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Increasing Competitive Advantage With Certifications
By Debbie Christofferson, CISSP, CISM

Survey research by IDC for the (ISC)2 (International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium) shows that security specialists are seeking more certifications and that more employers are requiring them.

Which ones serve you best, or not at all? Certifications contribute to job opportunity and pay, and open doors that might stay closed otherwise.

Why Certification Matters

Certification is increasing in recognition across professions and industries. Some offer internationally accepted standards that transfer across countries.

When working in an IT audit role, one of my peers was guaranteed a promotion and pay raise once she received her CISA. It was identified as a development area in her performance review.

Certification can validate knowledge. It sets a minimum standard of skills, knowledge and experience and supports a profession. Frequently used as a pre-screen by recruiters and employers, certification saves decision-makers time in qualifying and sorting applicants.

Employer supported certification can increase motivation and longevity in your ranks. It enhances competitive advantage by demonstrating a higher caliber of support.

Certification Categories

Primarily, two categories of certifications exist. One is based on both experience and passing a test to demonstrate a specific level of knowledge.

The other positions you by passing an exam to show competence, but not necessarily experience. All certifications require testing, along with annual maintenance or retaking a test to maintain them, for a fee.

Certifications are offered by product vendors, professional trade groups, and training organizations. The field presents a huge money-making business driven by vendors who qualify you to use their product, trade groups who want to guarantee quality and longevity for their profession, and training groups looking to cash in on profit opportunity.

What Certifications are Hot

Some certifications carry higher weight and value than others:

  • Demand for CFEs (Certified Fraud Examiners) runs high. Compliance regulatory requirements and financial reviews fuel the need. An associate in a security forum last week noted that he was one of less than 3,500 when he first received his CFE. Today, he’s joined by more than 30,000.
  • Similar to what we’re starting to see with the CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional), pay can dilute with bulk entry to a field. But demand is expected to remain high. Pay tends to come from experience more than the certification itself.
  • CISA (Certified Information Systems Auditor) carries high demand with the focus on regulations and IT systems auditing.
  • Certifications for network firewall systems prove popular, because the architecture is so expansive in the industry. These certs don’t require experience and prepare you for sometimes immediate hiring in today’s market.
  • PMP (Project Management Professional) has grown in demand, with project ramping significantly since the 2000 slowdown. Project management skills are required in nearly every field and profession, and the PMP is being requested more often to demonstrate a standard of competency.

Not all certifications are created equal and hundreds exist. Some industries and sectors may more or less for the same credentials. Choose wisely.

Survivor Exile Island

You can spend a lot of money to obtain and maintain certifications, especially in multiples. These do not guarantee that you’ll find the hidden idol.

When I see someone with six or eight certifications behind their name, I know an employer footed the bill. The risk to employers who pay the way, is that newly minted certification holders will take their costly credential and move on.

We all like to think our certifications are coveted, but it depends on your position and market demands. Proceed with caution.

Heading to the Finale

Enhanced credentials increase your market value. They improve your chances for hiring, promotion, and financial reward.

Your employer may not pay for a certification. It’s up to you to choose a career strategy, and back it up with action.

Send for the report at no charge, on “How to Pass the CISSP”. Email or phone today to 602-268-3517 or DebbieChristofferson@earthlink.net and ask for it.

Coming Next!

Competitive intelligence-what is it, what are the job prospects in the technology fields? Let’s take a look at how trends and events impact our future, and what it means to the job market and you.

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