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The Top 10 Problems with IT Certification in 2008


  1. Reasons 1–5
  2. Reasons 6–10

Article Description

Less than 10 years ago, certification was a surefire way to enter the growing IT sector. But certification no longer guarantees that you will be able to find a high quality job in IT. It still has its place, but the IT certification industry has faced some systemic problems that no one has addressed since its emergence. Warren Wyrostek calls on personal and real-world experience to share the top 10 problems with IT certification in 2007/2008.

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6. Degree vs. Certification vs. Experience

There is still tension in the market over the value/need for a degree versus the need for a certification versus the need for experience. The battle rages on with absolutely no resolution.

Because certifications have been devalued, what is really needed when you want to apply for a job in IT? A degree? If so, which degree covering which disciplines?

Many universities offer the CIS or MIS degree. But when it comes to running an enterprise environment, don’t you need to know a bit more than what is offered in the CIS or MIS programs to administer a multi-platform/application environment?

Nevertheless, most advertisements require a degree. What about the folks like me who came up when the CIS or MIS were not even on the radar? How many Master’s degrees does a person need to get a job? Academics look down on certifications, yet they require numerous certifications when they are hiring staff to support their infrastructures.

I have several former students who have Master’s-level degrees and no certifications. They ask me which certs to get so that they can get a good job; they cannot find one with just an MIS.

So how do we assess a person’s skills and experience? Maybe there should be a balance between certifications, education, and experience. What about the person who has no degree, has no certs, but has 20 years’ experience and could write most of the books except s/he is too busy running the enterprise 24/7?

The answer is that the degree wins in 2007/08, which puts those with certifications and/or experience at a distinct disadvantage.

7. HR People Are Not In Touch with the Real World

HR people, including headhunters/recruiters, give no guidance and do nothing to help the situation in IT. In fact, most just muddy the waters by asking for a laundry list of certifications that are completely other-worldly.

I have met no one who meets a majority of the requirements that most HR folks list on IT jobs.

  • Some want no part of certifications.
  • Some "demand" the most up-to-date certifications.
  • Others want it all.

This leads to complete confusion when planning a course of action if someone wants to enter IT through the certification path. If I were coming into IT now and looked at some of the unrealistic certification criteria required for entry-level jobs, I would find another way to make a living. It is discouraging.

8. Budget Cuts

Cuts have killed training dollars—and consequently the certification market—because it costs money to get certified. So unless you bypass the training with brain dumps, you will not entertain certification as a viable path because training is not available.

Additionally most employers will not train their folks toward certification because of the fear of losing their investment. When people get certified, they start looking for greener pastures. Employers are gun-shy, especially in times of budget cuts.

9. Glut of Certified People

This one should probably be higher in the list. But it is a major reason for the waning interest in certification. There are just too many certified IT folks—those that know what they are doing and the paper certs who have killed the market.

Simple supply and demand. When the supply goes up, the demand goes down. There has to be a way to weed out those who have killed the market.

If the supply were not as high, the demand and wages would improve.

10. No One Knows Which Certs Matter

No one really knows which certs you need to get a job, to get a foot in the door, and to prove that you know your stuff, while not scaring people off.

In short:

  • No one knows how many certs you need.
  • No one knows which certs have value today.

Until those two points are addressed, people get fed up and move onto to another path. If a guru could tell you to get this cert and you will get a good job, you would be all over it. But those days are over for many of the reasons previously mentioned. Will one cert do it for you or do you have to have 10 or 20?

The best advice I can give you at this point is to assess what the environments are using in your geographical area and what the demand is. Then look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself whether that is what you want to do. If you have passion for it, get the needed certs.


So we have problems. Significant problems. I would not give up on certification. In the next article I will outline a strategy I would take if I were starting out now and wanted to go the certification route in 2007–2008.

Then I will outline my solution to the problems with IT Certification: A New Program that revisits what now exists but presents it in a new package. It does not address all the problems, but the majority of them are put in their place, and I don’t have to tear the building down to renovate the kitchen.

Stay tuned.

I look forward to your comments and e-mails. You can reach me at: wyrostekw@msn.com or through http://www.3wscertification.com.