[Dshield] Certifications: Not worth the paper they are printed on?

M Quibell mquibell at hotmail.com
Tue Oct 7 15:38:05 GMT 2008

GIAC certs; I'm sure have some place in the universe, I just don't know what that is. I have a GSE recipient who sits right next to me. Wrote the paper (a brilliant paper btw, I loved it), completed all of the classes and tests. Now he is a one of a handful of people worldwide who have the GSE designation. I recognize the work he had to put into it and the time...It is a great accomplishment. 

So now what can he do with it? Well, for starters, he can use the GSE designation in his signature, but that's pretty much it. I can imagine him going to interview with a different job (not likely any time soon) and him saying, "I'm a GSE." and the interviewer saying, "What's that?" 

I don't think we need MORE industry certificates. Goodness people- It just causes more confusion! SANS should stay out of the certification confusion, IMHO.


Date: Tue, 7 Oct 2008 09:52:33 -0400
From: jullrich at euclidian.com
To: Jon.Kibler at aset.com; list at lists.sans.org
CC: list at lists.dshield.org; mquibell at hotmail.com
Subject: Re: [Dshield] Certifications: Not worth the paper they are printed	on?

Never said it was new. I just reached my limit Friday and had to say

something. We should all be working to educate employers which certs are

worth something and which ones are not. Plus, we should work with

employers to help them understand what are the appropriate certs for a

given job description.

I second that ;-)

In the past, I have been involved with GIAC in various capacities. Currently, I am directing the GIAC Gold program. Of course, GIAC Gold is very unique in that it requires applicants to write a paper. But let me discuss certifications in general first:

In my opinion, a certification is usually a good tool to demonstrate and aptitude and basic profficiency in a particular field. In particular for a junior position, certifications can be a useful hiring tool. However the more senior and the more specialized a position becomes, the less value a certification will have to predict the skills of an application. A certification does not substitute real world experience.

With GIAC, we went the extra mile to have our certification ANSI certified. Yes, it sounds odd, but there is a certification for certifications. The ANSI certification attempts to address some of the common issues people have with certifications:

- you have to "link" a certification to a job function, and proof that the test actually covers knowledge required for the particular job. This is done via a job task analysis. You get together a panel of experts, who will create a list of tasks and associated skills commonly associated with this job. This list is then used to write questions.

- you have to proof that people who have some experience in this particular job do better then people with less or no experience.

- teaching a course related to the certification has to be seperated from creating the certification. The only "shared knowledge" is the job task analysis.

Now of course, there is a lot more details to this, but I think these points represent what ANSI is trying to do. The sad part is that in order to rn all the statistics necessary to provide the proof, you are essentially limited to multiple choice tests. It is very hard, if not impossible, to go through this process with essays like for example with GIAC Gold (only certain Silver GIAC certifications are ANSI compliant at this point).

A big problem is that many recruiters first of all don't understand the job they are hiring for, and secondly, they are lazy and try to get away with a couple of simple keyword searches. As Jon mentioned above: Make sure your company HR department / recruiter knows what to look for.

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