Asking whether you should go for a certification or not, is maybe the most sought-after knowledge in the tech internet. Usually, accompanied by a flamed discussion of people with strong opinions and virtual verbal fights.
I will share with you how I approach such dilemmas.
Current or near-future career plans
Getting a certification, at least a quality one, requires hard work and study. If this certification is going to improve your career prospects, tangibly, by all means, go for it.
If not, I would spend my precious and limited time elsewhere. Life is too short and a piece of paper alone means nothing.
Changing tech tracks
Like the above remark, a certification might be a good vehicle to land a new job, especially if this requires changing your technical domain.
Are you a mathematician and you want to become a data engineer? Earning a reputable certification in data engineering will give you extra points.
Keep in mind though, not all transition pairs, are created equal.
Both for this and the previous point, remember: Some companies filter out CV keywords while hiring, so a certification might give you extra points for the next step of the process. You have fewer chances of being disqualified early, all other things equal.
Do you pay the tuition? Does your employer pay? Certifications usually vary from a hundred dollars (e.g. AWS cloud practitioner) to a few thousand (e.g. Cisco Architect).
Sometimes the cost is in proportion to the opportunities (and the salary) this certification can bring. Hype though is also playing a vital role in the cost. Make sure you evaluate the relationship beforehand.
I would choose to certify easier if I am starting from a way above zero point. My philosophy is to pair a certification with battle-tested knowledge of the domain. That way you get more value as a professional and the certification shines on you.
Let’s revisit my above example on data engineering again. It is easier to get it (and more valuable to you and your company) if you back it up with existing good knowledge. But might take 2-3 times more to study if you have never seen how a data pipeline work.
Desire to go deep
In your career, unless you love your comfort zone or you are pro-early-specialization, you will gain a good breadth in the sector within 5-10 years.
Not all knowledge requires a certification. I am very confident with Linux and administration, as I have used it at home and work for many years. Though, getting a Linux administration is not something I consider (at least for now), as it is not the focus I want to have in my career.
We will agree, hands down here. Anyone can create a certification. That doesn’t mean the rest of the world gives a damn. As mortals, we have limited time slots for certifications. As Wilfredo Pareto would say, 20% of your actions, will give the 80% of the results. Use your limited time quota, wisely.
What is your view on certifications? There are many opinions in the field, and I would like to listen to other perspectives.