SECOND DEGREE VS. CERTIFICATIONS: don’t waste time or money

Experts weigh in on whether a reader should pursue an advanced IT degree or go for certifications

When you’ve got about three years of IT experience under your belt and you want to increase your earning power what do you do? Do you go back to school and earn an advanced degree in IT ? Or do you take your first steps in pursuing vendor certification? Those were some of the questions I received recently from a reader who has worked as an IT administrator (the only IT guy) at a small civil engineering company. He currently earns about $43,000 a year and wants to bump up his salary but his time for education is limited due to family commitments. So what’s the best option?

I’m often asked by IT folks whether to pursue advanced degrees – in 2005, we discussed the pros and cons of MBAs for IT pros (see below for links to those newsletters) - but we’ve never discussed IT degrees for relative IT newbies. I wanted to get some professional opinions so I put the questions to two recruitment agencies, an IT manager at a construction firm, and a certification trainer. This is what they said:

Advice from staffing companies:

James Del Monte is president of JDA Professional Services, an IT staffing company based in Houston. He says: “Having a 4-year degree in anything is a good start and will open most doors. Having a technical degree is preferred in lieu of experience. So he is off to a good start. Given his situation, my suggestion would be to get Microsoft and Cisco certifications. He sounds like he is more interested in a technical career and could use some formal training in this. It also sounds like he is looking to improve his situation more immediately. I would suggest a Master (MBA) if he is interested in more of the business aspects of IT or views himself getting into management. That of course is a longer term commitment. His compensation for what is described seems fair. His next move would be into a larger company where he can learn from others.”

Sandi Henrikson is regional manager at Sapphire Technologies North America. She says: “A degree is desired by many employers, even if it is just a non-technical Bachelor’s. If the worker is young or early in his/her career and has the time to devote to going back to school (i.e. not a lot of family obligations or a demanding job) then investing their efforts in obtaining a degree would be recommended. However, where this candidate says he has limited time, it may be better to focus his energy into getting certifications. With certifications you can pinpoint the specific career path you want to follow and fine tune your skills precisely to the position that you want to aspire to. There are many online certification courses for the person who cannot dedicate themselves full-time, as well as the ability to pursue a Master’s degree part-time down the road if you choose. Many companies, including Sapphire, offer discounted training offerings to assist their employees in keeping up-to-date with the latest technology.”

Advice from an employer:

A. Reader, who wants to remain anonymous, is an IT manager at a construction company, and offers this advice: “What is the employment objective of the individual? Is the individual currently working in IT? If IT management is the goal then a Master’s degree in IT is probably going to serve the needs of that position well. An IT manager with a Master’s degree with a good balance of advanced and current technical and business background brings tremendous tools to the 'table'. One of the most difficult aspects of IT management is having a manager who is skilled enough and current in his/her grasp of emerging technologies such that they can communicate effectively with the project managers and technical specialists.

“If an individual is looking to enhance their marketability in core technology positions such as network engineering or project management I see the choice of Master’s vs. certification as a bit of a toss-up. If one wants to be a project manager with a specialty in security, the Master’s degree could serve well; certifications would be a plus, but could also be seen as overkill or the reverse with the Master’s degree. The credentials become a ‘flashpoint question’ of what does this person want to be, a manager or super-tech? By the same token a well-seasoned engineer with project management and security certifications along with a solid resume would be a very appealing candidate.”

Advice from a certification trainer:

Wendell Odom, CCIE No, 1624, splits time between writing Cisco training books for Cisco Press and teaching classes at Skyline ATS. (Wendell will also be blogging for Network World’s Cisco Subnet site in September - watch this space for details. If you have any burning Cisco certification-related let me know and I’ll forward them to Wendell, or keep an eye out for his blog and you’ll be able to contact him directly).

Wendell says: “I think employers want both types of folks - certified and those with a Master’s in an IT-related field. However, the real trick is to look at job roles within IT and within the networking-centric part of IT. The vast majority of job roles within the networking part of IT requires the skills proven with certs more so than the skills and knowledge proven with a Master's degree. I would say though that someone with a Bachelor's degree plus some certifications - even if the degree is not in IT - has a distinct advantage over those without a degree. I've talked to many students and readers over the years who were somewhat frustrated by having their options limited in some ways by the lack of a degree.

“Also, you need to separate your thinking in terms of whether the employer is a company implementing networking technology [an IT user], or a reseller/vendor/consulting company. An overwhelming number of students tell me that [IT user organizations] do not care a bit about certifications for current employees. They are about skills first, and certifications second, for potential employees. So, for those employees, I'd say getting certified is an important step if they’re looking to land the next job. However, the resellers/vendors/consultants see some inherent value in the certification branding, so oftentimes the skills and certifications tend to be on an equal footing. There's also a much more likelihood that these companies would help you move towards getting your next certification.

“A quick word on the Master's in an IT field. If you want to work in the broader world of IT, and not just networking, then I'm a big fan of getting a Master's. It's just a lot tougher to get there, especially once you're past the carefree days of youth. However, if you're going to focus on a career in networking, I'd recommend a [Cisco Certified Internetwork Engineer] cert over a Master's in IT – CCIE certs are more centered on the technologies you'd work with. I've never met a CCIE who thought the cert didn't have a big impact on their career.”

Thanks to all the experts who offered their advice and thanks to the reader for writing in with the question. As a seasoned IT pro, I’d like to know your thoughts on this issue. Or if you’re an IT newbie – let me know if you are pursing a Master’s degree or vendor certifications


The rights of bosses have come under fierce attack in recent years. Once upon a time, bosses could hire or fire as they pleased. Now a manager can't even fire a hopelessly incompetent worker without worrying about being sued.

Many in the employment law arena believe that workers' "rights" have gotten out of hand. Fire any member of a protected group and your company could easily be forced to spend thousands in legal fees to defend against discrimination charges.

We've mounted a campaign to show executives how to take back their rights to hire and fire at will. From now on, managers will be able to tell problematic employees to shape up or ship out – with no risk of winding up in court. Make the laws work for you with Fire at Will, our best-selling special report.

The truth is, there are ways to get rid of employees in almost any situation. The trick is how you do it. Fire at Will shows you simple techniques that give you an unassailable legal position. You'll learn:

  • The ultimate right (and most powerful weapon) you possess as a boss
  • How to get rid of trouble-making employees in almost any situation
  • How to derail claims of race, sex and age discrimination
  • How to make your company "sue-proof"
  • How to protect your right to fire at will – or reclaim it if you have lost it
  • Federal laws you must know about and abide by

Hiring is just as risky as firing. That's why we offer Hire at Will, so you can approach interviews and hiring with confidence. This companion to Fire at Will guides and advises you on what you can do – legally – to hire the people you want without fear of being sued. You'll learn:

  • How to get all the information you need out of a job candidate without breaking the law
  • The 8 most loaded interviewing questions that elicit the information you're really looking for
  • The "magic" statement to include on all job applications to retain your right to "fire at will"
  • How to make your company "sue-proof"
  • When help-wanted advertising must include an EEO statement
  • Written tests – which ones work best? Which are legal? Which should you absolutely avoid?

Take the steps necessary to make the laws and regulations affecting your rights to hire or fire employees work for you rather than against you. And do it without risking a dime!

We have developed our way of acquainting you with a remarkable service called HR Specialist: Employment Law.

You'll learn how to protect yourself from expensive, morale-draining employee lawsuits ... find the best person for every job in your company ... get rid of those who don't pull their weight ... avoid paying overtime (legally!) ... and much more!

Data Management: What You Need to Know and Why

Executives, managers and information workers have all come to respect the role that data management plays in the success of their organizations. But organizations don’t always do a good job of communicating and encouraging better ways of managing information. Even though they won’t always play a role in implementing or directly managing data quality, MDM (Master Data Management) or virtualization technologies, the business users of technology are increasingly responsible for setting goals and leading the adoption of end users in pursuit of revenue goals, better customer satisfaction and other metrics of success.

Thus, a fundamental understanding of core data management practices helps everyone see opportunities and play a role in the evolution of their organizations. Know the basics and you’ll be better equipped to overcome any given information-related project or challenge you’re contemplating (and there will always be plenty). More important, you will have an informed view with which to join the discussion about initiatives to match the goals and culture of your own organization. We are offering this second edition resource as a business oriented, working guide to core data management practices. In this episode, you will find easy to digest resources on the value and importance of data preparation, data governance, data integration, data quality, data federation, streaming data, and master data management. You can use the tabs and resources in these materials to grasp each of the terms above. Even if you know or think you know what they mean, see what’s new and learn what organizations in different industries are adopting. Use it as a reference, circulate and share it. You will quickly understand (and be able to explain to others) how data governance can help improve policies and workflows. You will see how data quality initiatives lead to more confident and better decision-making. You will know why master data management helps deliver consistent and aligned views of customers, products, partners and suppliers. Just as consumers have adopted their own tools and habits to better manage their lives, the technology-driven advances at work will lead to utility and better ways of getting things done. It is a journey more than a destination and one that requires participation and ownership across different levels of your organization. A basic holistic view of data management initiatives and practices will put you on a productive course and help to keep you there.




  1. I’m a nationally ranked golfer.
  2. I have five beautiful grandchildren.
  3. I play the piano.

Keep reading to find the answer…

I thought we’d play this little game so you could get to know me better. Do you have people in your life you see often, but you don’t really know well? I think there’s value in having meaningful connection with the people around you. You build trust when you know another person’s story and values.

This is exactly why I wanted to share the most important things I think you should know about me and why I do what I do. It’s why, for this Breakaway, I am going to share my passion, my purpose, and my heart behind my teaching. I trust that in sharing my heart, you and I will have deeper trust, and you’ll start to better know the leader inside of you.

There are really three crucial things you should know about me (all of these are 100% true. No lies here!): 


My purpose, my reason for living, my biggest responsibility and the thing that makes me feel most significant is equipping others and helping them multiply true leadership. I really believe that few things will pay you bigger dividends in life than the time and trouble you take to understand people and build relationships.

That’s why I have an organization with over 12,000 certified coaches who teach my principles of leadership and personal growth. It’s why I write books and speak on stages around the world. It’s why I share my lessons in online classes and in private one-on-one mentoring sessions. People are my purpose.


I define “passion” as the thing that makes you cry, dream, and sing. The things you cry about tell you what deeply affects your heart. What you dream about tells you where your hope lies. What you sing about tells you what brings you the greatest joy. For me, I can answer all three in one statement: Helping others develop themselves so they can multiply their growth for others. I love nothing more than to walk alongside people desiring growth and to help them go after it. It brings tears to my eyes to see them pass the torch to someone behind them to help others do the same. People are my passion. 


You should never follow a leader who doesn’t have a clear vision of where they’re headed, along with a keen awareness of what they’ve left in their wake. We all have areas in which we can grow. We all have potential to be better than we were yesterday.

In my life, my area for greatest potential growth is my reach. There’s tremendous potential for my teaching and coaching to impact people around the world who have yet to experience it. There are still millions of men and women who don’t know of their potential in this life and don’t know how to seize it. This potential is why I have a dream to impact one million people in the next year with my leadership and personal growth principles. People are my greatest potential.


The truth is there is really only one thing you need to know about me as your mentor or about the leaders you trust and follow in your life: Leaders should know themselves and want to help others do the same. They are people who can set aside their agendas for the sake of the team, the family, or the community so those people can reach their greatest potential.

Entertainer Danny Thomas said it best: “All of us are born for a reason, but all of us don’t discover why. Success in life has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It’s what you do for others.”


I think it would be valuable for you to think about your own answers to these questions:

  • What’s your passion?
  • What’s your purpose?
  • Where’s your greatest potential?

And most of all, are people in your picture? If you want to see real dividends, make sure people are at the heart of what pushes you forward.

I trust you know my heart better now, and even more so, I hope you begin to develop the truths in your story that ignite your passions, purpose, and future potential.

Stay tuned, at Clarionttech Services we will help you keep close tabs on your dreams and purposeful visions with our professional trainings and certifications.  We are going to teach you the number one quality you need to lead others… and it may not be what you think.

BUSINESS 7 Human Resource Management Certifications for Your Career

While scrolling through human resource management job postings you may have noticed many of them list “PHR/SPHR certification required” in the job requirements. Are these certifications worth your time and resources to acquire?

According to a survey by, HR-certified professionals typically make substantially more than their non-certified counterparts. This pay difference is less noticeable in lower level positions, but becomes more apparent as you work your way up into HR management. In addition, a candidate with HR certifications is more likely to be hired than a candidate without them.

Here’s a breakdown of the top seven human resource management certifications administered by the HR Certification Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Although previously partners, these two organizations now offer independent certification programs.

PHR®: Professional in Human Resources

FOCUS: This certification focuses on program implementation, tactics, and logistical orientation. HR professionals who receive this credential are typically accountable to another HR professional within the organization (such as the director of human resources) and have responsibilities focusing on the HR department rather than the organization as a whole.

POTENTIAL CAREER MOVES: PHR certification can open up new career opportunities, including benefits administrator, payroll manager, or HR coordinator.

CERTIFICATION: Certification requires a passing grade on a computer-based test (175 multiple-choice questions). The test takes approximately 3 hours and is valid for 3 years if passed. Recertification requires either documented professional development hours or a re-take of the exam. View eligibility requirements.


SPHR®: Senior Professional in Human Resources

FOCUS: This credential is for senior HR managers who have mastered strategic and policy-making aspects of HR. The focus is on big-picture planning and is geared toward those who have ultimate accountability in the HR department.

POTENTIAL CAREER MOVES: Potential positions with an SPHR certification may include HR director, HR consultant, or labor relations manager.

CERTIFICATION: Completion of a 175-question, multiple-choice exam is required for initial certification. Recertification requires demonstration of ongoing professional development hours or re-taking the SPHR exam.


SHRM-CP: SHRM Certified Professional

FOCUS: This certification is for HR professionals who implement policies and strategies, serve as point of reference for employees and stakeholders, deliver HR services, and perform operational HR functions.

It is similar to the HR Certification Institute’s PHR®: Professional in Human Resources certification.

POTENTIAL CAREER MOVES: Individuals with this certification bring best practices and enhanced global perspective to an organization. Job opportunities may include senior HR consultant, HR director, or HR manager.

CERTIFICATION: The SHRM-CP exam includes 130 questions, which are a combination of knowledge and situational judgment questions.  SHRM membership is not required for certifications. 

 SHRM-SCP: SHRM Senior Certified Professional

FOCUS: This certification focuses on developing strategies and leadership in HR. Topics explored include analysis, performance metrics, and developing ongoing organizational goals. It is similar to the HR Certification Institute’s SPHR®: Senior Professional in Human Resources certification.

POTENTIAL CAREER MOVES: Individuals with this certification fill job roles including vice president of HR, manager of talent acquisition, HR manager, or HR director.

CERTIFICATION: The SHRM-SCP exam includes 150 scored questions, both knowledge-based and situational judgment-based. SHRM membership is not required for certifications. 

 SPHRi®: Senior Professional in Human Resources — International

FOCUS: This global certification is designed to validate professional-level core HR knowledge and skills. Receiving this certification proves that an individual has mastered generally accepted HR principles in strategy, policy development, and service delivery.

POTENTIAL CAREER MOVES: Through demonstrated knowledge, this certification enhances the credibility of HR professionals and the organizations they serve, allowing opportunities to move into positions such as HR specialist, HR generalist, or HR global manager.

CERTIFICATION: Certification is completed through computer-based testing (105 scored questions). The test takes approximately 2.5 hours and is valid for 3 years if passed. Recertification requires either documented professional development hours or a re-take of the exam. View eligibility requirements.


PRHi®: Professional in Human Resources — International

FOCUS: Similar to the SPHRi, this certification is also a global, competency-based certification that validates professional-level core HR knowledge and skills. Unlike the SPHRi, however, this certification is more focused on operational principles and demonstrates that individuals with this certification have mastered generally accepted technical and operational HR principles.

POTENTIAL CAREER MOVES: PHRi certification career opportunities may include HR business partner, HR supervisor, or performance and talent analyst.

CERTIFICATION: Learners completing certification are required to pass a 170-question computer-based test. The test is roughly 3 hours and is valid for 3 years. Recertification is available by retaking the exam or demonstrating a minimum of 60 hours of professional development. View eligibility requirements.


GPHR®: Global Professional in Human Resources

FOCUS: This certification is focused on global HR initiatives. Learners explore cross-border HR responsibilities such as strategies of globalization, development of HR policies, and initiatives that support global organizational growth.

POTENTIAL CAREER MOVES: Career opportunities for individuals with GPHR certifications may include director of global talent acquisition, director of global HR, or global HR advisor.

CERTIFICATION ELIGIBILITY: Initial certification requires passing a 165 multiple-choice question computer-based test (valid for 3 years), which takes approximately 3 hours. Recertification is available by demonstrating a minimum of 60 recertification hours (15 must be in global HR) or a retake of the initial exam.