IT Qualifications - Everything you need to know

IT qualifications research results from online job advertisements

What are IT qualifications?

IT qualifications refer to University, community college, private or vendor certified credentials that provide evidence of a pass grade or better within a specific field of study.

Who needs IT qualifications?

Employers often request qualifications as part of the job selection criteria. The demand for IT qualifications varies greatly between regions, specialty areas and employers. Our research results tables show common IT jobs and the demand for key qualifications. These tables provide a high level glimpse of certification demand.

Are Qualifications Worthwhile?

One of the most common questions we receive from visitors is 'is it worth investing in formal IT qualifications?'. If so, which ones are the best?

Unfortunately, that question does not have a straight forward answer. But below are three worthwhile activities that will help you determine suitability to your personal goals.

  • Check out the data on this page first but then look through this site for additional information. As far as we know, this is the most comprehensive specialist IT career information base in the world and we often add articles and data as it comes to hand. One good section to start with is the Job descriptions, the cool thing about these job descriptions is that they reflect the skills and duties listed in thousands of job advertisements. So they are truly a reflection of the market, not an article writer's interpretation.
  • Study Job Advertisements; Job advertisements are a live window to the current market. We have tried to make this process easier for you with pages such as this one, skills page, job descriptions page and lots of articles to boot.
  • No doubt you will have questions, feel free to email us (support@it-pathways.com) and we will try our best to get back to you promptly. Another options is to speak to Job Recruitment agencies; I have developed very good relationships with many recruitment agencies over the years. We have spoken about the local market many times and these discussions have shaped my career. It is interesting to hear agents point of view because they are often aware of upcoming bodies of work as well as current trends.
  • Speak to Friends. If you are lucky enough to have a friend, neighbor or relative in the IT industry seek their opinion about your pending decision about IT qualifications.

Demonstrating Technical Competence

One of the key points to take from this page is that career development includes the soft skills required to communicate your competencies. We cannot overstate how important these skills are in order to secure opportunities.

Demonstrating competency in cover letters, resumes and interviews generally involves describing the source of your knowledge. For example, a completed certification or previous project. The more sources of knowledge on the same subject the more credible the application appears. Some credible sources of knowledge include;

  • Experience including unpaid work experience
  • Degrees and Diplomas
  • Professional Certifications
  • Home projects, hobbies and memberships
  • Self study courses
  • In house professional courses such as boot camps
  • Authorship

Here are some examples demonstrating technical competence in IT resumes and cover letters.

Top 5 challenges to getting qualified

The following guidelines are intended to provide "food for thought" when making certification and qualification decisions.

  • Budget. Qualifications costs are incredibly diverse starting from just a few dollars online to $100k+ for a degree. Budget ofcourse plays a key role in the quality of education but as this site highlights - there are many pathways to the same destination. As a general guide, There is no doubt that the IT industry is king when it comes to the sale of knowledge. IT qualifications are no exception. A well funded candidate can position him/her self in a very strong career position. A candidate with a low training budget can achieve the same results but at the expense of additional time. Relevant work experience is a good way to fast track low budget certification goals but it is not a substitute for hard study. I find that sites such as cbt nuggets.com have a good balance between balancing budget and receiving good training. (no we are not affiliated with them, but I have used the training over the years and found it very good.)
  • Time. When it comes to IT certifications time can be managed with money. That is, the more money that you have to spend, the faster that you should be able to complete each certification. Conversely, certifications can be completed relatively inexpensively (at the cost of the exam and perhaps a book) but in my experience the trade off is time. University degrees and diplomas are less susceptible to time management budget issues because they generally run for a fixed period of time.
  • The economy. Yes, the economy plays a big part in the value of qualifications. When times are tough such as the economic troubles of 2008 and 2009, qualifications become a powerful tool against stiff competition. During IT boom periods many employers are less picky because good candidates are scarce. Once again, this factor is associated with supply and demand.
  • Skills demand. Every once in a while a booming technology catches the industry off guard and creates a skills shortage. Voice over IP is a good recent example. If you possess a 'hot' qualification during a skills shortage then other qualifications seem to take a back seat, at least temporarily. In over 20 years of experience I have seen a few 'hot skills' come and go, if you are lucky enough to catch one of these phases jump on and enjoy the ride!
  • Locality. This last point is as much a warning as it is a guide. IT qualifications do hold different values in different regions of the world. Local job searches and recruitment agencies should shed light on the value of your proposed certification in your region. So don't assume that just because the media is over excited about one particular trend that the employment benefits will reach your part of the world. Maybe they will, or maybe they won't - that is why we place so much emphasis on research.

IT qualifications research results

We analysed over 12,000 IT job advertisements to better understand what qualifications and certifications were in most demand.