Why Certification was useful for me

The topic of developer certification has stirred a lot of debate recently. Is it good, is it bad, is it just downright evil? Raganwald recently jumped ship on the certification debate with his Certification? Bring it On!. An excellent rebuttal over at Enfranchised Mind was quick to follow and made some excellent points as well.

But I as a developer found certification useful for reasons somewhat different than what these guys are talking about. Certification worked well for me because going through the actual process (I did the Sun Certified Java Programmer about a year ago) made me brush up on areas of the Java platform that, for one reason or another, I hadn’t had much exposure to in my professional life up until that point.

The companies that I have worked for in the past few years are pretty established and by the time I joined them, certain parts of their code base like handling times, formatting dates, threading or doing I/O etc. were pretty mature, stable and bug-free and had been so for a long time. Not much work was needed there. So after a couple of years of Java development out in the industry I found myself not completely satisfied with my knowledge in some of those areas.

Going through the certification process not only gave me a structured and focused way of covering areas that my professional experience didn’t touch on or just touched on fairly lightly. It was also a good segway (or an excuse for a segway) into digging out more information on some of the topics that the certification book just mentioned but didn’t elaborate to the extent that I would have liked.

Was there sufficient material on these topics in the SCJP to achieve what I personally would consider reasonable proficiency? Sometimes yes, sometimes not. Certain topics like generics are covered in a much more enlightened way in articles like Gilad Braha’s Generics in the Java Programming Language than they are treated in the SCJP. But hey, the certification curriculum was a good starting point.

Now, is getting certified the only way to brush up those “dusty corners”? Absolutely not. Developers can achieve the same result in a myriad of other ways without having to pay the $200 for taking the exam (shame on you Sun for upping the fees again!). Do an interesting project on the side, launch a cool site or just regularly scan the various posts on dzone. There is plenty of good stuff out there to keep you well-informed and your skill set current.

Certification is just something that worked for me. And if you are a junior to intermediate developer, it may work for you for the same reasons, especially if you work in larger company where the projects last for many months and responsibilities usually cover a small part of the end product and require skills that mostly fall in a narrow subset of the languages/technologies used.


3 comments so far

  1. Frank Kelly on

    Completely agree – I found SCJP and XML certificaton (IBM) quite useful in terms of rounding out areas I wasn’t very knowledgeable about.

  2. Gabriel Claramunt on

    I have the Sun Certified Enterprise Architect certification. Is not an easy process and is somewhat long, of course I learned and refreshed stuff along the way, but as I already had experience, it wasn’t hard.
    As “software architect” is a quite elusive term, I feel better having the certification: at least I’m not the only one who thinks I’m a software architect.
    Another interesting result is now I can say anything about JEE, and even if it is completely bogus, people will have to listen , because I’m certified!

  3. prowebtiger on

    I have all that Sun certifications from SCJP to SCEA. My point of view is that it’ just a waste of money. Companies don’t consider these certifications seriously. They’re just papers..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s