Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

Are certifications important?

Question: I just read your 10 Quick Steps to Interviewing For Tech Jobs. In it you make no mention of Certifications. Are they not important?

Let me put it this way: they’re “nice”, but for the real in-the-trenches programming positions I was hiring for, I’d have a hard time saying they were important, at all.

Let me explain why…

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

I have mixed feelings about certifications. When I interviewed people I rarely looked at or for them. I was more interested in accomplishments and abilities. What can the person do.

The problem is that it’s unclear to me how well certification maps to abilities. Knowledge, maybe, but abilities?

A lot of people think that they are fantastic programmers because they know a lot. But knowledge alone doesn’t make for an engineer that can actually do anything. And certainly it says nothing about what they can, or cannot, do in a production environment.

A sharp interviewer will look for abilities – remember that a good interviewer is looking for what you can do. Knowledge contributes, but at the end of the day, knowledge alone doesn’t produce results.

Now, all that being said, some folks do look for certification as a checklist item – sometimes it’s a requirement to get past the Human Resources resume screener. Sometimes it’s one way of demonstrating certain knowledge. And it can certainly be a reasonable and structured way to educate yourself for yourself.

But ultimately I don’t think they’re truly important, unless your prospective employer or segment of the industry typically requires them to get in the door.

And admittedly, they certainly don’t hurt.

Do this

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

10 comments on “Are certifications important?”

  1. I think you are wrong. Certifications are always important. You are only focusing on “programming.” However, all the rest of your articles appear to be on the “tech” side. Certifications are always important in getting the job.

    You never interview with 1 person for a high level job. For example, in my position, I interviewed with 4 people over the course of three weeks. Two people believed that the certifications were important. One because he believed that someone who took time to achieve certian certifications on their own showed a more “get up and go” attitude. The one other believed that it showed a higher quality of base of knowledge.

    So when it came to hiring me or the other guy, I was chosen becuase of my skills *AND* because of my certifications.

  2. I think you’re right. There are so many graduates out there who don’t know much. Then there are some hobby programmers who know much more and can do much more than those who hold a diploma in IT.

  3. google requires qualifications (eg B.CS. or B.Eng.Sp) for the managerial positions as well as experience. This is not required for careers with less responsibility (and less salary).

  4. Hi I enjoyed reading the above article. I am interested in developing a career in computers. I am returning to work after years of being a dedicated housewife and mum. Question1. Am i too old. Question2. Where do i begin. Question3. Am I being over ambitious as i have zero knowledge of computers, all articles including yours seem to be targeted at the young ones.

  5. The neat thing about programming is that you can save work you have done to a disk and give it to the employer. They will know when talking to you if you are the one who has programmed it and if not they will know in a week anyways, two tops.

  6. Certifications DO show an employer a certain level of accomplishment. Most have learned (or will learn) certificate does not necessarily translate to ability. In a competitive environment, it could help get your foot in the door.

    In my opinion the only “accomplishment” that a certification shows is the accumulation of knowledge. While that’s certainly something it tells us nothing about what employers really care about the most: can you do the job?


  7. Ironically, I have hired people before in my computer company. Certifications always told me the person had very little practical experience – true that!

  8. I have a 16 year old son who is very passionate about computers and programming and not so passionate about school. He would rather just be allowed to sit and do code all day.

    Would you say that I should just go with my gut feeling and let him do this instead of having the focus on Dogwood Diploma’s and College where we are fighting all day long to get him to do his schoolwork. Of course I will still have him do his Math and English.

    Actually recorded an Answercast segment on that: Should I let my son just focus on coding in school? (Some of the comments that have been posted are of interest as well.)


Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.