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Why Computer Certifications are Important

Updated on October 4, 2009


Certification Magazine
Certification Magazine

What are Computer Certifications and Why Get Them?

I've been in the computer industry since the mid-80's. I've held a variety of jobs from computer technician to network administrator, from Network Engineer to Computer Trainer. I've seen the economy go up and down like all of you have. What has happened in the last few years is a decided shift towards certification in the computer industry.

Computer Certification is a document issued by a computer company attesting that the recipient is qualified in the subject content that the certificate is for. A computer technician usually pursues an A+ certification from a company called Comptia. They also provide certificates for Networking associates (Network+), and security (security + software) specialists. Microsoft has a large number of certificates in its library. These range from very technical certs like the MCSE which require 7 exams, to application certificates which require only one exam.

Other computer companies have their own set. Cisco a company that makes hardware - routers and switches - uses the CCNA with one exam, and the top of the line cert the CCIE which requires two exams.

These exams vary in difficulty. Some require only about three months worth of experience with one week of study preparation. Other exams require 2-3 years worth of experience, and special workshops or bootcamps to prepare the student for the exam.

Exams are usually taken at a neutral site. There are two testing companies that most companies that offer certifications use. One is Prometric, and the other is Pearson Vue. Some computer companies use both, but Microsoft uses Prometric exclusively and Cisco uses Pearson Vue. Once a person registers for the exam, either online or by phone, they can select the place, like a college, and the day and time. They can cancel or reschedule up to 24 ahead of time.

The cost of an exam also varies. Some exams are $125.00 whereas others will be closer to 1500.00. It depends on the exam and the company offering the certification. The Cisco CCIE, perhaps the hardest of all the technical certifications cost 1500.00 and it is a two day lab exam at a special site identified by Cisco. But most technical certs are not that expensive or hard.

Why Get a Certification?

In the last 10 years, companies that rely on the technical expertise of their computer personnel have discovered that the expertise can only learned on the job. While colleges and universities still continue to offer computer science degrees or computer information degrees, the focus is typically on theory and not on practice.

A computer certification offers a way to measure the practical knowledge that a person will have to do a job. Consider a database specialist. If the person was a college graduate in computer science, the person will have a very good understanding of the theory of databases, but not necessarily how to work with Sql Server 2005, (Microsoft's database software).

Usually companies will send their own employees to get computer/software training in a particular area, and then ask them to take a certification exam.

But in today's economy, if a person, out of work, wants to get his foot in the door or just to get an interview, then the certification is almost a requirement. The number of people who have IT credentials today is vast. The number that have certifications are limited. It is a numbers game, with companies picking their potential employees carefully from a large pool of applicants. So any differentiation is necessary.


Here are just some of the certifications that are available.


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