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How microcertifications work for IT job seekers and employers

Sharon Florentine | March 7, 2017
Microcertifications are gaining popularity as a way for IT job seekers to quickly and affordably prove their skills, and organizations are coming around to the idea.

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Organizations struggling to fill high-demand tech roles -- like Linux or cybersecurity, for instance -- often look at certifications to benchmark a candidate's skills and real-world experience and gauge their potential for success on the job. But for job seekers, certifications are expensive, time-consuming and often don't accurately assess the hands-on skills needed to succeed in a role.

For many IT job seekers and the organizations that would hire them, microcertifications -- or microcredentials -- are a faster, more affordable and more effective way to achieve the same result and get open jobs filled faster.

What is microcertification?

Microcertification, or microcredentialing, is the process of earning a mini-certification or a mini-credential in a specific, highly focused topic area which is then used to demonstrate your mastery of that specific topic or skillset. This is especially useful in technology, where innovations happen at lightning speed and traditional education avenues -- and even classic certification tracks -- have problems keeping up, says Anthony James, founder and CEO of Linux Academy.

Bigger isn't always better

"The problem with traditional certifications is they're 20 feet wide and a foot deep, so to speak. Take Linux, for example. If you're trying to get a job as a Linux systems administrator, if you take a certification, you're learning everything there is to know about Linux when you'll only ever use 25 percent of that knowledge on the job. Or, if you're trying to land a role that requires AWS skills, you might only need mastery of a few of the more than seventy different components AWS has," he says.

In the real world, you'd need to be proficient in whatever technology stack your potential company is using -- and if you're trying to land a role at a new company, proving that you can get up to speed quickly on their stack is a competitive advantage, James says.

In a January 2017 survey of approximately 6,000 IT professionals, Linux Academy and online cybersecurity massive open online course (MOOC) provider Cybrary found that 35 percent of individual respondents say microcertifications have either helped them get a job or advance in their current position. And 94 percent say they somewhat or strongly agree that microcertifications would give entry-level candidates an advantage in the hiring process at their company.

"For companies, professional certifications don't tell them much, anymore. They're too broad; microcertifications give companies the opportunity to specify what their technology environment looks like and what skills they need from candidates to accomplish their strategic goals, and then validate those skills," James says.


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