Should I Get an IT Certification? 10 Questions to Ask Yourself

by Du'An Lightfoot | Feb 18, 2019

Du'An Lightfoot is a senior network engineer who has been working in IT for more than 15 years. He recently recorded a video on YouTube about chasing certifications versus building skills and has teamed up with CompTIA to highlight some of the key points. Keep reading to learn what it takes to progress through IT.

Achieving IT certifications offers a number of benefits, including personal fulfillment, financial growth and a boost in confidence. But most of all, they show employers that you have the ability to focus and learn and that you take your career seriously.

So, what does it take to climb the ranks of IT?

I spoke with a colleague of mine not too long ago, and he made an interesting point.

“If you want to take your career into your own hands, you need a trifecta.”

He was referring to these three things:

  • Certifications
  • Experience (Skills)
  • A Degree

With all three on your resume, there is no reason you can’t have the job of your dreams. When it comes to certifications and skills, here are 10 questions to ask yourself before you decide to chase your next IT certification.

1. Why should I get an IT certification?

In January, I earned the DevOps Foundation certification. Through this, I learned that the business has to establish its “why” – the purpose, beliefs, goal and reason for doing something. This can also be applied to certifications – what is your purpose, belief, goal or reason for achieving the certification? I apply this to every major decision in my life. Establishing the why puts the goal into focus.

2. Does this IT certification align with my career goals?

I’ve spoken with hundreds, if not thousands, of people via YouTube, and it always burdens me to hear someone chasing certifications that do not align with their career goals. Certifications require time, money and energy, and none of those should ever be wasted. CompTIA’s IT Certification Roadmap can help you map out a plan to get your career exactly where you want to be.

3. Will this IT certification improve my skills?

Let’s be honest. Some certification exams are a bunch of memorization questions. Once the exam is out of the way, so is the information we obtained. CompTIA performance certifications require you to not only answer questions, but to also demonstrate your skills through performance-based questions, allowing you to prove you can do the work, not just memorize facts.

To me if it’s not something that will improve my skills, knowledge and resume, I will not waste my time on it. I would rather have one valuable certification that proves my skills rather than 10 certifications that I earned and then forgot about.

4. What value will this IT certification add to my resume?

In order to get pass automated HR filters, you need to have certs, skills or both. If you don’t have the skills, then checking the box for CompTIA A+, CCNA or whatever IT certifications you have will really help you move on to the next phase of the interview process. Speaking of automation, learning Python, PowerShell or Ansible will put you at the front of the interview pack in 2019.

5. Does this skill relate to my current job?

In my career, it has always been easier to prepare for a certification that covers technology that I am working with. When I’m labbing eight hours a day on the job, it means less time labbing at home and more time reading and studying notecards. #LabEveryday

6. Will this IT certification increase my salary?

Skills pay the bills! Ask anybody in any profession, and they will tell you the same. But one thing’s for sure: certifications confirm your worth. Having in-demand certifications shows employers that you have the skills they’re looking for.

7. What’s more important – learning a skill on the job or getting a new IT certification?

If you are already working in your desired career field, sometimes learning the skills related to a new technology you work on daily will have more impact than simply getting another certification.

An example of this is Cisco ISE or Amazon AWS. Learning these technologies thoroughly will have a major impact not just on your resume, but also on your bank account. I’ll repeat: skills pay the bills, but certifications confirm your worth.

8. Can I afford this IT certification?

IT certifications can be expensive. Not only the exam cost, but also the required training to help you prepare. That said, you have options for saving money, or potentially getting your certification paid for entirely.

9. Do I have the right resources?

Nothing is worse than taking an exam and realizing you have been using the wrong textbook version and training material. This may sound crazy, but it happens. Be sure to check your vendor’s certification page to locate the exam topics and training resources – here’s where to get CompTIA exam objectives and practice tests for free. Maybe you have a mentor or know someone who has taken the same certification – ask them for guidance. The internet, YouTube and Reddit are also great resources. Here are 7 ways to prep for a CompTIA certification exam.

10. Will my life allow me the time to focus?

Life can get the best of us all. My wife and I are expecting our fourth child, so it’s impossible to focus on a certification right now. But, thankfully, our family functions as a team. When you are working on a certification, be sure that your life has a support system that will encourage you on your journey. The #LabEveryday Community is a great place to go to find people that will help you get to where you want to be.

In 2019 our goal in IT has to be to learn, improve and automate. This goes for IT processes and your career. Whether you are chasing certifications or building your skill set, work to create balance. That will give your career agility and resilience.

Ready to get your IT certification? Sign up for CompTIA's IT Careers Newsletter, and get 10 percent off your next voucher or training product.

14 Comments

  • Paul Skinner

    Wednesday, February 20, 2019

    Du’an speaks the truth. Having a degree, certifications, and experience shows you know how to put everything together and make it all work. Personally, having all three, I would agree that I would not be in the position I am currently in without having them all! Keep working to get all 3 and you will see a difference in both position and pay, it is worth the extra effort!

  • Nicole

    Monday, February 25, 2019

    If you have the certification and the degree, how do you get the experience when all job posting are asking for one year plus of previous experience. There are no volunteer or intern opportunities on my area.

  • Patricia Nelson

    Monday, February 25, 2019

    1) I agree with Paul. 2) For Nicole: Are there computer repair places in your area? Any career schools in your area? Any educational institutions in your area? You can always do an informational interview in terms of asking what opportunities are there to observe/be mentored/audit or ask the individual how did they get their experience. Most will be at least willing to point you in the right direction. Or, write to the YouTube lecturers Professor Messer, or the icon himself, Mike Meyers. Again, at least you will get direction. Good luck!

  • Mozze

    Monday, February 25, 2019

    Trifecta. Word!

  • Jeff

    Monday, February 25, 2019

    For somebody who is middle age and looking to get into the IT industry with no experience or understanding. What would be recommended? I don’t have time or money to get a degree. My plan was to take the comptia ITF program to learn the fundamentals, from there I would study for my A+ certification. Once I had that, I would start looking for entry level positions while studying for the network+ and then security+ after that. Is this a feasible strategy to get my foot in the door to a good career? Any suggestions are welcome! Please be kind, I am new so I really am not sure as to what I am doing yet. Thank you!

  • Du'An Lightfoot

    Tuesday, February 26, 2019

    My man Paul! I thank everyone reading the article. @Nicole getting experience is tough. I do feel your pain. In my opinion when there seems to be no opportunities you have to be creative. Use the internet to network with recruiters, IT professionals and hiring managers. Blog about the technology and the industry you want to be in. By doing this you become a voice and your online posts become your resume. Which will speak to your knowledge and experience. Getting in the field and climbing the ladder can take time and there is no cookie cutter approach unfortunately. You have my support and if you have questions please feel free to contact me. www.twitter.com/labeveryday

  • Wendy Karamath

    Tuesday, February 26, 2019

    Great post. I think the market for young or budding IT professionals is saturated in my country. Nevertheless, I am determined to get my first CompTIA cert in A+/Net+ Either way, certs do help along the way!

  • David

    Friday, March 15, 2019

    I find myself in the same place as others. After finishing my Bachelors a lot of companies still want people with experience and finding places to gain that is difficult. I have been in IT for 18 years, but want to move into a different field. It has so far proven difficult.

  • damitchell

    Friday, March 15, 2019

    One thing I have learned, being (46 years of age), degrees are not as valuable as when I started the job market. The youthful IT group of people are super skilled in IS/IT and are still in High School. We have to remember that as time passes, it is the same as Trade school, High School, Associates, Bachelor’s, And now employers seek people with a Masters or greater. This is when IT certs comes into place for the talent management with hopes that the person is not a paper cert only individual.

  • Alireza ghahrood

    Thursday, March 21, 2019

    A differentiator against the competition. When employers are interviewing, the competition is often stiff. If you have the certification, and the other person does not, you are at a definite advantage. Also, Will enable you to make more money. Often, earning a certification, such as the PMP, can quickly lead to compensation increases of 20% and more. +Enables you to better evaluate the talents and skills of others. With the discipline to master the material for the certification, you are in a better position to evaluate the skills of others. You have had the opportunity to evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses in the process of earning the certification, and have a broader understanding of the skills and toolsets that can be effective.

  • jrouse

    Friday, March 29, 2019

    Degree's are not as valuable these. Have some education with some experience is. As to certificates, they frustrate me. I have done the work that qualify me but when I take the test what the best practices are, are not the correct answers. I have also found people that have a lot of certificates are always that skills and do not adapt well to the ever changing landscape of IT. I have been in IT for over 30 years.

  • Jan Peddicord

    Wednesday, April 17, 2019

    Experience back to Windows 2.8 hardware/software doesn't mean a thing without some type of certifications. (73 yrs old)

  • Ken

    Tuesday, June 25, 2019

    27 years old and have realized my Bachelors degree means nothing without certifications. I guess the $45K in debt does not matter either. Currently looking into another field where I don't have to keep getting certs. I am not good with tests.

  • Tuesday, June 25, 2019

    Hi, Ken! Thanks for your comment. I'm sorry you're discouraged! Please don't give up hope. In IT, certifications, degrees and experience are all important pieces of the puzzle - and they may not have to be equally weighted. A big part of landing an IT job is being able to sell yourself as the right candidate. Show employers that you've retained what you learned in school and that it applies to that particular job. Give examples of your hands-on experience - even if it's just tinkering on your own time or helping out friends and family. And don't write off certifications entirely - tools like CompTIA CertMaster Practice will give you confidence in your ability to not just take the exam, but pass it. Good luck!

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