What Is CIW?

CIW (Certified Internet Webmaster or Certified Internet Web Professional as it is now called) is a certification. In the IT world, earning a certification usually means that you have met a company or organization’s standards in respect to a product or field of study. These standards are usually measured by a person’s ability to pass an exam. Once that has been achieved, the person has at least some level of expertise in the field and can begin building upon it. Think of a certification as a high school diploma that takes less work, less time, and can get a you a better job.

According to it’s creator, Prosoft Training, a CIW certification is different than other certifications because it is “vendor-neutral.” This means that it’s not limited to a specific company’s product as are the Microsoft MCSE, Cisco CCNA, Novell CNA, etc. The emphasis is placed on “job skills rather than software or hardware skills.” A candidate who obtains a Master CIW Designer certification could choose to design with a variety of tools based on the work requirements instead of from the perspective of a particular product or programming language.

CIW has become the industry standard for webmaster certification. Prosoft Training reports that over 30,000 certifications have been issued. CIW certifications can be used by career changers to break into the IT field or by experienced IT professionals who want to solidify their skills. Prosoft Training encourages successful candidates to use their certifications to promote themselves. A webmaster, designer, or developer with a CIW certification should have a better chance of winning a customer’s business. You can find out everything you need to know about becoming a Certified Internet Webmaster from the official CIW website.

What Ever Happened To The Certified Internet Webmaster Certification?

Since I have a deep appreciation for the CIW certification program, I
decided to revisit this topic and see what has happened since I passed the CIW
Site Designer exam 5+ years ago.

Certified Internet Webmaster. You may have heard of it – more than 50,000 people worldwide have been awarded at least one CIW certificate since the program began.

It’s the leading vendor-neutral certification program in Internet technology and web development and is aimed at providing people with real-world, useful and adaptable web technology skills.

When I was awarded my CIW Site Designer certification, quite a few years ago, CIW was newer and had recently merged with Novell’s ground-breaking CIP (Certified Internet Professional) program.

At the time of the merger (December 2000), prospective webmasters considering becoming CIW’s may have had doubts about the program’s real-world credibility -there are a lot of certification programs that really don’t mean anything to employers. This merger likely helped to reassure many that CIW was substantial and would be recognized – at the time of the merger, Novell’s VP for Education, Debbie Maucieri described it as

“a worldwide standard for vendor-neutral Internet certification.”

I didn’t think that an Internet giant like Novell would endorse and direct their students towards a certification program that wasn’t of real value to those who took part in it.

What’s Happened Since?

By 2002, I had decided I would like to add a CIW certification to my resume, and after looking at the different certification pathways on offer decided that the one which best-fitted my needs was the CIW Site Designer certification.

This involved taking a total of three modules which combined to give me a thorough grounding in Internet technologies, website design and ecommerce – essential for anyone interested in a career as a web designer. As I recall, there were even some rudimentary SEO topics that came up for study, mostly on-site markup and meta tags stuff. Things have certainly changed in that area.

Since then, I have managed to build the career I wanted as a professional web designer/webmaster/SEO. It didn’t happen overnight, but my CIW certification and the experience it gave me definitely helped get me going in the right direction so I could later prove my abilities and motivation to employers. I studied for my CIW certificate in my spare time while I was working a low stress day job.

Quite a few years have passed since I started down the road to being a professional webmaster, so I thought it would be interesting to see how the CIW program has developed in that time.

New Technology, New Curriculum

As anyone who’s been using the Internet for the last five years knows, web technologies have really changed a lot in that time, as has web design. It’s good to see that Prosoft Learning, owners of the CIW program, have also kept up with these changes.

Over the last couple of years they have been gradually introducing a new version of their syllabus, v5. While it’s based on the same broad-base, vendor-neutral principles of the curriculum I studied, it has been substantially updated to reflect changing times and new technologies.

Just a few of the new technical areas covered are:

  • Windows Server 2003
  • Internet Explorer 7 & Firefox 2 (only introduced in 2006)
  • New web technologies such as RSS, SVG and XML – all essential tools for a

The updated courses also include more in-depth and current information on ecommerce – such as current server technologies and a look at customer acquisition and retention processes. This was an area that was in its youth when I took this course, but has really matured and grown in refinement since then.

It’s good that the CIW training has been updated to include this kind of information – understanding areas like customer retention, interface design and accessibility is essential if you are to have any credibility as a webmaster with web design skills.

Membership Growth

It’s not just the curriculum that has grown and matured, however – the CIW member base has too. More than 81,000 certificates have now been awarded to over 50,000 CIW members – a remarkable increase from the 12,000 members the CIW
program had at the time of the Novell CIP merger in December 2000.

That means an average of nearly 6,000 new CIW members each year – of whom an increasing number come from schools, colleges and adult education programs.

One of Prosoft Learning’s major successes in recent years appears to have been establishing the credibility of its curriculum with the public education sector.

February 2006 saw Prosoft enter into a partnership with the Washington state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to offer CIW in selected public schools from fall 2006 onwards.

This partnership is Prosoft’s 12th such agreement and the CIW curriculum is now the standard curriculum for IT and web technologies in 12 states. As a consequence it is being offered to thousands of new students as part of secondary and adult education programs.

I’m not sure how many of these students are eligible to join the certification scheme itself, but this widespread adoption is a powerful endorsement of the credibility and recognition that educators give to the CIW curriculum.

Business Changes & Awards

It’s not just educators that recognize the value of the CIW program, either. In 2004, it won the award for “Best Internet Certification” in a survey of’s 30,000 members.

2004 also saw the addition of the CIW program to Thomson Course Technology’s courseware portfolio. Thomson is the largest courseware vendor in the world and this agreement means has given far greater reach to the CIW program.

Prosoft Learning itself changed ownership in 2006, as it was acquired by VCampus, a large online learning company. One of the first new deals announced under the new ownership was that CIW examination fees are now covered by Veterans Affairs education benefits – good news for all concerned.

2006 also saw the relaunch of the website, featuring real-life CIW success stories from CIW-qualified individuals, educational case studies and a fresh, modern design.

The Future for CIW

People always raise questions about the credibility and usefulness of vendor-neutral certification programs like CIW, but my experience is that they have a number of advantages over the more common vendor-specific courses.

The focus of the CIW program is not just on teaching specific skills, but on teaching important design and thought processes – processes that do stand the test of time and can be used in a number of situations.

Unlike many vendor programs, the CIW does not expire – because it doesn’t need to. The skills I was taught continue to be useful to me today, more than five years on, and have enabled me to learn and develop more easily than I would have done otherwise.

It looks like the future is bright for CIWs – it certainly should be.

CIW Resources

Free CIW Certification Practice Exams:

CIW Study Notes and Diary

  • CIW Certification Foundations Study Notes – Some essentials needed to pass the CIW certification Foundations exam.
  • CIW Exam Diary – An IT worker’s diary describes his experience taking the CIW certification Foundations exam, the first exam for all CIW certification tracks.

Classic CIW Book Reviews

CIW Foundations for Dummies Book Review

Get CIW Foundations for Dummies at AmazonYour Mom always said you should go to college and once you did, your Dad said you should study accounting. You wanted to build and manage websites. CIW Foundations for Dummies by Sharon Roark with Tom Devine helps you study to pass the Certified Internet Webmaster Foundations exam. Once that’s done, you earn the CIW Associate status and can now proceed down a series of certification tracks to earn the Site Designer or one of the more prestigious Master titles. A CIW certification increases your chances of getting that webmaster dream job you’ve always wanted.

Unless you’ve been stuck downloading a really big file from a server in Greenland, you know that the CIW series, created by Prosoft Training, has become the industry standard for webmaster certification. The big selling point is that it’s vendor-neutral or rather, not tied to a specific company like Microsoft, Cisco, Novell, etc. That means that everyone is welcome to join the fun.

The book stays true to the Dummies motif, starting from the ground up and explaining the exam, how passing it can make your life better, and even how to take it. It includes everything except what posture to use while sitting in the chair. After a few chapters of this sort of spoon-feeding, the book moves into the meat and potatoes of what’s needed to pass the exam.

The main thrust of the book’s twenty-three chapters emphasizes the three test sections: Internet Fundamentals, Web Page Authoring Fundamentals, and Networking Fundamentals. Each begins with a Quick Assessment and ends with a Prep Test, both consisting of 10 questions. True dummies will appreciate not having to flip to the back to find the answers.

Most webmasters will find the Internet Fundamentals chapters a bit elementary, even for a Dummies series. Such basic concepts of what the Internet is, connections, e-mail, browsers, and searching are covered. Don’t even thinking about moving forward until you know these.

The web page authoring chapters are where the depth starts to come in. The syntax of the important HTML tags are helpful to non-programmers and serve as a good study reference for more experienced web jockeys. The section on CGI was quite well done. The easy to understand explanations will make you want to immediately implement CGI scripts on your sites, if you haven’t already.

The Networking Fundamentals chapters explained the hardware, protocols, security and the all-important ip addressing concepts well. The book does a fantastic job of separating the need-to-know from the nice-to-know topics. This is especially nice since you are liable to be in either the frantic cram mode the night before the test or the relaxed mode when the boss is on vacation. Towards the end, the networking portion becomes heavy on what-you-need-to-know charts.

Beginning webmasters will benefit the most from the Dummies style easiness of explanations. Seasoned webmasters may tire of speed-reading and want to jump straight into the coffee and practice tests. Most everyone will want to skim the dry humor that permeates the entire book. There will be plenty of time for reading Will Rogers or watching The Three Stooges after you pass the test. My only real criticism would be that more emphasis could have been placed on the heavily weighted Networking Fundamentals section of the exam.

After you finish the book, check out the Dummies test engine CD ROM, which lets you choose up to 298 questions. You may want to pay attention your resolution settings on your monitor so the test engine window doesn’t extend below your screen and prevent you from grading the test. Stay up late, get a good pair of headphones and turn on some relaxing new age music, and you’re sure to learn a lot.

Passing the Foundations exam requires a great deal of memorization for the average person. The bottom line is to give the “best” answer, that is, the answer that Prosoft wants. CIW(tm) Foundations For Dummies(r) gives you what you need to know as well as helps you actually understand what you are cramming for. And that might just help your career. –Emory Rowland, 9/3/02

CIW Site Designer Certification Bible Book Review

CIW Foundations Certification BibleNot many webmasters can say they have read a 600-page book about how to pass a certification exam that promises to boost their careers. Score over the required 75% and it may boost your ego as well. Besides discipline and patience, the CIW Site Designer Certification Bible by Natanya Pitts and Chelsea Valentine is all you need and more to get you past the challenge.

First of all, anyone taking the Site Designer exam must have already passed the Associates exam, the introductory level required before taking any of the CIW series exams. If after several attempts, you can’t pass the Associates exam, you might want to consider taking that brick and mortar job your father-in-law offered you. The goal should be to achieve the Master Designer certification. The path is as follows:

Associates > Site Designer > E-Commerce Designer.

The book is well written and organized, but you will need invest a fair amount of time to absorb the wealth of material. A slow reader, it took me three months to finish it. Exam Tip, In the Real World, and other icons help you brush past the extracurricular subjects and concentrate on the exam requirements. This comprehensive book is bound to cover some topics you already understand. Just as some tend to skip over the “begats” in the Good Book, you’ll want to forgo the familiar topics and concentrate on your areas of weakness. For example, you may already know how to make tables in HTML, so just review the chapter on HTML Tables and Page Structure and move on.

Whatever the book could have possibly lacked in substance, it made up for in durability. The hardcover edition is quite large and weighs 3 lbs. Be warned that people will give you strange looks if you sneak it into the bathroom. My copy still contains sand from beautiful Garden City Beach, South Carolina where my MCP brother pranked me by hiding a fake snake in the grass, which upon seeing it caused me to fly backwards and fall into the sand. I expected the book to be damaged as I lay there looking at the pitiful site splayed open and half-buried in the sand, but to my surprise, it sustained no major damage.

The contents of CIW Site Designer Certification Bible are broken into the four broad headings of Exploring Web Design Methodology, Understanding Web Site Design Technology, Using Web Site Development Tools, and Applying Advanced Design Technology. These four parts crudely translate to layout, HTML, the four design tools, and programming.

Each of the 21 chapters features a pre-test, key point summary, and a study guide that includes assessment questions, scenarios, and even lab exercises. I found the most valuable of these to be the key point summaries and assessment questions. The scenarios and lab exercises may be a bit of an overkill to intermediate and advanced webmasters.

The book was published in 2001 and some material is starting to show some age. The emphasis on the keywords meta tag is one example. Another is that the web site development tool versions have been updated since the book’s release. Attention to PHP was conspicuously missing; but then again, it’s not on the exam. Perhaps a revised standard version will be released.

I discovered the practice test software included on the CD ROM to be quite helpful in studying for the exam. It contained 296 questions atop the nicest test engine I have ever seen. It featured real time grading with tally of number of questions, number of correct vs. incorrect ratio, and a nifty graphic bar for percent correct indicator.

Over all, I’d have to say that passing the CIW Site Designer exam enhanced my webmaster life, not just my ego. It forced me to cement my knowledge of certain topics that I was too lazy to otherwise learn. Studying with CIW Site Designer Certification Bible greatly contributed my success. I can especially testify to this because I didn’t take any classes to prepare for the Site Designer exam. The only other tool I used besides the book was Self Test Software, Inc. (Kaplan Inc.) practice exams.

The CIW Site Designer Certification Bible doesn’t have gold pages or a colorful ribbon bookmark or leather binding. In it, you will find no creation story and no apocalypse. It will not enhance your spiritual life, nor can it compete with the 2000+ year old Holy Bible, but it may just make you a better webmaster. –Emory Rowland, 12/25/02

Emory Rowland

I'm editor and keeper of the flame at Clickfire. I consider myself a fanatical blogger, entrepreneur and builder of Internet things from way back. My love for social media and success with organic search led me to start a SEO consulting venture. Apart from the Internet, I could be considered pretty worthless. More...

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