Do employers need to chase IT certifications?

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Innovations in business technology are driving demand for IT professionals with certifications that prove an area of expertise. Certifications cover specific knowledge around a technology unlike computer science degrees, often criticized as too general and impractical. Meanwhile, evolving technologies like cloud, big data, mobile and enhanced security requirements are creating the need for new credentialing programs. All of this has created an environment where employers have to think carefully about which certifications to chase and how hard.

Adding to the confusion is the alphabet soup of certifications. According to the IT Certification Master website, there are currently over 1900 certifications available across almost 170 credentialing bodies covering general hardware, operating systems, cloud computing, networking and security.

Not All Certifications Are Equal

Even after nailing down a candidate with a valuable certification, many employers find no guarantees of proficiency. Certification granting bodies range from vendors like Oracle and Microsoft to industry organizations like CompTIA or the Cloud Credential Council, making it difficult to assess the real-world value of a certification. And many successful IT professionals pursue self-taught avenues to gain skills and experience comparable to a certification program.

The various routes available to learn new IT skills—traditional classrooms, instructor-led virtual classes, online courses and books—further complicates the task of determining whether recruiters are actually acquiring the skills they are seeking out.

Pros and Cons of Chasing IT Certifications

As an employer, are you willing to stretch your budget to get a certified RedHat engineer or a Cisco Certified network engineer? To gain certain types of skills in today’s competitive world, you might have to. Or it may mean balancing headcount according to priority. For example, offloading email to a hosting provider sidesteps an Exchange engineer, allowing you to open the budget for vital security roles. You might even choose to take a chance on an uncredentialed candidate who has skills in a rapidly evolving area like NoSQL or cloud architecture.

Consider the pros and cons of chasing IT certifications:

Pros:

  • Candidates who carry certifications from mature vendors like Cisco, RedHat and Microsoft are often viewed as a known quantity in terms of skill sets, since they must stay current to maintain their certification.
  • Self-taught or on-the-job trained candidates may only understand a technology as it relates to a particular project or worksite, whereas certification program instruction is more broad-based.
  • Credentials gives businesses an added edge in marketing by publicizing the vetted expertise available with their company.

Cons:

  • Looking only at certifications may lead you to neglect more experienced, qualified candidates that don’t have them. Services like TrueAbility, a technical assessment platform, can help you evaluate a candidate’s skills independent of their credentials.
  • Lengthy, expensive searches for rare IT specialties are no guarantee of a long-term hire as the next employer with a better bonus package might lure your talent away.
  • Narrow skill sets quickly become obsolete, decreasing the long-term value of the hire. Hiring for new technologies may cost big bucks while not delivering a big bang to the long-term strategy.

To fill the IT skill and certification gap between the number of open requisitions and the number of qualified candidates, many organizations are moving toward managed hosting, specifically the managed cloud. Unlike self-service cloud, managed hosting providers combine expertise in applications and underlying hardware while maintaining a team of sometimes hundreds of certified engineers and specialists. Your IT strategy and budget ultimately determine your tolerance for the certification hunt, but managed cloud services

This story, "Do employers need to chase IT certifications? " was originally published by BrandPost.