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Do employers care more about certification, or do they care more about experience?

Dear Ed: I've been working in IT for just over 5 years now, and I'd like to break into VoIP, either here at my current job or for a new employer. Do employers care more about certification, or do they care more about experience? I've been working on a Cisco-based system for nearly three years, and wonder if it will help my chances to earn a VoIP specialist or professional level credential.

Thanks in advance for your advice,
Bobby T.
Nashville, TN

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Dear Bobby:

If you ask that question of most employers and got an honest answer, that answer would be "we care about both." Nothing beats experience, to be sure, but experience and certification is a nearly unstoppable combination. If you really mean an either-or proposition, as in "either experience or certification, but not both" then experience trumps certification every time. Because you've already got some experience, that puts you in a pretty good position.

My advice: try your luck, and test the waters without getting certified. If that doesn't produce the desired results, then you can go after the CCVP credential with all guns blazing. My guess is that you'll get at least part of the way toward where you want to go without certification, but you can always tackle the curriculum if you think it will improve your odds — but the best way to determine if you need to expend the time, effort, and money involved in getting certified is to see what you can accomplish without jumping that hurdle.

HTH and thanks for posting,

--Ed—

This was first published in October 2007

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