Developers can pursue Web-related certifications for content development, site design, site management, code development, and numerous other job specialties related to Web site work. While holding a certification may not be a requirement for Web-related development positions, in a tight job market, a certification can distinguish you from other job applicants. The question is, which certifications are the most advantageous to hold?

There are, by my count, over fifty Web certifications available in today’s marketplace. These seem to fall into two general categories that work to help organize such credentials: Web or content professional certifications and Web-based application developer certifications. The principle distinction between these two categories rests on whether individuals create, manage, or maintain Web content more or less directly, or work with various databases or other software tools and development environments to access organizational data for use in Web sites. Most certifications of interest to professional developers tend to fall into the latter category.

Web development certification options
Within the world of Web development certifications, there exists a collection of certification specialties that include e-commerce developer, e-business developer, enterprise developer, XML developer, or developers who specialize in Web platforms such as WebSphere, Dynamo, Flash, DreamWeaver, Oracle/XML, and ColdFusion. I’ve collected a list of possibilities for you in Figure A.
Figure A

There are so many platform- or vendor-specific certification choices that it’s difficult to try and recommend such credentials on any basis other than what tools, platforms, or programming languages you are likely to encounter on the job. You should easily be able to determine whether you might benefit from some particular certification by surveying which tools you use in your current job (or in a position you’d like to have) and checking to see what relevant certifications are available for those tools.

There are a few vendor-neutral Web development certs that may appeal to developers looking to break into the field or to those who are looking to get a general overview while also establishing basic technical competency in development for that field. If this describes you, certifications like CompTIA’s e-Biz+ or the Institute of Electronic Technicians Association’s Certified E-Commerce Developer certs might be worth looking into.

Likewise, no serious Web developer should seek to further his or her career without some basic knowledge of and expertise with XML. XML certification of some sort should prove worthwhile, especially if you happen to learn best within structured environments such as training classes, or if you’re not inclined or able to master it on your own.

Picking a certification
When it comes to selecting a specific certification, you’ll want to weigh several other factors. Consider the following points when making your choices:

  • Cost factors: How much do exams cost? If training is required, add these costs in as well.
  • Availability of study materials: Are study guides, training manuals, or practice exams available? If so, allocate around $120 extra per topic for study aids.
  • Cost/benefit analysis: Given that most certifications last for only two or three years, take the costs involved in certifying and compare them to the increase in pay you’ll garner from the certification. If you can’t offset the costs with increased pay before you must recertify, it’s probably not worth pursuing.
  • Name recognition: Not all certification options are equally recognized or regarded. When in doubt, or when multiple options remain after going through other factors, try to pick the best-known or most recognized credential over other, more obscure ones.
  • Company policy: If your employer is paying for certification, management or HR may dictate specific choices of credentials, or they may offer only a limited list of options. It’s almost always true that access to some training and certification is better than none, so work within such constraints with good grace.
  • Convenience/access: If you have to travel to attend training or take exams for the best possible program, it may be worth settling for the second-best if the latter offers training and exams in a convenient location. Don’t forget that travel and lodging add to the cost of certification.
  • Time and effort required: Consider the amount of time and energy you’ll have to expend to achieve the certification of your choice. You can do this by researching available information; talking to current certification holders; and examining study, training, and exam requirements. You’ll have to keep yourself on track and motivated, probably for many evenings and weekends, so make sure you can commit the time you need.

Achieving a certification will depend on how much time and effort you invest in learning the information to pass the exams, meeting other requirements, and making the grade. The more you put in up front, the more you’ll get out of it in the long run—especially in the new knowledge and skills that getting certified will help you bring to your job.