The business case for IT certification
Posted on
May 15, 2023

This feature first appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.

Why should businesses value IT certifications earned or held by their employees?

Is having an IT certification worth the effort, time, and cost of getting one? Not all tech professionals consider industry credentials necessary. According to the latest Tech Salary Report by employment facilitator Dice, 53 percent of technologists surveyed said they didn’t have certifications. Less than half of those who responded had one or more. How does one decide whether to opt for certification or not?

A number of factors determine the need for (and value of) an IT certification. You should consider the following criteria when weighing any IT certification decision: your current or intended role; your skill development goals; your career stage, field of work, and type of employer; and your employer's priorities and preferences.

IT certification is deemed essential in some cases, and considered a preferred option in others. It is not a requirement for some roles, nor is it necessary or valuable if you have plenty of practical experience in your chosen field. What is most important is your ability to do the job well.

If certification can help you do your job better, help you update your knowledge and/or develop advanced skills, help you specialize in a different field — such as cybersecurity or cloud computing — or is required or preferred by an employer, then it makes sense to research suitable options and weigh the costs and expected benefits.

The employer perspective

According to the 2021 IT Skills and Salary Report compiled by Global Knowledge, 75 percent of IT decision makers surveyed feel that the skills gap had widened. Fifty-six percent said they planned to enhance their technological capability by training existing employees, and 15 percent said they planned to hire professionals with the required skills.

Certified tech professionals can enable organizations to address their skills gap and operate efficiently in a rapidly evolving environment. They can also help companies secure IT assets and data and respond to changing customer and client needs. Therefore, an increasing number of employers are showing interest in hiring certified candidates or encouraging employees in certain roles to get certified.

Many employers in the IT industry, as well as in non-tech organizations that need information technologists, value IT credentials for specific reasons. Let's discuss some of the ways that certification provides value to employers.

Value No. 1: Evaluating entry-level job candidates

Why should businesses value IT certifications earned or held by their employees?

A bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related subject is not always a requirement for entry-level IT roles at some companies. For example, a candidate for an entry-level job in tech support needs to demonstrate that they can perform tasks up to standard in a real-world environment.

An industry-recognized IT credential offers hiring managers one way to assess the capabilities of a candidate without past professional experience, a relevant degree, or a portfolio of work. For example, the CompTIA A+ certification is widely viewed as providing assurance to employers that a credential holder has the ability to handle technical support tasks.

A+ certification requires passage of two exams, Core 1 and Core 2. It is expected that exam candidates develop foundational knowledge and hands-on experience in the course of preparing to attempt these exams. It’s not uncommon to come across CompTIA A+ listed as a requirement or a preferred credential in recruitment ads for tech support jobs.

Value No. 2: A differentiator in hiring decisions

According to the Pearson VUE 2021 Value of IT Certification Employer Report, 51 percent of employers who participated in the survey believe relevant certifications are a differentiating factor during the interview process. For example, when selecting someone for a specialized role, a hiring manager may view advanced credentials as extra validation of requisite skills.

In the case of experienced tech professionals looking to move to a different career path in IT, a recruiter or hiring manager might find relevant industry-recognized certifications helpful in evaluating a candidate’s skillset for the role.

Value No. 3: Specialized knowledge

Why should businesses value IT certifications earned or held by their employees?

With the IT skills gap increasing, finding tech professionals with advanced skills — especially in highly specialized and fast-evolving fields, such as cloud technology and cybersecurity — has become a challenge for many employers. More and more organizations have started hiring technologists with solid credentials in these specialties.

In this instance, the credential helps employers identify and add staff who can address critical business needs. Hiring a certified cloud technologist, for example, could help an employer take advantage cloud infrastructure and tools to optimize business processes and increase productivity. Hiring a certified cybersecurity expert could help ensure the protection of business data and business systems.

This is driving demand for cloud computing and cybersecurity certifications. According to Global Knowledge, cloud technologies and cybersecurity certifications were the highest paying IT credentials in the U.S. in 2021.

These include Google Cloud Professional Data Engineer, Google Cloud Professional Cloud Architect and AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate. High-paying security certs include Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

Value No. 4: Meeting requirements

Many employers provide services to business clients where certification is a requirement, and not simply preferred. For example, an IT business consulting firm that hires out project managers might need its employees to be Project Management Professional (PMP)-certified in order to meet the demands of certain high-level clients.

The U.S. Department of Defense requires specific certifications for information assurance roles. Many organizations that heavily rely on a particular vendor's IT products — a firm that utilizes Cisco networking products and technologies, for example — might require networking professionals to earn various vendor-specific certifications. Businesses that participate in partner programs with major IT vendors are often required to have a certain number of certified professionals on staff.

Value No. 5: Indication of motivation

Why should businesses value IT certifications earned or held by their employees?

As noted above, earning an IT certification takes time, effort, and money. Some advanced certifications require years of professional experience in a specific specialization or role.

Successful IT professionals typically aim to learn a new skill every year. Some opt for certification because preparation for the exam involves hands-on training and studying the topic in depth. A certification exam is an opportunity to be tested against industry benchmarks.

Working full-time and studying for a certification requires strong motivation and discipline. Many employers have a positive impression of candidates who take the trouble to study for certification exams. They view it as an indication of an employee’s commitment to self-improvement, to maintaining skills, and to working toward career goals.

Value No. 6: Employee retention

For many organizations, finding suitable talent is not the only challenge — it is also difficult to retain experienced and highly-skilled employees. Organizations that prioritize employee development often pay certification costs for valued employees to learn new skills. Employees who get the opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge and work on interesting assignments are more likely to remain at the company that has invested in them.

Value No. 7: Mentoring other employees

Sixty-five percent of employers that took part in the Pearson VUE survey believe that certifications enable employees to mentor others in the organization. A technologist who has in-depth knowledge in their field is capable of guiding non-certified workers in their department.

Maximize the workplace value of your credential

In an era of rapid technological innovation, it is crucial for organizations to stay abreast of changing trends and technologies. Tech professionals with the right credentials can help their employers optimize operational capabilities in a highly competitive environment. Employees with diverse skillsets can enable companies to use various platforms, tools and technologies.

Cloud computing specialists are highly paid for a reason. Professionals with advanced skills in cloud technologies can enable their organizations to deploy business solutions in the cloud, expand market reach and optimize customer service while minimizing IT infrastructure costs.

Today, data and systems security is one of the top priorities for organizations in the public and private sectors. Skilled security professionals, however, are in short supply. Technologists with developed cybersecurity skills are highly sought after because organizations need to keep their IT systems and data safe. Cybersecurity specialists are especially in demand among large and medium enterprises, including organizations that maintain tech stacks.

The benefit to employers of subsidizing certification

Why should businesses value IT certifications earned or held by their employees?

That more and more organizations are recruiting certified professionals, as well as paying for existing employees to get certified, is evidence of the fact that employers believe certified professionals are valuable. In that sense, helping employees earn certifications is a cost-effective means of adding value to an organization.

As noted earlier, tech support personnel with CompTIA A+ certification have the expertise to solve problems that come up in the course of day-today operations and manage change. They are also capable of training non-technical end users when needed.

Organizations that have highly-skilled cloud technologists and cybersecurity professionals on their rolls are equipped to work on cloud platforms to realize their business objectives, as well as protect their IT systems and data.

Some certification providers require certification holders to recertify after a specified period. To recertify, certification holders need to pass exams or earn education credits. This enables them to update knowledge and skills and keep abreast of trends and technological changes in their field. Organizations in turn benefit from having professionals with up-to-date skills on their team because this enables them to employ new technologies, tools, and practices.

Certification exams can cost hundreds of dollars. The cost of certification can turn out to be a good investment if it enables you to switch to a field and role of your choice, if you gain valuable skills, if you manage to get your first IT job, or if an employer requires it.

Certifications alone cannot get you hired or guarantee a promotion. What employers value is the ability to perform tasks according to specifications and fulfil objectives. Ultimately, hard work, relevant professional experience, education, troubleshooting skills, communication and business skills, type of role, and years in the organization will determine promotions, compensation, or overall career growth.

About the Author

Reena Ghosh is an independent ghostwriter who writes promotional, developmental and explanatory content for individuals and businesses. She came to professional writing with work experience in financial services operations and corporate communication. Reena speaks three languages and hopes to learn Sanskrit. She is a wanderer who spends time in West Bengal, Goa and any place that pulls.

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