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Is It Worthwhile To Be Certified?
Date 5/26/2008    Tags Development    (0)

There seem to be two prevailing schools of thought on this issue, yeah or nay. No spoilers here, you’ll have to read the article to find out. There seem to be two prevailing schools of thought on this issue… one is that certifications are worth their weight in gold (or possibly the weight of something heavier than a sheet of paper) and the other is that they’re not worth the paper they’re printed on. The truth though lies somewhere in the middle. Saying someone is a great developer simply because of a certification isn’t true and likewise saying someone’s can’t be a great developer without one isn’t true either.

When you’re looking for work, I think they’re a great selling point to have on your resume. It’s hard for a prospective employer to tell how good a developer is just by reading a resume of experiences and accomplishments because they haven’t seen your work and they don’t have a common benchmark to rank you against other candidates. They do if you have a certification (and they do their homework to determine what that certification means). They’ll know at least baseline what you’re capable of. Some companies, especially smaller ones or poorly managed ones, will simply read that certification bullet points and place you above the other candidates that don’t have one. That’s not really good practice for the company (and maybe that’s not somewhere you want to work), but it’s good for you if it helps you get the job.

Working toward a certification (provided you’re not just doing it off of brain dumps of old exams) is a great way to learn lots of things about that particular technology, especially for people that don’t keep up with the ever evolving development world. The Microsoft exam books are massive 800+ page behemoths packed with more information than the average developer will ever need (this is also a bad thing though, more on that later). By knowing all this information, the developer can use the best methods in creating and maintaining applications. As an example of not keeping up to date, I’ve often seen other developers (and even on occasion myself) creating applications using older .Net 1.0 framework solutions when a more eloquent 2.0 solution exists. Often times, it’s simply a matter of the person developing the application not knowing of the newer features and unknowingly doing something that is more involved than it had to be. I read articles and blogs online frequently, but I certainly learned enough new from my certification studies to feel like the work I was doing was justified.

Now while it’s good to learn new things, many time certifications contain material that even while you’re reading it, you know you’ll never know. When I did my .Net 2.0 Framework exam, there was a good deal of material that was specific to Windows application development. I’m a web developer (and amateur game programmer and international spy) so I knew each time that I got into the Windows specific areas, it wasn’t going to be anything I’d ever need after my exam. It really seems like a waste of time and energy learning this material, but it was something had to be done.

Now just having a certification doesn’t mean you’re a great developer or even any better than the guy without one in the cube next to you. All it says is that you know the requirements of that particular certification. It doesn’t mean you know how to apply them to your day-to-day job or that you even remember what you learned after leaving the exam room. And it certainly doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t know as much or more than you, experience programming is worth a lot too (especially when in combined with keeping on top of new development practices).

Even if you don’t take the exams, I think it’s worthwhile to study a little for the different certifications in your area because you’ll undoubtedly learn something that will be useful to you. Unless you’re looking for a job or have some incentive from your<

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