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Setting a Value on Advanced IT Certifications

Setting a Value on Advanced IT Certifications

For most IT professionals, there’s more to pursuing an advanced IT certification than simply the money involved. It’s about achieving a kind of career status that only a few people ever attain, and gaining entrée into an exclusive and highly-regarded cadre of truly superior IT professionals. Nevertheless, it is important to take everything into consideration when embarking on such a time consuming and costly endeavor. Today, we take a closer look at performing a cost-benefit analysis for two popular advanced IT certs: the CCIE and MCA.

Swallowing the premise for this story is going to require agreement with a pair of suppositions, neither of which may apply to some readers. All I can say is: if these suppositions don’t apply to you, you may elect to forgo reading this story. Even so, I think you might want to read through the initial set-up for the story anyway, assuming still further for my part that if you aren’t planning or pondering an advanced IT certification right now, you might still need to cross that bridge someday later on in your career.

Some Humble Suppositions

Here’s what I’m supposing to be the case, in explaining how to conduct a cost-benefit analysis for one or more advanced IT certifications:

  1. You may be ready (or almost ready) to tackle a more senior-level IT certification. For my analyses, I’m going to use the Cisco Certified Interworking Expert (CCIE) Routing and Switching as one example, and the Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) as another example.
  2. You will have to pay for the costs of preparation, exams, travel and so forth out of your own pocket (I also explain how to factor in employer support, and ponder the possible opportunity costs of such support when it comes with “stay-or-pay” requirements, as is sometimes the case).
  3. You want to be sure that the payoff for earning the credential is reasonable enough to justify the time and effort involved. Of course, “reasonable” is a word that comes with many possible interpretations, so my cases will also explore what some of the more likely interpretations might be.

Overall, my guiding assumption is that if the payoffs for earning the credential offset the costs, then the credential is worth pursuing. If they don’t offset those costs, there had better be substantial “other considerations” in play to mitigate them.

Ed Tittel is a 30-year-plus veteran of the computing industry, who’s worked as a programmer, a technical manager, a classroom instructor, a network consultant and a technical evangelist for companies that include Burroughs, Schlumberger, Novell, IBM/Tivoli and NetQoS. He has written and blogged for numerous publications, including Tom's Hardware, and is the author of over 140 computing books with a special emphasis on information security, Web markup languages and development tools, and Windows operating systems.

Check out Ed's Tom's IT Pro blog Making it in IT - Certification & Training.

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