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Do certifications help boost careers and salaries?

Posting in Technology
Do certifications help boost careers and salaries?

That's the question recently asked by The Wall Street Journal's Jonnelle Marte, who explored the pluses and minuses of obtaining certifications to boost one's credentials in a given profession. On one hand, they may be seen as a "pricey credentials" intended to help pad resumes. The problem is lack of regulation, she explains:

"The majority of the certifications being sold to job seekers are unregulated, making it hard for individuals and employers to measure their worth. There are no hard numbers on the size of the certification industry but Swift estimates that less than 10% of the more than 4,000 personnel certifications that exist have been accredited by a third party."

Certifications are a huge industry, with courses and accreditation promoted and sold by professional associations, software vendors, commercial training companies, and even formal educational institutions. In some cases, professionals may end up spending several thousand dollars in pursuit of a certification. Marte points out that demand is high, with certifications often being mentioned in help-wanted ads.

Whether or not they pay may depend upon the types of jobs and levels of demand in a particular economic environment. For example, Foote and Partners, which regularly publishes research on IT salaries, says that there were no appreciable premiums paid for certifications in recent years, especially when the recession set in around 2009. However, in the most recent quarter, the researchers say average pay premiums for IT certifications rose 1.5%in the third quarter of 2013 -- the largest quarterly gain since 2005 and the first time since 2006 that there has been two consecutive quarters of positive growth in pay for certifications.

Certifications are recognized as a badge of accomplishment in many industries, and Marte indicates that work in underway in some sectors to standardize these programs. Also, employer endorsements of programs is key.

In a competitive era when there is acute demand for highly qualified professionals in a range of areas, certification programs are a way to ensure more training and skills updates. Lifelong learning -- not education that stops on graduation day -- is essential to both working professionals and organizations. The skills that are in demand five years from may be entirely different than today.  

Thumbnail photo: US Department of Agriculture.

— By on November 27, 2013, 8:09 AM PST

Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure