AWS, Google, Azure, Red Hat, CompTIA…these are big names in IT! And not only for their products, but also for the certifications they offer. If you’re new to tech, you might be wondering: Do certifications really matter? Welcome to IT Certifications 101! What’s the tl;dr? Certifications are critical to getting past HR for certain roles, but they won’t get you the job.
What are IT Certifications?
Certifications are official credentials given by companies, institutions, and vendors to verify that you have demonstrated a specific knowledge or skill. They are a stamp of approval from a known brand (like Amazon) saying “This person knows their stuff.” Certs are used in a lot of industries, including technology. Even within tech, there are dozens of vendors and hundreds of certs.
Why do IT Certifications matter to employers?
Many roles (including security, system administration, and networking) require certain certs to make it in the door of an interview process. This filter matters for several reasons: it helps narrow down the pool of applicants, it establishes a baseline of shared knowledge or experience across all applicants, and it expedites the process so that employers don’t have to spend as much time vetting basic technical skills.
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Why do they matter to you?
Obtaining certs in IT will provide you with a number of benefits:
- You will show up in recruiter searches on LinkedIn!
- You can follow specific, concrete paths for your career development
- You obtain industry-recognized, respected, and transferable credentials relevant for your whole career
- You develop relevant and broad-base content knowledge
- You will be able to pass initial HR screenings and land a seat in the interview
Why DON’T they matter to employers and you?
At the end of the day, certifications are just pieces of paper. They represent your ability to pass a test, not to do a job. Sometimes those things are one and the same, but usually, they are very different. Certifications are like the entrance fee to get into a tournament: you still need to fight your way to the top. And when you’re standing in the ring, it’s better to know how to fight than to have a degree in fighting.
Additionally, not all jobs within tech care about certifications at all. For example, there is technically a Java programming certification from Oracle, but it’s almost never required or considered for job applications because it tests very specific, abnormal, and academic concepts that don’t apply to most real-world software development.
If Certs matter AND don’t matter, what do I do?
At Codeup, we like to think of our IT training as CertificationsPLUS, as in – you get certifications PLUS hands-on experience. Here’s a quick way to think about it: Amazon Web Services has basic certifications called Cloud Practitioner and Solutions Architect Associate. The official Amazon training for these certs is 1 week: 4 days of training and 1 day of exam readiness. The 1-week schedule will present to you mostly everything you need to pass the certification exam, and then it’s on you to go cram and memorize to get ready. Once you pass, you’ll have the cert, but you’ll be a paper tiger: all bark and no bite. In other words, you’ll appear knowledgeable and skillful on paper, but in reality, you won’t have any experience or know-how for completing the real work.
Alternatively, Codeup spends 5 weeks on AWS, combining exam study and hands-on practice. That way, you can talk the talk and walk the walk.