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Are Certifications Really Necessary?

6 December 2016




As a career-oriented professional, chances are you either have a certification or have thought about obtaining a certification at some point in your career. It is even likely that you have obtained a foundational Scrum certification as an Agile practitioner. There still remains one question: Are certifications really necessary to succeed?

When certifications matter

A certification confirms you have met a minimum standard. But if the bar is low then certifications fail to provide any value to you or to your next employer. In other cases, when you are technically capable, you may not bother with the time and expense to get a certification and would rather let your experience speak. In this case, you may be thinking that the spirit of the Agile Manifesto, which favors “working software over comprehensive documentation,” runs contrary to pursuing certifications.

However, there are two instances when certifications make a real difference:

1.     When you don’t have much experience and you’re trying to prove yourself

2.     When it’s market driven.

No experience

If you’re a recent college graduate or a seasoned professional wanting to change your area of expertise, certifications may help you land a job. In the absence of experience, a certification can be a starting point. Certifications will show that you’re serious about your career choice – after all credentials are typically expensive and time consuming. When the certification carries a rigorous assessment, it provides some external, objective measure of your abilities.

When hunting for that first or next job, having a certification can help you get to the interview stage. This is especially true if you are working with agency recruiters. Most recruiters are not technical. They rely on your honesty and credentials when deciding whether or not to present you to their client. A certification may just tip the scales in your favor.

Market drivers

Even if you’re not a recent college graduate or changing your career trajectory, certifications can become necessary as a result of market conditions. Market conditions manifest in two different ways: the overall employment market and what the market requires of a particular type of professional.

Overall employment market – When the employment market is candidate driven, experienced candidates with good interpersonal skills can write their own ticket in many instances. In this type of market, certifications are less important. When the market changes, as it did in 2001 and then again in 2008, HR and hiring managers are inundated with candidates and need some way to differentiate them. One easy, although imperfect, way to differentiate candidates is based on education, which includes certifications.

The market for particular professionals – Specific skill sets or particular job titles can demand specific certifications. Often when specialties are emerging and it is difficult to identify appropriate experience, hiring managers will require a certification as the minimum standard. Once the field is established, the certifications can fall out of fashion as experience and success in the specialization becomes easier to recognize. If hiring managers have bought into a certification and you want a job with them, you may need to bite the bullet and get the certification.

Only you can decide whether a certification is right for you. They may be useful, but in some situations, they may be unnecessary. Either way, remember that, to succeed in a career, nothing can take the place of good old-fashion experience.



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