Microsoft Project Certifications – Is it worth it for the Individual? (2 of 3)
BY: Collin Quiring
This is the second part of three articles on Microsoft Project Certifications. In the interest of trying not to repeat myself and not requiring you to read Parts one or three, let me just say that this article is trying to answer the question: Is certification worth it for the individual?
From the perspective of the individual and according to Microsoft, certifications are “available for most Microsoft technologies and skill levels from business workers to IT professionals, developers, technology trainers, and system architects. Achieving a Microsoft Certification helps provide you with up-to-date, relevant skills that can help lead to a more fulfilling career, while giving you access to valuable Microsoft Certification program benefits.”
If you have the experience in a tool, I think that certification is what gets you “in the door” if you are looking for new work. It is also beneficial if you are trying to move up the corporate ladder within your own organization. And, in this economy, sometimes it is the deciding factor to just keep the job you have now.
One of the obvious benefits to a certification is that it shows to others that you have the skills, knowledge and ability that you are claiming you have. If you talk to somebody that doesn’t know your work – inside or outside your company – sometimes the certification is the only way that person will believe that you actually know the subject matter. I am not claiming that having a certification will get you a job, but I do believe that it will get you the interview. How many times have you seen a job listing where the hiring entity wants persons with a list of skill sets and you have some of those? Any time that more than one person applies (or, in times like now, when 100’s or 1000’s apply) how is that hiring manager going to differentiate people? If you can apply for that job showing that you have the experience AND you have the certification to back that up, you have a better chance of at least making it past the first culling.
There are some people that have told me that certifications are a waste of time, that nobody cares and that since they have years of experience and can show any hiring manager (internal or external, whether for full time or contract position) that they have the skills and then they don’t need any certification. I am not so sure, particularly in times like this. When lots of individuals are competing for work, unless this person can somehow get past the first cut, they never get the chance to show their abilities (even if they are superior).
I will give a simple example from my life. I can’t do any major car repairs and I move quite a bit. Therefore, I don’t have the personal knowledge to judge a mechanic’s ability. Also, I don’t have any life-long mechanic friend in my city because I always seem to be relatively new to town. Therefore, I have no choice but to look for a mechanic that can somehow prove to me that they have the skills to work on my car. I look for those certifications (like ASE) on websites and phone books before I call. When I call, I ask questions about their experience in the type of repair I need. There may be a mechanic that is absolutely excellent that lives in my town but because of a lack of a certification I don’t go to them.
That leads me to a quick sub-point. Not all certifications are created equal. Some carry more weight than others do with employers and experts in the field. Therefore, it is important to get the certification that best fits what you are doing and best represents your skill sets.
A certification shows an employer that you cared enough about your profession to obtain a level of endorsement that not everybody else has or gets. However, the benefit to you can be significant as well – and not just for work reasons. I won’t get into all of the psychological reasons why a certification might be of value to you but there are non-monetary benefits.
The last thought I will mention about this is that a certification can demonstrate that you are current and a series of them can show that you know your technology. With Windows 7, Office 2010 and new server versions coming out, a current certification shows that you know the tool. For example, depending on where and how you work, it is entirely possible that you work with, or recently worked with, SQL Server 2000, 2005, 2008 (and 2008 R2). Obtaining the latest certification on the newest software shows that you are keeping up with the changes in technology. Having your older certifications along with the newer ones shows that you have experience in a wide breadth of the technology.
To me, the certification is worth it because presenting a certification is a quick way to gain credibility and be recognized as knowledgeable in your field. That is the way that you stand out from the crowd.