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Certification - Again

Given today's market....

Does certification add value? [Does it increase the chance of finding a job or getting more money]

As an experienced (or inexperienced) developer is it better to go JAVA , C++ or some other certification?

Windows, Unix/Linux, or both? [Is both realistic?]

Who to certify through? [MSCE, others?]

I have many years of experience but I don't know if certification would make a difference.  I may soon be looking to move on and want to prepare.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Certification in the current state of the economy is not going to be much help.  However when hiring picks up again, it might just be the edge over somebody with the same experience and no certification.

There are two situations (in my experience) in which certifications do matter.

1) Consulting shops that are partners with the main software players, ie Microsoft, Oracle, Siebel, SAP, ad naseum.

2) Being an instructor for the above mentioned companies' technology.

In short, don't rely on certifications to "get a job." You'll be disappointed often. I'm getting certified in Oracle 9i, but I'm looking at it as a learning experience. I'm getting this certification to solidify my SQL knowledge, as I'm an application developer and not a DBA. I have been able to optimize SQL statements from what I've learned so far.

- Hector

Monday, May 19, 2003

My pet theory on this is: it depends....

Specifically, it depends on who you're intending to send your resume to. If it's an agency, then a certification will *leap* out at their OCR droid. OTOH, if you're resume is destined to land in front of one or more optic nerves (ideally, those belonging to your potential boss), then a certification will pale into insignificance next to any *relevant experience* you can offer. Of course, once you get past the agencies, your experience will come to the fore so there's really no getting away from the conclusion that a certification is no substitute.

I believe that I wouldn't want to work for a company which valued certification higher than experience. Fortunately, I've never had to exercise this principle. My gut feeling is that 12 months collaborating on an open source project speaks higher than 12 months swotting for three exams.

Having said that, I think that if you can get your current employer to pay for certification, then go for it. And I agree with Hector that, everything else being equal, a certification is probably worth more than no certification.

As an aside, I did a quick cost-benefit analysis on the ROI of an MCSD certification. Since my employer doesn't use MS technologies and I don't use them at home either, I'd have to purchase a Visual * IDE and probably a new machine to run WinXP to run the IDE on. I figured an initial budget of £1500 and 24 months to barely pass the exams, a time in which two more MSDN subscriptions would be required. I then decided that I wanted to recoup my costs within 12 months of landing a new job or promotion and just worked out the figures. Quite shocking. If I were an employer, there's just no way I'd offer that kind of money for just an MCSD and marginal direct experience.

My conclusion is that -- if you have to pay for your own certification -- Java is the cheapest option and offers the greatest ROI.

Paul Sharples
Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Why would you need a "Visual * IDE" to learn .NET? The .NET Frameworks SDK and Notepad are free.

Duncan Smart
Tuesday, May 20, 2003

That's a good question and one I don't know the answer to. I'd guess, though, that an MCSD is devalued without the VS expertise.

Paul Sharples
Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Paul Sharples is considering MCSD certification, but states "my employer doesn't use MS technologies and I don't use them at home either". If you're not using the technologies either at home or at work, then I don't understand why you would want MCSD certification. There are other types of certifications available (Java, Cisco, Oracle, Sun, Linux, etc) so you can choose a certification relevant for your current line of work. If you are planning to change technologies, it's probably better to learn the technolgy first, find a job using it, and then pursue certification.

Microsoft certification can help to obtain some types of jobs (provided that you also have the relevant knowledge and/or experience) - for example, any ISV company that wants to be a Microsoft partner needs to employ at least 2 (I think) Microsoft certified developers, and companies that do software consulting for other companies (clients) often like to employ certified developers (to impress their potential clients). For other types of jobs, certification may help indirectly - for example, by moving your resume to the top of the pile. I'm not sure that certification has helped me to obtain a new job, although I don't change employers very often so I don't personally have much evidence either way. My certification is mostly for my own satisfaction and has not been sponsored or paid for by my employer.

If you work with the technologies and have some interest in the same technologies outside of work, then there may not be much cost to obtain certification, since you may not need to take any expensive instructor-led training courses. I have been certified on and off since 1994 (the certifications expire after a few years, and I have needed to take newer certification exams to be re-certified).  My only expense has been a couple of books and the cost of the exams - $US100 per exam, although often less than that because I have taken advantage of occasional 2-for-1 exam offers from Microsoft, and some once-in-a-while free exams (betas of new more thorough versions of exams). I'm not currently using .NET, so if I wanted to obtain .NET certification I probably would need to take some specific training courses.

Philip Dickerson
Tuesday, May 20, 2003

I'm in the process of becoming an MCSD and you really do need a copy of VS.NET to answer some questions on debugging & deployment...

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Most MSCD/MCAD books come with a 120 day trial version of Studio.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Also, for VS.NET 2003, Microsoft offers a free trial version (60-day expiration) on CD or DVD at:

Philip Dickerson
Tuesday, May 20, 2003

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