Qualifications vs Experience - What Matters Most in IT?
|James Milligan, senior business director for IT and talent solutions at Hays Ireland looks at the benefits of having qualifications or experience in different IT related jobs.
As recruiters, we are regularly asked by candidates what certifications and degrees are needed to get a job. Quite honestly, when it comes to IT jobs in Ireland, it depends. It varies wildly, depending on the job and the area of IT.
In areas such as project and change management, having the right certifications is a prerequisite to getting the job. In others – such as infrastructure – a qualification is worthless unless it is accompanied by practical experience.
The guide below gives an area-by-area breakdown of the importance of certifications in IT:
In infrastructure, experience is king. Many candidates have completed courses such as the MCSA, MCP, CCNA and CCNP but, without the experience, candidates simply don’t have a shot at securing their preferred job. Having both certifications and experience establishes a strong baseline to work from. Some specialist certifications such as the VCP for VMWare and CCIE for Cisco are highly valued and, when combined with experience, guarantee a premium rate when it comes to IT jobs in Ireland.
Our advice for someone who has completed any of the above certifications is to get some experience, either through an internship or a first line support job. Then focus on the certifications, as this will make you more employable in the future. For management level jobs, ITIL v3 and Etom are highly valued and often a prerequisite to even getting your CV considered for a role such as service delivery manager.
ISTQB certification is almost always a requirement for a test engineer. If you are not certified, it will definitely restrict your options when considering employers, although sometimes employers are prepared to invest in their employees by putting them through this course. The significant salary differential also makes the investment worth your while.
Typically, employers look for a BSc in Computer Science or a related discipline for development roles. However, given the skills shortage in this area, employers are sometimes prepared to overlook this requirement if the candidate can demonstrate substantial experience in a specific language or platform.
Culturally, developers are expected to continually upskill to keep their skills relevant. Increasingly, employers are asking candidates to complete tests or showcase work from sites such as GitHub or Stack Overflow to demonstrate their competence in a specific area.
Project and Change Management
Certifications are a necessity in this area. Having formal structured or agile project management certifications such as Prince2, PMP and ScrumMaster are often a requirement to even being considered for a job. This goes hand-in-hand with practical experience – no employer is going to let someone run a project without having previous experience. Quite often, lack of a degree is a barrier to entry and those without formal qualifications might find that they won’t be considered for a job, particularly when it comes to multinationals.
Data Analytics and Business Intelligence
Data and business intelligence is an area where practical experience is more important that certifications. However, a HDip or Masters in Analytics will certainly add value to your CV. For junior analysts, exposure to SQL is a must. For business intelligence developers, experience with the Microsoft business intelligence stack (SSIS, SSAS, SSRS) is highly considered. Similarly, for reporting analysts, tools like Qlikview, Tableau, Microstrategy and Hyperion are valued.
In the certification vs experience debate, the key lies in the specific area rather than there being any single general rule. It’s always worthwhile speaking to your employers about what they value and whether they will financially support your upskilling.
Alternatively, you can speak to a recruitment expert in the area in which you work for advice on how your skills development and certification should align to your chosen career path.
Article by: James Milligan