What Is Best For You: IT Training vs. Professional Certification, Part 1

By Tim Wright Consultant, Workforce Transformation, Dell Technologies Education Services July 14, 2020

Are you considering the best method to advance your IT career? You may struggle with the choice of a professional certification program or individual training courses.

This is the first article in a series comparing the benefits of training courses with those of an IT certification program.

A training course or series of courses culminating in a “certificate” increases the technical knowledge for both an IT beginner and a seasoned professional. The certificate may be earned attending the sessions or by demonstrating learning mastery through completing course assessments. Career Professionals of Canada states that Courses will help you learn, grow and build your skills (training) – you’ll get better at what you do! (emphasis added)

As we contrast a professional certification program to training, the key word is program. A professional certification program validates the knowledge that you acquire and the skills you develop. It also allows you to demonstrate abilities and skills for the application of that knowledge. By integrating education and experience and culminating with an examination, the certification program recognizes professionals who fulfill the commitment to meet knowledge, skills and competencies standards. Career Professionals of Canada distinguishes that recognition: Certification will authenticate and validate your skills (credentials) – you’ll get recognized for what you do! (emphasis added)

Both training and certification programs benefit your IT knowledge and skills. Let’s look at how professional certification provides increased knowledge and improved performance to the IT professional.

Certification Means More Knowledge and Better Performance

Abundant statistical and anecdotal evidence supports the belief that an IT professional holding one or more certifications has a greater store of knowledge and experience than the non-certified individual. This is the first reason certification will serve you well, professionally and personally.

This greater degree of knowledge results from the intensity and quality of the training-plus-applications that lead to certification. Another cause may be that performing with high levels of proficiency and confidence reinforces the desire to maintain one’s knowledge at the highest level. Certified professionals report greater comfort with their responsibilities in the face of new technologies than those non-certified. This is strengthened by the findings that the more certifications you hold, the greater such comfort will be.1

Research says that certified IT professionals have 52% more core domain knowledge after one year on the job than non-certified employees acquire in three years. That time-to-knowledge ratio is also impressive over time. After 10 years’ experience, certified individuals in IT service and support roles typically have 20-25% more core knowledge than their non-certified counterparts.1

Greater knowledge can be assumed to generate greater performance. Related components of an effective certification program contribute more than just knowledge to one’s performance. An IDC white paper contracted by Comp-TIA maintains that

while we correlate ‘being certified’ with increased performance, we recognize that the preparation for certification is the actual mechanism for improved performance, not the credential itself. 1

The rigorous process of mastering specific skills prepares you to apply the knowledge and thus receive your certification. Having mastered those skills, you have greater confidence that you can tackle the newest technology as well.

Performance relates directly to competence. Competence can be developed over time, but time is a rare commodity in the technology realm. Technology advances too fast for businesses to wait for their IT employees to develop competence on the job. Training and certification offer the realistic answer.

Competence and its correlative performance are not determined by the certification, the badge, itself. What truly drives the professional’s performance? The preparation to achieve a certification, followed by the effort and exertion to build the skill set and to develop the knowledge. Certification Magazine’s 2018 Salary Survey reported that two-thirds of those surveyed, 67.6%, agreed or strongly agreed that getting certified increased their ability to solve problems. Almost as many, 64.6%, agreed or strongly agreed that certification improved their workplace creativity.2

Another IDC research project isolated the performance advantages brought to the job by a certified IT professional. 3

To relate the value of certification to the value of technical training alone, the Pearson Vue 2018 Value of IT Certification survey of more than 10,000 certified individuals from 138 countries reports that

The vast majority of respondents also indicated that the myriad benefits they obtained through the process of becoming certified — such as earning more professional credibility or retaining knowledge for longer — exceed the benefits they would’ve obtained if they’d gone through training without certification.4

Tying It All Together

Professional certification clearly benefits you and the company that employs you. The advantage of a greater level of knowledge is demonstrated by IT professionals who hold certification. That knowledge translates into increased skills and enhanced productivity that you will take to your company. Richard Joslin, Executive Director of Certification & Training at HDI, offers an appropriate closing statement:

If presented with three candidates who claim to have similar experiences and knowledge and one has a certification, [we believe] the [certified] candidate has demonstrated greater commitment to the profession and a recognition that learning is key to ongoing success.

Dell Technologies’ Proven Professional certifications may be the right next step for you. Be on the lookout for the next articles [Part 2 and Part 3] in this Certification vs. Training series. We’ll explore which of the two is better for you and for your company.


  1. Anderson, Cushing. “Impact of Certifications and Training on Career Milestones.” IDC. 2018
  2. “Salary Survey 2018: The workplace impact of certification.” Certification Magazine. 2018
  3. Anderson, Cushing. “The Five Value Propositions of IT Certification for the Enterprise.” IDC. 2018
  4. Pearson Vue. 2018 Value of IT Certification. 2019

About Tim Wright

Consultant, Workforce Transformation, Dell Technologies Education Services

Tim Wright joined Dell EMC, now Dell Technologies, in 2013 as Consultant-Professional Development in the then GSD L&D organization. His focus initially was on providing professional/personal skills improvement resources for members of the training delivery organization. That soon expanded to Tim’s development of a series of virtual instructor-led professional development courses that ran successfully for the SDS organization.

After teaching middle school for 13 years—to individuals now in their late 40s and early 50s!—Tim navigated to corporate training and development. He’s been at it as the industry’s changed its name from “corporate training” to “training and development” to “corporate learning” to “L&D” to “digital learning”….. His focus has always been in the area of interpersonal skills: professional development, soft skills, generic training. Whether communication skills or team building or leadership development or problem-solving and decision-making, Tim’s passion is helping people discover ways to improve their performance while increasing enjoyment of what they do.

As much as possible, Tim enjoys a 40-40-20 approach to his work. Ideally, he spends 40% of his time interacting with stakeholders to engage in the observation-interview-empathize segments of Design Thinking. The next 40% continues DT practices of prototyping, sharing with stakeholders, testing. The last 20% is the delivery or iteration where failure is discovered as the fastest step to improvement. He even envisions a project that allows him to fit that formula into a 5 day week: M-T is design, W-T is development, F is delivery.

Tim’s pretty much given up running for long-distance walking/hiking. His golf game is improving. He journals like crazy and is always working on another poem.

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