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The real dirt on programming certifications

Bob Violino | Aug. 11, 2015
With programmers and developers in such high demand these days, it may be tempting to think that a decision as stodgy as pursuing a certification is a waste of time. After all, doesn't it all come down to the art of your code?

The real dirt on programming certifications
Credit: Corbis

With programmers and developers in such high demand these days, it may be tempting to think that a decision as stodgy as pursuing a certification is a waste of time. After all, doesn't it all come down to the art of your code?

According to those who are hiring and those who have completed certification coursework, you might be in for a surprise. While nothing beats experience and real-world development skills, having certifications can definitely help give you a leg up on landing your dream job.

We spoke with a number of IT professionals, from hiring managers to certified and self-taught developers, about the impact of certifications on the hiring process -- and which certifications are drawing the most demand today.

Proof of aptitude

While today's developers may feel their GitHub portfolio provides evidence enough of their coding chops, certifications can enhance your marketability in the field, as many employers view certs as tangible proof of your aptitude in specific areas of programming or development, says John Reed, senior executive director at Robert Half Technology, a staffing firm that focuses on filling jobs in IT.

"Certifications may be seen as a key differentiator for candidates seeking roles on technology teams," Reed adds.

Most certification programs are conducted and proctored online, with certifying groups testing your knowledge in the field at large, as well as your specific expertise and problem solving for the particular certification area.

Whether it's a more conceptual certification, such as for software development management, or one that is highly specific to a particular tool, programming language, or vendor-specific platform, having a certification shows you are deeply engaged in the profession, says Marty Puranik, founder and CEO of cloud hosting company Atlantic.Net.

"Most programmers list multiple languages on a resume or CV, even if they only have a passing interest in them," Puranik says. "Listing a language on your resume is very different than [being] certified or accredited in X language."

Certification, Puranik adds, certainly gives you "a leg up on others who don't do anything to show engagement with the language in question."

But in a hot market for programmers, don't code samples provide proof enough? Why would you want to go through all that extra effort to get accredited, instead of banging out more code?

Those who have gone through the certification process say it pays off.

"As much as companies are scrambling to find developers these days, anything someone can do to set themselves apart is going to help them get hired over the competition for the more discerning organizations," says Nathan Wenzler, senior technology evangelist at security products provider Thycotic, who has earned 13 developer and other IT certifications over the past decade.

 

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