Why Certify? Or Not?

Last night, I presented a brief overview of current Microsoft certifications at the PacITPros meeting. One of the questions that came up was how to determine the ROI of getting certified. Right now, I’m in the early stages of updating my messaging certification from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2007. My office pays for exam fees, so I like to take advantage of that when I can. But why certify at all?

For me, it’s not a “bottom line” calculation. I do it as a motivator to keep learning. The nature of the business where I work means we tend to deal with a lot of dated software and don’t always have a need to upgrade to the latest or greatest of anything. We usually run about 3 years behind, particularly with Microsoft software, though that has been changing. If I wasn’t personally interested in staying current, I could easily let my skills lag behind.

Getting a certification in a specific technology gives me something tangible to work towards. By using some extra lab equipment at the office and making time to read, I can have a little fun and stay up to date on technology that will eventually get deployed in production.

Certification isn’t a perfect science. I know that the exams aren’t always in line with real production situations, but they have been improving over the years. And I know there are people on the ends of the spectrum -those that have great skills or experience with no certifications and others with limited experience and a series of letters after their name. I aim for balance. I stick with the topics and products that are in line with what I work with regularly so I can be confident that taking the time to study is going to provide value.

Right now, getting a certification doesn’t end in extra bonuses or a higher salary grade. But maybe one day it will be the item that stands out on my resume when compared to others with similar experience. Or show that I have the ability to set a goal and follow through. Or perhaps I’ll just enjoy challenging myself – certainly no harm in that!

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