Uncertain economic times have many IT employees nervous about how to stay relevant and valued in their companies -- or at future employers if they're forced to leave. One Chicago-area IT manager and infrastructure project leader, who asked that his name not be used, wonders whether it's time to earn a certification that might get him premium pay or at least an edge over other applicants for a new job.
"Do I try to enhance my management skills, or do I dig deeper into the technology?" he asks.
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* Slideshow: Where IT jobs are headed
* Special report: 2009 IT career survival guide
* Special report: Where the tech jobs are overseas (and how to get one)
* Special report: Tech workers under fire
* Special report: IT and the financial crisis
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What's more, on his own tight budget, the manager is concerned that the cost of a certification will outweigh the benefits. "[Certification] really doesn't strike me as being beneficial," he says. "A lot of people I've seen with certifications frankly don't know what they're doing."
His dilemma is common, and Computerworld's 2008 Salary Survey figures seem to back up his suspicions. Nearly half (49 percent) of the respondents reported having some type of computer certification, yet 47 percent said their certifications haven't helped them land a job, earn a promotion, or gain a pay raise.
"It's no longer about certification, except in deeply technical areas like security and networking," explains David Foote, president of Foote Partners LLC, which reports that the average market value of a certification declined 3.5 percent from July 2007 to July 2008. "Employers want skills any way they can get them, in the right combination, and not simply tech skills, but hard and soft skills."
CIOs and senior managers are now looking for certification programs "that are going to help classify and categorize the value of people for things that matter to the business at hand," says Diane Morello, an analyst at Gartner. "So we're going to see more education and training in financial regulations for people in the financial industry," for example, she says.