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Individual Issues

All of this is well and good for the certification providers, but where does this all leave the individual considering certification? To answer that question, we have to look at why people are certified in the first place.

For those entering the IT industry, certification is a way of gaining validation of their skills and, to some extent, of their dedication to become part of the industry. While these factors are both relevant and important, they miss a key function of the certification process—actually learning the trade of an IT professional. Somewhere in the books, sample tests, Web-based training modules, and brain dumps, many people seem to have lost sight of the fact that the whole point of certification is to learn the skills necessary to become a technically skilled individual.

Assuming that gaining skills is the real, and best, reason for pursuing certification, the choice between different programs becomes less of an issue of whether the program is vendor-specific or independent, and more of an issue of what is to be learned. The problem then becomes how those new to the industry are able to determine what skills need to be acquired. This is an area in which training and certification providers become the key.

In the case of the popular CompTIA certifications, the relevant skills list is ascertained through workplace studies of people who are actively involved in the field. Even though the members of CompTIA have input into the certification programs, CompTIA's offerings are based on those workplace studies rather than any preferences stated by members.

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