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Jamie Mercer
Jamie Mercer is a technology writer covering all things web and software development. His key interests encompass technology management, tech careers and recruitment.

Is Java Certification Worth It?

Gaining a certification in any profession always has its pros and cons, but it seems like in the world of technology there is even more turmoil. With such a demand for skilled tech workers, there are a number of routes into the industry including an academic certification approach and a more self-taught portfolio-based approach. But is Java certification worth pursuing in order to advance your career?

According to the latest Pearson VUE survey, just under 90% of IT professionals would recommend certification to a colleague when discussing a new career or promotion prospects. But what about those who are already in a career and at a level they are happy with and who just want to learn? And that really is the crux of the argument: who are Java certifications aimed at?

In his article last year, Jason Shapiro stated that there are two types of people who will benefit from gaining certification: Those who are just starting out in a career in development and those who are looking to learn new skills. Shapiro therefore suggests that for experienced or established Java programmers there appears to be seemingly less incentive to gain certification.

On Oracle’s certification blog, they make a point that gaining an Oracle certification can ‘boost your professional image’. Is this really the case? This may have been the situation several years ago but nowadays a lot of developers and hiring managers pay far more attention to someone’s portfolio and their body of work compared to what they have learned or what courses they have completed. There are a number of general day-to-day idioms that would seem to back this way of thinking. Heard of ‘actions speak louder than words’? Or how about ‘without application, knowledge is pointless’?

This is an ethos that technology writer and educator Leon Brown also believes. “You can only measure ability to apply skills and knowledge from experience,” says Brown. “You’re only as good as your last job. The biggest weakness of certification is that they in theory prove what you know, but not that you will apply that knowledge. Lazy programmers will always produce sloppy code regardless of what they know. ”

Many employers are not so concerned about workers having certifications; with the oft-cited digital skills shortage, they don’t have the luxury of being that picky. Sometimes certain clients demand only Java certified programmers work on a project, but these instances are few and far between.

We’re living in a world where you now have to prove the value you are bringing to a company and a project and what employers do care about is evidence. Evidence that an employer can work to a particular standard. Evidence that a worker can complete tasks using that language, framework or technology. Evidence that an employer can walk the walk, as well as talk the talk, basically. This is where Java certifications can come into their own and earning that certification also shows that you are willing to go above and beyond in your efforts to learn as much as possible about a more specialized area.

Another benefit of gaining certification is that it allows you to really find a niche and become skilled in a couple of specific technologies. This can set you apart when it comes to planning your next career move as it separates specialists from generalists. If you particularly enjoy one element such as object-oriented analysis and design using UML then you can specialize in that one aspect and become an expert.

Indeed, tech recruiters Pearson Frank say that some recruiters could look favorably on those with certifications, as it sets them apart from other candidates of a similar level or experience.

In the salary survey from the same company, however, Java developers were asked if they saw any financial improvement as a result of gaining certification and the results look quite surprising. Of those who had gained certification, only 21% reported any rise in their salary.

And this is an important point as many would hope to see some sort of financial reimbursement for their time and effort spent gaining this qualification, especially as some of the financial costs associated with getting the qualification can be quite high. That aforementioned OO course could set you back £1,690 ($2,184) for a five-day course.

Ultimately, a Java certification acts to validate your ability as a developer. It’s up to you whether you think your experience needs validating at your stage in your career or not. If you’re looking to specialize and really focus on a particular niche within Java then it could be a good career move, but if you are just starting off in your Java career then perhaps focus your attention on building a great showcase of your talents.

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When I was Java certified, I had 5 years of experience in Java. My company wanted some seniors to get certified, in order to train the juniors to be certified…
Let’s be frank and honest: this has never brought me any benefit. When you have experience enough, your career path and your resume are worth any technical certification.