Taking Certifications Seriously

Ahh, so I haven't blogged since last Thursday...guess I've just been too busy lately. Anyway...

Why is it that some people just don't take certifications seriously. I realize that this topic has been covered time and time again, but it still floors me when I see a newsgroup post that says "just quickly read the exam cram 2 book and study the trancenders." This all stemmed from someone asking what else he should do to prepare himself for passing 70-300, in which he has really no .NET experience. I can say that I was the first to respond to him saying that he needed to spend some time with .NET to be comfortable with it, and then work on passing 70-305/315 and 70-306/316 prior to taking 70-300 (from what he said after failing it 1 time before, that most of it relates to debugging and other stuff).

Now, I personally haven't taken 70-300 yet, but will be in the near future, so I can't really speak on what exactly he needs. However, having a base knowledge in .NET will be a positive and helpful thing for any test relating to the .NET certifications.

This just brings me to my next point on why people are getting certifications just to get certifications and passing them using only trancenders, brain dumps, etc. Most of the people that fall into this category, I feel, have had very little .NET exposure, and retain about 0.5% of what they crammed into their head in 1 week. To me, this just kills the idea of certified professionals knowing the technology. I feel that significant time must be spent on the appropriate technology, by reading books, reading online articles, getting your hands dirty in examples & real world cases, and taking practice exams, are all the best methods to ensuring that those who take and pass these certifications actually know about the technology and how to implement it if the time came.

To me, by shortcutting your way into certification just so you can stick it on your resume is completely destroying the idealism of certifications. Now - the real question, is how do those being tested actually prove they know the information rather than just regurgitating it for an exam. In reality, there isn't, I just hope that my employer and possible future employers test my skills that my certifications show before making any presumptions on my skill level. I've heard around the grapevine that some employers are starting to not even look at those with certifications because of the plaguing problem of those trying to beat the system. So why bother? What are your thoughts?


  • I don't have any .net certs at this point and I probably won't get them anytime soon since no one is looking for them here in New York City, but I remember that the VB6 exams were more about VB the tool than the language and there was very little mapping between subjects tested and what people did in real life (and I worked with a slew of MCSDs in Philly). The only thing I learned while preparing for the exam that I later used was the MoveNext method of the Recordset object.

    I got my VB6 certs to help move along my young career, but now that I've been around for a couple of years and have a few websites that show off what I can do I haven't found myself needing to get the .net certs.

    This is a good topic for discussion, by the way.

  • uber - I totally agree on the test content. I've received my MCAD for .NET, however 70-305, 70-316, and 70-320 tested more of my knowledge of VS.NET rather than the language/topics at hand. On all 3 of the exams, I swear I was asked nearly the exact same questions relating to ADO.NET and debugging within VS.NET. Just kind of irks me too.

  • Well, I can see your point. But my observation is that it would be pretty difficult to pass any of the Microsoft development certification exams without a great deal of understanding of the tested material. For example, I am currently studying for the XML Web Services and Server Components exam. I personally don't have any experience with building web services - I haven't needed to learn it for my job yet. Still, I am reading a book, working through some labs, and yes, I still review my progress with Transcender tests. But there is no way (even with Transcender) to just memorize the questions/answers and take the test. You have to understand the underlying concepts. So, I'm not too worried about people decreasing the value of the test - I don't see a lot of people passing the tests and being completely useless in the real world.

    Also, a certification is just one indicator when hiring. I would also look at a variety of other things, like will the candidate be cool to work with, and do they have real-world experience with what I need them to know - not just certification experience. And any company you would want to work for would actually do what you described.

  • Totally agree with you on having to use books, and what not. Now, I've not used a transcender, so I can't compare how that is, but I've seen (not studied) brain dumps, and heard they're damn near word for word on the questions. So - those individuals who use brain dumps can memorize the tests based on the answers the dump provides, making knowing the content pointless because they don't need to.

    I also agree on the cert being only 1 indicator, like I said, I would rather a future employer test my skills rather than just assume I know what I'm doing just because I've got a cert on it.

  • I just got a job with a salary for $95,000 (previous salary was $72,000). When the employer asked my salary requirements I didn't hesitate to ask for 95 because I could tell they were impressed with my MCSD.NET, MCAD.NET, and MCDBA certifications. But, also, I know my stuff, and could answer any question they asked plus some.

    So I would always recommend getting certifications. Three years of studying and they finally are paying off.

  • Mike - rock on and congrats!

  • Matt,

    I agree that there is value in certification. It helps those who *don't* know the technology some independent viewpoint on a base level of understanding of the technology, or at least it is supposed to.

    My certifications helped me get promoted at my last job and were a major consideration in this one. Of course, consultants are always better off with certs than without, since some customers do look for them.

    To the people that say certs aren't for them, I'm happy you can get along without them now. But don't forsake personal development just because you aren't looking a few years into the future. And even if you never need them, it might help raise your salary level! Dismissing certs as unimportant is short-sighted, in my opinion.

  • When Microsoft starts taking certification seriously and makes it so the certification test can not be passed by any idiot who gets a transcender braindump then and only then will people take certification seriously.

    I'll probably get my MCAD/MCSD at some point for the hell of it, but really I haven't seen anyone who is impressed by it for all the reasons you ranted about.

  • Form my own experience people who take certifications are taking them because they do not understand the subject. But since they have a certification they can feel good about themselves and they have a shot at getting a job they couldn't get otherwise, because they have no idea what they're doing. Now of course there are exceptions, but they're exactly that - exceptions.

    How does that saying go in English - those who can do, those can't teach (get certifications in this case).

  • If people pitch me on their certification(s), what I hear is "I have no tangible skills or interests, so I took some tests to look attractive to those that don't know any better".

    Don't get me wrong; plenty of smart people have certifications. (Especially since they're a requirement for every Microsoft partner program I'm aware of.) Selling me on those certs, though, will get you nothing but a "thank you, I'll have my people call your people, don't let the door hit your ass on the way out".

    The big gotcha, of course, is that's just me. I'm sure there are plenty of corporate IT managers that love certs. They're 9-to-5ers and their employees are 9-to-5ers; they don't need to keep up with the cutting edge technology, practices and whatnot. ..and there's nothing wrong with that.

  • Matt Hawley has an interesting conversation going on about how seriously we should take certification.

    I'm with Udi on this. I am probably where he was previously when he was teaching people the knowledge needed to pass the exams but didn't bother himself. I am in the same situation, and your right, there does alway seem to be something more urgent to do. However, my employer's partner program does require some degree of certification so I am under some pressure to get the exams done.

    In general, I don't really take them seriously. I would like to see a serious professional set of certifications being available. This should not really be driven by a single provider, like Microsoft, but would be cross platform. There should also be more to it than simply passing some multiple choice exams. You should really have to provide some real work. This could either be work that you have done professionally or work that you do specifically for the certification. Obviously, there is a lot more work involved in administering such a scheme so there would have to be a charge involved. If this sounds more like membership of a professional body then thats because its exactly what I am talking about.

  • Matt-

    I think you hit hte reason many people see them as useless right on. I haven't taken the development exams, but, the MCSE/MCSA ones are pretty easy to do, especially if you read the book the night before. It's case scenarios, memorization, and non-realworld scenarios.

    I'm an MCSE, now I'm certified to screw up your system beacuse I don't know how to apply a book to a production system is the way I see it.


  • Personally I dont see a point in the certifications if the questions come from dumps. From MS point of view I dont think they really care, they are getting their job done anyway infact because of dumps more people take certifications and hence increased marketing for them. The fact that there are recruiters and managers out there who value certs compelled me to take them.

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