[BALUG-Talk] vendor-independent certification pros and cons?

Michael Paoli Michael.Paoli at cal.berkeley.edu
Wed Apr 23 00:49:15 PDT 2008


Quoting "Gallagher, Mark" <mgallagher at techtarget.com>:

> I'm a contributor for SearchEnterpriseLinux.com and I wanted to get some
> opinions on vendor-independent certification. Maybe some folks on the
> mailing lists could speak to the pros/cons of IT professionals becoming
> more area-specific versus product-specific in expertise?

There are some certifications that are rather to quite good.

Many vendor certifications, however, aren't very good.

Creating a good, useful certification program isn't easy.

My (approximate) rule-of-thumb: If one can go from near zero knowledge
on it to "certified" in a week or less, it's typically mostly a
certificate of short term memory capability.

It's difficult to "certify" based on testing alone.  I think the best
of such certification tests are substantially non-trivial, and include
hands-on and enough unpredictability and complexity in what's being
tested to at least statistically demonstrate quite substantial grasp of
the relevant skills and knowledge.  The better ones will also include
additional project work or the like, as part of the certification
requirements.

Examples of some poor certifications:
Two certifications I have from vendors on stuff I have relatively little
skill or relative recollection of:
one was basic Unix knowledge + very short term memory exercise of some
vendor specifics, take very short test - and poof - certified - total
retention of vendor specific details - half life of about 3 days.
Another example - attend 3 day vendor course, some hands-on, no test,
instantly certified, no substantial degree of demonstrated competency
required.
If they're seriously considering adding a minimum age requirement
because they're embarrassed at 9 year olds gaining the certification,
the certification probably isn't all that great.

Examples of some better certifications:
Take a look at SANS GIAC certifications and requirements criteria, etc.
Some accredited academic institutions have some good/excellent
certification programs, e.g.:
City College of San Francisco:
Unix/Linux Administration
University of California Extension, Santa Cruz:
Linux/UNIX Programming and Administration


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