Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


The Value of Tech Certs

Filed under: Career Archive,Certification,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Geek Work,Linux,Novell — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:59 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

No, that’s not candy.

Though, I have to admit, sometimes the industry treats them like candy!
No, I’m talking about technical certifications, which are, I think, the bane of the IT industry now.  Folks over at TechRepublic are talking about tech certs and their relative value.  Personally, I don’t think they are that valuable any more.  Oh, back in the day, I think they were and, to a degree, they solve certain problems for hiring managers, but, I don’t think they matter as much any more.  Of course, maybe that has something to do with where I am in the industry and job market, too.  I am, frighteningly enough, a seasoned professional.  So, my work history and experience count for a lot more than the handful of certifications I have.  (For the record, I’ve been Novell certified since 1994 and Linux certified since 2003.)
As far as I’m concerned, the only thing my certs are good for any more are getting past a Human Resources person acting as a firewall to the hiring manager.  Usually, if I’ve done all my homework like I should before even applying for a job, once I get to the hiring manager, I’m pretty much in.  And, honestly, they don’t normally care about my certs.  They care about my ability to execute.

So, what do you think?  Are professional certifications like this worth the paper they’re printed on any more?


  1. I think that certifications are really good at getting professional standards where they need to be. Once it is a given that people have the knowledge I guess they might not be so valuable. But I’ll bet they count for people just getting into the field. Right now there is a big push to get people who work with people who have mental illnesses to get a psychiatric rehabilitation certification. It is very expensive, but when all is said and done the people working in the field will be more knowledgable and respected because we will be doing our jobs correctly and at a nationwide standard.

    So while you have been certified for so long and have actually done the job for so long, you might get a pass. But the certifications did set industry standards so that good tech support is something the consumer can actually count on.

    Comment by Cheri — 10/13/2011 @ 9:02 pm

  2. On the one hand, you’re arguing that certifications aren’t valuable. On the other, you argue that they get you past the HR robots. That’s what’s known as “value”. It’d be faster if you could just write a check to the HR department to get an interview, but they also tend to be the people who enforce “ethics”. 🙁

    Comment by tinyhands — 10/13/2011 @ 11:53 pm

  3. Well, Cheri, in the tech industry, the question is whether or not those certifications DO actually establish any useful professional standards. Many argue that they don’t really. The problem is what we used to call “Paper CNEs” My Novell certification is Certified Netware Engineer, which gives actual, licensed engineers fits, by the way. But, back when I was certifying, there were plenty of guys who got the cert, but had no real experience on networks. So, the practical usefulness of the certification was, at best, questionable.

    But, yes, it was helpful for people starting out in the business as a way to break in. I know the certifications helped me in that regard. Less useful to me now, though.

    Comment by the Network Geek — 10/14/2011 @ 7:11 am

  4. Ah, yes, well, slipping past HR doesn’t seem like a real value to me, I suppose. The value I meant was a practical value in regards to actual, useful skills on the job. There has been some question for actually quite some time in the tech world whether or not tech certs give anyone any real, practical skills.
    I know they’ve done a lot lately to improve that, or at least try to improve it. Novell changed their tests to make it more difficult to pass without at least *some* experience on an actual Novell network, and Cisco has done the same. But, even with that, the real, practical value of a technical certifications are, at best, questionable.

    Comment by the Network Geek — 10/14/2011 @ 7:15 am

  5. I agree that (1) some hiring managers depend on them, and (2) folks new to the industry can stand out from the milieu of similar, lightly-qualified resumes and (3) they occasionally get us past the HR robots. Me? I see them as less than a college/university degree (BS, MS, etc.) in a world where many degrees have sunk to the level of awards for persistence in a field of study. Certifications also seem to make a LOT money for the vendors of prep courses, books, certification guides, practice tests and other nefarious methods to “cram & dump” one’s way to passing “the test.”

    One of my early university counselors noted that ANY degree, and by extension, ANY serious effort at learning will produce one of three outcomes:

    1. I love this and will do it for the rest of my life.
    2. I will find something else in this line that
    I want to do forever.
    3. I will know that this is the LAST THING IN THE WORLD

    Comment by DJ — 10/14/2011 @ 8:44 am

  6. Yeah, but certifications aren’t really like regular learning. They’ve become a thing to do in the industry to satisfy a somewhat artificial requirement that may, or may not, be an actual indicator of how well someone can do a job. Personally, I find the ability to properly use a search engine to be more useful than a tech cert! Google knows EVERYTHING!

    Comment by the Network Geek — 10/14/2011 @ 8:56 am

  7. <>

    I love the “may or may not” part!

    RE: Google and Schrödinger’s cat.

    If a tree falls in the forest and Google doesn’t see it, two things are true. (1) Google has failed, at least momentarily and (2) we know there’s a tree out there…. somewhere.

    Comment by DJ — 10/14/2011 @ 9:25 am

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