Everybody in my school seems to be crazy about certification. A lot are not going for their internship, but rather certification. I'm doing my intership and I'm gaining lots of experience in the Engineering aspect. But I can't go for certification yet, I don't even know which one to go for. But is it difficult to get job after school without being certified?
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In my experience, certifications are what you get when you don't have experience, because they show evidence to a base skill level. Once you've got a few years of experience, your certifications are less important than what you've accomplished and what skills you've got.
I should say that I've really only worked for small companies, where getting things done is more important than impressing HR. I don't particularly care about college degrees for administrators, either.
Certifications and/or Internships I think can help 'get you in the door' ( get invited for a phone or live interview ). Which you choose is probably less important than how you use them.
If you choose to get certifications, you want to do more than just learn how to pass the test. Try to take each concept you learn for the certification one level deeper and learn how the concepts actually work on a lower level. Also, try to set up some sort of lap with it. You could also blog about it as a way of studying and building something else for your resume. If you just do certifications, you might lack the experience to answer some questions in an interview that are about how you handled a social situation at work or applied your knowledge.
If you choose the internship route, try to get the most out of it. Really study the choices the company has made in their IT setup, code language choice, etc.. and why they made these choices. Again you could blog about what you learn, just be careful you are not writing about anything the company would not want you to publish it.
If you can do both, do that. Whatever you end up doing, you will need to demonstrate technical curiosity, intelligence, and good social skills in your interview. All the internships and certifications won't get you what you are after if you don't show that. The fact that you are concerned with which route to chose shows you are probably on the right track.
If you're getting a BS in a related field, you don't really need any certifications to get a decent job unless you have a very specific target that requires one.
Good grades, some interesting side projects, and a strong understanding of the fundamentals of your industry are generally sufficient.
There's no shortcut to being good at a job, it requires knowledge, smarts and experience, ideally in equal part, you need all three to be great.
My "in" with the IT industry was an internship position, so I'm probably a little biased as a result. In a "former life" (5+ years ago) when I "worked for the man" I was involved in hiring interviews for IT support positions. I always counted real-world experience as being more valuable than and type of certification or academic credential.
Having taught classes in a "Microsoft Certification" program at a community college for nearly 7 years, I've met and interacted with a goodly number of people who were trying to enter the IT field, either as their first career or as a mid-life career change. My sample is, no doubt, influenced by who bothered to keep in touch with me, but those people who appeared to have the most success getting into the field were those people who were willing / able to jump into low-end support jobs, prove their worth and build their experience, and then aggressively "market" themselves into higher-skilled positions. Some of them finished their various Microsoft certs (MCSA, MCSE, MCP), but many others ended up going on to jobs w/o the certification.
There are some environments where academic credentials and certifications are essential pre-requisites because of the political environment, not because of the skills that you acquire when obtaining them. I'll never have a job in academia because I have a two-year college degree. I can write code as a contractor all I want, but I'll never get a "software engineer" position with a large corporation without my B.S. in CompSci. I'm not likely to be an IT manager, CIO, or CTO of any sizeable corporate venture without my MBA or a Masters in MIS. I'm okay with that, 'cuz I enjoy what I'm doing now and it fulfills my financial needs.
Certification is most important to career advancement for those without degrees, or with degrees in other fields.
Experience trumps certification most times. I would rather hire someone who has done a job, or one like it, than someone who is certified but never done it outside the classroom.
Having taken a few certifications and specialized training before, during and after getting my degree, I know that educational examples tend to be limited in scope and idealized. They rarely take into account the full life-cycle issues and headaches.
The students to hire are, of course, ones who worked helpdesk & sysadmin positions at their school, and/or ones with internship experience.
if you can show an interviewer you can intelligently relay knowledge about a particular topic, no matter how you obtained it, you will be ok. but being able to get in there and actually do the work is what will get you the job. if its server work, set up virtual machines and get into the nitty-gritty stuff. if its hardware, try to get to be friends with someone in the field and ask them to advise you on how to do things and what they have seen in their experience. mentors help alot.
In my experience certification is less important in the IT world than other fields. Especially if you know unix / linux / open source systems. In that part of IT practically no-one has a certificate. People are judged based on their skills, not a piece of paper.