Confession time… I’ve never gotten a college degree or even a single certification for information technology. I’ve managed to build my career by learning on the job. Sometimes I even work for free in order to pick up new skills. I remember working on week-ends in 1994 setting up servers at a San Francisco bio-tech company that responded to a newsgroup post I made offering free work for the chance to use Netware 4.

Amusingly, I even wrote a book on managing Windows Server but to this day I have never had a certification on using a Microsoft product (or any product for that matter). Heck, I even designed features for Windows and managed the engineering projects to build them when I worked at Microsoft.

It always seemed that my experience counted for more than certifications when applying for jobs. Of course, getting experience is a job in itself. Certification courses can certainly be a way to get experience when there are few options available.

What do you think? How important are actual certifications in getting IT jobs these days? Do employers care about diplomas and certifications if a candidate has demonstrated experience?


Michael Surkan

TPM Chief Evangelist


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Christo -.

Founder/President of Excelisys, Inc., an incredible team of database application designers, developers & consultants.

Depends – Employers looking for employees – I would think that is a 50/50 mix, some do care and some don’t, I think it weighs heavily more on what you bring to their table from a proven diverse skill set with a track record that can prove it.

On the other hand – Certification looks good when prospective clients are evaluating your firm if you offer services. It doesn’t hurt not to have it, but it sure does help. In our industry it is brought up by our prospects – they look at our client list, portfolio, and reviews and of course are we certified – that gives us a leg up over some of our competitors.

Ron Z.

Venture Futurist

Both certifications and experience can work against the software engineer.

OEM certifications from Microsoft and Oracle are notoriously demanding, not to mention expensive. As for experience, keep in mind that the average career of a software developer is only about seven years. Certified developers, experienced developers, and developers with advanced degrees are too easily perceived as being serious about making long-term careers out of software engineering, and run the risk of being seen as too expensive and rejected out of hand.

I know half a dozen such people, all with tremendous expertise and motivation, who can assure you that bigger and better credentials can make you less marketable, and not more. It would seem the best resume strategy is therefore to avoid listing certifications if you have them, avoid listing positions older than about five years, and make sure the positions you accept involve the latest and greatest technologies for your specialty. Specialists are of course preferred: the well-rounded are suspected of lacking focus, of lacking the expertise required for the present narrowly-scoped task, and of being risk-takers besides. You should not accept a position or an assignment using out-of-date technologies, or obscure technologies, or lacking in the use of the latest technologies, or scheduled to take more than a year, or perceived as having turned into a death march or a long-term maintenance project. Avoiding direct hire positions can help keep you out of a technical backwater that could make you unemployable, and allow for more resume listings over a shorter career duration: five one-year contracts in five years in a single set of closely-related technologies is probably optimum.

Philip Z.

Founder, entrepreneur, helping teams and companies to drive innovation

As a founder of a Technology Consulting Company – I have never valued certifications very high in judging if a person/consultant is competent or not. Getting certified is ususally quite eays with experience (as long as one thinks in the way of certification, and some times being innovative gets in the way …). Usually the leaders in technology, techniques and methodoligies do not need the certifications as by the time they are available they are already are a step ahead….so what matters most is the real competencies and certification usually do not reflect that, but may help to get visible … I do value very much experience but only if this does not stop remaining innovative and open.

Dion S.

IS Project Manager

Interesting issue. In my mind, there are two issues within the one. Certifications are often needed to get a job, but are basically worthless in the real world. Why? Simply, every network or OS or MRP/ERP used in an org is a little different than the last one. Certs don’t and can’t cover the broad spectrum of the work world. Experience however, will help that potential employee quickly understand what needs to be done in most cases.

I’ve been a tech for 15 years or so, and a hiring manager of techs for a couple enterprise companies. I could care less about some test a person memorized and passed. I simply want to know – can you do the job? Or do you at least have the background and aptitude to learn quickly? Experience will trump certification every single time, at least for me.

(Editor’s Note: The above post and selected comments are from a May 2014 TPM / Techpost Media LinkedIn Group post. The original, with photographs and further comments, is available at )