Academic journal article Journal of International Technology and Information Management

Information Technology Certification Value: An Initial Response from Employers

Academic journal article Journal of International Technology and Information Management

Information Technology Certification Value: An Initial Response from Employers

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The necessity for certifications has become a fact of life for information Technology (IT) professionals. Almost any position posting encountered will list some certification requested or required. However, the extent and nature of certification valuation by employers remains unclear. Past research is limited and has examined the relationships between certifications and job skills and education. While important, the existing research provides mostly anecdotal support for the value of and acquisition of certifications. The research focus of this article is to analyze data gathered directly from employers on their views and practices with respect to IT certifications. As such, the article provides significant new insights into this important topic. Specifically it provides direction for the various stakeholder groups. For academics it provides justification for the inclusion of certifications in their programs. For managers it provides validation for their investment in certification training and employee retention. For students and technology professionals it provides motivation for the acquisition of certifications.

One of the earliest certifications programs was that of the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP) in 1973. This organization continues to provide centralized exam development and testing for the Information and Communications Technology industry. Unlike product specific certifications, ICCP certificate holders have to exhibit comprehension and knowledge of stringent industry fundamentals, not single product specifics. However, as the industry matured and technology products became more sophisticated a need arose for more targeted certifications.

It is generally accepted that the first technology specific certifications were offered by Novel in 1989 (Benham, 2006; Randall & Zirkle, 2005; Hitchcock, 2005; Adelman, 2000). Certification programs were initially developed to provide product specific technical expertise. In addition to Novel, Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle and others have also developed certification programs to support their products. In many cases the certification training is an expected and anticipated part of a company's technology product offerings.

Based on the success of the product specific certifications, targeted non-product specific certification offerings were further developed by independent certification and training organizations. Examples of these include the A+, Network+, and Security + certifications by Comptia, SSCP and CISSP by [(ISC).sup.2], and others. These organizations try to fill in for those companies and products that can't afford to support their own certification programs, or to provide more general non-product specific training.

Today, certifications play a significant role in the technology workplace. Todd, McKeen and Gallupe wrote a baseline article in 1995 that used an analysis of newspaper job postings from 1970 to 1990 to analyze the evolution of job skills. Their analysis covered a period where the industry saw continuous growth from 1970 to 1985 followed by a downturn. They interpreted their results as indicating that organizations were looking for a diverse set of technical skills.

More recently, Benham performed a complimentary study using content analysis of job ads in 2006. Results from his study indicated that educational requirements are also increasing. It identified that for the period 2001-2006, while requirements for certifications by employers decreased significantly, for those jobs that did require certifications, educational requirements also existed.

This article builds on these efforts to identify the employers' perceptions of the value of IT certifications. It establishes the value that employers place on certifications, in a more direct way than has been done previously, by determining direct company financial support of certification. The next section provides a review of the literature that focuses on certifications. …

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