Related link: http://suned.sun.com/US/certification/java/
A few years ago, back in the good ol’ days of Java, Sun really promoted their certification programs. At the time, this was a hot issue so I took the first two exams.
Two issues discouraged me from continuing with additional Java certifications. First, Sun would not let me put any statement like “Certified Java Developer” on my business card without a verbose legal disclaimer that probably would not fit on the business card. This really is not a big problem, it is just annoying.
The second annoyance was the way my programming assignment was graded (or not). Before I took my test, a co-worker with a LOT of experience took his test. He received a very poor score, barely passing. He speculated that maybe they gave him a “rubber stamp” approval rather than really studying his solution. I then took the Developer certification exam and received the exact same lousy score. What are the odds of that? I did not receive any feedback as to what I did wrong. Why were our scores so low? I know damn well that my solution was correct and well written. Was it mere coincidence that my coworker got the exact same score, or did we get a rubber stamp approval?
So I quit pursuing additional certifications. Now, several years later, a client actually asked for a Java instructor who has some sort of Sun certification. This surprised me because I have not heard much about certifications in recent years. People don’t seem to care as much as they used to.
Should we care? I can think of a few limited reasons why certifications matter:
- There is a remote possibility that some companies prefer certified programmers over non-certified programmers. Regardless of whether this means anything, being certified might help you get your foot in the door.
- Given two otherwise identical programmers, would you hire the one who is certified or the one who is not? Perhaps the certification gives one a slight edge. This is a weak argument, though. I’m a “hard” technical interviewer, and I find it pretty easy to distinguish between someone who really knows Java versus someone with limited knowledge.
- The mere act of studying for certification helps you learn more about Java. This is particularly important for people new to Java, such as those switching from some other language.
Looking back at these points, I’m coming to the conclusion that certifications are most important for beginners. Studying for the tests give you something concrete to focus on, and being certified gives you one extra bullet point on a resume.