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My this question is career path related.

I want to know how much Java Certifications (SCJP, SCWCD and others) are important for an architect position. If a person posses a good experience in Java development and want to pursue his career on architect level, do you guys think he need to have certification on his CV. If he has never worked on lead developer roles?

If you conducting my interview for an architect position. And I have worked as a Java web developer in different teams having 5 years of exp. Never lead any. And I am having certification badges on my CV.

How can a developer make his career path towards being an architect in a team?

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2  
Hi Tahir, just an opinion but I don't think the SCJP would help directly. It will show that you know your way around Java. Perhaps you should come up with arguments stating that you have a good overview of projects and you have hands-in experience with making architectural decisions. –  James Poulson Aug 28 '11 at 22:19

10 Answers 10

up vote 12 down vote accepted

The irony of certifications in the Java space is that it is actually the lowest level ones which I think are the most useful.

I have the old Sun Certified Java Programmer for example (the lowest one you can have). While it doesn't really teach you anything that any decent programmer couldn't learn by doing Java tutorials for a few weeks, it does act as a simple filter. To pass it, you simply have to know basic core Java - in this sense, it's probably a somewhat useful filter for junior roles where you're looking for a straight up Java programmer. If they have it, it means they know basic Java.

I've never done any higher certifications than this - but to be honest, from experience I've found that most architects get there by becoming seniors and team leaders and getting promoted in the company simply by being good at what they do. I can't really imagine any of the Java companies I've worked at hiring someone for an architect role off the street. It's essentially in-house senior developers and team leaders who eventually got an architecture role.

At any rate, I think what's important is showing an aptitude for high level system architecture and design by taking ownership of large tasks which exercise these skills. It will probably, in some way, involve being a lower level team lead first. Proven team leading and "architecture-like" high level system design experience goes a much longer way than any certification at this level.

Note: I'm not an architect myself (or even a team lead), but this is what I've observed for over 10 years in various companies. The people who end up architects are people who know how to take ownership of large tasks, lead teams, and get things done. And I don't know any who even had any Java certifications at all.

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Whenever I interview people I usually ignore their certifications. In my experience certifications are not a good barometer for usable knowledge. My questions during the interview will usually let me know if the person knows the information needed AND can apply it to real world problems.

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+1: I have yet to encounter anyone in the industry who looks at certifications in a positive light. –  Cameron Skinner Aug 29 '11 at 0:21
    
@Cameron It depends on your industry. In the defense industry, certifications from the IEEE, PMI, (ISC)2, and the SEI's CMMI-related certificates are typically looked upon favorably. In fact, there are some positions in information security and a few secure environments that require a security certification, and the (ISC)2 CISSP certification is often used to meet this requirement. –  Thomas Owens Aug 29 '11 at 1:20
    
@Thomas Owens: Fair enough. Specialist areas (like defense) sometimes require certification, but for the general software industry things like MCSE and SCP are (in my experience) not really an asset. –  Cameron Skinner Aug 29 '11 at 1:41
    
There is definitely a distinction between being able to pass a test and being able to integrate that knowledge into a software team. Sadly certs are addressing an itch most developers have (we like to take tests to show off knowledge) without demonstrating any mastery of a subject. –  Steve Jackson Aug 29 '11 at 12:11
    
Agree with the point here. –  Tahir Akram Aug 29 '11 at 20:31

SCJP is a very basic cert. You should certainly get this, then do SCJD. (Note that these things have new names now.) SCWCD is also basic. Do something more impressive.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_Certified_Professional

In terms of your on the job responsibilities, you probably ought to be doing project leadership work before seeking an architecture position.

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Had to down vote that on the basis that I don't see the relationship between project management and architecture. PM does not require the depth or breadth of technical knowledge you would expect from an architect. I have never heard of a PM go on to architecture, although I have heard of architects moving to project management because on a contract basis the pay can be better. –  Ian Sep 16 '12 at 21:42
    
I didn't say project management. Project leadership - the technical leadership of a project - is quite different from project management. –  Scott Wilson Sep 18 '12 at 13:01
    
I misunderstood, I've never heard "project" and "leadership" used in that context before. –  Ian Sep 18 '12 at 20:24

The international software architecture qualification board provides a vendor- and technology neutral curriculum (they don't sell courses or classes!), with focus on methodological and conceptual know-how.

Could, imho, complement any technology-centered certification.

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Early in my career I studied for and acheived my SCJP, and I would do it again just because the goal of the certification was motivation for me to study and learn the intricate details of Java. The certification itself did nothing for my career however.

They tend not to matter much at all in the US, however in places like India where there are a lot of truly qualified applicants and higher competition for top jobs like Software Architect's then they can be used to weed out certain candidates.

I think certifications are ultimately worth it even if they are only slightly beneficial but certainly they are many orders of importance lower than true talent and skill.

Your question concerns me though that I don't think you may be ready for a SA role. A good software architect IMHO must have a diverse background in a multitude of different technologies. He/She must have at least a high level understanding of any framework or language, and the ability to critically evaluate legacy systems for strengths and weaknesses in design. Given a number of constrains a good software architect must also be able to determine a number of different potential solutions and weigh the pros and cons of each one.

When a high level manager asks you why you choose Java over Ruby what do you say? What about the benefits of PHP versus C#? Can you define an Anemic Data Model? What are the benefits of Java EE approach over the the Spring Framework AOP approach or vice-versa?

These are the kinds of questions an architect should be able to answer and if you have to do research for these then you may not be up to the task.

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Bottom line - you must understand coding w/in the context of NFR's and how they solve a business problem/create a strategic advantage. Notice I did not say anything about being able to program well ( although it is usually expected. This includes most of the other comments but expands on these further. Does choosing Spring give you a lighter weight, faster performing application, while sacrificing modifiability ? If so, what is the business impact of this attribute decision? Does that present a configuration management and maintainability challenge to your newly formed DevOps team? Does private SaaS delivery model make sense? As one poster said, it is very much about decision making, defending those decisions and edifying others on the best ways to proceed insupportable of those decisions all while analyzing feedback and making adjustments to technical decisions based upon the firm's business model, strategy, and departmental/business unit's context of that model and strategy.

So if you think you need certs, you probably correct. But what you would need beyond the SCJP level that is language specific, is less clear. You would do well to explore ITIL, PMI-ACP, CSSLP, TOGAF9, ArchiMate 2, SEI Software Architecture Professional Certificate & ATAM Evaluator Certificate, and moat importantly - IASA Foundation Associate. These will go much further to prepare you for becoming an Architect than SCWCD. That said, obtaining a SCEA (now OCM Java Architect) could still be a fruitful exercise to prepare you specifically w/in the Java world and also handling board reviews, but other than that, I would focus on those that I mentioned.

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They probably will help as it indicates some technical ability and perseverance.

But actually it should not; Architecture is not programming.

I will presume we are talking about a "Solution Architect" role here. The solution architect's role is quite complex and involves many things.

  • Understanding and conforming to the organization's Enterprise Architecture
  • Ditto the technical architecture
  • Ditto the security architecture
  • Understanding the project sponsors aims and goals. Verifying the the requirements are relevant to these goals
  • Choosing a platform, development language, framework and libraries etc. from among those recommended by the technical architects.
  • Perhaps (and you need a really good reason to do this!) persuading the technical architects to accept a platform, language or framework outside their recommended set.
  • Negotiating the interfaces to other applications.
  • Providing the documentation required by the security architects.
  • Defining the hardware requirements based on the non functional requirements, expected load etc.
  • Requesting the required hardware, network connections and software etc from the infrastructure team
  • Providing the documentation required by the infrastructure team
  • Providing the architectural documentation required by the operations team

A tiny part of the role deals with programming and development environments, in practice, most of your time will be spent filling in boiler plate documents, or, attending endless meetings where your sole contribution is to veto idiotic suggestions and ensure that there is some residual sanity in the resulting agreements.

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+1 Concentrating on the programming side as it seems the Question Asker has would show a lack of understanding to the interviewer in knowing what an Architect does. –  Dan McGrath Aug 29 '11 at 4:50

Are certifications good in career path for architect?

Yes. In my opinion the main outcome of being certified is some overview. You know the technology (be aware it doesn't mean you know how to use the technology - that needs practice). For architect it can be quite useful to have solid overview of the technology used in his area of specialization but in Java world certifications don't have to be enough - you should also know about some main application servers and frameworks.

I passed many MS certification and just because of preparation for these certification I become familiar with parts of API I have never needed to use before (and sometimes I didn't know about them at all). Later I was able to propose these parts of API as a ready to use solution for some problems. So that is the reason why I continue taking certifications. The certification itself means nothing at interview until you prove that you know the related stuff.

Will certifications help me to get a job as architect?

No. Certification itself means nothing. You must have other skills to become an "architect". Programming itself is not enough to become architect - you must be able to make a decisions, to take a responsibility, to design a component or whole application and to prepare work for other (sometimes even lead them). You must have good communication skills.

At least that was what I expect from architect. But what / who is an architect? For me it is just over used buzzword. More then half of architects I have ever met were just in the right time (or long enough) on the right place to be promoted. Being architect doesn't mean that you are good or better then others and even if you are you are still on the same career level like these who are not. Once I meet somebody how calls himself architect I'm always very suspicious.

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Atleast in the corporate world a person with certification always has the edge over the person who doesnt, not necessarily knowlege/skill wise but it as the corporates say it shows initiative.

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I think SCEA Certification is best on architect level. There is no prior certification.

So no need SCJP or SCWCD.

You can visit about SCEA Preparation article @ http://www.epractizelabs.com/blog2/?p=115

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