Demand for IT certifications on the rise

IT certifications have seen renewed interest in the past six months

Rising corporate IT spending is leading to increased demand for workers with certifications in information security, project management and other disciplines, CIOs and IT labor experts said last week.

"We're very interested in project management certifications," said Dan Garrow, senior vice president of information systems and CIO at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. Although certifications don't necessarily guarantee quality or a level of expertise, they are a step in the right direction, he said.

"Knowing someone has at least studied the concepts and has taken the steps to obtain the certifications gives that person a step up over someone who hasn't," said Garrow, who added that he would like Mohegan Sun's five IT project managers to become certified. "If we're ever going to get good at project management, we've got to have a pool of resources who can at least address the fundamentals of this type of work."

Garrow's thirst for certified project managers mirrors the kind of resurgence that IT certifications have been experiencing over the past six months. After the recession of the early 2000s and the resulting decline in IT spending, overall demand for some IT certifications began to soften.

"Employers felt they were held to ransom by people with certifications, and the value proposition dropped," said Martin Bean, chief operating officer at New Horizons Computer Learning Centers Inc., a computer training company in Anaheim, Calif.

Uptick in Demand

But Bean has seen demand for certification courses pick up over the past 12 months, particularly in disciplines such as information security and project management.

Dan Garrow of Mohegan Sun
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Dan Garrow of Mohegan Sun

Image Credit: Tracey Kroll

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"We're weathering our first dip that the certification industry has seen, and we think it's coming back," said Brian McCarthy, chief operating officer at The Computing Technology Industry Association Inc. (CompTIA), an Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.-based trade group that has certified nearly 750,000 IT professionals.

A case in point: 2004 demand for CompTIA's Security+ certification was 28% to 30% higher than expected, and demand for its Linux+ and Project+ certifications also remains strong, McCarthy said.

Now that demand for certification is picking up strength, CompTIA is looking to add certification classes for radio frequency identification and voice over IP. McCarthy said he isn't sure when those courses might be introduced.

Sean Jameson, chief information technology officer at New York University's School of Continuing and Professional Studies, said he believes certification "elevates [a] person in the rankings if they have been awarded or vetted by a particular program or body that they can do what they say they can do." Jameson is currently looking to fill a J2EE Web developer position, "and it would be a huge plus [for a candidate] to have a certification," he said.

Not all CIOs are adamant about hiring people with technical certifications. Hank Zupnick, CIO at GE Real Estate in Stamford, Conn., said that although he does seek people with critical project management skills, experience carries more weight with him than certifications.

"What I look for more than certification is a track record of success and an understanding, commensurate with position level, of the challenges to bringing a project in on budget, on time and on quality," said Zupnick.

"Certifications really aren't a big issue for me," added David Dart, managing director and CIO at New York-based HVB America Inc., a division of banking and financial services firm HVB Group.

Dart said his data security director recently picked up an information security certification, but that was based on a personal preference.

BY THE NUMBERS

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CompTIA Linux+ certifications grew by 15% in 2004 vs. 2003.

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CompTIA has issued roughly 13,000 Security+ certifications worldwide since the program was launched in December 2002.

Source: The Computing Technology Industry Association Inc., Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.

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