Are Software Certifications Worth It?
Earlier this year I earned my ACE (Adobe Certified Expert) certificate in Photoshop CS4 and I'm currently studying for the After Effects CS4 exam. Then I plan to study for the Premiere Pro CS4 ACE exam. I would like to earn the title Adobe Video Specialist once I complete all three exams.
I have two questions. Are these certifications worth the time and effort to earn and if not at my current employer would they benefit me in future job opportunities? My current employer knows that I'm studying for these exams but I'm unsure if will yield any positive results other than bragging rights.
Any advice or insight would be most helpful.
In my opinion they're not worth much of anything quite honestly unless you want to go into teaching. If you want to be a teacher or an instructor at a school or training company, then you need it.
Otherwise, those certifications from Apple, Adobe and others simply tell me you know how to push the buttons the way those companies want you to push the buttons. It doesn't tell me that you know how to craft a story, assemble a graphic or create that animation I need.
Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
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Biscardi Creative Media
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Thanks for the input, it's much appreciated although somewhat of a bummer. I'm not planning to be a teacher or instructor, although it might not be a bad idea for a backup plan or extra cash. I just thought these certifications could be used as leverage for salary negotiations in future jobs.
Again, the input and honesty is much appreciated!
One pro to consider. I'd been editing for nearly 7 years when my boss offered to pay for a couple of Avid certifications. Thought why not and took the classes. While the certs didn't make me a better editor, they did make me a more efficient editor. Picked up quite a few techniques and workflow things I would not have discovered otherwise.
So from that POV it was worth it.
As far as hiring anyone, I've never looked at anyone's resume to see what certs they had.
Johnny Cuevas, Editor
I think much depends on the type of certifications: creative vs technical.
While I could not agree more with Walter AND Jim (free is good...sometimes!) Technical chops is important for assistants. The assistant has to solve what the lead can't - or won't - or doesn't have time to - fix.
Avid has the ACSR program, and Apple may still have a more technical training program. Maybe. Not sure about Adobe.
.: michael kammes mpse
.: senior applications editor . post workflow consultant
.: audio specialist . act fcp . acsr
I get the impression that certifications sold by Apple and Adobe are simply attempts by Apple and Adobe to make more money for Apple and Adobe.
Don't get me wrong, I love these companies, but the best way to become proficient at software is to use it on a daily basis on projects. There are enough tutorials online and on DVD's costing a lot less than the certified training classes to teach you much of what you need to know. But experience is what you need, not a certificate to hang on your wall.
I never care one whit whether an employee is certified in anything or not. The couple of best After Effects guys I know and have used certainly are not, and I'm pretty sure they have no intentions of becoming certified.
I only care that someone is great at what they do, and a certification doesn't mean that they are. You can be a certified button-pusher, but there's no such thing as a certified artist.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Can I become a certified Creative Cow blogger? lol
Mark A. Stuart
Art is completely subjective. It's up to the viewer to judge whether or not it has merit. -Ken Danby
Thanks everyone for your input! It has been most helpful and made me look at this in a different light.
I would like to say that I don't feel like I've totally wasted my time. As John pointed out I did learn a lot of workflow tips and new things that I probably wouldn't have learned otherwise.
I would also like to clarify that I did not take any classes. I learned by watching tutorials and reading articles on here and other websites. I also bought the Classroom in a Book series and a study guide to help. I have the software at home that I use on a daily basis as well and that helps a ton. Also, my employer is not funding this venture at all. It's all on my personal dime and time.
I had initially started this venture as a way to better my skills and while it has I now feel as though I got caught up in the hype about the value of certifications. Not that they are worthless, just that they probably won't help me get to where I want to be as much as I thought they would.
Mike, you're probably right on Apple and Adobe selling these certifications to make more money. After all they are a business. Also, I couldn't agree more that the best way to become profeciant with programs is to use them on a regular basis. Once I had access to programs like Photoshop and After Effects readily available I couldn't put them down. I try to learn something new everyday.
Michael, The ACE exams focus on things like assigning color profiles, how to save and use selections, specific outputs for devices (print, web, video) etc. A lot of which I had no clue on how to do other than the video side.
Todd, I certainly don't want to be known as a certified button pusher. Your point of view is exactly what has been creeping into my mind lately resulting in this post. Thanks!
John, thanks for your point of view as well. I think the technical skills are a good thing to have along with the creative skills.
Everyone brought good points of view to the discussion.
Thanks again everyone!
I'm going to weigh in on the other side.
We typically get hundreds of resumes when we post for a new position at NASA. While the demo reel and the interview are the real key to landing a position, having a certification can certainly help push your resume in the "second look" pile.
I've taken some of the courses in Tewksbury and have certifications in a variety of software so I know first hand they may or may not mean anything as far as judging an applicant's creativity, expertise, or even basic ability. However, a recent certification from Avid or Adobe hints that the applicant is probably up for learning new things - which is a vital characteristic in my book.
If they do list recent training and have good references and a good reel, I will ask them what they learned in the training during our interview. The secret is that I'm not so much looking for them to tell me that they learned that pushing "button X" will result in "Y." What I look for is the attitude they show toward that training; what really motivated them to take it? Was it because they "had to", or were they generally motivated to get better at their craft?
Their impressions and recounts of their training tells me quite a bit about whether they would fit into an environment where advanced continual training is both expected and considered an important thing.
"I've taken some of the courses in Tewksbury and have certifications in a variety of software so I know first hand they may or may not mean anything as far as judging an applicant's creativity, expertise, or even basic ability."
"Was it because they "had to", or were they generally motivated to get better at their craft?"
Interesting how these two statements are in conflict. First paragraph is an admission that certifications are meaningless even for judging basic ability. But the sentence from the second paragraph implies that getting better (or being good) at your 'craft', is somehow related to training and certification.
This points out the basic flaw in using certification as a resume' filter.
It may (most likely IMHO) keep out those that are actually good editors, and let in those that are good at taking tests, or see the world through the IT departments eyes. These type of folks are generally not the best editors, even if they can rattle off every KB shortcut from memory.
Editing is a craft, not a set skill that you can use a benchmark to determine someones ability.
Does a four year Art History Major make you Picasso? No.
Does certification make you an editor? No.
What makes you an editor is your problem solving and decision making skills, your eye, your ear, your style.
None of which can be learned from a certification course.
Problem #2 in using this as a yardstick, is that the world is changing so fast that these courses are probably out of date, by the time you get through them. A good editor will be self-motivated to keep up to date with the latest codecs, and formats on his own, and not waste time on things that are out of date. That wasted time could be better spent actually editing.
And does certification show your desire, or level of motivation?
Perhaps, or perhaps not.
It could just as easily be argued that those who are trying to break in by using certification, are actually less motivated.
Because they could be seen as looking for a short-cut, or to bypass the 'pay your dues' phase of the job, and jump to the front of the line with the least amount of work. And that is where you do the most learning.
SST Digital Media
I'm afraid you've missed my point.
The question asked was is there any value in getting certain certifications?
The answer is "yes" - in some places. It's especially helpful if you are trying to land a job at a place that has a culture where continuing education is highly valued.
With two resumes that have equivalent experience and demo reels, I'll rank the candidate that continually tries to improve over the one that thinks he's already got all the skills he needs. Because when I hire, talent and experience are important, but not more important than how the new person will fit in with our team's culture.
The culture of the hiring organization is often a big key to the answer to the question of the value of certificates. Take high-end corporate video staff positions for instance. Often the first round of resume screening is done by Human Resources. At the initial screening stage all those HR folks generally have to go on is what they see in the resume. (They don't have the equipment, the time, the expertise, or the direction to evaluate demo reels.) Only after you pass that first round of screening, do you get through the gates to the set of evaluators that actually have an opinion on color balance, story structure, or jump cuts.
There's also a fallacy in thinking that just because someone learns something in the classroom means they don't also learn in the editing suite. It's not a substitute, but it is a bonus. When we post for a job, it's not unusual to get hundreds of resumes. And all other things being equal, a little edge could make the difference between being considered for a job or not. If I see that someone took the time "between jobs" as an opportunity to sharpen their skills, it means more than just an employment gap would.
You asked "Does a four year Art History Major make you Picasso?" Of course not... not anymore than owning the same set of paintbrushes would. BUT, if you are looking at entering the Fortune 500 Corporate or Government markets, and they are deciding between hiring two people who can both paint like Picasso... two people who have equal experience and who both interview equally well, I'd put my money on the one who invested the time and money in a well-rounded education.
All that said, would a brilliant and personable artistic genius who has proven experience working under deadlines with tough clients win a job over a recent college graduate with no experience outside of the classroom? No, but who really ever thought they would?
No one is saying that a certification is a substitute for experience and talent, but I still see it as a positive thing and I know that it has helped people we've hired get a second look in the application process compared to those who don't have any certifications listed.
Oh, but I do have to agree with where you said "It may (most likely IMHO) keep out those that are actually good editors, and let in those that are good at taking tests, or see the world through the IT departments eyes."
That is a possibility and it is troubling. But it's something that Editors applying for jobs with large corporate organizations where HR departments track resumes should keep in mind.
And I do also want to point out that some of the most talented people I've worked with don't have a degree or any certification (or didn't have any certifications until after they worked with me.)
My point is that a technical certification shouldn't hurt. I think we may all agree that it's not the certification that's going to get you the job - I just want to point out that it may get you past a gatekeeper at larger organizations.
I see your point, because when you say Fortune 500, I think that could apply to bureaucracies in general. And that is how they work. There was a time that you needed a 1st Class FCC license just to get an entry level shipping dept. job at broadcast stations. Need isn't the right word, because no one except the ops and TX people really needed that. It was just a screening tool. Having a 1st Phone ticket didn't make you a better cameraman, or floor director. But it did get you in the door.
And sure it probably doesn't hurt to have some continuing education, at least not in the sense that it would erase whats already in your brain. But these things do cost money and time, both of which have a value. I think for a lot of folks the ROI for formal training just isn't there. If some type of formal training is a requirement, perhaps a better investment would be to send editors to a writers workshop, photoshop, or Pro Tools class. Why go over something you already know?
Back in the linear editing and early NLE days, it was rare (not unheard of) to go to formal classes on the gear. You learned OTJ, usually from someone that gave you the basics, and then set you loose to build your skills on easy projects. Over time you were given more difficult projects as you learned. Occasionally you might assist, or sit in with a big client, but you didn't start at the top. While you were building your technical skills as an operator, you often learned to make the gear do things it wasn't intended to do, and learned how to get yourself out of problems and tight spots. That is when you actually became an editor.
So compare this to the newly certified NLE editors that often post here. I only know a couple of these new folks personally, but I read what they post on the FCP and other forums. What the two biggest problems seem to be is that there is a lack of problem solving skills, and overconfidence.
There is a crop of folks out there that can't build anything from scratch. They have no troubleshooting, or organizational skills. They are so reliant on plugins, and what 'can the software do', that they can't reverse engineer some simple thing they have seen and replicate it on their own. We have all seen these posts. Last week there was even someone looking for a plugin that would find all the dead space in long recordings and cut those chunks out. In my day that plugin was called the editor.
On the overconfidence front, there is at least one a week. New editor, new client, huge project, its due tomorrow and they are stuck. It isn't that they are asking for advice is the problem. It's this idea that as a rookie, that certification makes them feel they have the skills to take on huge projects like cutting a feature, or something equally as challenging. And the client thinks they must know what they are doing, because they have some formal training.
It may be painting with a broad brush, and I know there are fine editors with certifications. But I think the whole certification process actually places too much emphasis on the tool and contributes to the 'short-cut' mentality prevalent among the many of the new editors. And that is why I'm not a huge fan of the certified editor, or spending the money on certification.
SST Digital Media
Scott, I see your POV as well concerning keeping good editors out of the run because of no certifications etc. Where I'm currently employed requires a bachelors degree in communications/broadcasting. I know of several people at my previous job that are excellent editors or graphics folks that would never be able to be hired due to the fact they don't have a bachelors degree. I don't agree with this practice but I'm not the employer either. I can testify from personal experience on the overconfidence mentality. When I first graduated from college I thought my skills were top notch and my stuff didn't stink. Boy, was I wrong! Once I finally got a job at a TV station in creative services I was served piece after piece of humble pie (which doesn't taste very well so I try not to eat it anymore). I very soon realized that I didn't know much of anything and that if I was going to last I needed to listen to the folks that have been in the business for years and really do know their stuff. I decided to listen and I learned things that a certification does not teach such as the problem solving you were talking about.
Timothy, I am at a corporate/government type of place so I understand where you are coming from. People like to see things like certifications and it may get you past the guard dog if the guard dog is human. Our system is set up to where you apply online and if your resume doesn't fit the exact criteria the computer is looking for your resume is rejected before it ever sees human eyes. In that respect a certification makes no difference. I also don't agree with this policy.
I'm not banking everything on these certifications. I've been in the industry for five years and am just pursuing them as an extra but not to replace experience and a good reel (which I need to update badly). Everyone's responses on here have been most insightful as to the value of these certifications in both the corporate/government world and the production world.
I have 15 years experience in the IT industry where software certificates originated. Even there they are highly debated. It boils down to experience on the resume. Certifications are useful for managers who have no IT experience, but need to hire IT people. They can be good for entry level techs.
In the video/film industry, I would never hire a creative tech off of certifications, or resume. Their resume and their reel would get them an interview. Their personality and reel would get them a job.
Well said, Scott. (and Jim and Cory)
Thanks. It was good to have some voices from both sides. I hope that this thread covered the pro's and con's well enough for folks to figure out what will work best for their particular situation.
SST Digital Media
Certs prove that you know software. When combined with a good reel I know that the person is likely efficient. Certs make me more likely to interview.
Having certified editors is also a strength when I reply to a client request for a proposal.
They complement. But don't complete a strong resume.
Richard M. Harrington, PMP
Author: From Still to Motion, Video Made on a Mac, Photoshop for Video, Understanding Adobe Photoshop, Final Cut Studio On the Spot and Motion Graphics with Adobe Creative Suite 5 Studio Techniques