To Recertify Or Not To Recertify

Recertification can feel like a lot of movement with no forward progress.

Ask nearly any IT professional about the "certification treadmill" and you will get back a knowing smile, or perhaps an exasperated sigh. IT training and certification programs are regularly being updated to new versions, or in some cases completely replaced with all-new curriculum and exams. This is the nature of the IT industry, and other industries such as mechanical engineering, which are home to regular advancements and rapid changes.


These changes often require certified IT professionals to recertify a credential in order to hang on to it. Without recertifying, an IT worker may end up having their certification reclassified to a "legacy" credential, or may completely lose the designation they had previously earned.


Renewing a certification is sometimes as simple as paying an appropriate membership fee to a vendor or industry organization. On the other hand, recertification can involve having to take the latest version of the related certification exam(s), or could even require an IT pro to provide evidence showing they have performed specific industry-related activities since they first earned their certification.


Why Recertify?


So yes, recertifying can be an onerous task, and there are pros and cons to renewing an industry credential. Here are three good reasons why you should recertify:


1) It's beneficial to update your knowledge.


This is the most obvious reason to keep your certifications up-to-date. IT professionals are expected to be lifelong learners, and industry training and certification programs are an excellent way to refresh and add to your knowledge. The more you know, the more valuable you can be to an employer (or to a client if you are working as a contractor).


A condensed five-day course is often enough to prepare an experienced IT pro to pass a new certification exam, and bring their previously-earned credentials back into play.


2) It could become an employer requirement.


It is a good idea to recertify if only because your current employer — or a future employer — could make holding a certification a requirement for your job. Even if your employer doesn't currently have this requirement, the situation could change if they choose to become partners with a technology vendor like Microsoft or Cisco, or with an industry association like ISACA or CompTIA. A common requirement for companies looking to partner with an IT vendor or association is that they must have a minimum number of relevant certified professionals on staff.


If you let your certification lapse in this situation, then you could find yourself on the outside looking in.


3) It can lead to financial incentives.


Recertification makes sense, given the right circumstances.

Employers are typically interested in keeping their IT workers up-to-date with the technologies used to power their businesses, or which are sold to clients as products and services. To encourage IT employees to take the initiative and recertify, companies may offer small bonuses to workers who update their industry credentials during the fiscal year.


Or, in the place of a bonus, your company may be willing to cover the costs of the relevant courses and exam fees required to recertify. Recertifying is a lot less burdensome if the boss is willing to pay for the related training and exams. This option isn't quite as appealing as receiving a bonus, but it still adds up to getting a subsidized education — a nice incentive on its own merit.


When Should You Move On?


We've looked at some situations where it is a good idea for you to renew an IT certification. Here are three instances where recertifying may not be in your best interests.


1) The certification vendor is fading away.


While the most popular IT training and certification programs are from vendors and industry associations that are a low risk to suddenly pack it in, there have historically been some credentials which have ended up in the certification graveyard when their controlling bodies hit troubled times.


If you have a certification from somewhere that has had a steadily waning presence in the IT industry, it is probably not a good investment of your time and money to recertify in their program.


2) Your certification is no longer relevant to your career.


Did you start out as a desktop PC technician, and advance your way into a management role in network services? It's a good bet that your earlier certification(s) may no longer be relevant to your job role. In this case, your "legacy" certifications serve as evidence of your advancement along your career path, and there is limited value to recertifying.


This is also true if you began your IT career in one discipline, and then wound up changing your specialization. You may have been a database administrator back in the day, but found yourself concentrating mostly on cybersecurity as time passed. Renewing your DBA certifications won't give you the best bang for your recertification buck.


3) The recertification requirements are too steep


There are some IT certification programs where the ongoing requirements to renew a credential are just too expensive and time-consuming. Imagine being faced with the prospect of:


? Paying the mandatory association membership fee
? Taking mandatory training courses only offered by a limited number of approved schools
? Having to track your ongoing professional activities and submit them in a spreadsheet
? Forking out cash for overpriced exam fees
? Paying a recertification fee after passing the exam


In this instance, you can safely make a case for not renewing the credential in question.


You Should Always Recertify (Except When You Shouldn't)


To have a career as an IT pro, you will need to do your time on the "certification treadmill." The benefits of renewing your credentials as they age and/or expire are usually worth the required time and expense. You should look at each of your certifications when they start reaching their "best before" date, however, and make certain you will get fair value for your recertification efforts.


Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
About the Author
Aaron Axline is a freelance technology writer based in Canada.

Aaron Axline is a technology journalist and copywriter based in Edmonton, Canada. He can be found on LinkedIn, and anywhere fine coffee is served.