About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Pages: 419-431
ISBN: 978-84-613-2953-3
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2009
Location: Madrid, Spain
Human resource managers have typically used certifications as an indicator of an individual skill set suitability for a specific position. Certifications act as a signal to hiring managers that a job candidate has achieved a level of knowledge and skill necessary to perform in a particular IT job role. In the IT sector, a recent study sought to determine if human resource managers (HR) and IT professionals perceived certifications differently in the context of the hiring process (Cegielski, 2004). The findings of the study indicated that human resources managers placed a
greater emphasis on certifications when hiring for IT related positions than do IT professionals. The question of whether certified individuals are better able to perform in an IT job-role, than non-certified individuals becomes relevant in the hiring process.

Since many of the certification programs are narrowly focused on a particular product or technical specialty, there are many considerations that need to be taken into account so as to influence IT curriculum development in a positive way. Al-Rawi, Lansari, and Bouslama (2005) indicated that students are more marketable when entering the workforce with IT certifications added to their education. Certifications provide IT professionals with ongoing education to learn new technologies and maintain their effectiveness in a particular job role. In contrast, Zeng (2004) points out some disadvantages of IT certification to include, (1) a lack of a single standard for certification because preparation is offered by several organizations, vendors, and educational institutions, (2) some employers may recognize IT certification and others may not, (3) individuals are required by many certification vendors to re-certify every 2-3 years as technology evolves, and (4) a certification may loose its value as a result of both technology changes and as the number of people obtaining a certification increases.

The purpose of this exploratory study was to determine how IT professionals perceive certification programs as a professional training alternative, when compare with more traditional education settings, and if the kind of effect the effective participation in one of the programs has in that judgment. The data for this exploratory study was gathered from a 60 employee sample of a Portuguese-based multinational software engineering company. An experimental Competence Certification Scale (CCS) was used, and after a consistency analysis, the original 22 itens were reduced to 17, grouped in a 4-factor structure: “Status/Acknowledgment”; “Certification as Training”; “Career Management”; and “Effort Trade-off”. Cronbach`s alphas were .81, .81, .83, and .81, respectively.

In short, the findings of the study indicated that there is a significant difference in the perceived usefulness of a certification, if an employee participates or not in a dedicated certification program. This difference is more significant in more senior, management-related roles, as for junior engineers that don`t participate in a certification program, this participation isn`t seen as a professional development anchor or a valid education driver. The study further points out that certification programs tend to be judged in an instrumental way, more by its positive effects in terms of career management of professional within-peers recognition, than by its intrinsic value as institutional or personal development driver.

competency certification, self-directed learning, career management.