Only a few years ago, having a collection of certifications meant earning fat paychecks. Now, your certs may just serve to give you a slight edge over another job candidate. Today’s tough employment market demands certification because it helps you establish credibility. But how valuable are certs, really?

From a personal perspective, my MCSD certification has probably been the least valuable of my certifications so far. Until recently, developers were such a hot commodity, no one really cared whether you were an MCSD. But I see certification becoming increasingly valuable in the developer community. Chances are that no one will hire you simply because you are an MCSD, but it could give you the advantage in the job market.

.NET-specific experience
For the skeptics out there: Yes, I know that many of you have 10 or even 20 years of industry experience, but chances are you have limited .NET exposure. And, like it or not, .NET is hot right now. Are you prepared to lose out on the job opportunity because another candidate is .NET certified? A .NET certification might well mean the difference between lucrative employment contracts and meager unemployment checks.

What the MCSD could be
The MCSD is Microsoft’s premier developer certification and, ideally, I’d like to see it reflect what developers face in the real world. An MCSD .NET certification that requires a developer to create an application end-to-end would seem more appropriate than a certification that merely consists of multiple choice questions. Experts could then examine the resulting application and evaluate it as the basis for awarding the certification.

This process would involve more time and money, but it would result in a certification that proves expertise rather than test-taking skill. Without some format for determining actual programming proficiency, certification value will largely be limited to resume building. This may offer a competitive advantage that’s sufficient to open a door, but chances are the door will be slammed shut if the certification is not backed by knowledge and meaningful experience.

Get in on the certification debate

Do you think most Microsoft certifications have value only as resume builders? Do you agree that .NET certification will be a critical asset for Microsoft developers in the near future? Are these conclusions applicable to other types of certification, such as those offered for Linux? Post to our Discussion Forums and let us know what you think.