Are IT Certifications worth it?

I’ve been in IT for 2 decades.   I got my MCSE in 1999.   Via a BootCamp training class that Microsoft paid my way into.

I was the walking definition of a “paper MCSE” – all knowledge and no experience.   At the time the MCSE was Windows NT 4.0, IIS 4 and some other elective, along with some networking tests.  I really don’t remember, other than TCP/IP which I had to take, fail, study and take again.

When i contracted at Microsoft (the second time) back in 2005, there were 20+ contractors all there getting ramped up for the SQL 2005 release.   Technically they were ramping up for SQL 7 and 2000, as the Full Timers were doing 2005 support. Most of them had the MCDBA certification….many hanging in their cubes.  Not one of them could admin their way out of a paper bag.   Nice people, but no experience.

I decided at that point that I would not be pursuing any more certifications, as these guys were making it look bad and watering the value down.   Certification tests are expensive, when you consider study time, prep materials, practice tests and exam fees.  I decided I would just learn the SQL Server things I needed to know and that were in wide use (skipped right on by Notification Services!).  This has served me well for the 10+ years since that contract at MS ended.

Fast forward to last month when I decided to quit being an old dog and go learn some new tricks.  Specifically Azure tricks…infrastructure and SQL, in parallel (MAXDOP 2).

I’m working through that.  I’m not ready to even think about the first test yet, because I’m taking my time and actually LEARNING the material, whether its on the test or not.  Shocking, eh? 😀  (Pluralsight is amazing for this, BTW).

The thing that triggered this blog came from a LinkedIn post this morning that caught the ire of Adam Machanic (w|t), as well as others:

Hello Folks,

Can someone please send me MCSA 70-764 and 70-765 exam dumps in PDF format.

My Email ID is:

Thanks in advance..

Most of the responses were along the lines of “why not just study the material, you cheater?”

The original poster claimed this:

You are right . in my past I worked on old SQL version as of now working with new versions and everything is automation over here …hence just for reference I need them …

I call shenanigans.

OP is going for the “memorize, test, apply” method of certifications.   Maybe not apply for a new job. Maybe just to keep one.  Who knows.   But still shenanigans….and in .PDF format if you please.

As you might expect, this spilled over to Twitter, as many things do.   It was met there with a healthy dose of venom for those that shortcut the process, as well as places that issue fake certifications (I didn’t know that was a thing!).

For fun, I contacted my friend Gregory Knight at GTN Technical Staffing and Consulting (my first independent customer, way back in 2001) for some insider info on the other side of the recruiting and client pipelines.

My Question:

“Hey…curious how much recruiters and clients actually value Microsoft certifications these days, if at all…other then for resume filtering…thoughts?”

Gregory sent this wide internally at GTN and got these responses back:

I do. It tells me the following:

  • How much extra work a human has put into his/her career.
  • Suggests drive, love of the tech, going the extra mile
  • Low-level cert only or many unfinished certs (CCIE with no lab) and/or never finished college suggests lack of follow through.
  • Certs all over the place, e.g. MuleSoft, CCNA, MSCA suggests lack of career focus.
  • Date of completion matters. It tells me what the person was doing at a particular point of time.
  • E.g. an infrastructure/network candidate passing himself off as a network expert but has lots of Microsoft certs tells me the person likely leans more server side

It really depends on how much our individual client values it. MS Certs tend hold value and do demonstrate a general mastery of the technology. With that said, clients that do not require it tend to not be impressed or care enough about it to make a difference in choosing to select, interview, or hire a particular candidate.

I view certifications, any certifications, like a bachelor’s degree. It does not open the door for a candidate, but it can prevent the door from being slammed shut in their face…

Real world experience > certificates any time unless it’s Cisco.

Production > Lab

So…this settles nothing of course as far as whether you should pursue an IT cert or not.   If you do it the right way, you’ll learn things and have something to show for it.  If you shortcut the process, you’ll be found out when the time comes and others are depending on you to know what you are doing.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.  Any comments bashing people (candidates, recruiters or clients) will not get approved.   Thoughtful, considerate discussion?  Yes please 🙂

Thanks for reading!


Leave a Comment

Sign up for our Newsletter

%d bloggers like this: