Are Certifications Just a Foot in the Door?


We certainly need that grain of salt-or perhaps the whole shaker-that my colleague Ann All wrote about when approaching surveys.

Slide Show

IT Certifications Around the World - Differences in Numbers and Popularity

Open your global mind, so you can make a smarter decision toward your next certification.


My colleague Don Tennant just wrote about Foote Partners' "IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index" for the fourth quarter of 2010, which found that premium pay for the noncertified skills it studied increased 0.4 percent for the fourth quarter and 3 percent for the year, while pay premiums for certified skills declined for the 17th time in the past 18 quarters. He's written that many IT pros consider certifications just a money-making scheme by training vendors and not worth the paper on which they're written.


Now a survey by CompTIA "suggests certifications will grow in importance as organizations seek to fill tech jobs." The non-profit trade organization and training vendor surveyed 1,700 business, HR and IT executives about the role of certifications in their hiring processes.


In the survey, however, IT executives expressed concern that HR pros do not have a solid understanding of IT certifications, and companies complained about the time and effort involved in verifying them. Respondents named experience, track record and accomplishments as the most important factors, but 86 percent said IT certifications are a high or medium priority during the candidate-evaluation process.


They also spoke of the difficulty in finding candidates with certain IT skills. Tim Herbert, vice president of research for CompTIA said:

Now more than ever there's little margin for error for making a bad hire. In an environment of needing to do more with less, organizations cannot afford the time and cost of bringing on a new employee who cannot contribute immediately.

Don also wrote last March, quoting Dice Learning Director Evan Lesser:

What we've seen, and what we've heard from job seekers, is that having a certification is an additional check on the resume, something that can help you get your foot in the door for some of these new positions that are finally opening. The competition for those positions is going to be considerable, considering the unemployment in the IT market. So I think the value of a certification is probably changing over time, and heading to be a little bit more positive than it might have been in the past.

So is it possible that both pieces of research are accurate? Perhaps certifications are, as Lesser noted, what it takes to get your foot in the door, past the gatekeepers in HR, but won't necessarily boost your salary once you're talking to the IT hiring manager. What do you think?