Letter #4: Make certification mean something

The new certs may be a good thing, but not if they eliminate the other certs: MCSE, MCSA, MOUS, MCDST, etc. There needs to be some base-level formal training on core subjects or issues in network management and in applications. Passing a certification test offers some guarantee that the person knows something substantial about the subject. A certification of any type is not, on the other hand, a guarantee that the holder is a seasoned veteran, experienced in every nuance of any situation.

In the half dozen years since I first got the MCSE I've been aware of a constant stream of belly-aching about "paper certs." Of course it's a piece of paper, just like a law degree, a medical license or even a driver's license. It would be foolish to hire a lawyer, a doctor, a truck driver or a network admin simply on the basis of the paper on his wall. It would be even more foolish to hire one of those who didn't bother to get the piece of paper.

Whenever people start carping about paper on the wall, I want to know whether they themselves hold any degrees or certifications. Are these also the people who dismiss "book learning," and boast of their tenure in the "School of Hard Knocks" and their on-the-job training. There are a lot of experienced people with tenure out there who've spent the last dozen years sitting on their can doing crossword puzzles. Are they and their organization simply too lazy or too cheap to bother with formal training? The industry today needs something more than shade tree mechanics designing, building and maintaining IT networks.

I hope Microsoft will retain some level of progression in their certs -- something basic, then more advanced, then sys admin level with the new certs at the top of the ladder for a few people. I would guess that only 10% or 20% of the current MCSE's would have the interest or need for an architect certification.

Tom Doran, Sys Admin 1
District 7 IT Coord


Click here to read the entire series.
This was first published in August 2005

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