Career Central: Cert Concerns

Study finds cooling certification market; help desk woes part of a generation gap?

Certification: Worth the paper Its Printed On?

A study released April 25 found that for the first time since 2000, bonuses paid for certifications have slacked off compared with those paid for skills.

The Q1 2006 Hot Technical Skills and Certifications Pay Index from Foote Partners, a New Canaan, Conn., IT compensation and work force management company, suggests that this is a major shift.

"Eighteen months ago, it was all about certifications for IT workers as employers stumbled out of the wreckage of an economic recession, looking to start hiring again," said David Foote, president and chief research officer for Foote Partners.

"Employers are not placing the same emphasis on certification that they once did," Foote said. "They are finding other qualities of IT professionals more critical to their businesses going forward."

Tracking the market value of 212 IT skills and certifications, premium pay for 103 noncertified skills averaged 7.1 percent of the base salary for a single skill. Pay for noncertified skills grew nearly 70 percent more than pay for certifications, or 4.4 percent versus 2.6 percent, respectively.

Among "cooling" certified tech skills, the study lists nine, including MCDST (Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician); CISA (Certified Information Systems Auditor); and three Novell certifications: CNE (Certified Novell Engineer), MCNE (Master CNE) and CNA (Certified Novell Administrator).

Fourteen certifications have grown in value, including SCNP (Security Certified Network Professional), CISM (Certified Information Security Manager) and MCT (Microsoft Certified Trainer).

The highest-paid certifications include CISM; CISA; CCEA (Citrix Certified Enterprise Administrator); and four Cisco certifications: CCDP (Cisco Certified Design Professional), CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert), CCIP (Cisco Certified Internetwork Professional) and CCSP (Cisco Certified Security Professional).

Skills categories showing the most growth in the survey included Applications Development/Programming Languages, Project Management, Training, Webmaster and Security.

Help, the Web Is Broken!

The end of civilization can seem near when youre working the help desk. How else to explain customer questions such as: "But are you sure the Internet is safe to use?"

Are clients stupid, or are geeks arrogant? Experts say problems include the sometimes-lackluster communication skills of technical staff, a generation gap and clients unrealistic expectations.

"[Technical people] often communicate in a language that doesnt make sense to customers," said Donna Knapp, author of "A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional," in Tampa, Fla.

Larry Rosen, author of the "Mental Health Technology Bible," argues that the generation gap contributes to miscommunication: Most IT people are young, and most users are not, says Rosen in Carson, Calif. IT professionals typically fall within Generation X, which was raised with computers and often speaks about technology in ways that are unintelligible to older generations.

Another problem: Howard Graylin, a technical analyst at Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance, of Ridgeland, Miss., said users often do something to "break" their computer but dont want to admit it.

"[Just] tell me you forgot your password. It happens, and its nothing to be ashamed of," Graylin said. "If they ever figured out how easy this can be, Id be living in a cardboard box on the street."

Geeks in Shorts Train the Night Away

Michelle was hanging out by the hot tub.

Claire was digging the big wet mammals.

And, oh, those penetration specialists. What do they do for fun? "Capture the flag," they said.

Yes, were talking about the rapture of geeks, learning things, on cruises. Specialized IT training excursions are cropping up everywhere, offering tech workers the opportunity to simultaneously hone their skills and suntans.

One company, Geek Cruises, was inspired by a Star Trek fan cruise taken by founder Neil Bauman. Baumans company booked its first voyage for Perl programmers to Alaska over Memorial Day weekend. "The Perl people were major partiers," said Bauman, CEO of International Technology Conferences.

Family members can take part in typical cruise amenities, from pools and spas to game rooms; libraries; movies; conga lines; and, of course, playing in the ocean.

Todays most popular cruise is MacMania, with 200 to 275 attendees on each voyage. MacMania has been to Alaska, the Caribbean and Mexico. The next cruise, which will launch from Rome on July 20, will focus on the Mac and digital photography. Running over 10 nights, the ship will dock in Monaco, Spain and Tunisia.

Certifiably Chipped Off

You worked hard for the letters, but are they working hard for you?

  • Shrinking value Skills that have lost their value in the last year include MCDST, CISA and three Novell certifications: CNE, MCNE and CNA
  • Heightened value Skills that have grown in value 11 percent or more in the last year include SCNP, CISM and MCT
  • Pay for themselves The highest-paid certifications include CISM; CISA; and four different Cisco certifications: CCDP, CCIE, CCIP and CCSP
  • Where you want to be the skills categories showing the most growth include Applications Development/Programming Languages, Project Management, Training, Webmaster and Security

Source: Foote Partners Q1 2006 Hot Technical Skills and Certifications Pay Index