Fake Certs — what they are, and why they’re bad

Adrian Cantrill
6 min readMar 2, 2021

A “Fake Cert” is a certification you haven’t earned and don’t deserve.

That might trigger some poeple — but it will make sense if you read on.

“Fake Certs” are bad for employers, they’re a risk for projects you work on, and they’ll negatively impact your career. If you want to avoid them, you need to understand what they are, and why they’re bad for YOU! so read on. 👇

What a cert should do

I want you to picture a new unit of measure … “Knowledge Units (KU)” (stick with me here — it makes this easier to understand)

IT certifications should measure how much knowledge on that specific topic you have. I use knowledge here to mean “theory” and experience of “doing” those things. The example certification I’ll use through this article is the AWS Solutions Architect Associate.

This is a mid-level AWS certification and passing it should mean you can function in a real associate-level solutions architect role..

Let's assume that the collective associate-level architect skills are worth 100 KU’s. This means, logically, to operate as an Associate Solutions Architect you should have 100 KU’s of knowledge.

Following on from this, for an exam to be optimally effective (and this is really hard to do) it should test that 100 KU’s of knowledge in that domain. If you pass, you should possess 100 KU’s of knowledge in that domain. If an employer interviews someone with this certification, they should be able to rely on that individual having the 100KU’s of knowledge and the certainty it brings when sending that person to customers to design AWS solutions.

What a certification should do..

So…..This is what a certification SHOULD be and what it should represent. I hope at least right now, we agree?… but we all know, that’s not how certs are in reality.

What certs actually do

Cert exams are generally multi-choice, fairly brief, and won't test your skills at doing the actual tasks which will be expected of you in the real world.

In reality, a certification exam covers maybe ~10% of the knowledge you SHOULD have. Worse still, It tests only the surface level of that 10%. Doing well in an exam…

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Adrian Cantrill

Technical Trainer, Cloud Architect, Tech, Productivity & Efficiency Obsessed wannabe minimalist.