Should IT managers be required to have a professional certification? This topic has been the subject of much debate in light of the Canadian Information Processing Society’s ISP designation, and the plethora of certification programs led by vendors.
This was the first topic of ComputerWorld Canada’s Blogging Idol contest, and we have published extracts from IT bloggers’ entries on our site.
The complete posts can be viewed at the Blogging Idol Web site.
Time for a shakeout in IT Certifications
From a few early offerings in the 1980s, IT certifications have proliferated to the point that many seriously question their value. An industry has sprung up whose sole purpose is to improve its students’ skills at certification exam writing, resulting in MCSE holders who have no idea how to develop an application and network “engineers” who cannot explain what the SYN flag does in TCP/IP (hint: sequence numbers).
This prompts some very valid questions. What value do certifications offer to IT workers and to industry, especially when (unlike the medical professions) there are so many different certifications available for any given specialty? Each different certification often requires the learning of completely different technical material, standards and procedures.
I counted over 40 different networking certifications - this without including ones that specialize in less common technologies and hardware. Things that seem to be sorely lacking are standardization, and pre-certification evaluation of the degree to which the IT skillset has actually been learned outside of a written examination setting.
Perhaps in response to the perceived shortcomings of the IT certification process, in 1997 the Canadian Information Processing Society first achieved legislative recognition of their ISP professional designation.
It is unfortunate that the ISP (Information Systems Professional) certification has not yet achieved “critical mass”, because in many ways it addresses issues that few other certification programs do. Among other requirements, the holder of an ISP must have two sponsors and 1,000 hours of relevant industry experience before being awarded the qualification. The Body of Knowledge that must be learned to gain this designation is considerable, and touches on most areas of IT. Even though it might not be necessary for, say, a software developer to have detailed knowledge of systems architecture, it certainly does not hurt to have a good overview of the topic.
Should there be a Professional IT Manager designation? In a word No