The Question of Certification, an asp.netPRO Article

I’m convinced that trying to find a black and white answer to the question of certification is impossible. There are too many nuances to each situation to allow for a single, blanket answer.

In the current issue of asp.netPRO magazine (January 2006) I wrote an article titled Test Tales: The Trials and Tribulations of Taking a Microsoft Beta Exam (sorry, requires login). In it, I talk about the benefits of certification, explore the details of Microsoft’s new certification tracks, and talk in detail about the ASP.NET 2.0 beta exam I took a few months ago.

For me, the question of whether or not to certify has always been: will it help me get hired and will it increase my salary? Being involved in hiring for the past 2+ years and doing some internet research on salaries has convinced me that the answer to both is “yes.”

Will Certification Help Me Get Hired?
The three main components to a resume are: experience, education and certifications. There are others, such as publications, awards, and references, but the most commonly encountered parts are the one’s someone sees on first read and they dictate whether or not you get called in for an interview.

Experience is most important, with education and certifications following. When reviewing resumes I am always more likely to talk to a candidate with certifications, especially the multi-test tracks like MCAD.NET and MCSD.NET. A candidate with one of these certifications shows me they are interested in ongoing learning and growth, were willing to spend the time and money to study for and take the exams, and have enough experience to pass them. These are all desirable characteristics in a potential hire.

In fact, and I realize this is purely my own experience, every MCSD.NET that I’ve ever worked with has been substantially more knowledgeable and dedicated to the field than the average developer. This doesn’t mean you can’t be knowledgeable and dedicated to the field and not have a certification (I’ve worked with many who fit this description, as well), but the axiom of MCSD.NET = good developer has been consistently true for me.

Will Certification Increase My Salary?
From personal experience, a previous employer offered a $6,000 raise for an MCAD.NET and another $4,000 for an MCSD.NET (Unfortunately, I moved out of the area before earning either one). But $10,000 for passing 5 exams always sounded like a good deal to me.

Lest you think my deal was an isolated incident: according to a 2005 survey by Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine, about half of the survey respondents indicated their certifications made a difference in their salary.

If you’re interested in a closer look at reasons to get certified and the new Microsoft certification tracks, be sure to pick up a copy of the January issue of asp.netPRO, or read the article at Test Tales: The Trials and Tribulations of Taking a Microsoft Beta Exam (sorry, still requires login).

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#1 Tony Stubblebine on 01.10.06 at 11:14 pm

There is one very black and white question regarding certification, “Will bringing up the value of certification spark a heated discussion?” Slashdot uses this ploy every three months to spark a little traffic.

#2 rwalling on 01.11.06 at 4:28 pm

I have to agree with you, Tony.