Thursday, January 03, 2008

Certification, Is it any good?

Recently a discussion has sprung up on the local java user group here in Cape Town (CTJUG) as to the value of certification.

A number of the members have expressed disappointment that though they have certification they still struggle to find work, and thus they ask on the forum for help in this regard. They've noticed that most software companies are looking for tertiary qualification rather than certifications and because of this they get despondent, and I can fully understand why.

The issues are numerous around this. If you search on the net you'll find much discussion on this very subject.

Certification does have value, but typically, depending on the context, more or less value.

Personel/Human resource people tend to value it highly, as this could be all they have to go on. In other words, because they don't understand the context they will put more value on certifications which probably means that in larger companies where human resources are involved in hiring, you'll find your certification more valuable.

However, in my experience, I don't find them valuable, unless it's all you have.

The fundamental issue here is that if a company hires me only because I have the certification then they are hiring as a mercenary just to do a particular job. To be honest, I'd rather not work in that environment because they have not understood the true value that I can add. I'm only speaking for myself here but I think you'll get an idea why I say this fairly soon. The value that I add is problem solving, research into new technologies, finding new ways of doing things, putting in new applications etc... I'm not a person who sits on his hands and waits for someone to tell him what to do. A person who punts his certification, IMO is. A person who punts his certification also does not understand that the real value in developers come from adding values in techs they do _not_ know. Because the industry is moving all the time (I'd rather say moving than changing), developers need to move with it. If you don't have developers that can move with it then you're going to be left behind and certifications tend to be dated. I'm certified for Java 1.4 you might boast, well what happens when java 1.5 comes along. How does the company know you'll be able to handle what 1.5 throws at you. Generics, for instance, which are not elementary.

And furthermore, I did a project for a large retail company where I had to "finish off" a program written by another developer who was certified! in Java on the Web. The application he wrote was _crap_, of the smelliest most disgusting kind. I'm afraid from then on I've been skeptical. Besides, a company is never going to take you only on the basis of your certification.

In closing however, I would like to point out that the certification is important from one perspective and that makes them infinitely valuable. If you do not have a lot of experience, say < 2 years and you haven't some formal tertiary qualification like a degree of diploma then a certification might be the difference between getting the interview and not getting the interview, and for that reason it could be _very_ important.


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The value of Java certification is that the developer must go thru and understand most of the basic Java APIs. With certified guys you see less of these: http://thedailywtf.com/Articles/The-Hard-Way.aspx.
Then I was hiring certification did not really matter, except that the person showed some initiative. If you were not certified we’d give you a book, some time to study and pay for the exam. We even gave people a small bonus for passing.
I think it is part of a good foundation. All the people that studied for the certification exam learned something new. When I wrote mine I had 2 years Java experience, and still I came across a few things that surprised me.
Maybe I should do my 1.5 or 1.6 cert just to make sure I am staying up to date.