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Education

IT Certifications Summary 308

A reader writes: "Icrontic.com has a new article up called 'All You Need To know About IT Certifications.' It talks about several of the major Microsoft certifications, and of course, a few of the Linux certs, including Linux+ and RHCE. "
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IT Certifications Summary

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  • by unsinged int ( 561600 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @11:35AM (#3176905)
    >Again, because it's Microsoft, you will be required
    >to answer the questions the way Microsoft would
    >answer then, which isn't always necessarily the
    >best way.

    Typical answer sheet:

    1) It's not a bug, it's a feature.
    2) It's not a bug, it's a feature.
    3) It's not a bug, it's a feature.
    ...
    • What I learnt from the MS 70-215 (MS Windows 2000 Server exam) is, never ever ever under any circumstances buy a SCSI controller card, they ALWAYS break. Probably 20 of the questions were regarding failing SCSI cards or SCSI disks...

      Otherwise the above holds true, on the tests you have to keep in mind how things should work, that they're buggy or not implemented and actually won't work doesn't matter much, especially on the MCSD track.

      • by pmc ( 40532 )
        on the tests you have to keep in mind how things should work

        No - you have to keep in mind how MS thinks you should work them. A lot of questions are "What is the best way of...." when best depends a lot on some specific details of the infrastructure.

        The classic (and annoying) question like this is "When somebody leaves a company what should you do with their account? Which of the following is the best answer.". The answer (according to MS) was disable them, and delete the account after 2 weeks. Huh?? This is simply barking - it may be the best for some cases, but if you are working for the security services I cannot see them thinking that this was the best policy.

        The questions have got slightly more sane recently, but so much of the MCP exams is trying to learn the MS mindset so you can work out their view of best.
    • I'm studying for my MCSE right now, and I whizzed through the practice questions on the Windows 2000 Professional (workstation) part last night. One of the questions in particular caught my eye. It said (paraphrased):

      "Which of these two operating systems [Windows 2000 Professional | Windows 2000 Server] can you run a public web server on?"

      Well, of course, I picked both. I'm running Apache on Windows 2000 Pro right now, and IIS also comes as an optional add-on. When I looked up my answer, I was surprised to find that I was wrong. Then I remembered that I wasn't wrong because of the technical capabilities of the OS, but because of the licensing agreement, which states that you can only connect 5 computers to a Pro OS at any one time for file sharing and "Internet Information Services".

      It's a different mindset. Being used to Linux servers, I assumed that the only thing limiting me from running what I wanted was hardware. However, to pass the MCSE, you not only have to know the technical features of the OS, but also what Microsoft wants you to do with it.

      BTW, if you think the MCSE is easy, try taking it yourself. I've been doing Linux and Windows system administration for years, and this stuff still isn't coming naturally to me. It's also good experience for anyone adminning Windows boxes, as you will definitely know how to set up disk images and domain controllers once you are done with it. If you think Windows Update is the best way to maintain your set of 5+ Windows PCs, definitely take it, or at least read the study guides. It might make your job a lot easier.
      • by pmc ( 40532 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @01:05PM (#3177174) Homepage
        Well, of course, I picked both. I'm running Apache on Windows 2000 Pro right now, and IIS also comes as an optional add-on.

        Windows 2000 pro is limited to 10 incoming TCP/IP connections, so is hardly suitable for a public web server. This is a limitation (albeit artificial) of the operating system, and not of any web server that it may be running.
        • Actually, the 10 user limit is for "named", i.e., OS-authenticated, users, and users who connect via windows networking. This is a 'hard' limit in that you can't change this without mucking about in the registry.

          For anonymous TCP connections, there was once a limit of 10 (in the early NT4 days? i believe O'Reilly once campaigned against this). But in these days of gnutella, this would be tough, and (no wonder) Windows 2000 handles multiple TCP connections just fine. In fact, I just blasted Apache on my Windows 2000 workstation with a infinite-loop wget script from my Linux box, and Apache chugged along just fine, servicing well over 100 connections per second.

      • The Win2k version of the MCSE is supposed to be considerably more difficult than the NT4 version that I took. I have not taken any of the exams so I don't really know how different it is.

        I agree it isn't as easy as some people claim it is, and it's definately worthwhile experience to at least study for it.

      • While that question's not really that pertinent (2000 Pro is limited to ten IP connections) to the discussions, I've done a MCSE a couple of years ago, and encountered a questions about setting up Windows NT4 Workstation to be a Netware client.

        The answer, of course, was to install the Microsoft written Netware client. A little unrealitic - nobody that runs Netware touches the buggy and ancient MS Netware client with a ten foot pool, preferring, oddly enough, the Netware Netware client.
      • I still think the best one is, "How do you connect Linux/Unix and Windows 2000?"

        A. Samba
        B. NFS
        C. bla
        d. bla

        The 'correct' answer is B, but every other admin will tell you A.
  • On a related not, check this article in the ny times [nytimes.com] about the lack of jobs in tech right now.

    Is certification really that important vs. having the experience anyways?

    • by Robber Baron ( 112304 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @11:59AM (#3176977) Homepage
      You need both...the certification to get the job, and the experience to keep it.

      When I started working in IT support, despite having MS' "defacto standard" MCSE certification, I didn't know shit. Took 6 months to a year before I was actually useful. Today, I'm pretty much platform neutral and choose to base my recommendations on what the client needs and not what MS says will work (they are often wrong). I still have all the MS books and have hardly touched 'em after passing the exams. I prefer to find answers on the 'net that have been posted by people that actually have real-world solutions, not just what the book says.

      • I don't have certifications in anything. And having the experience, I knew enough to get a job where I would NOT be an administrator of products I hate to use.

        I now have a great job, doing the stuff I know and love, and was actually sent to school by the new company to learn the tools I'll be using 'proper' (I didn't bother getting certified, however)

        Maybe some day I will get a CISSP, but certifications on products are a stupid thing IMNSHO. A certification should be more general, demonstrating you know something about a piece of the industry, not that you know how to do it with product X.

        You don't go to college to get an advanced degree in 'using matlab' You go to become an engineer.

        • I found it rough as well to find employment after I graduated from college. Neary every employer that I talked with either over the phone or during an interview did not want me because I lacked experience (biggest joke I heard) or was lacking in what they percieved as "knowledge of the industry." Basically, my CS degree to them was the equivalent of toilet paper. I did find a job doing technical support, and while paying off a new car, I'm working on getting a couple certifications, starting with A+. Once I have a couple certs and some work experience, I should be ready to move on to the next phase of my IT career. Right now, I'm looking at wanting to do network administration and Linux administration. My theory is that with what M$ is doing, I have a feeling that IT managers and CIOs are going to switch over to Linux by refusing to pay the "Microsoft Tax".
          • I found it rough as well to find employment after I graduated from college. Neary every employer that I talked with either over the phone or during an interview did not want me because I lacked experience (biggest joke I heard) or was lacking in what they percieved as "knowledge of the industry."

            This is not meant to be a flame, but if your attitude during interviews is at all similar to that of your post, I wouldn't hire you either.

            You seem to view the interviewer as the 'Boss' in a computer game: an enemy standing for you and advancement to the next level. Instead, why not look at the interviewer as a resource? After all they're working in an industry, or for a company. you're interested in getting into. They know about the internal workings of the company, and what jobs might be available and what qualifications they require. Take advantage of your time with them by asking THEM questions. If the interviewer's non-tech, ask them about the company, everything from what they're like to work for, to who they're biggest clients and competiors are. If they're IT management, ask them about the project or issue the department's most focused on now, and expects to be focused on in the future. At best it'll give you a great opening, ("You're having problems with database speed? What a coincidence! My senior project was optimizing the university database and I increased its speed by X%."), and at worst you'll have scored some brownie points (what techie doesn't like to talk about they're latest project/problem?) and learned a little more about what's going on in the inside.

            If it seems clear you're not going to get the job, don't stop there. Ask for their advice. Are there any other jobs they know of that might be more appropriate for you? What would they suggest you do to improve your chances of finding the kind of job you're looking for?

            You're accomplishing a number of things by taking this attitude. First you're making the interviewer like you more. You're taking them out of the adverserial roles too many interviewees put them in, you're taking an interest in what they have to say and treating the with respect. All of that makes them feel good, and though it shouldn't, that does influence who they finally recommend. Second, you get a chance to show them that there's more to you than what's on your resume. Third, you're showing initiative, interest, and ambition, all good things in a prospective employee. Finally, even if you don't get this job, you've improved your chances of getting the next job or the one after that. By the thirtieth interview, when you're intelligently discussing the industry with an insider's knowledge gleaned from the 29 previous interviews, nobody's going to be too worried about you lack of knowledge of the industry anymore.

  • Oracle Certs? (Score:2, Informative)

    by NineNine ( 235196 )
    Why in the hell did Oracle get stuck in the end? Oracle Certs are some of the most valuable out there, and they're fairly damn popular, too, with those who know what in the hell they're doing.
    • This one's easily answered. This "article" really isn't an article -- unless I'm seriously missing something, it's an ad for their own cert programs. Since they don't offer Oracle certs, they put them way at the end in the "other" category. This is pure ad copy.
    • Probably depends on your geographic location. I live in Wisconsin, where everything IT is stagnant. Linux/UNIX is minimal, and Oracle isn't used much of anywhere. MCSE or A+ is about the only thing that matters around here (most of the state, anyway, not all). You walk in with a Oracle cert and they'll say, "Wow, that's cool, but how is it going to help you image a computer?" Hell, half the people that do the initial interview are HR people anyway who are intimidated by all those confusing little acronyms I have listed on my resume.
  • I would have appreciated information on other certifications such as those provided by Sun or some other UNIX vendors. All we have here is Microsoft and Linux stuff.
  • by ziggy_zero ( 462010 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @11:46AM (#3176937)
    Hey, I'm 16. Hypothetically speaking, would anybody give someone my age a job if they had some certs? I mean not like a bench-tech at CompUSA for your A+, but like a Novell admin (or even like an apprentice) with a Network+, CNA, CNE, and CISSP (and of course experience). If I could scrounge up the money, I could pass the A+, Network+, CNE, CNA, MCP, and (with a little studying) CISSP. I have experience to back it up, so don't whip the "no experience" card out on me. So all it boils down to is: should I get some certs and look for an IT job, or not waste my time (and money) and just get a normal teenager job?
    • You'd do better freelancing in the US. Most serious companies have a policy to not hire anyone under 18 due to the legal complications of hiring minors.

      Yeah, it's age discrimination, yeah it sucks, but such is life.

      When I was 16 back in 1995, I did freelance work, with pretty much no overhead. I called the phone company, and managed to get an account open, they made me pay a pretty large deposit ($90), anyway, I got a phone number that just went directly to voice mail and didn't have a physical line attached to it. I then set up a repeating classified ad in the local paper, with the phone number in it.

      $15/hour (1 hour minimum) was my rate, I would come out to people's houses and work on their computers and such. The good thing is that you build up local reputation, and you get more business by word of mouth than anything else. Then you will eventually probably find a job in the IT industry by all the people you know.
      Generally I mostly worked on pretty rich people's computers, retired people and CEOs and general managers and people like that. Good people to know when you are loking for jobs.

      ANyway, I did this while part time employed at a grocery for around minimum wage, and also going to high school. It was a good suppliment.
    • by jd142 ( 129673 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @01:03PM (#3177165) Homepage
      It depends on the job, but quite frankly, probably not. First of all, because of your age, you probably fall under the protection of child labor laws. Don't know for sure, but it is a guess. If that is the case, you are limited in the number of hours you can work.

      If I were hiring, I wouldn't hire a sysadmin who could only work 20 hours a week and be restricted by law to only work til a certain time. Child Labor laws vary by state, so ymmv.

      It would also depend on the job. I work supporting a college in a university. Half of my job is people skills and things you only pick up through experience. The preference here is for people who understand graduate school and have preferably attended one. No matter how good your tech skills are, there are some things that only come through the experience of having done some of the work.

      I can't tell you how many times my co-worker and I have diagnosed a problem not because we know the os on the desktop but because we know the person behind the computer.

      So for what we do, pure technical skills wouldn't be enough.

      I'd say go ahead and get the certs now, then you'll get them out of the way. After a certain point up the ladder it isn't strictly speaking necessary to keep the certs updated, but it is enough to be able to say you did it once. I make a pretty decent wage for the area and for working as an employee at a state university, work 40 hours a week and the highest cert I got was an MCP in windows 95. Of course, I'm also working on a second masters while I work, this time in MIS, so that helps but it certainly isn't require. My boss, who makes about 10k a year more only has a ba in business, but he has the certs and knows his stuff.
    • Save the cash and concentrate on getting a real CS degree. I would also take a lot of math, and really learn programming theory, not just Microsoft's implementation.

      You might look through the job boards. You will see more people asking for CS degrees than certifications. I think this trend will continue. Also the really cool design jobs will all demand a mastery of theory. Some will even look down on certs.

      Certtifications tend to lose their luster as they age. The people who pass the certs in the first few weeks are generally the tops in their field. They then tell the questions to the book publishers. The publishers then create memorize the answer CBTs. Utimately, you get to the place where passing or failing a certification becomes more a matter of the course material you purchased than the knowledge of the program. I think it is somewhat a crooked field.

      I worked for a company that boasted that anyone could get a MCSE if they memorized the answers to the questions. Students work for several weeks in a row memorizing answers, with just a little bit of work on the programs to break the monotony...these students did significantly better than those who studied the program. Guess what? HR departments know about this, further discount the certs.
    • At least get your ass out of highschool first; Don't be tempted to drop out by the lure of easy money. Trust me, it's never worth it.
    • Yes!

      A lot of places, moslty the Goverment, know MS only. When my old boss found out I was 19 she laught at me and asked my, "What do you about NT kid?" I said, "Well, I have the MSCE..." No one in that organization had the MCP. She hired me two weeks later.

      Like someone said, "Certification never hurt"
    • Also when your 18 you will have 2 years experance!

      "Yes, I obtained the MCSE two years ago on the old Windows XP track..."
  • Security certs (Score:5, Informative)

    by lamj ( 153635 ) <jasonlam@@@flashmail...com> on Sunday March 17, 2002 @11:47AM (#3176941)
    This article missed all the certs in the security field.

    CISSP [isc2.org]

    CISA [isaca.org]

    SANS GIAC [giac.org]

    In general, CISSP and CISA are more heavy on theory and SANS GIAC are more on practical knowledge (hands-on). Notice that GIAC actually offers many different certs in different area.

    They are all hard to get. For example, CISSP requires a 6 hours exams (which isn't easy at all). GIAC requires a practical assignment (to show hands-on knownledge - require real world experience) as well as one or two 2 hours exam.

    • Recommend GIAC (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sheldon ( 2322 )
      GIAC is certainly is a good deal of work. The practical requires a good week or more of effort to complete in terms of research and writing. GIAC has posted the practicals of those who have completed the cert to get some idea of what they require. I know of at least 3 other people who tried for the cert at the same time I did but didn't complete the work successfully. Partly because unlike other certs there is a timelimit of about 3 months to complete everything.

      They've also stated that their goal is not to have a deluge of people with the cert(unlike Cisco, MS, Novell, etc. who advertise how many are certified). If they start seeing a lot of people passing the cert, they'll make the cert harder to obtain. Worth pursuing, definately.

      sheldon - GCWN #168

    • Re:Security certs (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tqbf ( 59350 )
      There are perhaps thousands of people in the world that have obtained CISSP certification.

      There are perhaps a few thousand people in the world who can credibly claim to be expert in the disciplines of computer security.

      Almost nobody in the latter category is a member of the former.

      Security certification is a bad idea.

      • Re:Security certs (Score:2, Insightful)

        by TheCabal ( 215908 )
        There are perhaps thousands of people in the world that have obtained CISSP certification.

        If my CISSP number is any indication, there are slightly less than 30,000 worldwide.

        There are perhaps a few thousand people in the world who can credibly claim to be expert in the disciplines of computer security. Almost nobody in the latter category is a member of the former.

        Is this a case of knowing what one doesn't know? I'm SANS certified and a CISSP. I wouldn't consider myself an "expert" in security. I'd be highly dubious of anyone calling themselves a security expert. I'm certainly "security aware", and strive to make my networks as secure as possible. Thankfully, my external systems have been locked down enough to resist any breaking attempts so far (knocks on wood). Oh yeah, they're Windows servers, too (you anti-MS zealots can STFU, thank you). Am I an expert or just lucky so far? Management says I'm an expert.

        I didn't particularly care for the way the CISSP exam was written and administered, but while studying for it, my eyes were opened to a few things I haven't considered before. Before, I was tightly focused on the technical side of securing systems, and hadn't realized that there are operational and administrative security issues to be dealt with. Something good does come from these tests.

        Security certification is a bad idea.

        Maybe, but it's certainly good for me when it comes time for my reviews, or when I'm looking for new work. That's what it all really boils down to: how many letters you can get behind your name. Management doesn't know which certs are worthless and which might actually mean something. They're also convinced that GIAC, MCSE, CCNA, CISSP, (acronyms ad nauseum) is better than someone who's had 10-15 years hands-on experience. They use it as a hiring tool because it helps them save time.
    • LOL! Security is a mindset, not a product. All the certificates in the world are no good unless you have the kind of deviant, paranoid mindset that sees a threat behind every innocuous-appearing file on disk. I've seen some of these "certified" people, and yeah, they know the jargon, but they don't have the chops.

      But since everybody wants certificates nowdays, I guess I gotta have some of my own.

      -- Eric Lee Green, ELGCSP, POOE*

      [*ELGCSP -- ELG Certified Security Professional.
      POOE -- Piercer Of Overblown Egos.]

      [Get your own POOE here [badtux.org]!]

  • by i_want_you_to_throw_ ( 559379 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @12:01PM (#3176988) Journal
    I have struggled with this certification issue and my employer didn't want to pay the money for RHCE. Then one day I seredipitously managed to stumble across LPI Linux Certification in a Nutshell [oreilly.com] by O'Reilly.

    Suprisingly the LPI isn't covered in the article.

    As Linux certs go it doesn't depend on the financial solvency of a company (get an RHCE and if RH goes out of business then what?). It's vendor neutral (rejoice Mandrake and Suse fans).

    Plus there's an animal book on it! Instant credibility.

    Plus if you want to own your own certs and not have an employer to hold it over your head you can't beat the price (only a few hundred bucks for the whole shooting match).

    More info available at lpi.org [lpi.org]
  • by dfn5 ( 524972 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @12:03PM (#3176992) Journal
    I feel that experience speaks far stronger than any certification can. People seem to think that if they get a certification they can land a high paying job in IT. I know plenty of people with various certifications who are dumb as a box of rocks. I personally think it is a waste of a company's money to pay for certifications and I think it is a waste of people's time to get them. Not to say that there isn't value in classes to get up to speed on something quickly when there isn't enough time to spend reading the book first. But when time isn't an issue read the book.

    Eight years ago I started out as a UNIX administrator by reading "Essential System administration" and then getting an entry level job making not much money. From their I started reading "DNS & Bind", "sendmail", etc, etc. Now I am a Sr. Unix Administrator (with a book shelf full of Oreily books). A few years ago I wanted to get into databases, so I read Oracle beginners guide and then the DBA handbook. I started doing DBA tasks and my company sent me to a backup and recovery class to get up to speed on it quickly. I have no certifications, nor do I have the desire to pursue them.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that if one really wants to get into IT they have to enjoy it to the point that they feel motivated to learn new things on their own. Too many people just equate certification to salary.

  • Anoyne have any experience with the SAIR [linuxcertification.com] and the LPI [lpi.org] certifications?

    I got an exam cram and a nutshell book for them and have been using them as bathroom reading material. Even if I never end up taking the tests, it is nice that a certification forces you to learn certain things.

    Being that a good portion of us are self-taught Linux guys, I've never really found a use for sed and awk until I read about them in this book. And I've even started learning vi! (ugh).

    One day I guess I'll got get a cert - comp.os.linux, www.linuxdoc.org, and the Ars Technica Linux Forum probably wouldn't have that much weight on a a resume. Heh.
    • by NetJunkie ( 56134 )
      SAIR is not good. Basically they want you to buy THEIR books which spell the answers out for you. The LPI certs are very good and do a great job of being vendor neutral. I wrote an LPI study guide so I may be biased, but not much because I took both certs before deciding on which one to write.
    • by Enry ( 630 )
      I just took the LPI 101 exam (passed) and will probably take the 102 to get level 1 certification and go on to the 20* exams.

      The exam is weighted (good) and is very vendor neutral (good) and does have areas for you to comment on questions you get (good). But some of the quesitons require memorization of various flags (bad) and ask about outdated information (real bad). I can't give examples of questions, since I signed a nice form saying I won't disclose any of the questions. Hopefully the weighting takes these facts into account.

      The price for the exam ($100USD) was affordable, even when unemployed, and there are at least a dozen locations within 20 miles of here (Boston, MA) where I can take the exam.
      • :( I wish i could afford $100.. Unemployment around here only gives out $275 a week, and my bills take up all of that. :( :( :(

        I'm 4/7ths through my MCSE, and everyone i spoke to, including the hiring manager i count as a friend, says i need that cert to get in the door around here nowadays. Jeez, this sucks.
  • by defile ( 1059 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @12:12PM (#3177023) Homepage Journal

    Has my sig ever been more appropriate?

    • Nobody ever said that Microsoft and Windows are analogous to "fine cuisine", but you have to admit expert knowledge in the area definitely opens you up to a rather large market segment (ie, everything Microsoft). I think you should try taking one of the exams sometime, if you have not. It may be content that any mediocre IT professional can handle, but not at the top of their head. Microsoft wants people that can solve problems without looking them up at the drop of a hat. They want you to save the "looking up" part for the really tough problems so you are not wasting the time of the companies your support.

      I dare to say that you couldn't pass any of the MCSE exams if you took one right now without studying or reference.
      • I dare to say that you couldn't pass any of the MCSE exams if you took one right now without studying or reference.

        So what? I doubt most chefs at 4 star restaurants could pass a McDonalds Certified Food Specialist exam.

        The sig is simply challenging the idea that Microsoft is qualified to tell you how competent someone is in the computing industry. This isn't necessarily Microsoft's fault. Just that most people outside of the industry think that's some big accomplishment. The sig makes an analogy with something more familar to those outside of the industry. I think it works very well.

      • Extending your analogy further, if you are a chef you should aspire to work at McDonald's because it definitely opens you up to a rather large market segment.

        The problem is that some of us care more about doing things we enjoy, than about working for the computer equivalent of McDonald's, and would no sooner be seen anywhere near a MCSE exam than we'd be seen cooking a Big Mack.

        As for the MCSE exams and passing them without studying or reference -- why? There's nothing magical about Microsoft's software. Microsoft uses different terminology from the rest of the computer industry, but once you decipher the terminology there's nothing in Windows that isn't in any other modern OS in some form or another. I occasionally have to fiddle with our local NT server to change DHCP to point to a different gateway or other simple tasks like that, and it ain't brain surgery.

        -E

    • "A Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer is to computing what a McDonalds Certified Food Specialist is to fine cuisine."

      There actually are McDonald's "degrees". McDonald's operates "Hamburger University" [mcdonalds.com], which has an impressive campus near Chicago (take the McDonald's Plaza exit from I-88 and turn into Ronald Lane or Kroc Drive). There's even "Hamburger Marketing University" [jrcanda.com], which covers selling, rather than making, hamburgers. People have been known to put "degrees" from that on their resumes. [google.com]

    • Actually, one thing I found interesting about the Microsoft certifications was that they expire. If you want to continue to be a Microsoft certified engineer on newer technology you need to prove that you can understand the new technology.
  • There's also Brainbench [brainbench.com], which offers "online certifications". Brainbench used to be free, and I took their C++ and network security exams for fun. The C++ test seemed to be oriented towards business programming ("object-oriented graphical user interfaces" and SQL were covered), and the security test was very basic. Brainbench tests were timed, and their server was slow. Grrr.

    Then, like many Internet companies, they started charging.

    • I'm a professional C++ programmer. For a laugh, I went along and did the Brainbench C++ exam, when it was completely free. (I wouldn't pay money for it.) I got the highest score in my country, ahead of thousands of others (including, for example, a member of a C++ standards group -- or someone else who scored high with the same name). We had a laugh at the office, and carried on. I've never mentioned it on my CV. Oh, and the test was pathetic, with no correct answer available to at least four of the questions I was asked, and multiple correct answers to others. That should tell you all you need to know about the worth of Brainbench certificates, even in "reputable" subjects like C++.

  • Certifications (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Accipiter ( 8228 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @12:26PM (#3177061)
    Some certifications are useful (Cisco, CISSP, etc.), while others (MCSE) simply show you can pass a test.

    I am a CCSA (Certified Checkpoint Security Administrator), and I can tell you that the test I took to GET that title was a crock of shit.

    The CCSA test was predominantly a multiple-choice test. Almost all of the questions were written in such horrible English, it was hard to understand what they were asking. Many questions had duplicate answers listed (B and C might be exactly the same, while only one is recognized as being correct), and there was one question on the test that didn't have the correct answer listed. (It had a "right" answer, but it didn't have the correct answer, if you can understand that.)

    Yet, certifications like this cost upwards of around $2000. I think it was $3000 for both the CCSA and CCSE courses, but I could be wrong. I didn't pay for it.

    In any event, when organizations get together and offer a "certification" on whatever product it happens to certify, they'd better make damn sure that it's actually worth something.

    For the money that was shelled out for getting me a CCSA, I would have expected a much more professional and concise testing procedure. Not some badly-written test slapped together in an ugly HTML slideshow.
  • by NetJunkie ( 56134 ) <jason.nash@AAAgm ... inus threevowels> on Sunday March 17, 2002 @12:30PM (#3177074)
    I took the RHCE exam about a year ago and it's a good test. I was the only one out of eight not to have take then training course, so I was a little nervous. But with good experience I was fine.

    The test is set up very well and you don't have to do things the "Red Hat Way". As long as you solve the problem you are fine. I did everything without using any of Red Hat's tools or things not available in other distributions. It's not comparable to the CCIE though. That's just nuts.

    Has the cert helped me? No. But I did learn more by studying some things I never used before taking it, just in case. I'm sure it will help in the future as Linux takes off.
  • Vendor Neutral? (Score:2, Informative)

    by saint10 ( 248611 )
    Why are none of these vendor neutral? Most vendor certs are just another marketing ploy, and a growing number of hiring managers realize that. Check out:

    CISSP [isc2.org]
    CISA [isaca.org]

    The CISSP is put on by ISC2, a non-profit organization. You actually have to have a college degree to sit for it. The CISA you can only take once a year, so start getting ready now!
  • CCNP (Score:3, Informative)

    by NetJunkie ( 56134 ) <jason.nash@AAAgm ... inus threevowels> on Sunday March 17, 2002 @12:33PM (#3177089)
    I took the CCNP exams last November after taking a two-week bootcamp course. I took over at my office and we were tired of paying $200/hour for consultants to do work we should be doing in house. The boot camp I took from Global Knowledge was excellent with very good instructors. The exams are tough but they ask real world questions.

    If you want to study at home I suggest the Cisco Preparation Series books as well as a lot of equipment. Without being comfortable on the equipment it's hard to get used to all the commands and which one is appropriate in certain places.

    I learned a lot in the class and getting the cert...things I use every day now and it has really cut down on our consulting expenses and makes me a lot more valuable.

    The CCNA exam is a joke. Every desktop support guy I know has it or is getting it. So, don't expect to get a job working on routers with that. Without real time on a production router most people won't care at all.
  • I am so screwed. . . (Score:3, Informative)

    by An Onerous Coward ( 222037 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @12:45PM (#3177117) Homepage
    The fact that the Novell CNA/CNE certifications weren't even listed says something about how little weight they carry these days. I completed mine about this time last year, and stupidly thought it was my ticket to fame and fortune. Turns out, even in Utah (Novell's stomping grounds and probably its most die-hard install base), there's not an overwhelming demand for it.

    Now, the program I got my CNE from was an excellent program. By the time you took the test, you had a good deal of hands-on experience, and really understood the material. The course even included an internship with an IT department. It certainly beat the pants off those courses advertised on TV ("Get certified in four weeks, and make six figures a year for life! Call now!") But job hunting was just depressing. Send off a dozen resumes, and get maybe one call back. The closest I ever got was a, "Well, we would have hired you but we decided to eliminate the position."

    Certifications don't mean a whole lot. Even within my own program, there was a wide variance in the competence of the students. I'd say that the entire concept of certifications was designed to make life easier on HR departments. And too many of the training schools have the "certify them quickly and let them get experience on someone else's dime" mentality. It cheapens the value of the certifications themselves, and hurts the entire industry.

    In my case, I've decided that I can finally afford to go back and get a CS degree. It's not the ticket to fame and fortune either, but at least I get to learn some cool stuff. But if someone in the Salt Lake area is looking for a geek who knows a bit of everything and will work dirt cheap, I'm interested.
  • by .@. ( 21735 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @12:49PM (#3177130) Homepage
    How can this article ignore two of the most important certifications on the market right now, LPI and cSAGE [sagecert.org]??

    They're both platform-independent, they're both psychometrically valid, and they're both of paramount importance to anyone looking to run computer infrastructures that include *nix systems.

    cSAGE [sagecert.org] is an entry-level exam designed to certify competence in the practice of systems administration, and it was developed by the community, just like LPI (in cSAGE's case, it was developed by the community of systems administrators and the folks at USENIX [usenix.org] and SAGE - The Systems Administrators Guild [sage.org].

    Isn't everyone tired of taking exams designed to test your ability to memorize trivia about a vendor's products? Why would you want yet another certification just because vendor $FOO has cranked out a new version of their widget? Wouldn't you rather have certifications that are designed to qualify your ability to do your job, rather than your ability to memorize?

    That's exactly what cSAGE is all about.
  • Does anyone here on Slashdot hold a particular opinion of Sun's Java developer certification exams [sun.com]? I'm only 18, and it's a very old story: it's hard to get job experience without already having experience. I'm interested in knowing whether those tests would be worthwhile if I wanted to break into the Java programming racket.
    • I work as a software developer in C, so my opinion may not be too valuable, but I have several friends from college who work at a company that does primarily Java devlopment. They didn't have any Java certifications when they started, and it wasn't a problem. What ended up happening is that their company paid for the certification tests, mostly so they can say that their developers are certified. The certifications didn't really get the developers anything as I recall. In my experience certifications are nearly worthless for developers.

      However, I should note that they both have college degrees (BS in CS). If you want to be a developer, most companies that I've dealt with are degree snobs. If you are in college now, majoring in CS or EE (or even other disciplines), there should be internships and co-op positions available to you regardless of experience. If you're looking for a full-time development position, though, it's going to be difficult. You're competing for the same job with people who have college degrees. If you're an HR director, which applicants do you schedule for interviews?

      Is it fair? Maybe not. Is that the way it works? Absolutely*. (*YMMV)

      -J

  • by RobL3 ( 126711 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @12:59PM (#3177153)
    unless you prove to me that you are a professional in your field. MCSE, et all, means nothing to me when hiring you. I've simply seen too many newly minted "systems engineers" from third rate night schools that exist only to "teach the test".

    These poor folks have no practical knowledge, no understanding of the way systems actually work, etc, etc.

    I know this is harsh, but I have the HR screeners send any resumes highlighting certifications rather than work experience right to the folks who hire for the help desk.

    I know this is far out, but I believe IT should be treated as a profession, and having vendors hand out certifications on thier products no more makes an engineer than learning how to operate X-ray equipent makes one a radiologist.
    • And just exactly where are people going to attain work experience if everyone does as you, and sends them all to the help desk?

      I've done my time on the help desk, and have since become a Sun certified system admin. I didn't go to any third rate night school either. I did it the real way. I bought a book for $35, a sparcstation for under $100 off eBay, and downloaded the Solaris 8 SPARCplatform cd's from Sun's website. I had my cert in less then 2 months, and I worked my ass off to get it.

      So given that, when you see my resume, where do you think it really should have gone? Here's a better question, how can you tell just by looking at a piece of paper how much work went into getting that cert, and how much knowldege was attained?
      • And just exactly where are people going to attain work experience if everyone does as you, and sends them all to the help desk?

        On the help desk? Seriously. I think the IT trade needs to be treated more like many other sophisticated trades, like electricians, where you go to trade school, work as an apprentice, journeyman, foreman rankings through proven experience.

        This of course highlights my other peeve, the way most help desks are organized -- they're a call center dumping ground full of retards that acts largely as a wall built around the more senior people to protect them from end users. The help desk should be totally split from the phone answering/training function (ie, people that just answer the phone). They should be treated and paid like they have a future in IT and expected to act, work and learn like they have one.

        Treating sysadmin/network management like a trade with a natural progression of skills advancement makes so much sense because it involves everyone. Experienced people get to share their experience and knowledge with less experienced people, and less experienced people get real valuable experience and a better career path.
        • I've been saying on Slashdot for several years, now, that IT should be an apprentice trade. Thats how I came up, in the form of a co-op college course. Having a bachleorate or masters in Computer Science will not make you a good sys admin, any more than having a bachleorate or masters in Metalurgy will make you a good blacksmith.
        • I disagree that IT should be an apprecticeship. You either have it or you don't. And the other thing is you have to love what you do.

          I learned all my PC stuff as a kid at home growing up. The only thing you can't learn at home real well is networking, but even that's changing a liitle bit with all the 3D multimplayer games kids play. I know it's not a ton of experience, and you're not playing with BGP and T3's, but you do learn the fundamentals of IP addressing, latency, etc.
          • You either have it or you don't.

            I'd agree that there are some people who seem to have a natural inclination for IT work but relying on them alone to do IT doesn't produce enough people to get the work done.

            It's also a really tough metric by which to judge people, and its an impossible management philosophy by which to actually get work done by people who have never done it, whether the task is new to them or a new kind of task -- who was a "natural" at IP networking when it had never been done before?

            I also don't think it precludes the idea of an apprenticeship model, either -- people who are naturally good at it but due to boredom or whatever don't excel at the traditional credentialling institutions (colleges, tech schools, cert mills) might get an opportunity to do what they're good at, and it also gives them an opportunity to learn in a structured way.

            People who are naturally good at things also tend to screw up monumentally because they ignore structured learning and they make all the classic mistakes over and over again. Having a journeyman to learn from would help tremendously.
      • And just exactly where are people going to attain work experience if everyone does as you, and sends them all to the help desk?

        The short answer here is "I don't care".
        Yes I'm a heartless bastard, blah, blah, blah.
        Try to stay with me here, my job is not to give you an opputnity to learn, my job is to deliver to my customers. Which means I hire people with a solid track record. Please note that this does not mean I don't hire newbies. I hire recent grads all the time. But only the ones who show some initiative, flair, and knowledge theve gained beyond thier textbooks. People that sound just like you, as a matter of fact. It sounds like you've done fine, as do most people like you, so stop whimpering about "getting a chance".
    • If you are looking to hire someone to operate an X-Ray machine, why would you want to hire a radiologist?
    • "I know this is harsh, but I have the HR screeners send any resumes highlighting
      certifications rather than work experience right to the folks who hire for the help desk."

      So someone has a c.s. degree, 5+ yrs exp.,
      an MCSE that he happens to highlight, and you've
      already lost him because of the h.r. screener.

      Fscking brilliant.
  • Individual certifications are extremely limited. They really only tell you that someone has a passing familiarity with something. What employers really need are experienced and comptetent professionals. They should look more to professional qualifications. Organisations like the British Computer Society can provide these qualifcations. I'm sure the US has organisations which provide similar professional engineering qualifications.

    http://www.bcs.org.uk/

    • The BCS qualifications include both examination results, academic stuff with real world experience.

      Anyone can join, there are multiple levels of membership based on academic qualifications and experience. Full membership requires four years membership in the industry. You can also gain chartered engineer status with appropriate academic qualifications. This is *real* engineering, not the poxy Microsoft definiton of engineering.

  • MCSE (Score:5, Funny)

    by yamla ( 136560 ) <chris@@@hypocrite...org> on Sunday March 17, 2002 @01:20PM (#3177219)
    It is interesting to note that, at least in Canada, it is illegal to state that you are a 'Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer'. This is because you are then fraudulently representing yourself as an engineer. Microsoft even issued a memo about this a year or two back. That said, you certainly can state that you have passed the MCSE, so long as you do not spell out the 'E'.
    • this is ofcourse because the CCPE (Canadian Council of Professional Engineers) hold a trademark on the word Engineer.

      It's incredibly sad how few people respect an Engineer, especially in the computer systems field. As an Engineering student whose sat through the professional practice courses, I always point out the misuse of the word Engineer, particularly in the case of so called "Software Engineers" who graduated from community college with a diploma in Visual Basic programming.

      *sigh*
    • Here in the states microsoft and other companies that started this certification crap (Novell you buttheads) knew that the titles they "created" were very misleading. I remember several articles in trade magazines (Byte) back in 1996 that complained that the entire certification from Novell (the CNE) was misleading to employers,test takes and people in general... that they are NOT engineers, they are NOT skilled and they are NOT experts as they try to push the certification to be.

      No you as a CNE MCSE RHCE are NOT experts, Engineers or anything but a person who passed a set of skills tests.
    • If so, is it illegal to sing about Casey Jones?

  • by slaker ( 53818 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @01:26PM (#3177236)
    I just started teaching night classes for a local training company. On consecutive nights I teach a class in A+ (PC Hardware), Network+, Server+, 2000 Pro and 2000 Server. Nominally I work as an independent consultant, but that's not going so well right now.

    Most of my students are out of work Steelworkers. Almost all of them cite their desire to find a stable career as their reason for seeking certification.

    What's sad is, if I had a stable career, I would never be teaching these people - none of whom really have the requisite experience that should go along with any cert (3 - 6 months for A+, one to two years for the others). I can't tell them that. At $2000 per class, how could I?!?

    One of the most surprising things about IT certs is the numbers. Since the A+ certiification started in the mid-80s, there have been 260,000 people certified (Comptia certs are for life). Microsoft, which decided that those who obtained NT4 MCSE are still MCSEs after originally stated they wouldn't be starting this year, says there are 470,000 people with the MCSE cert.

    There is a lot more need in the world for competent techs than there is for folks who are marginally qualified to work on high-level business systems. There is a lot more need for competent people than there is for certifications.

    I tell my students that certification does not mean they're ready for the high-paying jobs they all hear about. I tell them that certifications represent a minimal standard for competency, and that the best thing they can do - whether they get certified or not - is to learn the lessons I teach, not the answers to the questions on the tests.

    As a trainer, a certified IT professional, and a genuinely clueful computer guy, it's a lesson I only hope they (and anyone who reads this) take to heart.
  • by yamla ( 136560 ) <chris@@@hypocrite...org> on Sunday March 17, 2002 @01:30PM (#3177252)
    It is important to note that basically all of these exams are product certifications. Having an MCSD certifies that you are familiar with the Microsoft development environment but it does NOT certify that you know much about software engineering. Certainly, Microsoft tries to ensure that you actually know how to program but they don't do a very good job; that's not a dig at Microsoft, though, as they are primarily ensuring that you know their tools.

    Now, some companies will hire you if you have sufficient product certifications. Others require a degree from a recognised institution. At the place where I work, we are of the latter mindset. Someone who applies to our company and just lists Microsoft certifications will have their resume instantly trashed. Someone who has a BSc in Computing Science will be seriously considered. Depending on what we want them for, a BSc and an MCSD _may_ carry more weight than a BSc alone. It certainly shows that someone is dedicated to their field. But the important thing to note is that an MCSD by itself adds NO VALUE WHATSOEVER to a potential employee unless they have a legitimate degree as well. Of course, this is just the current place I am employed.

    Prior to my current employment, I worked at a company which was huge on Microsoft certifications. They most definitely would hire a developer who only had an MCSD and treated such certifications as more valuable than BSc's. That said, the company is now in dire straights and the average developer there was of far lower calibre.
  • Anyone who contacts my firm (consulting, networking, administration) for a job gets asked one question right off the bat. This question eliminates lots of cookie-cutter certified newbies.

    "Name 3 operating systems NOT made by Microsoft."

    If candidates mention Cisco's IOS, Linux or any of the Unixes they get asked to send in a resume.

    We are not very interested in certifications. Our experience with certified people has been mixed, but generally if they had good experience that was more important than any certs they had.

    We also round file resumes which indicate that the candidate worked at his own business while also working for someone else. Especially if they mention doing the same things. We sure don't want our own employees out there competing with us on their weekends.

    • Interesting! Would you count "PalmOS"?
      • Sure... no one has ever thought of it, but we'd count it as one of the three. These questions don't get them a job, they just get their resume read. What we're after is evidence that candidates have exposed themselves to a broad range of IT subjects. Far too many simply tell us they can "run every program Microsoft ever made".
  • What about CNA, CNE or any of the other various Novell certifications?

    Have these idiots been living under an MS-rock for the past 10 years?

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