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I've read some posts here and other places about how a lot of people don't put much value in certifications but I am beginning to think it may be necessary for me at this point to be able to move to a bigger company, etc. I currently work as a Java programmer with a startup and worked with a small company before that. Now that I'm applying with larger companies the hr people / recruiters have been asking a lot about certifications and some have directly suggested that someone in my position should probably get a few (they were trying to be helpful) since I haven't completed a BS degree yet (I bounced around a bit in college and ended up not finishing but have enough units to finish eventually, just its not something I can do nearly as easily as getting certifications).

Anyways, just curious about what people think for someone in my situation where I do have an interested in working for large companies and do not currently have a BS degree (but do have experience already in the field). Any advice on which certifications beyond the SCJP would be appreciated as well

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closed as off-topic by MichaelT, Bart van Ingen Schenau, GlenH7, gnat, Kilian Foth Apr 30 at 6:23

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if at all possible finish your BS. –  user1249 Jun 12 '11 at 19:30
    
You could also get a cs but there would be a lot of bs too ;) –  Michael Durrant Nov 13 '13 at 22:55

4 Answers 4

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Certifications don't mean anything to me. It is possible to pass multiple-choice exams while understanding almost nothing. But I don't put much stock in degrees either. I look for people who can program, and can communicate with me about programming. If they can do that, I don't care if they left school in the second grade. However, to me, "can program" means understanding the standard data structures and algorithms, knowing how to calculate the run-time complexity of code, knowing at least two programming languages, etc. If someone without a degree interviewed well, I would be extremely likely to hire them, because they must truly love programming. Such people will continue learning throughout their career. Many with CS degrees seem to stop when they graduate.

If you want to be hired as a programmer without a degree, and you want to do interesting work, try to find a small shop where the hiring manager doesn't have to work around some corporate policy. Then go to school part-time and get the degree.

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This is definitely a matter of opinion. In my experience, most companies I have worked at usually required at least a bachelor's degree in Computer Science or a related field. I think it is not only because of the technical skills you develop in the degree but also for the critical thinking and problem solving abilities that comes with earning a college degree. It is usually also the case that the person with a college degree a lot of times have good written and verbal communication skills that they have cultivated by having a more well rounded education (English Composition classes, fine arts classes, etc).

One industry where I have seen importance of certification is in consulting. Having certified work force helps the companies to market themselves better to clients and also helps them with getting industry partnership certificates.

At the end, when I interview someone I hardly ever look at what degrees they have. It generally ends up being a programming interview. However, without a college degree you may find it difficult to go past the initial HR screening process unless you manage to have an internal employee referral.

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Don't drop out of the degree if you can possibly stay in it. Dropping out will act as a black mark against you, effectively saying that you can't finish what you start. (Moreover, a degree shows that you can reason, can learn, and can communicate; those are valuable skills.) There is a small but vocal minority that thinks that degrees are a bad thing, but as they're almost all not people who have the power to hire you, you should ignore them: your goal isn't to impress the internet nay-sayers, it's to get a job and a career.

That said, a degree is hardly the most important thing. Experience is very important, especially if it is spent pushing yourself to be as good as you can possibly be. The problem from the perspective of someone hiring is that it's hard to measure such genuine experience. A degree is a proxy for this (if it's from a good school, you have to work to get it and that does count) and so is certification, but both of those are only good for getting you through HR screening and showing that you're worth inviting to interview. A portfolio of work you've already done is better for showing to the people who make the decisions in the end as it demonstrates what you've done, but it's harder to assess. Best is having a degree and certification and a portfolio, but it takes time (and lots of work) to get all that. Starting at the bottom isn't a problem if you move up rapidly.

(Also be aware that certification tends to not be relevant for very long — technology changes rapidly — and degrees tend to be relevant for decades — basic principles endure — so it's natural that the type of education you get from the two routes is different, even complementary. Neither is a replacement for the other, but get the degree first because it doesn't need replacing periodically.)

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Personally, I don't attach much value to certification. But from an employment perspective, it is definitely a good idea to get it -- especially if you plan on applying to "corporate" kind of companies. I have heard that in many cases, the person interviewing you might not be technical and in these situations having certification might help tilt the balance

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