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Back To School? Certification Is Calling...

OK, so it's just a bit early to be talking about going back to school for the younger set, but how about for those of us already in the workplace? Just because you're an established IT professional doesn't mean you have to pack away your slide rule. So, come on, sharpen some pencils and start investigating.

Let's be clear: You don't need to be going back for your master's degree to increase your knowledge base. In fact, that might not be the most effective use of your time and money. You might just consider going back for a certification or two. This week, Citrix Systems announced updated certification programs for users of its products.

What is notable is that the company has publicly noted that such certification programs have often seemed overwrought; a waste of the IT professionals' time and money (or their companies' money). The new training seeks to position itself as a smarter alternative. A lean, mean training machine, if you will.

That's a great idea, and Citrix should be commended. Still, let's be careful going forward not to confuse a streamlined certification system with a haphazard one. The training needs to be meaningful, and the certifications have to carry some weight. Many IT professionals know that the value of having Microsoft and Cisco certifications often boils down to the fact that holding those certifications often results in better salary compensation. Vendor-neutral training and certifications are becoming increasingly popular; it remains to be seen if a similar corollary between those certifications and salary can be made. Training and certifications are valuable, and it makes sense to reevaluate them and make sure that they are offering value for the time and trouble you are taking to invest in them.

And, of course, sometimes there is just no substitute for hands-on knowledge.

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