To Certify or Not To Certify

I’ve been doing a lot of studying lately to prepare for the OCA Java SE 8 Programmer I exam. I wouldn’t say my study schedule has been vigorous, certainly not the kind of studying I would do for a college-level exam, but more than an hour a day on average. My exam is coming up this Friday and I feel pretty good about it. I get at least 80% on all of my practice exams and I’m starting to get to the point where I “might” be over-preparing. Not a bad thing for having a few more days to wrap up my efforts.

But all this work has me thinking, “Is it all worth the effort?” What am I going to gain by having a certification? Should I continue on with the Java certification track? Should I diversify in something else? I have been doing Java development since 2001. I should be pretty good at it by now, but I am finding little things that I never knew. So, it isn’t as if I’m not learning anything, but is that enough?

A number of years ago, I was at a No Fluff Just Stuff conference. During the Birds of a Feather mixer, I struck up a conversation with one of the speakers who was also an author of several well known books in the Java domain. Our conversation eventually led us to the topic of the Java certifications. His response was “What’s the point? I don’t have mine.” So, is there a point? I guess I can understand if a person is fairly new to the Java space or if they are new to the industry. They would want to show prospective employers they know what they are doing. A certification might demonstrate you have sufficiently studied the material to achieve a one time passing score. Is that exam good enough to prove that you have the basic knowledge to code at a certain level an employer is looking for?

Without standards, an exam is just a way to show you have studied some arbitrary material and can remember it long enough to pass a test. If that exam is recognized by industry leaders as a measurement of skill in that industry, that’s a whole other argument. But, in the case of the OCA exams, it is not there yet because there are no industry standards. If there were, we wouldn’t have to have coding tests during interviews.

We like to think we are engineers, but, let’s face it, we’re not. Until we get some standard measures of skill to back up what we do, we might as well call ourselves artists. If we want to be an engineering industry, we should take a page from the other engineering disciplines like electronic engineering or mechanical engineering.

I’m still planning on continuing with my certifications. I’m just not 100% convinced they are worth all the effort and cost. Any thoughts about this are welcome.


One Response to To Certify or Not To Certify

  1. jkilgrow says:

    This is an older post that never got published. Sorry about that!

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