I’ve never been terribly shy about my beliefs about IT certifications. I sincerely believe they are largely a waste of time. I do recognize that one thing they do provide is a documented learning path. Having gone through that learning path, you will gain knowledge. Knowledge, I very much believe in. Unfortunately, certifications are not an actual demonstration of knowledge.
I also know that for some organizations, having certified individuals gets them partner status and all that entails. Again, this means that the certificate is a bonus, not one of the major qualifications for a given position. If I worked for one of these organizations, I’d go and get certified. Otherwise, why bother?
Which Certification Will Get Me a Job in IT?
If you’ve never seen this question before, you clearly don’t talk to people at SQLSaturday events (or any other event), or go to any of the Q&A sites on the web. This is one of the single most asked questions (right after “My database is slow, which button do I click to make it go fast?”). People want to break into IT and certification looks like a path.
The appropriate answer is: None of them.
However, you frequently see people, usually the ones with 47 certificates, going on and on about how, just one more cert, just one more, this time, I’ll get the job I want.
Let me break the news. Experience, a proven track record, and knowledge are what get you jobs. And yes, I understand, how do you get experience without first getting a job? That is indeed the hurdle. I’m just telling you that certifications are not the rocket in your bottom that will throw you over that hurdle.
So, What Do You Suggest Instead?
I’m glad you asked.
Instead, I recommend you build knowledge and understanding and experience. Sure, you can do this in part by following the certification learning path and maybe even passing the test and getting the certification. However, you need to go way beyond that. Build your own systems. Build databases. Back them up. Do all the work as if it was real so that you learn what it is, not simply study enough to pass the test (or worse yet, memorize the answers from one of the ILLEGAL question dumps). Volunteer with local charities to work on their stuff.
Which brings up my next suggestion. Network. Go to the local user groups. Meetups. Go to the SQLSaturday (or whatever) events near you. Talk to people. Ask questions. Engage. Find out who needs what kind of knowledge? What kind of work? Where are there internships? Heck, if you hit it off with someone experienced, ask them to mentor you through some growth into a real job.
I’ve really enjoyed my 30+ years in IT. I thoroughly recommend it as a field of endeavor that is financially rewarding. I do NOT want to put obstacles in the way of anyone getting this job. However, I also want to paint a very realistic picture. Certificates appear to be a shortcut. Get this piece of paper and I’m employable. Unfortunately, no matter what you hear from the certifying bodies (might they have an interest in this?), that alone won’t get you a job. It’s an extra for some employers. They still want to see that you’ve done the work, have the experience, have the existing knowledge. Certificates just don’t provide that. I’m sorry. I dislike being negative, but this word needs to be spread around.