Paper or practice: which rates higher?

IT certification holds little value for some computer professionals who claim it is just a "piece of paper".

Even in a tough job market, the school of hard knocks -- on-the-job training -- still rates higher, they say. While certification can fine-tune skills, other IT managers say it has value only if it can be put into practice effectively in the workplace.

Paul Jesse, an IT industry veteran of almost 20 years, said certification is definitely important for network administration and networking jobs. However, "Certification is less important in software development, although it may become a selling point on one's resume," Jesse said. "Ongoing training is very important, and most people in IT who want to advance their careers and their knowledge have always improved their skills on an ongoing basis."

"This doesn't mean they necessarily have to attend courses, these days there are a vast number of excellent books available, a large amount of information on the Internet, and many specialised online discussion groups and forums."

Jesse, who has been searching for a project management role in a software development environment since being made redundant 16 months ago in the OzEmail staff cuts, plans to acquire Project Management Institute certifications as soon as he starts a new job. "Pure project management skills are easily transferable to other industries and increase job prospects."

A network administrator from a national removalist company, said, "Certification is not required to do the job, but ensures employees understand best practice.

"On-the-job training is definitely valued more than certifications. I have experience running routers and servers, and even completed a Citrix application roll-out, and I've never been formally trained or certified in any of these," he said.

However, he is planning to undertake MCSE and CCNA certifications in the coming months -- with his employer paying for the training and exams.

"When the architecture of the operating system or network advances, it is important to understand why these changes are made in order to streamline the running of the system," the network administrator said.

An IT manager from a consulting company who requested anonymity said IT certifications hold very little value -- but does show some effort at IT qualification.

"I have MCSE and academic qualifications, including Graduate Diploma in Technology Management, and am doing MBA studies; employers and recruitment companies do not check your certification. It seems that the certification acronym just makes it easier for the agency to pigeon-hole you," he said.

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