The Certification Advantage

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

In a 2007 survey, the Institute of Management Accountants reported certified accountants and financial managers earn 27% higher salaries than their non-certified counterparts. A study by the American Association of Professional Coders the same year found a 17% pay superiority for certified medical coders. Several other recent surveys have gone on to establish the unequivocal salary edge that certified professionals wield.

Nowhere perhaps is the difference more apparent than in the field of electronics and computer professionals. According to the American Society for Quality, a certified software engineer annually earns over $14,000 more than a non-certified peer with equivalent academic credentials.

Findings of this nature usually provoke a standard question: which is better, a degree or certificate?

An academic degree, by definition, attempts to develop an intellectual understanding about a particular subject. Certifications, on the other hand, is aimed at equipping someone with the practical skills necessary for a specific job. While there is of course a question of personal choice and ambition here, the practical advantages of certification, especially in challenging and rapidly evolving industries like software and computer IT, are undeniable.

The reason behind this is that techinical skills that command better salaries - a basic principle of market economies. Employers are motvated to increase employee salaries for those who demonstrate improved expertise because they otherwise stand to lose skilled manpower to rival, better-paying companies. As long as there is tangible value-addition to an individual's skill set and workplace efficiency, certification brings ddecided advantages to career prospects.

The larger payoff that comes with certification goes much beyond an immediate pay hike, the long term benefits often translate to added professional confidence and enhanced productivity. Certification courses involve hands-on training and problem solving exposure that academic disciplines usually do not provide. This is not to suggest that any certification would automatically translate to "rosier" prospects professionally, but those who are trying to get out of the career rut by bettering their skills or learning a new one have no better option.

Certifications are essentially a means of independently verifying proficiency in a specific area. They are meant to aid professionals acquire the right skill sets concerning a specific area of operation like electronics or computer IT. It holds special significance in the field of computers and IT where core competence areas are divergent and often largely unrelated. For instance, a databse administrator and a network administrator both work in the same department but their skills would be vastly different.

Often the undisputable and easiest way to carve out a niche professional expertise is certification, although it doesn't always guarantee immediate returns. The obvious fact is that would be completely useless if certification is not accompanied by a visable difference in performance and productivity, which happens when such courses are approached in a manner of theoretical and academic study. CErtifications allow the skills to be readily apparent and immediately utilizable. It is only reasonable for employers hiring certified professionals to expect higher efficiency and output.

Young professionals should take note that every certification program is not equally valuable. It requires a clear line of reasoning to establish what course gives you the maximum milage while being most consistent with your overall career. If there is a question of aptitude here, there is an equal consideration of demand. Certification courses, especially those relating to software and computer IT, often move up and down preference levels according to industry dynamics. Hence there is a question of relevance that has to be addressed before choosing one.

Yet there are times when certification will not immediately produce results or lead to a raise. Maybe there is a job switch waiting to happen before the right benefits start rolling in. The key is to appreciate the fact that certifications still add substantially to an employee's profesional wisdom and qualification. From an employer's point of view, they provide an easy and scientific way of gauging profesional competences.

The bottom line is that certifications really pay off, even if in some cases they do immediately, but in the long run.

This story was written by Scott Bachrach, RESI for the High-Tech News.

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