Certificates Are Worthless

Certificates Are Worthless

There are many published opinions on the value of IT certifications when you’re looking for a job. If you do a web search, you’ll find ’em. They range from “it depends on the certification” to “they’re absolutely essential”. Well, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that certifications are nearly worthless.

Those who write about IT certification usually have something at stake. Either there’s a financial incentive or they want to emphasize their own expertise. The point is, you can’t trust ’em. I can’t really say I’m that much different… My Front End Certification from freeCodeCamp is the only "education" item I can list on my résumé. It’ would benefit me greatly to convince people that my certification is very valueable, but I guess my honesty is my downfall. In this digital age, that certificate alone isn’t even worth the paper it’s not printed on… And, wouldn’t you know it, I’m unemployed.

When you apply for a job, the employer’s only questions are "Can this person do the job?" and then "How well?". Education doesn’t even really matter, but, chances are, the first person to look at the stack of résumés isn’t going to be the technical manager, but a hiring manager. They might not be intimately familiar with the job you’re applying for, but they know the posted requirements… x degree, y years of experience, skills a, b, & c.

Since there’s been a lot of popular commentary downplaying the value of traditional education, your application won’t necessarily be deleted without the degree, but a degree holder (even in an unrelated field) will still be considered before anyone with only a certification… Someone with more experience will always be considered before someone with just a certification… Someone with demonstrated skills will always be considered before someone who picked up their skills earning a certification… Do you see the pattern? It is only when all other things are equal that a certification will be a benefit.

If your résumé does make it to the technical manager then the priorities are rearranged a bit. At this point, degree and certification are meaningless. It’s all about skills and the experience applying those skills. This is the critical stage, and this is where "it depends" comes in. Projects built while earning a certification can effectively demonstrate your skills, but not the certification itself.

And this is the moral of the story… A certification program can be a great tool for picking up new skills, but it’s only in the application of these skills that we become valuable to employers. If traditional education is an option, consider it carefully, but the rest of us need to focus on building our résumé, not collecting certifications, long before we start the application process. Even if you’re building projects to earn a certification, make ’em good because you may want to show them on your résumé some day.