You already know I'm a proponent of IT certification. I knew of certifications well before I started working at Microsoft, and have always held high regard for those who devote the time and energy to earn their credentials. It's not the acronyms in their email signatures that impress me; it's their dedication to learning and growth.

When MCT Chris Gardner published his recent blog post titled "The Real Reason Why Developers Should Get Certified," responses from our readers, fans and followers around the social web were overwhelmingly positive. Chris, who develops web apps by day and advocates for game development by speaking and blogging, knows first hand the value of certification for business, professional and personal endeavors. (I would encourage you to read his post for more context if you haven't already.) One especially thoughtful comment came from Lisa F. via our Facebook page. She said:

"Technology and software are constantly changing. The best way I've found to keep sharp in this field is to keep certifying. The practice of preparing for my next exam keeps me trying things that I haven't done yet, just because I haven't had to in my position, and it forces me to keep myself current with the new technologies. It makes me better at my job and helps me to communicate possible technological needs and improvements for the customer."

Lisa's words very much align with what I've heard from many IT pros, developers, consultants and trainers. Much of the process of studying for certification exams is about learning and self assessment. The list of "skills measured" for each Microsoft exam, also known as exam objective domains, is essentially a checklist for yourself: "How much of this technology do I really know?" During a recent tweetchat about "90 Days to MCSA," MCT Michael Bender also talked about this: "#90days2MCSA is about motivating you to learn the technology. Earning your MCSA is a big plus!"

So, if earning certifications is really about honing your skills and staying current, can you afford to put it off? Sure, it's just one element of your curriculum vitae, but it's one where you can readily show proof of your technical proficiency and demonstrate your commitment to professional development. Yes, work hours are long, and obligations of everyday life are many, but consider prioritizing this investment in yourself. If your current employer supports training and certification, that's definitely a plus. Talk to your manager or human resources department today about available benefits. If it's not something the company offers, there's no stopping you from doing this for yourself. There are many resources available to you, often low or no cost, and so many people who can help. (See the list at the end of this post.) In the end, the knowledge and achievement are yours to gain, keep and use.

MCT and PFE Cynthia Wang (@CyntheSys) said it best in a tweet. It's not really about certification; it's about YOU.


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