coworkers working on their IT career growth

Unlocking Career Growth in IT: Certifications vs. Experience

Certifications and work experience are two of the most important factors in IT career growth. Both certifications and work experience are valued by hiring teams as essential ways to determine whether a candidate will be able to perform well in a particular role. 

In some cases, though, a candidate will only have either certifications or work experience when applying for an open IT position. In other cases, the candidate will have both, but in unequal amounts.

The Value of Certifications

There are currently hundreds of IT certifications for jobs available from at least a dozen or more different companies and organizations–ones from computer companies like Apple, HP and Dell, from software companies like CISCO and IBM, and ones from independent organizations like CompTIA and Red Hat. Many of these are specific to particular jobs, such as Apple Care Service Certifications, while others are more general and help qualify you for many different IT jobs. 

The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is one major organization that offers certifications sought after by many employers in areas like servers, the Linux operating language, and cybersecurity. These certifications are accepted by most IT employers as a demonstration that you have achieved skills in the area of certification.

A fairly comprehensive list of current IT certifications can be found here, but it’s important to be aware that new certifications are being created and offered all the time.

Certifications are valuable because they test not only knowledge, but mastery of skills through the requirement to complete various tasks in order to pass. Basic certifications can be earned without any job experience, but more advanced certifications are only available after a certain level of work experience in a given area. 

Many positions require certain certifications and don’t seriously consider candidates who don’t have them, which will usually narrow your field of opportunities if you don’t have them. For some with careers in IT, certifications can be a huge barrier if they are not good test-takers or have learning disabilities that make passing examinations more difficult. 

IT interview

The Importance of Experience

Work experience can be just as valuable as certifications for many IT positions, if not more so. While certifications can be a great place to show that you’ve gained knowledge and the ability to complete certain IT tasks, there is often no substitute for the IT sector hands-on experience you can gain through daily work in the field.

There are so many small details of skills and nuances that can only be learned in a hands-on role. In addition, many positions offer access to mentors and others who have more experience and who are willing to share what they know. 

When an employer is willing to give you a chance to show what you know, you may be able to prove your skills in that area, even if you lack a certification or other structured learning proof. In some cases, experience can be more valuable to employers than certifications in specific roles or companies.

Balancing Both for Maximum Career Growth

Taking a balanced approach to certifications can be the best course of action. Having some certifications and some relevant job experience can be a solid combination for a hiring team looking to fill an open position. 

Looking at a particular type of IT job you want to get, it may be important to get certifications to show your skills in that area. Many jobs also ask for a certain amount of experience, which can save months of learning curve time and help you be productive after a shorter onboarding period.

Reading job descriptions carefully will help you get a sense of how your qualifications will fit for the job you want, but sometimes it is difficult to determine exactly how many certifications or how much job experience you need to get a particular position. 

Some positions may ask for everything but be willing to accept less if you can show that you can handle the work. Some may offer alternative ways to show your skills, such as task-based interviews or a probationary period to prove yourself in the position. It can be difficult to discern these nuances without some help on the inside. 

GDH can be a partner with IT job seekers to help them find the right balance between certifications and experience. Recruiters have in many cases spent significant time talking to employers about their needs, and will be able to help you navigate the process better than trying to do it on your own. 

While both certifications and work experience are often important for career advancement in IT, the right mix of the two can be exactly what a prospective employer wants and needs from you for a particular job. GDH offers many services that help job seekers figure out how to best present themselves and their qualifications in order to maximize their chances of career growth and employment. 

Looking to make your next big career move? We can help you achieve your IT career goals.

Similar Posts