The IT industry is changing every year and it is important to stay with our knowledge up to date and constantly learn about the latest things to stay on top of our game.
To do so, you have to do 3 things. The first thing is – practice – to work in your role, learn on the job and try to implement new things to your processes where it makes sense. It can be hard to change your role and go back after a few years – you might realize that so many things are different since then.
The second thing would be to learn – theory – get your degree, and read articles, and books. It helps you understand your challenges from a different angle which can be just the thing you need to solve your tasks.
The third thing would be then professional – certification – which I would personally place somewhere between practice and theory. For IT certification, you have to usually learn some theory and do practice labs. I see the purpose of this exercise as to bridge the theory and connect it with practice. And as a bonus, you get the paper or badge which makes you stand out in the market.
Review your current role and role you are pursuing and check what industry-recognized certifications and training are popular and which makes sense for you to attend. I would not recommend getting certified if your motivation is just to get the paper. I think the right motivation should be to expand your knowledge which is a continuous process.
You can get certified in various ways. The easiest way is to ask your employer about what options are available for employees in your company. Nowadays employers often support their employees in further training and can help you fund your learning journey. You can get training and an exam voucher, but you always have to learn it yourself.
Another option would be then to prepare yourself for certification. From this point, you have 3 options. The first option would to be buy professional onsite training. This training is great but you still have to prepare yourself and learn the topic at home. The advantage is that it can kick you off at the beginning and help you understand the most important concepts.
The second option would be to buy an online course which is probably my favorite option. I can recommend Udemy courses. If you are patient, you can find your course and wait for sales. Then you can get high-quality courses literally for a few dollars. Quality in courses varies and it is good to always check reviews. Some courses can have a similar quality to free articles and videos which you can easily search on google or youtube.
This brings me to the third option, free sources. You can find so many free videos and technical documentation online for free. So the real difference between online courses and free sources is your time saved on the additional research.
My favorite ways of certification preparation are two depending on the level of certification. In case you are planning to get ready for some entry-level certification such as AZ-900 Azure Fundamentals, for example, you can get ready using a mix of youtube videos and research of Microsoft documentation and common questions. Also, a good resource is the Examtopics web. Here I would like to mention that learning questions and answers alone will not give you that deep understanding, but I like the discussion of other people around those questions on the web which can help you understand it better.
As for the advanced certifications, it is better to invest in the preparation. Udemy courses are good, but there is plenty of other websites with similar learning concept. But video courses alone will not get you prepared. After that, I recommend still studying technical documentation, and questions and trying some labs.