs work best with hands on experience, even if it's just setting up a test machine, test network, or programming the test examples out of the book, just to get the theory to practice.

I'd have to say any company who hires someone based on certs alone should re-evaluate their processes.

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I have seen many applications recommend getting the CompTIA A+ certification to show that you have the "basics" down pat.

Aside from that specific certification, I believe it would depend on the field

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