The question that I get a lot from people new to the information technology field is “Are certifications worth the cost?” The answer to that question is not straight forward. If you are working for a Cisco or Microsoft partner then of course they are worth the cost. There are a number of benefits that Microsoft and Cisco offer their partners and you cannot keep your partner status or even a obtain a partner status without a certain number certified individuals.

Now there are a number of different certification organizations such as, the EC council and CompTIA. Which are vendor neutral organizations for certification. The ISC2 focus is predominately, and this is just one persons perspective, on management level security whereas the EC Council focuses more on practical hands-on cyber security. CompTIA is the standard when it comes to entry-level certifications such as A plus, Network plus and security plus. While some in the industry may disregard CompTIA for being too entry level of a certification to actually mean anything I would challenge that those people who make that argument do not actually hold one of the CompTIA certifications. I do understand their argument that just because you can memorize and regurgitate questions for a test and, trust me a lot of brain dumps out there, it doesn’t mean you’re qualified for the particular job that you’re applying to. I would remind some that even studying the brain dumps gives you a baseline knowledge and aren’t baselines where we’re supposed to start when it comes to security management and networks. I always try to remind people to take entry-level exams in their totality and weigh the fact that somebody was committed enough to sit down study and take the exams as a factor when hiring.

I personally cut my teeth in IT during the 1990’s in Seattle and New York City. At that time I did not have a college degree nor did I have any industry certifications and I didn’t seem to need them. Work was plentiful and pay was commensurate with your ability. As I moved into the 2000’s and beyond I saw that certifications were becoming more important as a way of setting yourself apart from the crowd. You may have amazing AWS or Azure skills or be able to enumerate the most secure of systems but you may not be able to show that if you can’t get past the Applicant Tracking System that is the standard with hiring managers. Having the certifications today will help your resume rise to the top as most Human Resources personnel may not have the technical acumen to fully vet a candidate on the same level. The certification insures that the candidate has a baseline of knowledge.

Are certifications required? I would say no but I assure you that they are worth the cost as they require you to keep up with changes to the specialization that you hold your certification in as they should require continuing education units to insure that your certification still means something as a 15 year old certification might not hold water today.

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