Many IT positions deal with specific technical procedures related to business needs, so becoming certified can help boost a career within the industry and shows employers that individuals have the specific technical skills needed to do the job.

Bill Dafnis, PhD, PMP, Capella University’s Associate Dean of Information Technology, discusses the benefits of IT certifications in addition to a degree and how the university prepares and supports students taking these exams.


Q. Why should an IT professional seek out certifications?

A. Certifications are important credentials that demonstrate expertise in a particular area of IT, including networking, security, database, cloud computing, and project management, among others. It’s truly about opening doors for IT professionals. Certifications affirm an individual’s knowledge through a proctored third-party provider and can help them become eligible for career-changing employment opportunities.

For example, I started my career in business but always had that technology itch. I gained access into the IT world through entry level certifications with mentors who believed in me. My certifications and industry connections ultimately allowed me to further my education with a Master’s in Information Technology and a PhD in Information Systems.


Q. What are some of the certifications IT professionals can pursue

A. Certifications take various forms (e.g., multiple-choice or applied, proctored or online) and cover a wide range of technology domains (e.g., analytics, programming, infrastructure, project management, security).

They may be tied to a specific vendor, be product agnostic, or land somewhere in between.


Take a look at common certifications in project management, information technology, and information security.


Q. How does someone prepare for IT certification exams? What are some of the resources available?

A. There are many resources and tools available including textbooks, online tutorials, and boot camps.

Finding your most effective method to prepare for the test is key. You should set aside time to prepare and review the range of materials and outcomes covered by the exam. Many exams are multiple choice, but others require applied use of technology tools or lab simulation exercises.

Successful preparation methods can include repetition and practice from various study guides, interactive scenarios or videos, flashcards, or test preparation questions. There’s a lot of helpful material on YouTube and other online sources that may provide value as well. In addition, many universities, including Capella, incorporate practice exams or related content as part of a student’s academic studies. Especially in the computing disciplines, many people take in information better when they are doing the work first hand, instead of simply reading about it.

Although it can be tempting to simply earn a certification, that’s not enough in today’s competitive IT job market. Employers are looking for IT professionals who are skilled at critical thinking and actually know how to apply their knowledge in real-world scenarios to back up their certification credentials. Work experience or competency-based degree programs are two resume-builders in this regard.


Q. What are the benefits of getting a degree along with certifications?

A. A competency-based degree program—those that connect every assignment to academic and professional standards—helps build soft skills that employers want, including cross-functional collaboration, effective project management, negotiating with upper management, and the ability to network across a diverse group of stakeholders. These types of skills would not be covered in a certification exam.


Q. How does Capella help students prepare for certification exams?

A. Curricula in Capella’s IT programs are aligned to industry standards, with certification-aligned courses embedded into real-world learning. Students in select courses have the opportunity to complete certification preparation exams with the potential to earn vouchers from Capella to take the certification exams for free.


Q. Can you tell us more about the certification exam vouchers?

A. Within a year of taking a course, and if a student demonstrates readiness to the pass a certification through a practice exam, Capella provides a voucher to take the exam for free. In some instances, the value of the voucher may exceed $500.

Students can earn vouchers for select industry certifications from CompTIA, Microsoft, Cisco, PMI, and SAS.


Read how one student took advantage of Capella-provided certification exam vouchers, and learn more about Capella’s online information technology programs.