Leadership

Is IT certification still relevant for developers?

Tony Patton believes IT certifications have evolved into an afterthought unless you are a business partner with certain vendor requirements. Hear why he has not soured on IT certifications, and then offer your thoughts on the topic in the article discussion.

I spent many hours learning through trial and error when I got my start in Web development many years ago. Since then, I have tackled several certification paths to prove my skills with specific technologies. However, certification doesn't seem as important these days for IT developers, and I've seen a few recent surveys that back up this point. I'm beginning to wonder what happened to the certification push.

Business need

One of the first certifications I achieved involved Lotus Notes development. Studying for the numerous tests to achieve certified status offered two benefits. First, it exposed me to many facets of the technology that I may not encounter on a daily basis, thus making me a more well-rounded developer (in terms of the specific technology). The second advantage was the fact that certification was necessary for my employer.

Weekly development tips in your inbox
Keep your developer skills sharp by signing up for TechRepublic's free Web Development Zone newsletter, delivered each Tuesday.
Automatically sign up today!

Many companies like Microsoft and IBM/Lotus require that their business partners have a certain number of individuals certified in their technology on staff—this demonstrates a working knowledge of their products to prospective customers. Of course, the exams and training materials are another revenue source for these companies as well. While business partners and consulting companies need a way to gauge knowledge, other businesses seem to be relying more on real-world experience over paper certificates.

What have you done for me lately?

IT certifications are good, but I think nothing beats real-world on-the-job experience. After all, do you want a developer who can recite the specifics of dealing with ASP.NET page caching or somebody who has actually worked on it in a production environment? Developers with hands-on experience can point out where the documentation is wrong (and, let's face it, documentation always has flaws) and what workarounds (if any) they have to address.

The trend towards experience over certification is quantified by a recent survey from Foote Partners, a New Canaan, CT, IT workforce research firm. The survey says certifications are no longer attractive and real-world experience and non-certifiable technology skills rank high in the minds of hiring IT managers. Employers are bypassing certifications in favor of individuals that are more business-savvy with experience under their belts. With that said, should you bypass any and all certifications for good?

Why bother with certification?

While I have grabbed a few certifications over the years to satisfy business partner requirements, I usually tackle certifications with the mindset of familiarizing myself with the latest versions of products and technology. There are an overwhelming number of certifications available in today's market, so choosing the one for you can be confusing. The following list contains a sampling of available certifications:

I always had the mindset that telling a prospective client or employer that I am certified in a particular technology would impress them, but surveys show employers are looking for more than an individual who can pass exams—they want established business knowledge and expertise. At this stage in my career, this isn't a problem, but younger developers may have a tougher time demonstrating their skills beyond certification tests.

Keeping up with the technology

Another issue with certifications is the sheer number of products and product updates. After all, if you spend a chunk of money on attaining certification in a particular technology, then it is a bit disheartening when a new version is introduced by the vendor—along with new tests to prove your knowledge of the new versions. This has been especially true of Microsoft, as operating systems (along with development platforms) are always in the pipeline. You can update your .NET certifications to the 2.0 version, but 3.0 is currently in the works. It can be hard to keep up.

A hybrid approach

I have not totally soured on IT certifications. I am working on updating my .NET certifications from the first version to 2.0 because it gives me the opportunity to get a good look at the changes in new versions and it helps me focus. On the other hand, I am constantly under the hood with existing client projects, so I don't fall behind in real-world experience.

I find it rather interesting that a client has never asked me about my certification status—they always ask about past projects and client references. With that said, it seems like certification has become more of a personal achievement or goal.

Where do you stand?

The IT certification landscape has drastically changed over the years. It was once considered the measuring stick for IT knowledge, but it has evolved into an afterthought unless you are a business partner with certain vendor requirements.

Where do you stand on the IT certification debate? Do you plan on tackling any certification exams in the near future? Do you place any significance on certification or does real-world experience always win? Share your thoughts with the rest of the community in the article discussion.

Miss a column?

Check out the Web Development Zone archive, and catch up on the most recent editions of Tony Patton's column.

Tony Patton began his professional career as an application developer earning Java, VB, Lotus, and XML certifications to bolster his knowledge.

About

Tony Patton has worn many hats over his 15+ years in the IT industry while witnessing many technologies come and go. He currently focuses on .NET and Web Development while trying to grasp the many facets of supporting such technologies in a productio...

69 comments
tektoad
tektoad

In my opinion, businesses are making an error in disregarding the value of certificates. If a person is competent in an area, how hard is it to get the cert? It's not. This is a blatant display of laziness. What is sad, the hiring managers most likely started this trend because they were to lazy to get the cert. Having a cert shows a baseline competency and an ability to learn. These are very important in a field populated with people who have non-technical degrees or no degrees at all. It also saves companies money by not having to pay for testing and training.

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

True professionals are well-rounded with the combination of KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS and EXPERIENCE. Knowledge -- what you know -- can be picked up on training courses, through education (college/university), reading, study or pretty much any other formal activity. VALIDATION of the knowledge comes by passing tests and exams. Skills -- what you can do -- are the result of knowledge put into practice. Many certification exams now use simulation and other methods to test for skills. Very difficult for an interview to evaluate. Experience -- what you have done -- lessons learned by doing. Also very hard to evaluate. I meet many people who 'don't need no stinkin certs', but INVARIABLY I find that these are people who have only very specific skills or experience in very specific areas. Certification exams tend to be very broad, and often cover areas you may never otherwise look at -- let alone get any experience in. I remember back in 1996 when I tried to take my first Microsoft certification exam for Visual Basic. I had been using the product since it was first released, and had experience up to the ying-yang. I thought I was really hot shit -- even giving advice to the support technician on tricks I had learned. When I went to take the certification exam, I walked in confident that it would be a walk in the park -- and walked out having bombed it miserably. Why? The exam covered parts of the product that I never looked at or had the need to use in the kinds of work I was doing with it. Studying for the certification exams FORCED me to learn EVERY aspect of the product -- whether I'd ever need to use it or not. What certifications show the employer is that you at least have a broad-based general know at a reasonable level of depth and competence to be CONSIDERED. It gets you in the door and gives you a heads-up over a competitor that doesn't have the cert. It also demonstrates that you are interested and willing to work on your own PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT. It shows that you can stick to something when you start it, and are willing to put the time and effort into something to accomplish it. I don't buy the baloney that that it just proves you are good at doing tests. Having now passed over THIRTY THREE Microsoft exams myself plus A+, Security+ and CTT+ COMPTIA exams -- I can say with some measure of authority that the exams are getting more and more difficult and challenging and simple memorization no longer cuts it. Experience is great, and there is no substitute for it, but there are plenty of arrogant experienced people around who really do only know a small fraction of the big picture and they would be well advised to get their heads out of the sand and try some certifications themselves before knocking them. As an employer, the first question I would ask someone who calls themself an "IT Professional" would be why DON'T you have any certifications? "Too busy", "certs are worthless" and other excuses will probably lead straight to the door.

TechRep
TechRep

All experiences make us who we are. My experience of hours upon hours upon hours, practically my entire life (since I was seven(thirty years)) has been spent working with, on, through computers. A lot of burnt electrons. Certs take hours to tackle as they seem to teach you "a way" of accomplishing a task. While experience allows you to understand many different ways to create a solution. Certs seem to volley the ideas of how to make a product perform and how great it can be. That does not mean the person who Aces the cert will be a performer nor great thinker. There are a lot of smart people in the world. There are only a few who actually can apply themselves through action. I have never understood how I would pay upwards of $1200 to obtain a cert. I laugh when I see the Microsoft dead cert list. Certs. expire their usefulness way faster than I care to spend another $1200! I would only partake in the courses, if a corp. paid and wanted me to be unproductive for a few days. I suppose the cert programs do allow for a team of people to understand and collaborate much better through a project. If a Corp. pays for it - who cares, huh? You get a day out of the office - hopefully with sunshine and a good lunch. However, after the project is complete - so are some of your co-workers. (layoffs or burnouts) It's best to know your stuff, have some common sense and make sure there is a support group (active forum of other smart people) to assist with problems. The open source community does not require certs as it is "open" and not trying to stuff everyone back into the box. I say that, because working with open source feels so much better to me. The options of code are endless and the frontier is a lot more adventurous and exciting than boring tracks laid down by certs and bloated proprietary softwares. Open source is pure competition on a level that is much more than money...It's pure power, knowledge and satisfaction. It's free because it's priceless! Put a price on a tool and it's automatically limited to only do so much, conditionally. People/Corps. pay more money and try to jump start the exploitation of an investment and create a ROI. Don't limit yourself to programs and certs. Be open minded and create freely with experience and common sense.

aceofspades1217
aceofspades1217

In most cases experience in open source software is probably a lot more important than certs. I have seen instances on getafreelancer where someone simply posts a link to their website which hosts a popular open source project and they beat out the guy with the three paragraph essay about how they are zend certified and this certified and that certified. There are some instances where certification is important. But the guy who is the project admin of a handful of successful sf.net projects is always going to have a more attractive resume than some guy who has 10 certs and no experience. But experience in general is good. It doesnt matter what kind of experince. "I designed 5 large scale, profitable, successful sites," will always be better than, "I have 5 PHP certifications." I am sorry but

tarnoldi
tarnoldi

What do people think of the value of A+ certification for newbies?

Justin James
Justin James

It is not about experience versus certs, or the relative merits of particular certs. It is about what will help me be hired. First of all, outside of Microsoft, who even offers a developer certification? And no, Brainbench is not a true certification. I have been asked in interviews about certs, but always in passing, and definitely not for a few years. It seems to be more of a lever in compensation negotiations than anything else. I may add, it has been a very long time since any interviewer or hiring manager has asked me about my degree (my resume says that I have a BA, but does not specify my majors). I cannot tell if the decline from "extremely uniportant" to the current state of "never even mentioned" is a result of the increasing strength of my resume or if it comes from an overall decline in the attractiveness of certs to a hiring manager. But at this stage in the game, I see no reason why I need to get a cert, and neither do people who interview me, it seems. J.Ja

Jaqui
Jaqui

hold that certifications are a good indication of anything other than the person knows how to write tests. Give me someone with an interest in the technology, and the willingness to learn more and I'll even overlook a lack of experience. but VENDOR specific certs are not worth the paper they are printed on to me. Oracle web developer, says that the holder of the certificate knows javascript. big whup. I don't support the use of javascript. ms certs? in a linux only environment? useless. LCPI / LCPI+? well, at least you have an expressed interest in linux, you get a better chance at the job. RHSE / RHNE? useless VENDOR specific cert. I don't use Red Hat Products. Novell's Suse certs? again, a useless VENDOR specific cert. If you are going to get a certification, that is not required for the position, then pick the ones for the base technology, you will have a better knowledge base than the Vendor specific certs will give you. Never get a cert just because it is a popular cert, get it because you have researched the company and know it will help you with their specific needs. a .net cert will not get you anywhere with me, since I don't support technology that is not 100% controlled by an international consortium, like the ISO. MS controls .net, and MS is not an international Consortium.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

positions as a requirement. They, the course, not the exam are a useful picture of facilities available and can get rid of that initial fumbling about looking for things. That said in terms of development they are far less valuable to a developer than say an admin. The gulf between a vendor technology and practice in the real world is quite wide in terms of programming. I always get more out of the tips, tricks and hints bit of these courses which is about 20% if you are lucky.

daljitphull
daljitphull

This is very true, but it has a catch 22. business will not hire you if you do not have the the expereince and will also not hire you with out the cerification..

ozwes007
ozwes007

The only people who benefit from certs are the companies that run them. If Microsoft etc want to cert people, than do it for a small fee ($100-$200). The benefit is theres than as they get there product known. As a business person I wouldn't pay any more for a cert person than one with experience, more to the point having worked with a very good cross section off both over 20+ years, give me experience EVERY time. Certs are money spinners nothing more. About time we all bought these companies back to reality. Open book exams, assited answers, etc etc. are the norm in these exams, no knowledge or skill needed - costs are way to high, knowledge is way to low. In my book Experience Experience Experience.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Oh well practice makes perfect. Don't wait another six before your next one.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

It does not save companies money. Either they pay for their people to be certified. They pay enough for them to pay for their own certifications They pay for someone certified more, because they value them. Or people do brain dumps, which companies end up paying for. Having a cert shows baseline competency in what? I got a chap with a degree to work with to do a socket connection between a vms and and a windows box. I knew we were in trouble , when he said "What's TCP/IP". So I did it, he learnt more about application of coding and design off me in a year than he did all the time he was at school. I picked up fortran in about two weeks, with a little help from him. Saved me looking up the help. I do agree that having managers who don't know IT is stupid. Certifications were invented for an external assessment of someone's skills, by a competent agency. That was the idea anyway, as it is now they've got the certs and you still have to test and you still have to train. I've been on the receiving end of a goodly proportion of people who were way more qualified than I, they didn't know squat though. So what price certs now? They are meant to certify competence not be a substitute for it. I've met a lot of guys with qualifications who did know their arse from their elbow, or at least had the potential to, as well. :D So based on experience certs are an indicator of sound business thinking by the people who make money off providing them. It's naff generalisations that are the real problem. Lazy ?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

So what you are saying is certs give you a broad view of one particular version of one particular vendor's product? I was at Tech Ed, last month. Fourth level presentaion on client server database programming. Tip, use an update statement instead of sucking all the data client side and posting it back row by row. If certs are that good, why is something that obvious a tip? Which cert should that have been covered in? I think, I've took eight in twenty years, three of them were VMS based. Never bothered with an exam, don't have a degree, so I must be an example or the other end of the scale to you :D Self teaching is going off and finding out how do I do this. Whether you hit Google, enrol on a course, read a book, press F1 or ask a colleague direct, the real question is did you learn it. I do call myself an IT professional, certifications do not make you one, they are supposed to be proof that you are one. The only people who need that proof are those who cannot establish that you are one for themselves, eg HR. THIRTY-THREE, when do you find time do anything with what you learnt :D I wouldn't say they are worthless, though I certainly don't believe they are value for money to a business. If they get us a job that will pay back the cost, then they are worth it to us.

Brian J. Bartlett
Brian J. Bartlett

I've never had a certification in any IT related field nor any interest in obtaining any. Having worked in the field for over thirty years now, frankly not a single company was interested in why I do or do not have them. They were focused like a laser beam on my accomplishments especially the hard dollar numbers in actual savings from each project that I've completed. Actually, rather than get certifications, I would suggest that anyone working in the IT field consider adding an MBA or BA/BS in economics (I am degreed in economics/econometrics). The main reason, as I see it, for so many IT project failures is the inability of the two sides, business with their requirements and IT with their technology to speak to each other. Adding systems analysis (another of my fields) is icing on the cake if you can manage it as then you learn how to work with the users so the product that is delivered is something that they migh actually appreciate.

Justin James
Justin James

A+ just screams, "I am so new to IT, I did not know that A+ was not respected." I know it sounds harsh. The only time I would get an A+ certifications is if I was looking for a desktop support job, or if my employer would give me more money with it. J.Ja

Gast?n Nusimovich
Gast?n Nusimovich

, even though it could be a mighty tool to be properly evaluated by a Linux shop. I find your approach very interesting and fresh (get rid of vendor dependencies), so it could enrich this discusssion if you send some lines on the rationale that you apply to analyze and weight a potential technology to be used by your team.

AllAroundIT
AllAroundIT

I had worked as a developer for over 10 years, and have moved into management (for the past few years). We don't require certification, nor do we use it as a decision factor, in any way, for prospective candidates. It's nice to see on a r?sum?, but anyone can go to testking.com, pay for the test - get it and pass. Certs are really worthless in today's economy - and we don't consider them valid measures of skill. What we do is have the candidates complete a short exam that is project based (do this by using x, y, or z). Once we review the work, as well as do the technical face-to-face, we have a reasonably good idea of the candidate's skill level.

TiggerTwo..
TiggerTwo..

[post deleted by admin] Message was edited by: The Trivia Geek

kovachevg
kovachevg

It all depends on what one is hiring for: 1. If you want someone who has a techie mentality or disposition for a basic coding job, hire somebody with certifications and limited experience. After all, these guys are probably counting on it. They took the certification path to prove that they are capable. You pay them an entry-level salary and they are happy because they finally entered the field. 2. If you want someone who is at the level of a system architect or a business analyst, then hire based on experience: look for domain knowledge, business analysis on a wide range within a domain, and a track record of accurately defined business requirements followed by dedcent implementations of the corresponding technical specifications - trace his/her work from start to finish. If a hiring manager does not follow the logic outlined above, he either hires someone with too much experience for a low-level job, or is hiring a perfect test taker for a position that requires successful communication - as opposed to sitting down and working hard by yourself to pass an exam. The latter approach will eventually fail when it comes to the management part that requires both effective communication and solid domain knowledge.

leketee
leketee

No doubt about it knowledge is a good thing. But gaining of knowledge without the 'doing' of the knowledge is almost like a waste of time. Certification weights very light when matched with real world experience with the opportunity to use the knowledge you have, seeing it in operation, seeing it really solve a business or technical problem. Sometime the text in the books need tweaking based on real live application. I've been in the field for over 30 years with only a couple of certifications. The certifications have played a very small advantage in acquiring employment. The certification fad has wavered, because industry realizes that you really can't beat having your feet to the grind.

johan
johan

During interviews I do very often ask the question on certifications but I am only interested in the experience. What I do find is that you often get very junior guys who have achieved good certifications. However in the work place you end up with an individual who cannot meet your expectation and in many cases the individual cannot match back his training to the production environment. I feel at times that certification should only be made available after an X period of practical experience. This will ensure that you will be able to apply practical knowledge to the theory. I often see training companies offering courses to school leavers promising good jobs\salaries once they have completed the courses. The scary part is that when I interview someone for a junior position and he has certs I assume he has a very basic foundation that can be started from. Right now I personally feel negative towards certification because it is available to everyone and in the end it de-values the certification completely.

bruce.dimon
bruce.dimon

As stated in the article, certs are a good roadmap for learning a new technology. My CS degree did not teach me much about networking. Getting an MCSE was my way to learn Microsoft's networking. Added to my meager Unix networking experience, it was a valuable learning tool. I'm not claiming that made me an expert but it made me informed. Certs get you interviews. Experience gets you hired but a few magic letters on a resume will help your resume move from the HR department to the IT interviewer. Certs help you win arguements. When you rebut an arguement in a meeting, the boss has to decide who is right. Lacking the knowledge, he's inclined to give the nod to the guy with the cert. It's a "Dibert-type" weapon, so be sure you're right when you use it. I remember an inexperienced network guy telling the boss that a server needed a faster processor. I was arguing that the processor was fine, it needed more than 128MB of RAM. The boss was leaning toward accepting the server guy's recommendation until I mentioned that I had an MCSE and the other guy did not. While it's much better if the boss has a clue, certs impress the pointy-haired types.

sunil_sabat
sunil_sabat

Number of candidates holding IT certs has increased considerably over years worldwide. You can hire CCNA, MCP, OCP, SJP so cheap in India, Malyasia, China and other countries now. It is cheap to get certified talent. Obviously, big IT shops leave IT tech/headache to the contractors, So, more jobs in US/Europe now require true knowledge of business side of IT programming rather than the programming side of business.

wrig526
wrig526

What about havung an Associate or BS degree? Is that better than a certification? I have a certification in Web development and I am currently working on an IT degree online while working full time. The company I presently work for may not be around much longer, that is why I am taking some classes. It's confusing as to what a person actually needs, some say experience, some require certifications, and others want a degree.

ozwes007
ozwes007

I have been working on and with computers for close to 25 years, repairing, writing programs, installing networks, servers(Linux, Sco, Windows) and running my own business. What are my Qualifications - Zilch. Why? because I don't have the time to do the courses or the courses are not available in my area. Give me a Course online that is reasonably priced($100-$200)and I will be in it in a shot. Having worked with and fixed too many stuff ups by the "Experts", my view is experience and interest over Qualifications any day of the week, no questions asked.

tektoad
tektoad

A lot of interesting replies. Absolutely a person's whole body of work best accurately represents his or her own skills. But how hard is it to get a cert? My contention is not that they are especially hard. Rather, it shows a motivation in the effort (however slight) to get them. Its worth does depend on your organizations, but they have values. Especially when partnering. If they do not best prepare people (especially those non-technically trained) then a better tool is needed. Before you say know great a programmer you know that dropped out of high school, I am talking big picture, not exceptions. I know some great ones, also, but they are few and far between. Far too many times I have seen and worked with developers who majored in English and decided to develop. While I am sure they are great at verbs and conjugations, they are not usually too hot at logical thought and design. This flood of non-qualified people into the field in the late 90's not only introduced a lot of bad code, but also commoditized the industry.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

about the guys who effectively sell certs. It's not what happens at reputable centres that's the problem. It's the boot camp take five certs in two weeks manoeuvre, that is de-valuing what you worked so hard to get. You can buy a degree as well. People regularly offer to sell me one. A lot of them claim to be US based. Academia has shot themselves in the foot big style as far as I'm concerned. First they did not police who could give what is effectively accreditation. Second certs are more valuable because they are more current, formal education runs about four years behind the real world. Third there's the general dumbing down in a drive to make more people 'successful'. As many have said owning the bit of paper has become more important than what you had to do to be awarded it. And why? no one is going to pay to fail.

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

I don't know how testing centers are run in Australia, but in the USA, Canada, Germany and Russia (all of which I have tested at) the regulations for delivering tests are STRICTLY ENFORCED. Testing centers either have a live proctor sitting in the room or a video camera and video recorder. NO books are allowed in the testing room. Not even mobile phones or any other device. Have you ever encountered such a situation of open-books or asstance personally, or are you just echoing something you've heard? Testing centers are audited periodically, and any monkey business would be cause for them to lose the testing center privelige. You should also be aware that the testing center itself receives only a few dollars per test delivered -- nowhere near enough to even cover the cost of the equipment or room. They are not doing it for the money -- they are doing it to attract people to their facilities to TAKE the training programs in most cases. Also be aware that Microsoft charges different prices depending which country you are in. In countries where salaries are very low (Russia, for example) the price is $50 per exam. (It used to be $25). It amazes me that many of the people complaining of the high cost of certification exams are the same ones who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars (or go into debt for many years) to go to University.

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

There are many different vendors offering certification -- including 'neutral' certs like some of the CompTIA ones. I'm not a big fan of degrees. If someone has a CS degree in Fortran from 30 years ago and hasn't bothered to take any more recent training and certification programs, I don't have much pity on them when it comes to finding work. The benefit (from the employer side) is that the MS certs ARE linked to specific products and versions and they DO become dated as new products and technologies are released. (As a certified person, this is annoying and expensive -- but part of the game to keep up to date.) I hear a lot of whining from people about the cost of certification programs -- but really -- it is the cost of being in the business. Some people expect employers to pay for everything and and give them paid time to attend classes plus all the study materials. Nice work if you can get it, but not the way much of the real world works today. As a side-note, I also look favorably on candidates who are involved with and members of professional associations -- also something you have to pay for and volunteer time on. For my particular position, I am REQUIRED to be certified -- MCSA and MCSE 2003 plus Security+ and now MCSE+Security and CCNA. Have to pay for it out of my pocket -- exams, study materials and everything else -- but it's either that or find another job. Do I complain? Not for a moment! All these people who want to be 'spoon fed' and given everything are missing the boat. My favorite expression is, "you are your own career manager" -- meaning you are responsible for your own training, education, certification (if you need it or want to have it). As I mentioned, I get a lot of people coming to me for work without certifications. Maybe they are sharp, but maybe they are not. Often I don't have time to spend trying to evaluate them when I have a tough post to fill in a hurry -- so if I have the choice of two approximately equal candidates -- one with a cert and one without -- I'll try the one with the cert first. I also get irked with people who slam the certifications yet who have never tried a single exam themselves. The last thing I want on any of my teams is an arrogant 'prima-donna' who thinks he/she knows everything and doesn't need any certs to prove it. As another side note, I have noticed that in the recent contest held by Prometric where MCTs could give people a 20% discount on their exams taken before the end of the year -- from the top 100 people promoting the certification exams -- over 80 were from India, 10 or 12 were from other countries and fewer than 8 were from the USA. One may assume that if it wasn't important to get certs, the Indian developers wouldn't be doing it -- but indeed they are, as well as the Russians, Czechs and even Chinese. 9 years ago when I first went to Russia, every software development shop I went to also said certs were irrelevent and useless -- the same shops today brag how many certified developers they have on-staff. Why? Because it is good for business, makes them money and gives them credibility. Does it help them develop better software? Maybe, maybe not -- but it DOES ensure that they are least AWARE and functional at a basic level and know enough to know what they don't know and move ahead.

brian_tuley
brian_tuley

Completely correct. Corporations respect those who understand the effect our craft has on the bottom line. A BS/BA is a requirement if you want to move into management. Accounting knowledge will get you noticed by the bean counters who actually run the corporate world. However time, experience and desire will more than suffice if you want to keep your hands dirty in code. Certifications are too expensive, expire too quickly and have devolved to little more than revenue streams for training companies and book pushers. Unlike certifications, Degree?s never expire.

Jaqui
Jaqui

a clone of an ms owned bad idea? why would I want to support that? vb and vbscript are both abortions that should have been buried. The criterial for if I use a technology, a group like the ISO has to control the standard, or it's not implemented. the technology has to MEET the standards applicable, or it's not implemented. [ reason why no ms software for me, none is standards compliant ]

markwayne
markwayne

I always look for two things with any new hire: A college degree and two certs. I don't care what the degree or the certs are in. It doesn't matter. The presence of these pieces of paper shows me that this candidate has persistence and can struggle down a long road without quitting. That means everything to me as they are going to have to continue to learn and adapt in our environment. I would not expect anyone coming in the door to know enough to be productive here without a fair amount of learning. They need to prove to me that they can learn.

noly_big_boy
noly_big_boy

Although certificates will prove that you are knowledgable in this field, but certainly it won't prove your skill in programming as a whole. Those who passed these certifications doesn't mean they can contruct a resilient system. Experience will always be the bottom line!

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

The one thing neither a degree nor certs will give you.

bg6638
bg6638

With an AAB degree I spent 20+ years programming Data General, S36 & AS400's using COBOL, plus PC's with MF COBOL, Dbase/Foxpro. I also have spent the last 10 years working with Win95/98 NT 4.0/Win2k/WinXP/Exchange 5.5-2003/SQL Server 7.0&2K/Proxy Server 2.0 & ISA Server. My employer went bankrupt, and recruiters have told me my experience is completely **WORTHLESS** without certs AND a bachelor's degree!! I've been told to get a job even working Help Desk, that I need a BS in MIS plus at least the following 3 certs: CCNA, MCSE 2K3 w Messaging & Security, and an RHCE. Certs from Citrix, Novell, and a CCIE would be strongly recommended along with experience in Linux, and VB 6.0/.NET. I simply don't know where to turn to.........

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Depends on the employer, the skill, the need and the individual. Some firms won't even let you in the door without a degree, some insist on certs, some will only look at specific areas and length of experience, though the latter is now iffy in the UK, due to age discrimination rulings. All you can do is look at the jobs you would like and what they need and then tailor yourself to it. One thing I will say, degrees last longer, a lot of HR types consider a cert in something out of date as useless, not true but that's HR for you.

AllAroundIT
AllAroundIT

I had worked as a developer for over 10 years, and have moved into management (for the past few years). We don't require certification, nor do we use it as a decision factor, in any way, for prospective candidates. It's nice to see on a r?sum?, but anyone can go to testking.com, pay for the test - get it and pass. Certs are really worthless in today's economy - and we don't consider them valid measures of skill. What we do is have the candidates complete a short exam that is project based (do this by using x, y, or z). Once we review the work, as well as do the technical face-to-face, we have a reasonably good idea of the candidate's skill level.

MCS-1
MCS-1

I support your comment to the letter!! Currently I am an outsource for a computer store that has three 'certified' technicians working for them - seems I am getting work from them all the time, and it's not because of an overload. I don't want to use the standard that a certified person doesn't know what their talking about, because I'm know many, many do ... but experience is the winner in the service game IMO.

dave.clarke
dave.clarke

While the awarding of certification can provide an employer an indication of knowledge regarding a product it still fails to provide any indication of a candidate's adaptability. A piece of paper is one thing, while true business experience is something completely different. While I've been in the industry over 20 years, originally working on mainframes with COBOL CICS DB2, DL1 and so on we never required certification per se, just acknowledgement of training in the field. I feel sorry for those trying to deal with software that is never given the chance to mature (unlike MVS OS/390 and their ilk) because it doesn't meet Microsoft's business model of reinventing the software platforms to drive sales. I've never even attempted certification and am most unlikely to ever try it. The certification would have such a short lifespan it's probably not worth it.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

OO expert, got this and that and those and these. Why was OO invented, how did it grow out of procedural code. Huh ? If you don't know why, you'll be useless as soon as how doesn't pan out, the way the vendor said it should.

Justin James
Justin James

"I certainly agree with the statement that formal 'education' is behind -- universities and colleges are huge monsters that are not able to update their programs fast enough to keep up. Add on the additional factor that in some cases, the government may need to evaluate and approve new or updated programs (working at the speed of government) it is little wonder they are many years behind." See, this is the number #1 biggest disconnect out there folks! College/university does NOT TEACH KNOWLEDGE OR FACTS, NOR SHOULD IT. It teaches THEORY. It is why you take a coursework entitled "computer science." Just as a math degree is about learning the principles of math and not the facts (such as 2 + 2 = 4), a "Computer Science" degree is about principles. A certification is about facts and knowledge. And this is why someone with a cert, but no understanding of the principle is worthless. At least someone with a degree and no knowledge can be taught what they need to know. A CS degree may be outdated in terms of the languages and techniques that were current when it was taught (thus, a certification is needed), but the principles (how to think about coding, networking, troubleshooting, etc.) are forever usefull, unlike the fact-oriented information in a cert. J.Ja

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

If I was looking for a junior developer, then a relevant cert would be interesting. I'd still be testing them on concepts though, not the how of X the X way. I want whys not hows. I've never had difficulty being employable, my cv speaks for itself. You need a magnifying glass to search for career gaps and the accomplishments will be very distracting. I've spent 100% of time doing, I've never stopped learning

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

Sure, there are illegal boot camps and such around but the percentage is pretty low. People still need to pass the test at the authorized center. If people have the urge to cheat or bribe their way through an exam -- nothing is going to stop them. Not in College, not in University and not on Certification exams. It's the same with anything else in life. I have taught boot camps, and in fact, most people do NOT get any kind of cert upon completion. Despite working for 14 to 18 hours per day plus weekends -- during the course of a 6-week boot camp, students tended to pass an average of 2 to 3 exams only -- (in 5 boot camps only 1 student was able to pass 4 exams). This means the even the best students will still end up short by at least 2 or 3 exams of getting even an MCSA certification. Paper MCSEs are not seen as much anymore because the level of difficulty on the tests has increased significantly -- require much more high-level analysis and synthesis skills and are not as easy to 'memorize' without learning the underlying material. If someone hasn't tried taking an MS exam in the past 6 months -- pick a topic you think you know and try one. You may be surprised at the depth and breadth of the knowledge required to pass. As mentioned, certs are only part of the equation. Knowledge, skills and experience all play a part. If someone wants to cheat, a good series of interviews will still be able to screen them out pretty quickly. Although not generally done in Europe (from what I have seen), there are still a lot of benefits from asking to see sample work (or code), sample web-based projects, live sites and calling references. Most interviews I've been involved with recently start with initial HR screening by telephone followed by anywhere between 4 to 6 additional interviews with everyone from team leaders, technical experts to individual members of the team to see if they think that the new person would or would not be 'compatible' with the team. I certainly agree with the statement that formal 'education' is behind -- universities and colleges are huge monsters that are not able to update their programs fast enough to keep up. Add on the additional factor that in some cases, the government may need to evaluate and approve new or updated programs (working at the speed of government) it is little wonder they are many years behind. Additionally, universities and colleges do not necessarily pay enough to attract the best and brightest instructors. In some cases of commercial colleges, I've seen them take students from one class and hire them as instructors for the next. (And NO those particular students were NOT very bright at all.) Instructors who train all the time also fall out of touch with the 'real world'. As for myself, I try to train no more than 25% to 50% of the time, and spend the other 50% to 75% of the time working on real-world contracts. Many factors to think about. I would suggest the solution not to be whether certs are good or evil or how much value they are in general -- but perhaps how they can be used to enhance one's employability and demonstrate at least a willingness to upgrade and maintain one's own level of education. Some businesses require them, others don't. People need to research what positions they want to fill and which companies they want to work for and make the decision from there.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

for a developer position , if I'd have took academic or experience claims at face value, I would have been recommending the firm employed a complete muppet and a liar. Given thickie me with no certs and no degree can shoot 6 out of 9 people down in flames within three questions on their claims, exactly what does that say about the state of affairs. I actually pre-date certs in their current incarnation and I keep boot strapping myself to currency, sometimes with some of the material you hold so dear. SQL Server 2005 most recently, .NET and VS 2005 early next year. I'm not against them, just the idea that they are some sort of magic bullet.

Jaqui
Jaqui

the level of disrespect for people using non standards compliant software can't get lower than it already is, zero respect is as low as it gets :D

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Who needs enemies, with allies like you. I like .NET, I think it's a vast improvement on anything out of MS for a long time. In fact it's probably the best thing since Delphi, hardly a surprise, since a lot of the guys who developed it, were ex Borland. Please tell me how you get access to the full power of the hardware from .NET. A good percentage of the power is used for . JIT compiling The garbage collector. Security validations of external source. OO overhead. Shake and baking (component bloat) Need I go on? .Net has a lot of advantages, why don't you stick to them instead of FUDing ? You just confirmed to Jacqui that .NET enthusiasts are twits ! As for your argument about complying to standards stifles innovation, that was worse. MS deliberately non-comply to leverage their business, not the technology. How you could miss something that obvious I have no idea. If they complied to the standard, we could interoperate, ie use non MS technology ! PS Visual Studio's IDE is still not as good as Delhi's, maybe they'll work on that next.

Jaqui
Jaqui

linux has an older GUI than windows has, and yet it's far younger than windows... like 10 years younger, with 30 years more code for it. go figure linux is more powerfull, even with a "limited" GUI tool than what MS sells.

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

Don't worry about it. Many anti-Microsofters are completely happy working from the command prompt of their LINUX box and live out their days in happiness doing the printf to the console. Being happily ignorant of the underlying operating system or hardware and not taking advantage of what they have to offer does make your code 'portable' but who cares. For other people, having access to the FULL power of the operating system and underlying hardware and NOT be held hostage to any 'standard' is a whole lot more fun.

Jaqui
Jaqui

MS ignore the standards completely and could not care less that the standards exist. their "Visual" C++ barely functions if you demand standards compliancy. the MFC [ Microsoft foundation Class ] used for most ms software violates the basic tenents of the standard for both c and c++ you really need to read the standard then reverse engineer some MS software, you will see how blind you have been.

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

Microsoft does something very simple and very admirable. They look at the existing standards, take the best parts, dump the worst parts and implement what they believe to be the most appropriate solution to the problem at hand. In other words, they are not a SLAVE to existing standards. They are INNOVATORS -- pushing BEYOND the bounds of the standards. It may be comfortable working within existing standards, but that is NOT the way to innovate and improve and push beyond the limits of what exists today. Do you still program in ANSI COBOL 74? How many other standards are so far behind the times as to be effectively worthless? Anyone who has actually USED .NET and who understands the power behind it knows what cool really is. Things can be done faster, easier and BETTER than in many of the so-called 'competing' environments. (Not to mention the super development tools part of Visual Studio.)

Jaqui
Jaqui

from a standard controlled by a committee, yup you are right. but that same committee is what keeps the technology implementation from changing in a few months, so you can actually use it and know it will work. perl, isn't just Larry Wall, the entire Perl community work at keeping the backwards compatability as much as possible. they work on keeping the language stable, not having it change so much it's a new language with every minor incrementation of version. The delay in Perl 6 is the developers working hard to keep perl 6 as compatible with older versions, even though it's a completely different execution environment, as they can. Perl 6 is supposed to be a jit compiled scripting language, as opposed to the current interpreted scripting language of perl < 6. XML is the response to the FAILED SGML that HTML is based on. it's the base for a markup, not the end use markup. by adding "tags" to a doctype, you can create your own markup to meet your needs, making XML the best markup language to date. try creating a markup using the SGML instead of XML, it is a far more complex issue, and much more likely to fail. The reason behind having all the different x helpers is so that you don't have un-needed definitions in your document. if you are not using any form elements, why have the form data types defined in the doctype? X in XML is eXtensible, meaning customisable. [ xml comments in reply to a post between yours and mine ] Why do people ignore standards in IT? simple, because IT people don't care that by doing so they leave themselves liable for legal action. if you are resposible for network security, then by making sure STANDARDS are met, you have made it far easier to secure the network, and you can prove in a lawsuit that you made all possible efforts to keep that customers credit card data secure. by using non standards compliant technology, you leave yourself open for paying damages. [ and yes, there is an ISO standard for IT security, on both the os and application levels, and no MS products meet the standard ]

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

No you've lost me. I'm really struggling to follow the thought path to the that comment.

dougbrong
dougbrong

As a 57 yr old Computer Scientist (with the real degrees - many yrs ago) & independent software developer, I am sadden to see what has happened to programming, then DP, and now IT. With change over change over change, with little forethought, nobody has time to really master something - it's all disposable - just wait 18 months. Somehow the business owners keep forking over more and more money for systems that never get done, or are obsolete in 3-4 years. An example: One of the silliest inventions is XML. In order for it to work they had to invent about 20 other 'X' helpers. In 1990, if one proposed to add all that redundant data (the tags) - let alone converting everything to ASCII - you would have been the laughing stock. Pretty soon they will have the Bible in XML. We are all struggling with IT, and the Microsoft monopoly. I'll see this career out. But my advice to young people is to find a career in a good trade or sales and marketing. It's not about certification or degrees anymore - it's about knowing what other careers could prove more enjoyable and rewarding.

Justin James
Justin James

You use & like Perl as far as I know. Perl is completely at Larry Wall's mercy. I do not even think that it is standards body approved. Ruby, same deal as far as I am aware. On the other hand, you have committee languages like C and SQL. IPv6 is another standard for you, and it is a mess. HTML has taken 15 years to finally have a standard in placer that comes close to meeting the original intention, and it still stinks. While standards by commitee work, they tend to make too many compromises. As I recently wrote (http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/programming-and-development/?p=342), a bad standard is just as wretched as no standard. People hold up standards as some sort of magic wand. If standards are so great, why does everyone ignore them? J.Ja

Jaqui
Jaqui

that the standards bodydoesn't control the language / framework, that is why it isn't an acceptable standard. MS can change it to their hearts content, without any input from anyone else.

Justin James
Justin James

C# has been submitted to ECMA and runs under .Net & Mono. Don't like it? There is also O'Caml (F#), JavaScript (ECMAScript, another standard), Python, implmentations of Ruby, Perl, and many other traditional *NIX languages. While you are usually on point with a lot of things, you continually conflate .Net as a Framework for encaosulating the Windows API, and the .Net CLR as a runtime environment and target for compilation. Microsoft is increasingly headed towards standards compliance on a lot more than you are willing to give them credit for. J.Ja

pathma
pathma

Like what you said, by getting certs the candidate is showing to the employer they are willing to learn and improve. Certs are vital, experience will follow...

tektoad
tektoad

A degree definitely adds value. In my opinion, a technical/scientific degree is best for IT work. This trains people in thinking analytically and logically. Having said that, there are a lot of people in the industry without such credentials. Most likely you will not receive the same level of compensation (fairly so)and as a result a recruiter may not make as much off of you as a degreed person. Or it may be a client requirement that a candidate has a degree.

Justin James
Justin James

I am definitely "experienced" on those items... but I would only claim to be "expert" in a few of them You are right, anyone who claims to be "wexpert" in too many things is probably lying, and anyone honestly looking for someone "expert" in that many things is probably delusional. J.Ja

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

I love the job postings like, "must have a minimum of 5 years experience with Windows 2003" or a mish-mash of skills like, "must be an expert in UNIX, Linux, Microsoft, SQL and ORACLE..." (anyone claiming to be an expert in all of those areas I'd be tempted to slap silly). These kind of postings either indicate that the recruiter is clueless or they have clients that are clueless. (maybe both)

bg6638
bg6638

I have stopped using recruiters since I don't have the magic "BS" in my resume, they won't even bother trying to market me. This was even more evident when the state job services suggested that I retire....at 50! If I had a nickel for every time I've been told a job for a former COBOL programmer is to operate a cash register at McDonald's! Due to family obligations, I am stuck in an area where IT employment is limited and employers are "shooting for the moon". The local IBM AS400 user group disbanded due to small turnouts, and all schools in the area don't even teach the 400 anymore! However, I still do have 10+ years experience using MS server products....but I just can't seem to get past employer screens demanding a bachelor's degree!

wcdulanyjr
wcdulanyjr

OK, maybe that is a little harsh. I'll admit that recruiters need to eat too, however, I have found that the majority are too busy looking for buzz words and not enough time understanding the prospect and their clients. You are better off 'networking' with people who know your skills and experience. Granted, not all recruiters are bad, but I found my current job by keeping in touch with folks at a previous employer. These folks knew my skills and value as an employee and found a position for me that I am really enjoying. If you must use a recruiter, anyone who tells you too forget everything you learned and get all new skills, I say they are not the recruiter for you. They obviously don't know the value of your skills or how they could be applied to new technologies. You may have to rephrase your experience to demonstrate this, but also look for a recruiter who has clients that might need these skills. Better yet, start looking for those employers yourself.

Justin James
Justin James

There are a lot of regionally differences in the way hiring is done, I have noticed. In the Southeast, the HR person essentially wants the person who just walked out the door, but maybe a version of him that won't want raises or who can spend 12 hours a day at the office, or who doesn't drink before coming into work, or whatever the reason for him leaving was. When I was in NY/NJ, the fact that I *didn't* have a degree in CS (I have a BA in liberal arts subjects) was a major selling point, since they felt that it meant that I had a potentially different approach to problems. Certs also seem to change in value over time. About 10 years ago, when the MCSE first came out, it was red hot. Having an MCSE was like owning a gold mine. By 2000 or so, a lot of people with zero experience had certs, thanks to the "boot camps" and the value of the certs declined dramatically. As the value of the certs declined, only the truly experienced bothered getting them and the tests got more "real world" and the value seemed to go back up again. All I can really say about the subject is this: Employers, past, present, and potentially future have *consistently* been impressed with my experience, stopped asking some time ago what my degree was actually in (my resume just says that I have a BA), and have not brought up the subject of certifications at all. I have also not lacked for job opportunities (I get 1 call per week from recruiters, and I am not actively looking for a job). So this tells me that my skill set and experience are what is attractive *in my particular case*. Your milage may vary. But I will say this... any recruiter who says you need a CCNA + MCSE + RHCE is smoking something illegal. Those three *simply do not go together* unless they want a 1 person IT department managing a massive network and a multi-platform data center. In other words, any environment big enough to have Windows 2003, RHEL, and Cisco kit all at the same time is most likely big enough to have a separate netwrok engineer, Windows sysadmin, and RHEL sysadmin position. I suggest you find a different recruiter. J.Ja

fabishi
fabishi

Dear all, Has anyone fill PMP Web application and know how to fill the deliverable section? thank you, fab

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

If you've used this to do that, then you must be aware of this. Get a good answer, delve deeper. Get BS, wind it up. Not too sure express the question in a different way, see if you can lead them to the answer. Project tests are OK, but you've got to run them correctly. The ones I've done, have either been self evident, or the sort of thing you get as an exam question, as in completely divorced from the real world.

AllAroundIT
AllAroundIT

e give our candidates a spec, let them review, ask questions, give them direction as to how we want it done - them let them go to town on it. The projects are small enough that they can be done in an hour or two depending on skill. We don't take away help documentation or the internet connection - since as we all know this is how developers work. Once they're done, we review the work and see if it's up to spec and to see if the followed direction. This is really the ONLY way to test their ability. To everyone's point though - we only let them get to the project if the successfully get past the fact to face interviews. We ask questions that reflect high level (and some low level) questions about technologies on their r?sum?. We're not looking for a dictionary - but the questions we ask for what we're looking for a crafted in a way that if they've done the work in the past, they'll be able to answer the questions without much trouble. Needless to say - I'd take this method over a cert any day. As I said - certs aren't worth the paper they're printed on.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Telephone interview is tech specific questions. Like if we want a client server database programmer. What is a transaction. Syntax doesn't matter as such, but if you can't answer the question in way that we understand you aren't one, or you are a poor communicator. Nipple headed tests like what the fourth property in alpha order of a grid component aren't in anyway useful. If you get to face to face then that's what have you used, where , why, when, what did you learn from it etc. There's also a sanity check which is a small programming exercise, like write a class to compute a fibonacci series or some such. Don't care if you misspell, or miss a semi-colon out, more that you read and understood the requirement. The one we are mad keen on, is if you make a claim on your cv, you will have to back it up. Call yourself a COM developer when you once used an activeX component on a web page, you'll be struggling.

samson06
samson06

Some programmers don't need to memorize every little detail of every language (most are updated every few years). They know the concepts and know how to find answers quickly in any language. They usually complete projects much faster.

slyt
slyt

I had a really good post prepared that explains how easy it is to get an interview and a job without certs but then I thought. "Hey I'm in competition with these guys." I will tell you this though. Certs are way down on the bottom of the list of things you need to do to secure employment. Technology changes too fast to be bothered with certs and all good tech people and shops know this.

Editor's Picks