Are DevOps certifications valuable? 10 pros and cons

Are DevOps certifications valuable? 10 pros and cons

DevOps is all about culture – and you can’t certify that. But recruiters say some certifications do help you get hired. Let’s examine the ups and downs of DevOps certifications

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Con: A certification is not a replacement for experience.

This is generally true of certifications but perhaps more so with DevOps, especially given that it’s ultimately about culture and mindset rather than any particular skill or technology. A cert can be a good starting point or complementary piece, but deep expertise requires getting dirty in the trenches.

“Developing hands-on experience through a DevOps adoption allows [engineers] to gain insight on different aspects of the transformation that would otherwise not be covered in certification curriculums,” Roshan says.

Others echo this principle: Don’t think a certification (or even several of them) will suddenly make you a DevOps guru.

“Taking a DevOps course is no substitute for real-world experience,” Altaqi says. "It is very similar to learning a language: You can take a Japanse course, but you will never master the language unless you’re speaking and writing Japanese regularly.”

On-the-job DevOps experience is going to beat a certification virtually every time.

On-the-job DevOps experience is going to beat a certification virtually every time. Again, if you’re having trouble getting a foot in the door, taking classes and getting credentialed might help. But prioritize the former over the latter.

“Effectively, if you are an experienced and practicing IT professional, you likely should forgo the formal certification and instead use DevOps tools and techniques to make your team(s) better – real results trump certifications,” Dawson says.

Pros: Certifications and courses offer a tangible path to new skill development.

Conventional IT career wisdom says you need to be committed to continuous learning. DevOps kind of turbocharges that advice, though it sometimes substitutes the word “improvement” for “learning.” But when you think about it, it’s kind of abstract: How does one actually go about doing that?

Certifications and online courses in general (which don’t always have a certification attached to them) create concrete ways of learning new stuff. A good example in the DevOps context: Learning a programming language is as accessible as it’s ever been, which is a plus for infrastructure pros who may want (or need) to add a language to their skill set.

“DevOps requires proficient programming knowledge, not just for software code, but also to automate, patch, manage, and monitor containers, microservices, private and public cloud workloads serving the underlying software,” Altaqi says. “Python, Ruby, PowerShell, Bash, and Go are on the top of that list.”

[ Also check out: 7 valuable programming languages for sysadmins in 2019. ]

“You don’t necessarily have to be a programmer, but adequate automation and programming experience will be very helpful to accelerate your DevOps career,” Roshan says.

Con: A certification doesn’t necessarily erase bad habits.

If you think of DevOps as a comprehensive behavioral change – a different way of describing the cultural shift intrinsic to DevOps – you’ll discover a possible limitation of certifications. They might be good indicators of someone’s willingness to learn or to adopt tools and processes to enable change, but they don’t necessarily validate someone’s ability to dump bad habits. (This is also the downside of experience: “10 years experience” describes quantity, not quality.)

“Experience certainly is a great advantage, but sometimes the learning of one certain thing might not guarantee success, as bad behavior can continue through being taught by others on the job,” Oehrlich says.

Pro: Certifications can help manage risk.

“For employers, certified employees will help minimize risk.”

Dawson notes that certifications can be a plus when it comes to risk management. That’s particularly beneficial given that DevOps is commonly associated with faster, more frequent code delivery and changes, as well as the broader threat landscape that comes with distributed computing environments.

“For employers, certified employees will help minimize risk,” Dawson says.

This is why some IT leaders value platform-specific cloud security certifications, for example.

Con: DevOps certifications may go stale faster.

One reason people tend to debate and sometimes disagree over certifications: They often require recertification, which can add to the time and costs over time.

This may become a more pressing issue when it comes to DevOps because it is fundamentally about change; that’s kind of the whole point. It also may pose long-term challenges with keeping certifications current.

“DevOps is a broad, moving and shifting landscape, in its nature and by design,” Dawson says. “Certification cannot fully capture and keep up with these changes. Certifications may end up out of date quickly.”

[ Get our free eBooks: DevOps Hiring: The Ultimate Guide and IT job searching in 2019: A practical guide. ]

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