Salary Survey Extra: Is recertification really necessary?
Posted on
April 26, 2018

Salary Survey Extra is a series of dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our annual Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.

Opinions differ when it come to the ritual of renewing IT credentials. Is recertification really necessary, or will you be OK without it?

In the annals of Greek mythology, King Sisyphus of Ephyra (later Corinth) was a bloodthirsty, greedy, and deceitful sovereign, an all-around cad who even escaped death long enough to haunt his wife before finally being dragged down to his eternal reward. His ultimate fate is one of the more memorable in all of recorded literature, so much so that his sad state of affairs is still hanging around in the lingua franca today.

You see, Sisyphus is the guy, eternally languishing in the land of the dead, who got stuck rolling a heavy boulder up a steep hillside. Every time Sisyphus gets the boulder to the crest of the hill, however, it slips his grasp and rolls back to the bottom, resetting his neverending task. You can perhaps spot the origins of the phrase “No rest for the wicked” here, as well as the roots of the word “Sisyphean,” which describes an arduous task that can never be completed.

The metaphor has been overshadowed somewhat in recent generations by the analogous — if less emotionally afflicting — mental image of a hamster wheel. Still, Sisyphean is a word that more than a few in the IT industry might use to characterize the ongoing cycle of recertification: a task that, no matter how times it’s completed, remains to be started, labored through, and completed once again.

There are excellent rationales that support recertification. To start with, information technology is not a constant. You can’t just learn everything there is to know about networking, for example, and never need to study the subject again. Actually, many certification vendors note that the lickety-split pace of IT evolution is one of the strongest arguments in favor or continual recertification.

Indeed, while most IT certifications are considered current and up-to-date for at least three years, some expire after just two.

At the end of our 2018 Salary Survey, we asked respondents to weight. Is recertification a boon or a burden? As you might expect from a body of certified IT professionals who have been putting in at least some degree of effort to remain certified (respondents are required to have at least one current IT credential in order to participate), survey takers are largely in favor of recertification.

Here’s what we learned:

Q: Generally speaking, is recertification really necessary?
Yes, technology changes constantly and I need to know what’s new. — 28.1 percent
Yes, it helps to have a refresher on the basics every few years. — 10.1 percent
Yes, it promotes the value of certification by keeping standards high. — 6.3 percent
Yes, for all of these reasons. — 30.5 percent
No, it just makes money for certification programs. I keep up with changes by doing my job and working with technology every day. — 24.9 percent

It’s not negligible that 25 percent of those surveyed think recertification is Sisyphean both in the sense of being fruitless and in the sense of aligning with the earthly Sisyphus’ lust for money. Still, on balance it would seem that there are more than enough working professionals who believe in the merits of recertification for recertification to quite healthily remain a going concern.

It’s also interesting to look at the variation among the “Yes” responses. The largest single group of respondents feel that all of the rationales given are good reasons to recertify. The pace of change in technology, however, weighs far more heavily on the minds of respondents than either the importance either of reviewing the basics or of maintaining high standards.

About the Author

Certification Magazine was launched in 1999 and remained in print until mid-2008. Publication was restarted on a quarterly basis in February 2014. Subscribe to CertMag here.

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