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What are microcertifications and do they have value?

It’s been said a million times before – there are not enough qualified IT workers out there. Not nearly enough to satisfy the need of the industry.

As a result, many organizations are looking at other alternatives to find, and create, these workers. This is where certifications come in. They are a better way to know that a candidate has some confirmed sets of skills. Sadly, most trainings and certifications are quite expensive for individual person. Most companies solve this problem by organizing trainings for their teams. This is great for those who already are working for such an organization.

But how to get your foot in the door when you don’t have such certifications and can’t afford them? Thus, the microcertifications were born. They are also known as microcredentials. The name is often confusing. In short, it means getting certified for a very narrow or even niche topic. It means you (should) know how to do a certain thing with a given platform very well, but doesn’t mean you know the entire platform. It’s gathering popularity, though for several reasons.

Microcertifications can be a thing

One, microcertifications are much cheaper and easier to attain. Two, most organizations do specific things with specific platforms, so it helps them to know you also know what to do. Three, they are easier to update in the fast and ever changing world of technology.

Anthony James, founder and CEO of the Linux Academy is supporting these microcertifications. He says to Computerworld that there are platforms which are way too vast. Linux is one of them. You can use Linux for quite a lot completely different things. James says this is true for many Linux system administrator jobs. You only need to know what your company is using, he adds.

But there are also faults with this. As we know, technologies do change very fast. And sometimes you just need to tackle a problem which is not exactly what you’re used to. This is were a highly focused microcertification saying you can handle with 15 out of 70 modules could mean you don’t know what to do when module 16 acts up. And as any software engineer and administrator will tell you, sometimes things that “can’t” or “shouldn’t” break or cause problems end up bringing the most headaches. Also, there comes the time when you want to change jobs. A highly specific microcertification could limit your opportunities with other potential employers.

So, do microcertifications have value? Absolutely. But they may or may not be of use in each particular case. As a result, it’s best to judge carefully about your goals, including in the long term. They do have some great uses. A recent survey by the Linux Academy and Cybrary found that 94% of 6000 IT professionals say they generally agree that microcertifications would give entry-level candidates and advantage in job seeking. 58% think they give pretty much the same level of technical proficiency. It’s expected that with time microcertifications could become a big thing. For now, they can be great for junior and entry-level positions and as a quick way to gather some skills.

Image credit: Flickr (CC) / Michael Himbeault