Do You Need Certifications to Get an IT Help Desk Job?

By Tyler Regas

Do you need certifications for an IT help desk job? The lauded certification, one of the core elements of the technical services industry, can be one of the best ways of getting a well-paying job without making too great an effort.

Now, don’t go thinking that certifications, often called certs for short, are limited to technology. They aren’t. Certifications exist for just about every type of job, but technology does represent an enormous percentage of certifications on offer.

You can earn certifications for various professional groups, software ­manufacturers, hardware producers, and others. You earn them from colleges, technical schools, and testing facilities.

Like universities, testing facilities that offer certification testing are accredited, so it’s important to verify that you are looking at a good facility.

Getting a certification is quite a bit less expensive than continuing into higher education, so if you are eager to get working or just don’t do well in traditional educational settings, it’s an excellent alternative.

The problem with certifications

Certs do have some downsides, but they are more philosophical than practical. The most common problem some people have with certifications is that there is no practical way to determine whether someone is truly trained in a discipline or has just studied really hard to take the exam. Surprisingly enough, this issue frequently causes rifts among coworkers and newly hired employees.

What it comes down to is simple. Earning a certification does not mean you have learned what it means to be certified. Anyone can drop a few hundred bucks and take a test or two to become certified, but it doesn’t mean that person has real, practical, in-the-field experience. Anyone who has worked with Microsoft technologies will tell you when it comes to managing Windows systems, there’s the Microsoft Way, and then there’s the Real Way.

Certification teaches you the Microsoft Way, but far too often there is another, more efficient and effective way of achieving the same solution. Ultimately, this just means that there is little better than real, actual hands-on experience.

Why certifications matter, anyway

Despite any issues some people or organizations may have with certifications, they are still important to employers and employees who work in the IT industry. Certifications illustrate a verifiable level of expertise in a given discipline, which can be helpful.

It’s impossible to offer a clear number of how many certifications there are, but there are a lot. Almost every maker of technology that is used for enterprise purposes has some sort of certification associated with it. As a nerd, you’ve likely heard of certifications from the likes of Microsoft, Oracle, Red Hat, Cisco, and others.

The process of attaining a certificate establishing your expertise in a particular technology can be grueling. Of course, if you are an expert in the technology you are seeking certification for, you probably won’t have too much trouble getting through the material. Knowing your stuff is, after all, what the certification is all about.

Because a number of certifications require being updated once every three to five years, keeping any certs you earn up to date will take a lot of regular effort. If, however, your primary credentials are certifications, then it will be worth your time and effort.

It’s also important to note that the longer you have valid certifications, the more money you will be able to command when negotiating salary. That’s a little hard to beat.