IT Certification: It's time for a state-run program

The need for broad-based, state-administered technology certification programs.

Several weeks ago, as the Stuxnet worm was making its way through global business headlines, I was speaking with a CIO about a touchy topic: the need for broad-based, state-administered technology certification programs.

This particular CIO was grilling me on the need for such a program. "Why do we need one? Every person on my staff has some certification. In fact, it's a condition of employment. We only hire 'certified' IT staff."

My reply to him went like this: "The ankle bone is connected to the shin bone, the shin bone is connected to the knee bone, and so on." In this interconnected world, siloed certification programs, mostly dedicated to a vendor, just don't cut it anymore.

I remain as convinced as ever that all IT workers need to pass a broad-based tech certification program every five years that basically follows the infrastructure stack of hardware, software, the network, applications and now virtualisation and the cloud.

Groups like CompTIA do a good job offering seemingly unbiased vendor and technology certification programs. But they are elective certifications, not certifications required by law. Doctors, teachers, pilots, truck drivers and beauticians, by law, must be certified. The time has come for the profession of information technology to join that list.

Most IT people think I am crazy when I rant like this, and they often retort, "OK, we will support a tech certification program once there is one in place for publishers of technology magazines."

I am not advocating an onerous, five-year certification that would alter a worker's life with hours, or even weeks, of study. Just a written exam, administered by the state, that would certify that an IT exec has a general, broad base of knowledge about the IT market.

The business of technology changes so, so rapidly. Society, now more than ever, relies on the skills of IT workers to get the job done and keep us safe and secure.

Think of it this way: If you pass the exam, you'll get a nice certificate to hang proudly on your wall. And maybe even a bit more money.

Tell me I am nuts. Or agree with me. Drop me a line at and I will share the consensus opinion in a future column.

Contact Gary Beach, CIO magazine publisher emeritus, at

Read more about certification in CIO's Certification Drilldown.

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