Maybe you don’t think you need one; maybe you don’t. Certifications aren’t mandatory for most fields, and they can be expensive. However, they prove mastery in the subject; they prove that you value education and most importantly, they show an employer or client you are serious about your career.
In the automation space, there are a few certifications that are great to have that show competency in your field. ISA has a series that interest me which focus on Cybersecurity in an industrial environment. What about the folks just starting? For them, I want to plug the CompTIA organization. I have two certificates from that organization, Network+ and Security+. I am very happy to have earned these and I won’t lie; it took work. CompTIA is an organization that focuses on the subject theory and are hardware agnostic. Meaning you don’t have to learn how Cisco or Juniper work, but you do have to know, amongst many other things, the difference between a router and a switch and calculate the number of network hosts for a given subnet. CompTIA certifies that you know and understand concepts in information systems.
Network+ certification shows an employer that a certificate holder has demonstrated that they have an understanding of networking comparable to a year of real experience, even if that person doesn’t have any job experience. For a Controls person, or at least for me, Network+ is invaluable and helps me understand networks to troubleshoot problems and configuration errors when setting up communications to a machine. Now that I understand networking, I have fewer problems and troubleshoot less.
The other CompTIA certificate that I hold is Security+. Security is the topic that triggered my desire to go to graduate school. Security is a big complex topic, and I wanted to know more. What is an internet certificate and how can I tell if my communication is encrypted? What the heck is single sign-on, SSO? Security+ helped me understand those and more. Before the certification, I didn’t understand the differences in WPA2-PSK and WPA2-Enterprise and WPA2-TKIP. I also vaguely understood wireless communication from my electronics training in the Navy. However, after I studied the differences in the wireless transmission technologies of 802.11 and properly implemented two of them, my home internet signal got stronger and faster.
Both of these certificates from CompTIA together have been worth the money I spent learning and testing. The magic of the technology has been cleared up, and I know why instead of accepting that it works. I also know where to look when I want more information about IT subjects. Several years ago, I was in awe of some network engineers at the breadth and depth of their knowledge and how they figured all that stuff out; it seemed so complex. It is very difficult to learn all this technology on your own. It takes a structured approach to get it all absorbed in the right order so that it can be applied. I also find helping my coworkers better understand networking is more enjoyable because I can answer many of their why questions instead of saying, “I don’t know, it just works.”
Well, that is my opinion about certification, and I am not stopping. Grad school is almost over, and I am already looking for the next learning adventure.