Why IT Certifications Should be Important to IT Students

September 19, 2014 at 3:08 pm | Posted in Certification Paths | 6 Comments
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it cert graphic

Some time ago, ITCC requested we write a white paper about why IT certifications should be important to IT students. Recently someone here at Kaplan reached into the file cabinet and pulled out an old, very dusty copy of this document. After some arm twisting (and chocolate – chocolate always works!), I was convinced to take a look at it once more and see if the topic was still relevant today. With just a tiny bit of editing, we thought this was a great topic to revisit. So here it is…

In this economy, every job candidate needs an edge over the competition. Sure, there’s no replacement for experience, but employers view certain certifications as an indicator of a job candidate’s ability to perform. Not all IT students, however, pursue industry certifications as part of the core curriculum.

Although a job may not require it, certifications can help recent grads by differentiating them as job candidates and validating their knowledge when they don’t have years of work history. They can also provide career advancement opportunities and personal growth if kept current.

Here are some key points about certifications:

1. Job Candidate Differentiation

If you’ve attended any job fairs, you’ve seen firsthand just how much competition is out there for every job. A single position or opening may draw hundreds of applicants. Meanwhile, the individual or committee responsible for combing through all these resumes can often find very little “on paper” to differentiate between the applicants.

Job candidates in the IT field can provide that differentiation by including any IT and professional certifications in their resume. It does not matter if you choose to pursue CompTIA vendor-neutral certifications or the technology-specific certifications offered by major players like Microsoft, Cisco, and Oracle. What matters is that obtaining these certifications can be the difference between standing out in the crowd of applicants or blending into the background.

2. Career Advancement

Once you’ve been hired, certifications can help you advance in your career. Employers may even have certification requirements as part of your professional development plan. You should always ensure that your certifications are kept up to date, either through recertification or by satisfying the continuing education (CE) requirements.

In addition, you may want to obtain new certifications to branch into a different IT career. For example, you may be hired as a help desk technician while having earned CompTIA’s A+ certification. After some time on the job, you may determine that you want to step into a network administration or server administration role, and decide to pursue a Cisco or Microsoft certification as the first step toward reaching that career goal.

Keep in mind that it’s often easier to maintain a certification than to re-certify. Make sure you understand the requirements for maintaining the credential because most requirements are time-sensitive. You don’t want to fulfill the CE requirements for a particular certification, only to find that you waited too long to submit your activities for acceptance as CE units. Also, ensure that you track CE-related activities as they occur rather than waiting until you have to renew, so that you don’t have to dig through files and old emails to find the right date or documentation.

3. Validation of Knowledge

Depending on the IT program, you may be exposed to a completely different set of classes and subjects than your peers enrolled in a different program. Because there are so many differences between the various college information systems programs, it’s often hard for an employer to determine exactly what knowledge the candidate possesses. This is where IT certifications can really help you.

All certification vendors publish a list of the skills that are measured by any certification exam they offer. If you pass the certification exam, employers can refer to these vendor lists and easily determine the skills that are validated by the certification. These skills lists will also be a good guide for you as you look to specialize your skills through certification.

For example, if you want to be considered a security specialist, you may want to obtain the Security+ certification from CompTIA, the CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) certification from CompTIA, and/or the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification from (ISC)2. Don’t know which one is right for you? Just refer to the skills lists for each of these certification exams as a guide.

Certain vendors, such as Microsoft, Cisco, and Oracle, also offer different tracks that allow professionals to specialize in other areas, such as network administration, database administration, and application development. These tracks
typically offer entry-level credentials and paths to continue building your skills with advanced level certifications.

4. Personal Growth

While certifications can help you achieve career advancement goals, they can also be used as personal milestones. As a technology professional, you already understand that your skillset must be constantly upgraded to include the latest tools and techniques. Setting personal goals that include new IT certifications ensures that you are constantly expanding your knowledge base. As IT professionals, we cannot afford to stop learning. Even if your job requirements do not dictate that you should obtain new certifications, personal growth and education should always be a goal. When in doubt, ask yourself, “If I lost my job tomorrow, would my certifications still be marketable? What would make my resume unique in today’s job market?”

Several years ago, Kaplan joined the IT Certification Council (ITCC). If you’ve never heard of this organization, here’s a brief description:

The ITCC is a council of IT industry leaders focused on promoting IT certifications and committed to growing professional certifications, while recognizing the need for a qualified workforce to support the world’s technology needs. The ITCC is a resource for employers, government officials, academia, and individuals seeking information about the many benefits of IT certification. The council establishes industry best practices, markets the value of certification, enhances exam security, and works on other certification issues the Council identifies.

Other members include leading certification vendors, including Microsoft, LPI, and CompTIA, and content or test providers, including Pearson VUE and Prometric. I encourage you to look into this group if your organization is involved in any way in the IT certification industry.

Feel free to share this blog post with others you think it might help. Remember, we’re always here to help you in your certification goals. Got a specific certification question? Feel free to reach out to us through this blog, and we’ll do our best to provide advice.


Come Together, Right Now…under one certification registry?

September 30, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Posted in Vendor news | 1 Comment
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Since the onslaught of the Great Recession, highlighting your skills for employers has become an important, if not critical, activity.  In the IT industry, one of the best ways to prove your skills is to earn certification in the relevant fields and technologies. Thanks to Transcender, and to your own hard work and diligence, you probably have a few certifications under your belt, or are seriously working toward earning one.

If you have a really diversified skill set, you probably have certifications from more than one vendor. Each vendor has their own certification system. CompTIA and Cisco issue physical wallet cards to certified individuals. Microsoft phased out their printed certifications in 2010, then launched their Virtual Business Card site (although wallet cards may be coming back, as per this July post on Born To Learn). All of these vendors, including Oracle, also support a public, online transcript system. The problem is that none of these certification systems are integrated. So you might find yourself fumbling through cards in a high-stakes interview or dealing with an ever-expanding resume to accommodate the boatload of transcript IDs and vendor-specific links.

The (proposed) solution? To make available one central repository of all your certifications, regardless of the vendor. An organization named  the ITCC (Information Technology Certification Council) is trying to do exactly that with its TechCertRegistry. Using a single account, you can  link certifications from multiple vendors and combine them into one report. Continue Reading Come Together, Right Now…under one certification registry?…

NDA, the ITCC, and the responsibilities of test-takers

May 5, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Posted in Vendor news | Leave a comment
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(Editor’s note: John Shapiro, Vice President of Sales, is today’s team blogger.)

I believe it was an old American Express commercial that used the tagline “Membership has its privileges.”  While that can certainly be the case, more importantly, membership also has its responsibilities.

Transcender is a subsidiary of Kaplan IT Learning.  A couple of years ago, Kaplan IT became one of the charter members of the Information Technology Certification Council (http://www.itcertcouncil.org/).  This organization’s mission is to enhance the value of IT certifications. Transcender supports this mission wholeheartedly and enthusiastically (yeah!). At the heart of that statement is a collective desire by stakeholders in the IT certification business to make sure that we meet three vital goals:

  1. maintain the integrity of tests (i.e. reduce cheating)
  2. promote the value of individuals who have work/studied/sweated hard to achieve their certification
  3. help companies that hire IT professional understand that certified candidates are on the ball, understand the technology, and can be of great value to the company.

How do we do this at Transcender? We work to provide technically accurate test prep material that covers the published objectives without ever disclosing live questions. We support industry groups who promote certifications to employers, and support efforts to develop new certification methods (like performance-based testing) that better reflect a candidate’s real-world skills and work experience. And we strive to educate consumers (not just our customers, but all test takers) about the consequences of unethical test behavior.

Now, let’s talk about NDAs. All vendors have them in one form or another, and we’ve touched on this topic before. And, although we’ve had this particular post in the works for a while, there have been a recent flurry of reports across the industry that make it even more timely.

If you haven’t encountered the industry term “braindump” before, it refers to pirated live exam content sold online. Of course, people who buy braindumps think they’re paying for the correct answers as well, but there’s no guarantee the person who pirated the information even knows the technology; we’ve seen ludicrously incorrect examples come across our desks. (See our Top 5 Reasons To Avoid Braindumps.)

While buying a braindump is a blatantly obvious way to participate in NDA violations, there are others. Braindumps can also be forums where people post about specific questions they encountered on a test. This behavior might seem innocuous (or at least to fall into a gray area), but it’s very specifically prohibited by all NDAs (see the Citrix Candidate Conduct Policy for more examples of prohibited actions, and see Robin’s NDA post for links to other vendor NDAs).

There are some very real consequences to using braindumps and otherwise working against the integrity of the testing experience that can permanently affect your career – and the careers of others who depend on the value that certification adds to their job. Please, before you throw money (and possibly your reputation) down the drain, educate yourself about non-disclosure, braindumps, and safe exam study. If you’re not sure what does or does not constitute an NDA violation, you can always ask! Vendors are more than happy to answer specific questions on the issue.

Until next time,

–John Shapiro

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