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1/10/2008 3:36:41 PM
Microsoft and other Certifications
By Richard Rost   Richard Rost on Facebook Richard Rost on Twitter Richard Rost on Google Plus Richard Rost on LinkedIn Email Richard Rost

Every now and then I get a customer who asks me about certifications. "Do you offer any certification exams, tests, or prep courses?" "Are certifications important?" etc.

Let me start out by saying this: if you are looking to learn how to use a piece of software because you want to use it for your OWN purposes, then NO, certifications are not important. For example, if you own a small business, or you work in a company where you need to use Access or Excel, then you do not need a certification.

On the other hand, if you're looking to GET A JOB and the employer wants to see a certification (especially large corporations) then you might benefit from a certification. Employers use certifications as the first line of screening to make sure you have a fundamental working knowledge of the program in question.

Personally, I think that certifications are not that important. As a former employer, I interviewed people who had certifications in different topics (Windows, Office, etc.) but when it came down to practical knowledge, they didn't know anywhere near as much as someone who just simply USED and studied the product for a few years, and had some hands-on experience.

Me? I don't have any certifications, and I consider myself to be pretty knowledgeable when comes to Microsoft Access, Excel, Word, Visual Basic, Windows, etc. I have learned from working with the software, reading books, and practical, hands-on experience. I wish I had my own video tutorials to learn from when I was starting out!

Anyhow... there are plenty of test prep courses out there that will teach you what you need to know to pass the certification exams, but that's all they're good for... PASSING THE EXAM. If you really need that piece of paper, then go for it. If, on the other hand, you're interested in really learning the software, then I would suggest (a) my tutorials, (b) a good book or two on the subject, and (c) lots of hands-on experience.

No, I don't have any test-prep courses available. I'm not interested in teaching people just how to pass an exam. I want you to LEARN.

Most certification test-prep courses that I've seen are like cramming for exams in high school... you're going to remember the material just long enough to pass the exam, and then you'll forget it. What good is that?

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Keywords: certification certifications A+ MCP
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Microsoft and other Certifications Comment from Carol F @ 3/30/2015
As an employer Richard, what would have been the best way for a prospective employee to demonstrate to you (in the interview) that he KNEW how to use the applications and was qualified?  I have an interview coming up and would really appreciate your feedback.

Reply from Alex Hedley:

LinkedIn is a good place nowadays to show your experience and even get recommendations from colleagues
GitHub is a way to show what you can do by open sourcing your projects, not sure how well this can be used for MS.
It's a fine balance and it's good to have something against your name but it's not required unless you're going for a specific type of job.
You could always take screenshots of any apps you've made or ask to demo some.
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Microsoft and other Certifications Comment from Nathaniel Tyler @ 3/14/2015
I agree with Richards statement. Furthermore, I find it easier to learn when you are driven not by necessity but by personal desire. I'm simply glad I found such a great teacher who can speak my language AND communicate effectively with his audience.
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Microsoft and other Certifications Comment from Selby @ 4/3/2014
Richard is right, I have looked for years to try and find someone that offered a service (videos) that I could learn from, I am not interested in being "Certified", I just want to learn the program, Richard has taught me SO SO much in this regard. Because of Richard I have learnt so much, BUT it is more then offering the lessons, it is the EXCELLENT service that goes with that, Richard is a Businessman as well, Orders are made and invoices received via email, Richard is the full package, EXCELLENT lessons and EXCELLENT Business service, the two are very important.
Regards Richard

Reply from Richard Rost:

Aw... now you're making me blush.

Honestly, I understand why big businesses want to see certifications. They don't want to go through the process of hiring someone who SAYS he knows Access or Excel, only to find out days or weeks later that he really didn't. At least you have a piece of paper that says you have a fundamental understanding of the product. I get it.

However, I was just making a statement that you don't NEED to be certified to KNOW the programs. I've seen people who have ZERO certifications (like me) who are experts, and I have seen people who have all kinds of certifications and don't know Jack Squat (a good friend of mine, BTW).

Back around 1995-2001 when my company used to provide mostly PC service and in-person training, I went through a process of interviewing several people for training positions. The BEST people were those who just had practical, hands-on, working experience with the applications. At least 3 or 4 people came in who were Microsoft Certified in Word an Excel and barely knew how to run a Mail Merge or build a Pivot Table.

It takes more effort on the part of the employer to screen candidates, but I'd rather see what an employee is made out of rather than just rely on a piece of paper.

Now, some things NEED certification. I definitely want to make sure my brain surgeon is certified. Other things, like computer software, can be better learned on your own with a good book (or video tutorials, hint hint).

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