Certifications Help Data Professionals, But Experience Counts More

by   |   August 31, 2012 5:29 pm   |   0 Comments

There are certifications for BI professionals in general, and for each of the major vendors in the analytics field. As the field expands, more specific certifications for data quality and data management are emerging.

Data-centric certifications are heating up in the IT job market. But while achieving a professional certification can help—especially if you are a consultant trying to prove your credentials to prospective clients—such an accreditation is not necessarily a sure gateway to getting a new job or higher pay.

Alice Hill, the managing director of IT job board Dice.com, said most of technology professionals say certifications won’t necessarily boost pay or hiring prospects, and most job postings make no mention of certifications. Of the 85,000 postings on Dice.com, about 17 percent, or 15,000, request certifications, she said. The most requested certification on Dice.com is Project Management Professional, mentioned in 2 percent of listings.

For full time positions, certifications gain the most traction for entry level jobs and senior level positions, Hill said, but certifications help the most for consultants and contractors.

“Certifications are more valuable in the tech contracting community,” Hill said.  “Forty percent of tech consultants said obtaining a certification helped them land a new gig, which is about 10 percentage points higher than their colleagues working in traditional roles. This makes sense, because when you are hiring a contractor for particular role, the certification gives some assurance that the technology professional has at a minimum the base level of skills.”

The importance of a professional certification in the hiring process depends on the preferences of the hiring manager—and whether such credentials count as much as experience, said Matthew Ripaldi, the senior vice president for the southern United States at IT recruiting and staffing company Modis. Ripaldi said that certifications can fill in the gaps for a candidate seeking a more general job description.

“A lot of the times the candidate is missing hands-on experience with a certain technology, but they have a certification and they have training,” he said. “That could still get them in the door.”

Ripaldi said certifications for data-related skills are among the most sought-after right now and are “extremely in demand.”

“For a lot of things around data, because it’s such a hot skill set, they’re definitely being adopted more quickly than some of the other certifications,” he said.

Newer certifications, like the Information Quality Certified Professional certification that began in July 2011, haven’t yet gained traction in the marketplace but could quickly as more companies seek out niche professionals to tackle certain problems.

“Even though you have the professionals taking these kinds of certs, the hiring managers may not, and they may not be fully aware of what this type of certification covers and the type of knowledge that they’re going in with,” he said.

Even if a hiring manager isn’t familiar with the precise requirements of a certification, doing the work and taking the exam at least signals to a manager a candidate’s career interests and direction.

Martha Heller, president of Heller Search Associates, an IT executive recruiting firm, said data management is currently one of the most in-demand skill sets in IT.  Work experience is king, she said, but a certification in a data management field can’t hurt.

“If you have a lot of experience with data, certification is icing on the cake, but it’s not necessary if your work experience is very strong,” Heller said. “Even CIOs who value certification will value work experience more. However, if you have dabbled in data or are just getting into it, a certification will help future employers see that data is a major focus for you, even if you have not had a wealth of experience in it.”

That experience can be a key factor in some certifications. For example, by building in a three-year work requirement to the IQCP, the International Association of Information and Data Quality made its certification that much stronger, Hill said.

“The fact that the [data quality certification] is requiring as a prerequisite  three years of work experience and hours performing, leading or directing information work within the IQCP framework is an acknowledgement of tying hands on experience with additional learning.”

Another route for a professional to differentiate themselves is to get certified in a certain line of products, like Oracle, IBM or a high-level Microsoft certification.

“If someone is coming in with an Oracle cert, then that’s highly valuable, but it’s also highly targeted to Oracle specific, and it drills in on that technology,” Ripaldi said. “It’s still very valuable.”

Email Staff Writer Ian B. Murphy at ian.murphy@wispubs.com. Follow him on Twitter @IBMurphyatDI.




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