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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?

If you've already built a skill set and can demonstrate a high level of expertise, "then yes, certifications will only further bolster [your] case for better opportunities, more pay, etc.," Wenzler says.

Programmer certifications can bring value not only with employers, but also with their customers. "We know from experience that our customers place value on certifications," WSM's Steinert says.

Plus, specialized certifications can give hiring managers confidence that you can get up to speed quickly with the technologies the organization already has in place.

Which certs are hot today?

Which certifications carry the most weight today? That depends on your target employer and the projects it wants to focus on in the years ahead.

"With the hundreds, if not thousands, of different programming languages out there now, and [the fact that] most every governing organization is providing a certification in their particular language, it's pretty tough to pick one or two that are most in demand by employers today," Thycotic's Wenzler says. "It will depend on the languages that company uses in-house and what's important to them."

But clearly some certifications are especially popular, and areas that are hot with enterprise IT -- anything related to the cloud, mobility, security, devops, big data/Hadoop -- are likely to create a demand for certifications.

One of the hottest certificates in the IT profession today, experts say, is Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD).

"A professional with the [MCSD] certification has exhibited the ability to design and create apps across a wide range of Windows products," Robert Half's Reed says. "This is certainly a sought-after certification, and those who have it may have higher earning potential than those who do not."

Amazon Web Services architect and devops engineer certifications are a great place to start, Steinert says. "Then it depends on the employer's preference, but I know that Chef, Puppet, SaltStack, Ansible are in high demand on the devops side," he says.

Devops certifications, in particular, are hot, with many system administrators and developers pursuing devops-related certifications as their fields converge, Steinert says.

"On the programming side, we believe MCSD and Google Apps are important to pursue, but of course as technology evolves, there will certainly be newer certifications that are valuable and likely specialized," Steinert adds.

Certifications that are broad in scope and address either multiple languages or incorporate more programming and technology concepts to give developers a big-picture view into how code will fit into the business are a good bet, Wenzler says. In addition to MCSD, that would include certifications such as (ISC)2's Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP).

Data-focused certifications -- those that can help demonstrate that you know how to build apps that turn data into business value -- will give you an additional edge, Reed says.


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