Study Habits for Certification Success

As I’ve stated before, I highly value certification. I think they provide a good goal and can encourage someone to dig deep and learn features of a technology they may have never looked into otherwise. I recently had a discussion which started with the question “can certifications make a career?”

The even split came down to “yes, they prove your knowledge” and “no, it’s too easy to cheat for them to be valuable”. The no camp has a very strong case. Sure you can easily buy a brain dump and memorize the test bank. At that point you wouldn’t truly be qualified but there’s no way for a hiring manager to tell.

The Yes camp has an valid argument that paper tigers will become obvious. If you memorize the questions and answers but then don’t understand the work we will be able to tell. You have to be able to trust people when they say they have it.

As a test taker and employee I realize that studying for and taking a test before I have exposure to a topic helps me understand it academically. My typical study technique includes spending hours in hands on labs. By the time I get to a production environment I have a decent idea what I’m doing. For example I have my CCENT from study, videos, and labs. I now know how to read a config, get into a switch, etc when I need to do so. I wouldn’t have that skill without that cert.

I don’t think that a certification can 100% make a career. I do think they are extremely valuable to an employee. Test give you a goal and allow you to gain skills in technology that you may not otherwise experience. I also feel that they can give a hiring manager an idea of the depth of your knowledge. You likely won’t get a promotion or a raise the second you get VCAP status but it sure looks nice when you apply for your next job.