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Revisiting Certifications

The job market is currently in a lull so I’ve been talking to a few new recruiters and gotten a better sense of what certifications mean today. Your mileage may vary, of course, since this will also depend on the actual position (e.g., junior vs. senior), local market expectations, etc.

First, one recruiter/placement firm emphasizes that its candidates are certified. I don’t know if that’s just shtick to set themselves apart from the competition or if it’s legitimately a major concern for the companies they work with. I do know that widespread if not universal certification is common in support roles but with one exception haven’t seen it much in developer roles. Maybe I’ve just looked in the wrong places.

Second, other recruiters (plural) have said that it helps me set myself apart individually since it shows initiative, a desire to stay current, etc. Perhaps. Why I find more interesting is the documented history it provides. Talk is cheap but when a candidate can point to a series of certifications over a span of years you can be pretty confident that it’s not just something he crammed for.

Finally, the exception I mentioned above is the DoD 8570 Information Assurance Technical Level III. This is an advanced security cert that is a requirement for a number of military contractor jobs. Even non-military government contracts may require team members to be certified. (For a brief summary see http://blogs.getcertifiedgetahead.com/casp-now-approved-for-dod-8570/.) A clear job requirement for certification shows an unambiguous need.

What does this mean for me individually?

First, I bit the bullet and took the Oracle Certified Professional, Java 7 Programmer upgrade test. I would have done it a long time ago but this is a surprisingly expensive cert (starting from scratch now costs nearly $500 for the tests alone!) but with the prior certs it shows that I’ve been doing meaningful work in Java for a decade. ($245 for upgrade test, $69 for self-assessment tests, plus study books.)

Second, I’m biting a second bullet and taking the LPIC-1 tests this week. I’ve been using Linux for many years – since the 0.99 kernels! – and could probably pass the tests cold. But knowing this and proving this in the 30 seconds (if that!) I have to impress someone that she should consider me for a DevOps position is a different thing. I still can’t show that I’ve had job responsibilities including occasional sysadmin work going back over a decade but at least it’s a start. (Two tests at $170 each, plus study books.)

Finally the CASP test has taken on a higher priority and I’ll probably take it in the next few weeks. It explicitly opens the door to some positions in the short term and will establish a history in the long term. This doesn’t close the door to getting a CISSP or CSSLP in the future. ($379(!) for test, $69 for self-assessment tests, plus study books.)

Reference: Revisiting Certifications from our JCG partner Bear Giles at the Invariant Properties blog.

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