Are certifications worth it?
I am finishing my college degree in programming soon and I'm exploring the next steps to take to further my career. One option I've been considering is getting a certification or a series of certifications in the area of development I want to work in.
Are these certifications worth the time and money? Do employers place a lot of value in them?
It sounds to me as though you're considering dropping out of school. DON'T DO IT. No matter HOW much of a pain in the ass school is, with that major concentration, you're in very good shape for a number of fields. Instead, talk with all of your professors, and ask them for suggestions on maximizing your marketability.
There are many reasons why you should finish your degree. One that hasn't been mentioned here (yet) is that if you don't, a prospective employer will view you as someone who doesn't finish what he starts; so probably won't hire you.
I think certifications may be somewhat useful, at least to help get you past HR. Note though a lot of certifications are targeted at people who have actually been working with those technologies for several years, and to tend have a lot of "nitpicking" style questions in my experience. What's most important though is to be able to prove you have the skills you claim. Writing some useful applications of your own could be another way of demonstrating this.
@DavidWallace: Oh I definitely plan on finishing my degree. Eventually, I plan on obtaining a doctorate in mathematics. I am working fulling time currently in an entirely non-technical field and just feel I can make better use of time with something a bit more relevant and maybe a little more challenging.
You plan on working on a doctorate in mathematics, at the same time as you work full-time on something else? I tried that once. I don't mean to sound condescending, but it's pretty much impossible to give doctorate studies the attention they deserve under these circumstances. In my case, it was the studies that ended up suffering.
What languages have you learned at college, how long did the courses last? Have you managed to send in a snippet for the IOCCC? If yes, you don't need a certificate.
The absolute only reason for a certification is for the employer you are working with. To license with companies like Microsoft or Cisco you have to have maintain a rating or a score. Do not bother with certifications unless your employer asks for it. If you feel the need to put it on the resume leave a note that it was required. Active certifications - Business used CCNA - Bell MCSE- Citigroup Inactive A+ - Best Buy
The main purpose of certifications is to make money for the certifying body.
Having said that, I think certifications are more important the earlier on in your career you are. As a hiring manager, I never use certifications or the lack thereof to filter potential employees, but I do think some companies may look for these as proof that you know what you are doing. Personally, I want the job candidate to show me they can do something (which is a whole other question, I realize!)
The more experience you have, the more you can prove by examples that you know what you are doing and the less important certifications become.
Yes the experience can go a long way. I do not have cert in lang X but I have 5 years experience, here is my portfolio. Hard to negate true experience.
I personally know some certified people barely know how to apply programming skills. They may be good at syntax, concepts but not good enough
@pramodc84 I know some experienced developers who couldn't code their way out of a paper bag. At least a junior developer with a cert as proven they are interested and can learn.
I'd actually go so far as to say a "certification" could be a net negative on a resume applying to a software shop. At Microsoft, Google, Amazon, or startups run by folks from companies like those, there's definitely the attitude that if you need a certficate, then you can't really program, and if you actually can program, then you don't waste your time on certificates. Certificates are viewed as something a technician gets, not a "real" computer scientist or software engineer.
It doesn't really matter whether this is a good or valid or accurate view of those who get certifications. What matters is that this attitude does exist among your potential peers -- at least as those kinds of companies. If you want to work in software at a different kind if company, then YMMV.
after a lot of bad experience with MSCP and MSCD "certified" people, a company I used to work for made it a policy to throw out any resume coming their way that listed those 2.
I'm not sure if it will result in a negative effect on ***all*** companies. There always will be companies which look for these kind of things. Because if they didn't you wouldn't have the certification market at all. (You may not like these companies or such candidates, I don't like them, and that's totally our choice.)
@jwenting Really? So any guy who's sent, by his employer (yes, some still invest in training), would be immediately discounted by that company? Whilst a certificate is no guarantee of good quality, it's certainly no guarantee of poor quality candidates...
yes, we would bin everyone with MCSD or especially MCSP after a glut of negative experience with people tauting those certs, and analysing the curiculi and finding multitudes of flaws in the very basics being taught. btw, we were a Microsoft Solution Provider ourselves...
@jwenting talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Mikaveli makes a good point. You would discard somebody with 10 years experience just because a) his previous company sent him on a training course b) he/she thought it would benefit him (in other words, he didn't see THIS thread
there were/are so many qualified people, that discarding some good ones with the flood of bad ones was/is no problem...
There will be both kind of companies:
- Ones who don't care for certifications. Companies like FogCreek don't even believe in knowing specific languages. (Knowing may give you points but that's not the criteria.)
- Ones who do care for certifications. These companies may believe in certificates or their clients may. Most likely, the company may give you additional points but it isn't their only or compulsory criteria as far as I know. On the other hand, if their clients want to deal only with a company which employes people with certain certificates then it can be a deal breaker.
What kind of companies are you interested in? On their jobs page do you see you certificates mentioned?
Opinion: Personally, all software companies that I tend to look at are more concerned about how good a programmer you are and many times also how good a computer science person (algorithms) you are. And that's how it should be. To me certificates only tell you how much a person could remember during the tests and not how well they think. Thinking is much higher on my list than memorization (if the latter is at all is on the list).
+1 for saying certificates tell you how much a person remembers, not how well they think. I often write software in several languages and often need a reference for subtle differences in syntax and the API libraries - it doesn't affect the quality of the software I produce though.
I'm going to address this from the perspective of a potential hiring manager. Note that I typically operate in and around organizations for whom certifications, and even college degrees, are not a priority -- if you can show me code, demonstrate good development practices, can adapt to different methodologies, and are generally a good, creative team member with an emphasis on sharing/collaboration/contribution, you'll get a shot to do your best work. This is not the case everywhere.
- You say that you have no degree, but you are working on one. This leads me to believe that you want to continue in school and you are just getting your ducks in a row for when you're done. That you're asking these questions now is a good step toward selecting the "right" jobs to apply for, and trying to get a feel for how developer communities form/interact/have associated norms is a good thing. Stay in school, and work to develop your presence in those communities (Programmers.SE, StackOverflow, GitHub projects, etc). Not only will you gain experience, but you will also gain contacts.
- Remember that you're at the beginning of your career and you have every path available to you -- pick a path that lights you up. If someone says a certification in XYZ will guarantee you a job (note: it won't), and you just hate XYZ, don't do it. Focus your time in the areas that spark your creativity and make you want to learn more so that you can contribute more -- for other developers, for the company that eventually pays you, etc.
- How valuable are certifications? For some companies, really valuable. For others, not at all. If you have the money and time to devote to studying for and taking a certification exam, and the process of doing so will augment your current coursework in a way that is academically valuable to you, then there's no reason not to pursue one that interests you.
- The best way to demonstrate your programming ability is to demonstrate your programming ability. I'm not being sarcastic...really, just show it. Contribute to an open source project. Start asking and answering on StackOverflow and gain reputation. You want to be able to walk into an interview with a good knowledge of programming constructs, so you can answer the FizzBuzz-type questions and their ilk, but mostly you want to be able to say "I can do this thing you're asking because look here: I've done the thing you're asking, here and here and here and here."
I'm not a recruiter, but so far I have an impression that certification courses give you piss poor overview on how to drag and drop items in IDE, at the same time stealing actual coding time and costing a whole lot of money.
The only good part from certification courses I noticed, was where instructor sidestepped and told about some gotchas he's experienced in his career. The actual content of courses was something along the lines of an online tutorial.
I don't do certifications anymore, seems like a total waste of time to me.
yup, the work to study for the certification (if done seriously, and not just grinding practice exams and cheat sheets) is the only real benefit for a person's skill. That said, we're starting to train more people for Oracle certs because it sells, some of our customers demand it (won't take people without them on contracts) and others think it a bonus and are willing to pay more for them. But we overall have a competent group who can do the work without a piece of paper that makes the claim :)
Some companies are a Microsoft Certified Partner, which requires the company to employ a minimum number of certified employees (MCP). In that sense, it definitely can help.
Outside of that however, I would say that it doesn't really help. Putting work into OS projects can be much more beneficial to one's career, especially if said OS project takes off (or you become a regular committer to an already established project).
Having obtained far too many certifications in my career I can say, other than providers who need a specific number of certified people on staff, my certifications never got me a job by themselves. What they do however is give you lots more knowledge of the topic. THAT gets you the job, not the cert itself. But you can get that knowledge without a cert.
Mitigated As measurement tool
I always look with a grain of salt when someone lists a whole bunch of certifications in his resume. From experience they tend to be used as space filler when experience is lacking. They are not useless but when there are too many of them I tend to raise an eyebrow and wonder if all that time and money getting certifications would not have been better spent on an open source project for example.
but Great As a learning tool
That said, I personally used them a lot as a learning tool and assess my progress when learning a new subject. I used to do a lot of certifications from Brainbench in the good'ol days when it was free. Still, even now I would pay for a certification just to gain a feel on my progress and get an idea of how I rank with regards to fellow programmers. Knowing where I stood gave me more confidence when hunting for a job and negotiating a salary that was closer to what I was really worth.
As msvb60 was saying I doubt the certification by itself may not get you a job but the knowledge gained while trying to obtain it definitively will.
Yes it looks worthwhile since the courses offered are not just a simple version but the
full course. It would be like getting a certificate from the University.
Upon satisfactory completion of all courses in a Certificate Series, you will be eligible to receive a Certificate of Professional Development from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Office of Continuning Education. The challenge of earning this certificate, coupled with the worldwide recognition of UIUC as a top-ranked institution, will ensure that your accomplishment shines on your resume. To see a sample of this certificate, Click Here.
Something that hasn't really been made clear in the answers is that certification is very helpful if you're not a good programmer.
Forget working for "Microsoft, Google, Amazon, or startups run by folks from companies like those": what if your ambitions are lower and you want to work in (just an example) the IT department of some big government agency? They don't tend to hire good programmers, and most likely the people interviewing you won't have the first idea what a good programmer is. But the MSCP cert might help your resume stand out from the pile of uninspiring resumes from other talentless programmers.