Commentary

Letter #7: Training doesn't justify certification

At first impression, [I feel] it would appear to be worthwhile improvement. It might wind up being a solution to the two problems of MCSE program -- it's disconnected from the real world of Windows and disconnected from Windows engineers' experience. However, these two issues really boil down to one issue: the definition of certification. My position is that training makes someone qualified. Experience and expertise lead to certification. While the difference in the semantics of these two words might seem minor, in the real (IT) world, they are quite different.

The problem, in my opinion, starts with the premise of training as a method of acquiring certification. Training only provides knowledge. This is a means to qualification. One can take training in order to become qualified to fulfill a task or fill a position. This is a process of filling your brain. But it is not the same as certification. Qualification only gets you in the door. Certification classes and bootcamps might provide training, even intense, prolonged training. However, even a week of that isn't justification for certification.

I will use the example of IT professional certifications such as Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and Certified Information Security Manager (CISM). (Note: I hold both, so I might be slightly biased, but only very slightly.) Both require much more than just passing a test. They require verifiable experience. They require references.

Other similar certifications require writing a paper. Certification is definitely not acquired by training. And the word certification doesn't belong in the same phrase as class or bootcamp (unless the bootcamp is three years long). The difference here might be that certification requires you to show that you can use your brain, not just fill it. And with this new architecture certification, Microsoft might just be asking for you to prove your experience.

Brett Osborne


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This was first published in August 2005

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