Should I do a Certification?

Should I do a Certification?

Certifications are an odd one. Most of the time, people will insist that you don’t actually need them because experience and enthusiasm are far more important. But at the same time, almost everyone seems to do them. So below, we’ve briefly outlined the what, why, and cost of tech qualifications. However if you just want a list of entry-level certs worth your time, you can skip the next few paragraphs.

What?

Firstly, we want to make it clear that here we are talking specifically about professional / industry recognised certifications. If you complete a two-week online course in (for example) Python, you will most likely be presented with a ‘certificate’ at the end with your name on it. This is great and often worth mentioning on an entry-level CV, however it probably isn’t an industry recognised level of certification. Examples of industry recognised certifications are the GCP Professional Cloud Architect certification or the CompTIA Security certification.

Why?

There are many excellent reasons to complete a certification, especially if you are breaking into tech from a non-tech background. They are great to use as a target and guideline for technical upskilling as well as being good for demonstrating commitment and enthusiasm for your new career direction. Occasionally, they may also give your CV an edge over a comparable CV without the certification.

Another benefit of professional certifications is that you will learn industry best practices and develop good habits from the very beginning. When you self-study without a structured curriculum, it is easy to miss these things.

And finally, becoming certified can be a great way to have the peace of mind that you’ve actually invested your time into something useful in reality. When you are beginning to learn about tech, it is often unclear which specifics are actually worth labouring over. It is not often the case, but it is possible that you spend a long time studying something that is not particularly useful in a real job. Certifications help remove much of this uncertainty.

However it is important to point out the big trap that many people fall into, especially early on in their tech career; people often only complete certifications because they think everyone else has them and they don’t want to be left behind. This is not a good reason. Although every tech professional has probably been guilty of this at some point. Only spend time and money on completing a certification if you actually want to develop your skills, if it will assist with a career change (or breaking into tech from scratch), or you are actually required to be certified. Otherwise completing it will just turn into a chore.

Cost?

If you’ve spent any time browsing available certifications, you’ll quickly notice that many of them are pretty expensive. This is because most often, companies will pay for their employees to complete some training courses or certifications. This in itself is another reason not to stress about completing certifications before you even begin working in the tech world. In fact whilst a few certifications recommend a certain amount of professional experience to qualify, a few actually require it.

Entry-Level Certifications

We have intentionally listed only a small number of certifications here since:

  1. Most certifications are not suitable for beginners
  2. We only want to recommend certifications that we can endorse

Some areas of tech are not listed here which means we have not found any recognised, entry-level qualifications on offer. If this is the case, don’t worry about becoming certified; certification will only become relevant once you have some experience and it will not be expected on an entry-level CV. Instead, invest your time in practicing with technologies that interest you and building up a portfolio of sorts, with things you have built or designed.

Difficulty Level

  • @ – assesses mostly common knowledge within the area of tech (i.e. probably good to demonstrate completed training but the certification does not hold a lot of weight by itself)
  • @@ – some more advanced knowledge and techniques are assessed but largely still focused on assessing a broad understanding
  • @@@ – will require fairly extensive knowledge in a particular area (i.e. probably not appropriate for an entry-level applicant)

Cost

  • Free
  • $ – tens of £s
  • $$ – low hundreds of £s
  • $$$ – up to thousands of £s

Cloud

  • GCP ACE
    • An accessible intro course and gives good background generally on how stuff works (e.g. Kubernetes, networks, VMs, …). Would be challenging but doable for someone with little tech knowledge.
    • Level- @@
    • Cost- $$
  • AWS Cloud Practitioner
    • Very basic introduction to AWS. Will not hold a lot of weight in industry but will demonstrate good knowledge for entry level jobs/schemes.
    • Level- @
    • Cost- $$
  • AWS Associate
    • Choice of three areas- architecture, operation, or development. There will be some overlap and any one will demonstrate competency using AWS.
    • Level- @@
    • Cost- $$

Cyber Security

In cyber security, qualifications actually hold a lot of value since employers need to know you have specific skills with specific tools. So getting certified, whilst being challenging, is a great benefit and is common as you progress through your career.

  • CompTIA Security+
    • This course is a great stepping stone on the path to more advanced and desirable cyber security certifications. It is relatively accessible and a great grounding, but does not hold a lot of weight as a certification by itself. Experience (usually on-the-job) is needed to get the whole package.
    • Level- @@
    • Cost- $$$

Data Science

Data science is an area of tech that requires lots of training and practice, however holding a certification does not benefit an individual as much. You’re generally better investing time into practice and building a portfolio. That being said, there is still gain to be had by following a structured course and if that results in a certification at the end, it’s a nice bonus.

  • IBM Data Science Professional Certificate
    • Whilst this is a course on Coursera, you do receive an official digital badge from IBM upon successful completion. No coding experience is required and you’ll be exposed to a wide range of data science tools. Just don’t expect to be an expert in these technologies by the end.
    • Level- @
    • Cost- $

Development

  • Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA)
    • There are MTA certifications available in several programming languages; Python, JavaScript, HTML & CSS, and Java. To achieve one of these certifications, you’ll need a solid understanding of the basics of each language, but not much more. They are a fairly plain yet a good starting point if you are unsure of your skill level.
    • Level- @
    • Cost- $

Service Management

  • CompTIA A+
    • If you Google ‘entry-level tech certifications’, you’ll find CompTIA mentioned everywhere. The official CompTIA A+ course is a complete beginner, comprehensive IT introductions aimed at wannabe tech support professionals. You’ll learn a bit of everything. Worth noting though, that this certification is becoming a little old-fashioned.
    • Level- @
    • Cost- $$$

Not quite ready for certification? Check out our recommended training instead.