This feature first appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
Certification is a process, and both the expenditures and rewards associated with it often accumulate gradually. There's probably no way of objectively knowing whether or not it's "worth it" to get a cert, and opinions are likely to vary not just from person to person, but also with passage of time. If you're new to certification, however, or maybe just rediscovering it, then you've probably wondered about fellow IT workers' general attitudes and experience.
You don't necessarily have to spend a pile of money to get certified. For some, the biggest investment required is that of time and mental energy. For example, 35 percent of Salary Survey 2015 respondents did not purchase training and study materials while completing their most recent certification, while 60 percent did not incur any costs from workshops, seminars, or other instructor-led training.
Some credentials, on the other hand, may come with a hefty price tag. A considerable 15 percent of those we surveyed spent between $1,000 and $9,999 on instructor-led training, while 27 percent invested between $100 and $499 on books, study guides and other self-directed learning materials.
If you are going to invest in training, then self-study might be the way to go. Books and practice exams stand out in our results as the most highly rated study aids, with 59 percent of survey respondents rating their experience using books either "excellent" or "very good," while 61 percent gave a corresponding assessment of practice exams.
Instructor-led training (boot camps, workshops) is considerably less utilized among survey respondents. A telling 43 percent of respondents did not use boot camps at all to prepare for their most recent certification, and 28 percent steered clear of workshop-style training.
Certification can affect salary, of course — you may have read about that somewhere — but improved workplace performance is another, perhaps more tangible benefit. A telling 40 percent of survey respondents use skills "learned or enhanced" through certification several times a day, with an additional 26 percent getting that boost several times a week.
In a similar vein, 63 percent of those surveyed either agree or strongly agree that certification has increased their problem solving capacity, while 60 percent say it has made them more productive at work. And it would seem that employers are aware of those effects. Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed either agree or strongly agree that certification has resulted in increased demand for their skills.
And like oatmeal — surely you remember what dad and grandpa always told you about oatmeal — certification sticks to your ribs. More than 40 percent of those surveyed have been working in a job role that directly utilizes one or more of their certified skills for longer than 10 years. That's pretty solid staying power.
TABLE TALK : What are the "hot" certs for 2016? There are lots of different indicators to point to, but here's an interesting one: Which certifications are certified professionals actually planning to pursue in the next 12 months? We just asked nearly 12,000 working professionals what's on their IT certification "to do" list, and here's how they responded: