All certifications are NOT created equally.

All certifications are NOT created equally.

This is not a case of discrimination. Certifications have different tiers, just like jobs. Some jobs are quite simple and easy, hence do not require extensive experience or skills and pay an average salary. Whereas some jobs require a specific set of skills possessed only by some and therefore pay a lot. Similarly, some professional certifications require that you study hard and pass a test, others require that you have years of experience in a specific field before you can even apply to be considered.

We all know that certifications are crucial to one’s career however before embarking on a new certification or a set of certification, you must make sure that they are relevant to your objective. Let’s take the example of a CCNA certification. It’s probably the most famous certification in the IT industry. However, if you are pursuing a CCNA in order to qualify for a Systems Administrator role, or to qualify for a Senior Network Administrators role, then you are doing it all wrong. The point I would like to reiterate is that all certifications are not created equally and each certification has its place and purpose. Lower/entry level certifications are essential for an entry level role as they not only give you the foundation knowledge to work in IT but also act as a stepping stone to pursue more advanced certifications. Higher level certifications on the other end are extremely critical and some employers will not even consider your application if you do not have them.

That’s the big takeaway here. The value of certifications goes up with the difficulty and experience required to get them but at the same time, their relevance to the position you are applying for matters equally. Having a list of acronyms beside your name does not make statement if they aren’t relevant.

Start with the Certs that Matter for Your Career

Just because a cert is low-level or has little value doesn’t mean you should not get it if it’s relevant to your career and current job search. Even lower-level certs are still valuable if they’re right for the type of job you’re doing and show that you have proven skills and ability to do the job.  So someone starting out in the IT industry, for example, should consider the CompTIA certifications, and then move on to some of Microsoft’s and Apple’s entry-level certifications. If you’re interested in networking, Cisco certifications are considered as the benchmark in the networking industry. If you’re interested in Linux systems administration, you may look at CompTIA Linux + certification program.

The Bottom Line: Yes, Certifications Can Help You Get a Job…As Long as they are Relevant

The certifications you undertake should be based on what career pathway you wish to choose. This information is readily available to anyone thinking of doing certifications. Make sure you do your research whether it is by looking at position descriptions, employer recommendations, LinkedIn or simply what people who have ‘been there done that’ are saying.

Certifications cost money. Even though it is an investment, a wrong investment will result in you never seeing any return on your investment. Don’t assume that just by doing a bunch of certifications you will be ready for an exciting technology job if you spend a few bucks and pick up an A+ in your off time—it’s not that easy. Ultimately, getting one or two certifications will prove you’re capable of learning and retaining knowledge (or at least passing a test) but several under your belt shows that you’re committed to a career path, well versed in it, and knowledgeable, IF and a very big IF they are the right ones. And if you have done the right certifications and still struggling to get a job or get noticed, the problem lies somewhere else. Maybe you need to sort out your resume, soft skills or practical skills. If doing a few relevant certifications has not helped, there is no point in continuing doing certifications without sorting out other issues that may be preventing you from getting a job.

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Mansoor Walli