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Are certifications worth it?

I am looking to get into more Java Development after being thrown on a project that required Java development for a month and successfully knocking it out. I still feel as though I could use a little bit more refinement with Java and I thought certifications might be the way to go.

I would like to be certified in JPA, Java Web services, and Java Front end development (probably JSF or Spring MVC or something like that). I would like to be an architect at some point as well. I have a couple of questions about what is the best way to go about getting certified. My first question is regarding the Java Certification process itself:

1) Is there a baseline certification that I would need to get before I go out and get certified in JPA , Web Services, Front End development, and Architect certification?

2) Do you think that certification is even a good idea? Do you know of employers that would give someone a leg up if say, he has only worked on one or two Java EE projects but has a certification or two?

3) Is this a good step in terms of career development? Is focusing just on development limiting my self to the basement of some development firms? How can I make myself more valuable as a business asset?

Any other thoughts you guys have on certifications and their business worth?

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marked as duplicate by FrustratedWithFormsDesigner, Glenn Nelson, Walter, Robert Harvey, ChrisF Dec 6 '12 at 21:21

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Certifications are worth about as much as the paper they're printed on. Why not read some books and blogs, and write some more code? –  Robert Harvey Dec 6 '12 at 18:27
    
Like Robert Harvey like - i.e. do something useful with your time instead. –  MetalMikester Dec 6 '12 at 19:18
    
I can understand your perspective on that. And I will be writing more code. But even if I do all that wouldn't certs improve my worth? –  DmainEvent Dec 6 '12 at 19:27
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Not since the late '90s, no. If anything, brandishing your certs makes you look like a rube. –  Erik Reppen Dec 7 '12 at 0:44

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Like most education processes, certifications are what you make them.

Let's say you want to learn Java. Learning the language in its entirety is a big task, so having a goal such as "write a trade pricing app" pushes you in a direction towards learning specific APIs required to achieve this task. Certifications work in a similar way, they act as milestones in your learning. Beyond that, I personally don't think they have much use.

If I was a hiring manager and saw a resume for a software developer with 5 years Java experience and another developer with 1 year Java experience and 7 certifications, I'd go for the developer with 5 years experience. The 7 certifications may highlight that your keen on your trade, but in the end experience trumps everything.

I don't like statements like "certifications aren't worth the paper they are printed on". They are learning aids to push you forward, but not necessarily the only and best way to go forward. Contributing to an open source project, working and learning from others and fixing bugs will teach you a lot more than doing nothing but certifications. There is nothing stopping you from doing both.

The one exception to this (at least from what I've seen in large UK organizations) is that many contracting jobs demand you have certain certifications before they will consider hiring you. I've never contracted, so I can't really form an opinion on this one, but if you have a few certifications under your belt, it may help you on the contracting front.

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I've always used the certification books to help study on specific items in java as they take explanations to the nth degree in my opinion.

Usually I review them before technical screen interviews, but I believe experience counts the most.

I've seen some job requirements for certifications before, but I always thought that was silly if you have 5+ years of java. I've heard of some companies requiring them, but it's been very rare from what I've seen.

Really it all comes down to solving problems. If you can get in and write clean code, refactor messed up code, analyze and design good long term scalable solutions, who really cares if you are certified or not?

The certifications are a bonus, but what do they really prove? You know how to pass a certification test! Okay, what does that translate to as business value?

Programming is a business. I wouldn't take a passed certification to mean you are a great programmer. Unless maybe you have passed all of them to become an architect, even then it could be just book learning.

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What makes certification useful is when it isn't simply an academic credential, but does have some other work (projects, etc.) that support the certification.

From my perspective, certifications are useful in a couple of ways:

As A Programmer: the process of studying for a certification, writing sample apps during the course of study, etc. is really a great learning tool. I might be in a position where I'm doing a lot of 'web' work, for example, but want to spend some time learning and applying JPA. Studying for (and passing) an exam is a good technique for focusing on learning that specific API, or even expanding on what you know about the API. (It is certainly not the only way, though.)

As An Employer: Certifications certainly aren't as important in the 'interviewer' chair, as a lot of really good people don't become certified because they simply don't see the need to spend the $100-$500 or more on an exam. I don't know if I've ever met someone who went out and earned a certification that wasn't covered by someone else.

If it is covered, it's something of a nice thing to see that a potential employee put in the time and effort to study for and pass an exam if other projects are hard to quantify.

Bottom line: I think a certification is worth obtaining if it's on someone else's dime (or perhaps a necessary component to being part of partner marketing programs, etc.) - but don't expect it to be a deciding factor in a position, or one that magically opens new doors.

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