Which is better to have – maintenance certification or industry experience?

Both maintenance certification and industry experience have their merits, so it really depends on your situation. If you have a weaker certification, you’ll want to get some experience to shore it up. On the other hand, if you have very little experience, certification can get your foot in the door.

Merits of certification

It’s worth noting that maintenance certification programs are designed by industry leaders. As such, their requirements tend to reflect best practices and new developments in the industry. This means if you’re certified, you’ll be able to contribute more to your work environment in terms of upholding reliability.

For example, the Certified Maintenance & Reliability Technician (CMRT)program offered by the SMRP tests your knowledge of PM and PdM, troubleshooting, analysis, corrective maintenance, and maintenance practices. A technician with this certification would more likely to be seen as an effective employee than someone who isn’t certified at all.

Merits of work experience

As valuable as certification can be, there’s a lot of merit for work experience as well. Many employers value “sweat equity” when making hiring and promotion decisions, and with good reason—you need to have some practical experience in order to really know how maintenance processes work in a given facility.

In fact, many college students find experience so important that they’ll work without pay as part of their degrees. In 2012, over a quarter of all college graduates completed unpaid internships, so industry experience is important.

Getting both

While each has its merits, both certification and work experience have their gaps. All the knowledge in the world on best practices won’t equal the raw reality of the industry environment you’ll have to work with. On the other hand, work experience alone doesn’t always equal competence.

For these reasons, you’ll want to get both. If you have lots of experience and little education, certification could help you advance your maintenance career. If you’re well educated but have little practical experience, seek opportunities to get that experience. Apprenticeships and on-the-job training could help in this regard, as could volunteering for tasks at a current place of employment.