By February 6, 2020

Are CODING CERTIFICATIONS Worth It?

Transcript Of The Video

John Sonmez: In this video we're going to be talking about coding certifications. Are coding certifications worth it. This is a question that I get a lot of times. I've gotten a lot of coding certifications in my career but things have changed. The market has changed since the first time that I got my Microsoft certifications. So in this video I'm going to break it down and I'm going to answer a question and tell you whether or not coding certifications are worth it.

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If you're just joining me though for the first time. I'm John from Simpleprogrammer.com and on this channel we teach you soft skills. We teach you how to advance as a developer in your career, how to do things like market yourself, how to learn, how to actually build a business and journey to some passive income. And all of the things that a lot of companies that teach technical skills don't teach you. The things that are really going to make a huge difference in your career.

I got this question and he says, my name is Gosha and I've been a Java developer for eight months. I'm preparing for the Oracle certified associate OCA exam, and as I'm studying I think I could be benefiting more from just coding instead of learning theory so much. I'm sure a lot of these exam problems will never be seen in the real world, but at the same time it may be giving me more understanding of how Java works and why it acts the way it does. Anyway, I was wondering what developers think about such certificates and if recruiters like to see them in resumes.

A lot of times preparing for certification can be valuable for you if it is going to give you a deeper understanding of the language. So in this case, for this Java OCA certification, it sounds like a pretty good certification in the sense that in order to study for this you need to learn Java in depth and understand it. Okay. And understand why things work the way they do. The best knowledge I gained in programming, especially in languages like C+ and C# and even Java, was that not just the programming aspect of it, but the actual understanding of how does erasers work. How does type your eraser work? How collections work? Why is it implemented this way?

I remember reading a book by John Skeet, C# In Depth and that was really good, right? I like those kinds of books that really go into the underbelly of the language and give you a deep understanding because that deep understanding allows you to become really, really good at the programming language. Now with that said, most certifications do not do that and they focus on you memorizing stuff that you're never going to use that you're never going to see again. And that is just kind of some syntax or some kind of silly stuff. Honestly, and I can say this from experience because I got pretty much all the Microsoft developer certifications back in the day and the Microsoft system engineer certifications and the Microsoft DVA certifications. And I know that from studying for those tests, what I learned about studying for those tests was that you had to study for the test that actually becoming good and actually understand the skill set was not as valuable as studying specifically for the test.

And that's what I'd recommend if you're going to do a certification is that you forget about the idea that studying for certification or getting a certification is going to make you in some way better as a developer and more qualified. But instead just study for that exam just like you would do for the SATs. Right. The most effective SAT takers are not kids who are just smart. They're kids who took an SAT prep course and studied exactly for the tests that they're about to take. That's just common sense. It's just a smart thing to do.

Are certification is valuable in the workforce? Right. Do employers, do recruiters value them? Do coworkers value them? In general, I would say that it depends on the person and the specialty and the experience that you have. If you have no experience, you don't have much experience in the job market. It's probably a good idea to have some certifications because it at least gives an idea that you something. It's at least showing that you've completed something, that you're not a total complete noob and you don't know anything. If you don't have experience a certification can help with that. But in general, if you're a more experienced developer, like if you're applying for a senior level position, you having a certification really isn't going to matter. No one's going to give a fuck. They're not going to care if you have a certification for the most part.

In fact, sometimes it can hurt you because sometimes people are like, “Oh, this guy's got a certification.” And you know, sometimes there's some negative implications of having this certification. Now I wouldn't let that stop you from getting a certification, but just realize that you can just list it there. But if you're in a senior position or you're applying for a senior position, don't tout the certification. Just have it there, just mention it, whatever. But don't make it a big deal.

In general though, as far as when developers ask me, is it worth investing in certifications, I would say that it is typically not that they can be gamed, that they don't really show that you actually know anything. They just show that you know how to take the test and you're not going to really learn anything in the process. I'll give you an example from my own career. So there was a point where I was doing a lot of C++ development. I was actually working at HP at the time. And I was really trying to get into C# and I just couldn't. There was a team that I was doing C# stuff, but I was going to C++ developers. So they wanted me to do C++. But I really like C#. I really wanted to do .net that stuff.

I wanted to get moved onto the team that was doing it. In fact, I was learning .net. I knew .net and C# and there was a team that was doing this really cool project. And so what I did was I went out and I got all my certifications. I got the MCSAD or whatever they call it at the time and MCAD, one that MCAD and I did all of the certifications for that. And then I was able to go to my manager and I said, “Look, I have all the certifications, like I am the most qualified person.” And this was a new technology, this was a new thing that they're implementing. I was like, “I understand all the architecture. I've been certified by Microsoft.” And so he finally said, “Okay, well you know what, actually I guess you should probably be the lead for this new team.” And it actually brought me into that.

But that was because I was already in a job. I was already in that situation. And that was just a way to prove that I was learning and that I knew this technology in order to move me into it. So that's what I'd say is like if you have a specific reason for getting the certification right. So for example, some consulting companies, right, they want to have … They're like a gold, a Microsoft gold partner, whatever it is. And they need people that have the Microsoft certifications. And so if you want to get in with one of those consulting companies, it'd be great to get the Microsoft certification.

Same thing perhaps with some Java consult consulting companies that want to have a Java certified person because they're going to use those credentials. They value those because they're going to tout those when they go to clients. So that's it. It's up to you. Like I said, just don't expect to take a certification and for people to say, “Oh, you're awesome because you have certification.” And don't expect to learn anything in the process of taking the certification. You can do that if you want, but it's more effective to study for the test. As I learned when I, when I take the certification. All right guys, I'll talk to you next time. Take care.

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."