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How to Select the Right Certification for You

Take the proper steps and ask the appropriate questions when selecting your next certification

So you’ve decided to pursue a certification. Congrats! That’s a big step. Now your homework begins. Each certification requires a sincere commitment of time and resources. Earning one is a notable achievement. So the question remains.

How do I select the right certification for me?

The decision goes beyond just choosing between entry-level or advanced certificates. Know that not all are alike, so proper vetting is encouraged. If you’re planning to get certified, there are steps to take to ensure your decision aligns with your interests and career path.

  • Understand the value of certifications

Understanding the value of certifications before you make a selection is vital. According to the Global Knowledge 2019 IT Skills and Salary Report, 85% of IT professionals possess at least one certification. That’s a ton of competition in the industry. And the general consensus is the more certifications, the better. So why are so many IT pros and decision-makers putting such an emphasis on certifications? Why is so much investment devoted to training? Well, it’s simple—the added value is substantial. The merits of certification can be separated into two categories: value to individuals and value to organizations.

  • Value to individuals:
  1. Professional credibility—it tells co-workers and supervisors that you possess the skills needed to succeed, and you were willing to put in the time and effort to get certified.
  2. Personal satisfaction—have you ever felt like an expert in something? You’ll have the knowledge to enter your workplace with confidence and assert yourself as a subject matter expert.
  3. Salary—according to our IT Skills and Salary Report, an individual with six or more IT certifications makes over $10,000 more than those with just one certification on their resume. With few exceptions, each additional certification earned results in at least a minor salary bump.
  4. Job search—certifications give you an advantage during the hiring process and help you stand out in a competitive market. Some employers won’t even consider candidates unless they possess a certain level of certification.
  5. Professional growth—career advancement often requires you to learn new technologies or enhance the skills you currently possess.
  • Value to organizations:
  1. Job essentials—with technology constantly evolving, there’s a need for all organizations to have subject matter experts on new and updated topics.
  2. Filling skills gaps—IT decision-makers say that skills gaps can put a strain on many departments and the best way to fill those gaps is with training. Certified employees can lead to greater productivity and increased workforce morale, as well as knowledge share across the department.
  3. Employee retention—job satisfaction results in greater staff retention. Employees who are fulfilled are less likely to pursue other employment.
  4. Partner relationships—certain vendors incentivize their partners to maintain competencies on their products. For instance, IBM benchmarks these competencies using certification and badging programs.

Choose your certification path

Now that you understand the value of certification, it’s time to pick one. It may seem simple, but rushing your selection could waste time and money. There are four things you should consider when making your choice.

  1. Answer this question: What do I want to accomplish?
  2. Answer this question: What am I interested in?
  3. Do your homework
  4. Think about the future

The value of certification is easy to define. Where you start is harder to pin down. If you can narrow your options to a specific technology or job role, you’re off to the right start.  It’s easy to make a decision if you’re new to IT (hint: stick to foundational certifications). But if you’re more established or don’t have a clear picture of your career path, it may take a little more time and research to locate the most suitable option.

Remember, certifications show your value to co-workers, managers, and future employers. Beyond the skills you’ll gain, seasoned IT professionals respect certifications because they understand the time and effort needed to acquire one. It’s a great way to differentiate yourself from your peers. And if a decision-maker notices that you’re earning certifications even when they’re not required, that could be the deciding factor in a promotion or a raise.

My advice: choose wisely! And best of luck on your certification path.

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