Advancing Life & Work

Certification and Training – What’s the difference and why do I need both?

blogphoto.jpgOften the confusion over certification and training comes from those taking training to help them obtain a certification. Often the two seem to go together: take the training to be certified. However, granting the certification based on someone passing one or more exams is the key that  unlocks the door to certification in any given role.

The certification exam, or exams, help to validate critical knowledge and skill necessary for the given job role at a predetermined level of competency. Skilled professionals in dialog with subject matter experts in the given job role model the competencies. Part of that model often declares a certain number of experience years. For example, a certification may need to validate knowledge and skills for those with five years of experience. We would then design the certification exams, in this situation, to measure the knowledge and skill of five years of experience. Critical to notice is that the exam does not necessarily test knowledge of course material, it tests knowledge and skill of one with five years of experience; with of course part of that experience that comes from a course. The exams attempt to determine the level of skill. Well-written certification exams will be challenging the candidate, as the candidate must use learned skills to solve new problems.

Training can support the certification candidate toward achievement of the certification. Training is necessary to deliver knowledge and skills that may not be available through experience alone. Training is sometimes mandatory prior to gaining more experience. Sometimes the training brings necessary elements of knowledge and skills together in a more efficient manner than on the job experience. Training is necessary when there is new content. I’ll mention more on this later.

However, training can never be a complete substitute for experience. Training is one part of the experience that helps us become proficient. Working in the industry in a given job role is part of that experience. Study is part of that experience. However, gaining five years of knowledge and skills cannot possibly ever come through training alone. In an extreme example to illustrate my point, you would need five years of training if you never had any other experience. Maybe someone could argue that one year of training would equal five of experience, but my point is that even one year is a lot of training. So much that it is likely in our industry, management would never allow you to take one year of training.

Certification exams will help validate the knowledge and skill of the candidate for certification. After certification, the candidate joins the ranks of many other certified professionals. However, their journey is not over. It has really just begun. New information and new skills continue to be required in this fast-paced world of technology. New innovations pour out of technology producers at an ever increasing rate. A certification marks a point in time that proves the certified professional is able to get into “the club,” and is “in the know.” They have shown enough understanding and skill to continue to improve and grow on their own. A certification marks the starting point, not the end; of any professional career and helps others such as potential employers see that you have met these minimum requirements. Training is necessary to keep up with new innovations and keep your newly proven skills fresh with new experiences.

Therefore remember, training is necessary as one element of the total experience that helps to form the right knowledge and skills in any professional. Training is necessary to keep updated on the latest in your industry for your job role. Certifications validates skills and knowledge at a point in time and shows the professional meets a minimum requirement.

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About the Author


Jim Lucari leads certification solutions enablement in Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s WW Sales Enablement organization. He is responsible for sales and technical certification exam development and program operation, certification course development, certification architecture and framework, translations, HPE Press publications, and remote lab operations. Jim has been in IT technology work for over 30 years with experience primarily in networking and storage technologies. He has 20 plus years of experience in training development and certification.