A+ certification worth it?
June 15, 2005 12:13 PM   Subscribe

Salesperson looking to work in IT and do PC support and possibly network admin... I get many offers for classes to get a A+ certification followed by or along with Network+ certification. Do employers actually care about these certifications? Is it worth it to get them to break into IT?
posted by brucec to Technology (12 answers total)
A+ is worthless apart from being able to sell products because of it. :-) You won't learn how to fix a computer from it. You will learn what parts inside the computer are named, though.

Network+ I don't know about, but if it's like A+ you still won't know what a TCP/IP address is when you're done.

*BUT* as far as being employed goes, I bet there are plenty of equally worthless employers that won't hire you without these qualifications. Sad, but true. :-S
posted by shepd at 12:30 PM on June 15, 2005

Short answer: real techies don't care about them, they care about your actual knowledge and skills. But, depending on the company and hiring manager (or whomever), the certification could make the difference in whether a techie even ever sees your resume. (n.b.: while I'm in IT, I'm in development, where certification is much less relevant than in admining.)

There was a good essay on this disconnect called (in my memory) "Debbie the Hiring Manager", but my Googling fails to find it.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 12:34 PM on June 15, 2005

Experience will do you better for breaking in than certifications will. Certifications will sometimes get you in the door but rarely without accompanying experience.

It might not hurt but I wouldn't pay much money for them. You are better off paying by sacrificing financial compensation for experience. For me it was leaving decent money in sales to work as a lab gimp for the local college, back when dinos roamed the earth. For the 13 years my junior friend who is now a cube over from me it was leaving temping to OCR documents all day.

There's some value in certs; getting them requires some study of the buzzwords and 1000 mile view of things as well as some discipline and it demonstrates to employers you can set a goal and achieve it, just as college does. They impress people who are impressed by alphabet soup on a resume and sometimes those people are gatekeepers. But they are not magic bullets for employment.

None of the above is meant as an endorsement or condemnation of How Things Are, they are just a statement of my perceptions on the matter. Rabidly pro or anti training/cert/college folks can provide you with that.
posted by phearlez at 12:44 PM on June 15, 2005

From what I've seen, certifications of any type never hurt your job chances. But whether or not they'll help will depend on the employer mostly. Around here, they value MS and Cisco certifications more than anything else.
posted by geeky at 1:32 PM on June 15, 2005

You will learn what parts inside the computer are named, though.

And those resistor stripes! (Are those still on the test?)

You're much better off spending the money to bribe the HR flunky.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 2:35 PM on June 15, 2005

Around here (middle size technical/trade university) those certs can hurt if they are not from an accredited institution. Most post secondary schools really value their accreditation (it is the only thing really letting them charge what they do) and they want their employees to have education that is also accredited. Sometimes their accreditation depends on it. A bunch of low hanging certs like the A+ leave a bad impression.
posted by Mitheral at 2:35 PM on June 15, 2005

Years ago, I work at a training facility selling courses such as the A+ certification class. IMO the classes were way overpriced (I worked at a New Horizons offshoot), and the benefits were not all that great. I saw many newbies come through that really struggled with the tests after taking classes.

In a way, it's the chicken or the egg question. The above advice is solid. You cannot write the certs off as worthless, but without experience on your resume, they will not get you very far. I tried to break into IT with certifications but no experience, and I had mucho trouble getting interviews. But, I think I would have had even more trouble had I no certs and no experience.

Get some books and do the self study for the A+, Unless you absolutely cannot focus without the structure of a teacher. You are better off tinkering and learning the information on your own than in an overpriced class.
posted by brheavy at 2:44 PM on June 15, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all....if I do this I probably would do a 'A+ for Dummies' book with the CD in the back or something like that..
posted by brucec at 4:10 PM on June 15, 2005

If you want a certification that people-who-know actually care about then check out the GIAC (Global Information Assurance Certification) from SANS. It's not easy but that's what makes it sought after by employers.
posted by purephase at 4:20 PM on June 15, 2005 [1 favorite]

As a geek who hires geeks, an A+ or Network+ certification listed on a resume is an immediate demerit in my eyes, as the only thing they say about the applicant is that they want to have impressive-looking stuff on their resume.

However, as mentioned by others, many HR harpies do indeed put some stock in them. If you're applying for a job with few geeks and without a geeky manager, list it, but I would not list it on my resume if I knew that a real geek was going to be reading it.

Of course, you won't often know that kind of information. I think the bottom line is that relevant job experience, or even listing personal projects that are applicable to the position, represent you better than any certification. You'd be better off setting up a robust home network then throwing your money at this.
posted by ulotrichous at 4:30 PM on June 15, 2005 [1 favorite]

I have mixed feelings about the certs... I got an A+ and MCSE before breaking into the industry, and I can say that they certainly helped me get my first job. As far as the actual quality of the education... meh. Like most educational endeavors, you get out of them what you put into them. I would never recommend that a novice pay for a course for these certs, but I would recommend building a lab of cheap PCs, networking them, and continually breaking and fixing them until you gain a basic comfort level.

I think that self-study and a home lab is the best way to learn (shy of real, honest to goodness work experience). Oh, by the way, make sure you have a passion about IT in general. Whenever I've done hiring, I always go for the folks that have the passion and the intellectual capacity... the rest can be taught.

When you do get that gig, go in humbly and try to learn as much as possible. The IT industry has a wealth of collective brainpower, so do your best to tap it.

posted by taang at 4:52 PM on June 15, 2005 [1 favorite]

Definitely go the self study route. Got my MCSE and CCNP that way. I'm an IT manager and when hiring I don't place much value on the A+ cert. About the only thing that will get you is a job at CompUSA. Try to get some work volunteering at a local charity or freenet if you have one. Charity work still counts as experience in most hiring managers books. As for the SANS recommendation. That's a sweet one to have, but only if you have some IT experience to back it up. If you're just thinking about the A+ cert then the SANS GIAC is probably out of your scope of knowledge.
posted by white_devil at 5:34 AM on June 16, 2005 [1 favorite]

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