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I am a Computer Technician without a computer science background and planning to become a Java programmer. My question is, if I pass a Java certification, would that be enough to for me to get a job since I don't have Bachelor's degree in computer science?

More generally, can programmer certifications substitute for a specific degree requirement in a job posting?

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closed as off-topic by MichaelT, mattnz, Corbin March, GlenH7, Michael Kohne Aug 29 '13 at 0:09

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Most likely no and if so not a very good one. PS: Localized –  Rig Jul 23 '12 at 14:15
cs Degree is a minimum requirement. –  pandu Jul 23 '12 at 14:49
Depends on the job. An Oracle java certification isn't close to the same thing as a 4-year degree, though. –  Caleb Jul 23 '12 at 15:02
The Java cert will demonstrate that you know how to write something in Java but it won't show that you have the knowledge on all the other stuff you learn while getting your CS degree which is required for such a job, stuff like systems programming, concurrency or software design and/or patterns. In the end a language is just a form of expression, but what to express is the actual question, and the degree helps you in properly making up an answer. –  Onno Jul 23 '12 at 16:59
A CS degree is not a requirement. Usually any degree that had a considerable amount of math will suffice (Engineering, Physics, Finance...). A lot of good people in the biz started out from a different background. –  MrFox Sep 13 '12 at 18:42

10 Answers 10

No. Certs are not equivalent to a degree at all. They may almost be worth it for sysadmin, network engineer, or generalized IT work. But they subtract from a programmer's resume. (That's at least, you know, my view).

But you don't need a degree. Work on serious projects that are bound to impress other programmers and you will have clearly demonstrated your skill. If you got patches incorporated into the Linux kernel, wrote genetics programming software to streamline sorting algorithms, or rewrote DOOM in brainfuck, you will have earned respect.

Of course, that takes a lot more time and effort than a cert.

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+1: That last sentence is more than just an aside. Time and effort lead to experience, which is what employers will be after. –  Mike Guthrie Jul 23 '12 at 19:42
How does having a cert subtract from a resume, assuming that resume also includes at minimum of a B.S. in Computer Science? –  ardentsonata Jul 23 '12 at 19:43
@ardentonata It's hard to explain without being brutal on programming certs. It shows that he's the sort of guy that values certs, which the behavior of marketing drones and pointy-haired bosses. Why did he get a cert? Was it a shortcut to a real education? Was it to justify charging more? Is he appealing to authority? Is that behavior we want on the team? Mostly it's because I've met people who have certs, and boast that they're certified, and they haven't been too smart. Sorry if that's harsh, but that's just my experience. –  Philip Jul 25 '12 at 16:16
@Philip, that's a fairly unsophisticated outlook. Someone may be fully aware that certifications are problematic but still get them because a) HR at some organizations require them, b) Some vendors (Microsoft for example) require them for partner status. I suppose there must be organizations out there that are in a real bind because their HR department requires certifications, but their development staff forbids them. I'd recommend that you not be so quick to flip the 'bozo' bit (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bozo_bit). –  Charles E. Grant Jul 25 '12 at 20:46
They subtract from your resume? In other words, the same resume but one has a cert listed, the one with a cert is worse? I'm sorry but from a practicality standpoint you lost me with rewriting Doom in brainfuck. I'd rather see someone spend time on something that has a worthwhile result. Studying to pass a cert may not be the best endeavor, but it's more then zero. –  NickC Aug 6 '12 at 21:23


There is no substitute for the degree requirement, and in general certifications are viewed poorly (or negatively!) by most employers I've seen.

That said, job postings are usually a 'we would really like you to have all of these'. In the end, the company needs someone to make their software. A college degree is the traditional metric to see if you can do that. Most actual programmers know that it's a poor metric though.

If you can get past the HR people who don't really have any better metrics, then it's just a matter of showing that you can do the job; degree or not. In my experience as someone without a degree and as someone who hires programmers, certifications do not help either side of the application process.

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Oh, yeah. Getting past HR's keyword search is a hurdle. To them however, there's no real difference between "I read an article about Haskell once" and "I am certified in Haskell". You can't really do that with a college degree though. A lot of places simply demand a college degree. –  Philip Jul 23 '12 at 14:39
It used to be the case that a bachelor's degree in computer science showed two things, first, that you had been exposed to a certain broad body of knowledge about computing, and second, that you could start a difficult long-term project and see it all the way through to the end, despite considerable temptation to chuck it and do something a lot more fun and remunerative. It still shows the latter (as does just about any bachelor's degree), but I am beginning to have my doubts about the former (see remarks on "Java schools", from various people, elsewhere). –  John R. Strohm Aug 6 '12 at 21:21

Can programmer certifications substitute for a specific degree requirement in a job posting?

The most accurate answer is "it depends".

A more practical answer is "NO".

HR departments and corporate policies that require college degrees will reject you for having no college degree. Not everything in the world is negotiable. I've got an older friend in exactly this situation; he has been programming for 3 decades yet has no college degree and he's finding it harder and harder to get interviewed. 4-5 years ago, he could float a resume on Monday and have interviews by Friday. Now it takes him weeks to get the interviews. He'll be in his 60s before he has a bachelors degree, if he starts right now. I'm 5 years younger than him and I'm working on my 3rd bachelors degree.

Certificates are reasonably good at showing that you keep up with technology - if you get a new cert every couple of years. They are a snapshot showing that you had a certain level of competence in that technology at that time. My first Microsoft cert was in 1998, and I've gotten some of the 4-letter certs every few years since then. As a greybeard, I can show evidence that I didn't rest on my laurels and that I'm keeping up with newer stuff.

In addition, the hardness of credentialism and requirements are only going to get worse in the future:

One of the things that used to happen is that there were HR managers in recruiting who would look at those requisitions and say, “You know, do you really need that? Do you really think you’re going to be able to find somebody like that?” And there was push back. Those people have largely been eliminated through successive downsizing, so there’s nobody there to buffer those expectations. The next thing that happens is those requirements get built into recruiting software, and the recruiting software is a necessary device now, because employers have made it easy to apply for their jobs.

In the past, they wanted lots of applicants, so now they’re overwhelmed by applicants, so now every company will tell you they’re getting thousands or tens of thousands of applicants for positions. You couldn’t possibly screen them all by hand, because you can’t look at them all, so they use automated systems to do the screening. But the screening is never as good as somebody who has human judgment, and the way screening works is you build in a series of typically yes/no questions that try to get at whether somebody has the ability to do this job. And a lot of that ultimately ends up, it’s all you can ask about, is experience and credentials. So you end up with a series of yes/no questions. And you have to clear them all, and I think people building these don’t quite understand that once you have a series of these yes/no questions built in, and the probabilities are cumulative right? You have to hit them all, then you pretty easily end with no one that can fit.

So say that the odds are 50 percent that the typical applicant will give you the right answer in terms of what you’re looking for for the first question, and a 50 percent that they’ll give you the right answer to the second question. Well, then, you’re down to one in four people who will clear those two hurdles, and once you run it out to about 10 questions, it gets you down to about one in 1000 people who would clear those hurdles. And by the way, the first hurdle is usually, What wage are you looking for? And if you guess too high, out that goes, right? So then you’re at the purple squirrel point, where at the end of the day, you find that nobody fits the job requirement. So in the book I describe one anecdote some employer told me about having 25 000 applicants for an engineering job, a reasonably standard engineering job, and the recruiting process indicated none of them were qualified to do the job. How could that happen? Well it’s not that hard once you start building in these yes/no algorithms, and you run out the list, you end up with nobody who can get through.


As an ancedote, one previous employer wanted to rehire me (after I quit to go elsewhere for higher salary). As part of the rehire process, I had to apply online for my old job. The applicant tracking system claimed I didn't qualify for the job I had done for 5 years. So we had to go through a few iterations where the job listing was recrafted and reopened until the software said I was good enough to pass. For a random stranger off the street, that would never have happened - instead the company would have said "we can't get qualified workers."

While you may end up able to get your first programming job with just a certificate, in the long run, the lack of a degree will harm your opportunities. You won't be able to stay "upwind" as Paul Graham puts it.

TL;DR - try to get a first programming job with just the cert, then work on getting your college degree.

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Do you have any degree from an accredited 4 year university? Some companies only consider that you have a degree and not what it's in. They will often accept equivalent work experience and/or certifications. Others want the degree to be in CS or a related field and nothing else will do. Most will want some kind of 4 year degree though or at least some kind of academic track record other than dropping out.

You can improve your odds by being able to demonstrate your abilities to people who're making the hiring decisions and bypassing the HR gatekeepers. Some friends of mine who dropped out of college have been able to do this successfully over the past 20 years or so. Building a strong network of contacts can help you overcome background limitations.

One person I know has a diploma mill type degree and they've used it to get around gatekeepers. I don't recommend this approach but sometimes you have to do what you have to do to eat and pay your bills.

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Thanks, that is good to know. I actually have a 4-year bachelors degree in Fine Arts but breached to get CompTIA A+ Certificate. I intend to give me myself time and study seriously to pass the necessary exams. –  Ben0201 Jul 23 '12 at 15:31
@Ben0201 - My degree was a double major in Political Science and History, earned many years and a career change ago. Not having a CS or similar degree hasn't hurt my career significantly although I've been cut off by gatekeepers a few times. –  jfrankcarr Jul 23 '12 at 15:47
Also worth noting that you will find some employers who won't hire CS grads as they prefer physicists, or electronic engineers or some other degree instead (wrongly imho but it does happen) –  jk. Sep 20 '12 at 9:00

In India, if someone knows Photoshop, even without a degree or diploma, the employer will select them. Then they will develop due to their experience in other big companies. Degree certificates are required only for promotion and in higher rankings only.

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If you can get a programmer certification, such as OCJP, or MCSD, then you you can become a Systems Administrator with developer skills and work for a web company. There are many sysadmin jobs that require Java or .Net programming skills to complement the high level support responsibilities. In my area, Java sysadmin makes upwards of 120k-150k. Systems Admin Web Developer: 80-90k. This is on monster.com.

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A programming bachelors degree is worth much more than OCPJP. But add a few more certificates; if chosen correctly, those certificates can make a person very specialized which can make him / her very attractive to hire. Also because companies don't have to pay people without Bachelor degrees as much.

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Unfortunately all entry level certificates require only learning stuff from a few books and often getting familiar with things seen only on the exams. Also such a certificate show a theoretical proficiency in one given technology. Master of science degree shows that you got a thorough knowledge of a given discipline (computer science in this case).

Higher level certificates require more effort (e.g. Oracle Certified Master Java SE Developer) and give any value (in my opinion).

It is good to show that someone tested your proficiency in a given field but the OCJP shows that you were tested against Java syntax and knowledge of "How to pass OCJP exam" books.

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No. Think about this for a second: a typical certification means that somebody has passed 3 or 4 hour long multiple choice tests covering knowledge of very specific technologies. A CS degree from any reputable program will broadly cover the fundamentals of computer science. It represents four years of work, a couple of dozen exams, training in writing and speaking, and at least a few longish programming projects. Do those sound equivalent to you?

This doesn't mean that at a certification is useless. Some jobs don't need much in the way of computer science, but do need knowledge of specific technologies. In those cases certifications may be better than nothing. However, even in those circumstances, certifications are generally not highly trusted. The trouble is you can pass most certifications exams by cramming, and they don't necessarily represent real understanding. Of course a CS degree doesn't guarantee real understanding either, but it's easier to fake it for just three or four exams than for four years of study.

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Certificates along with demonstrable skill or some kind of job experience can potentially replace formal education requirements but you will have to do a bit more work to get the attention of employers because most places will require some kind of formal education in an engineering/technical discipline. My background is in pure mathematics and although I have a few certificates I am almost certain none of those certificates have given me any kind of edge in a screening process.

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