Are you thinking about getting some IT certifications? They can be great resume-builders, but only the right ones. Otherwise, they can just as easily be nothing more than resume-padders.
This is a hotly-contested topic. After all, no one who's put up the time and money needed to get a certification wants to hear that it was wasted. However, with so many certifications out there, it's simply inevitable that some will be more respected than others.
Whether you're an IT consultant, engineer, or just want to add a few initials to the end of your LinkedIn profile, here are a few of our own picks for best and worst certs.
Is That Cert Worth It?
I. Good Ones
The best certifications are going to be both broad and high-level. They say "I know a lot about a wide variety of environments and can be trusted with a lot of different challenges." They also indicate a genuine dedication to your field, and a willingness to put in real time improving your skills.
For example, in networking, CCIE is a great cert because it involves a written test and a practical demonstration. It genuinely shows off your networking skills. Another good example would be the *Nix cert RHCA (Red Hat Certified Architect) which is an even more in-depth version of the better-known RHCE.
Also, with security so important for so many reasons, we can easily recommend CISSP, as well as the less-common OSCE. That's "Offensive Security Certified Engineer," and actually amounts to a sanctioned hacking test - with a practical portion where you have 24 hours to crack a target! If you're gunning for a spot on a security team at a high-risk company, you'd get a lot of mileage out of OSCE.
II. Bad Ones
Almost without doubt, the most useless cert is A+. Occasionally you'll run into an entry-level support position that wants A+ as a way to weed out the total newbies, but that's about all it's good for. Otherwise, it's so basic and easy to obtain that it just doesn't carry any cache.
Beyond that, broadly speaking, highly specialized brand-specific certifications rarely have much value. At least, not unless you're talking about industry leaders like Cisco. Things like a Juniper certification just aren't very useful, not unless you're applying for a job that (somehow) focuses on those specific brands.
Again, what you want to focus on are certifications that A)show off your skills, B)mark you as having a wide range of talents, and C)demonstrate dedication to your career.
What's More Important Than Certifications?
Except in very specific scenarios (usually sales-based) people hiring for IT are almost universally going to be more impressed by real-world experience than by certifications. Just about everyone who's hired for IT -and we've talked to plenty over the years- has run into people who look great on paper, but utterly lack real-world skills.
Just about any certification - yes, even A+ - could potentially be good for your career, if you use it to gain more practical knowledge. That, more than anything else, is what will help you succeed in IT!