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Certifications - May I See The Menu?

[img_assist|nid=4440|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=150|height=225]At JavaRanch and JavaBlackBelt, we frequently see questions from developers trying to get their first job or advance to a higher level job.  They wonder if getting certified will help them advance.


Customer: Good morning, I'd like a certification please, it's for a gift.

Sales: Good morning Sir. Which brand please ?

Customer: I don't really know. May I see the menu ?

Sales: Certainly, Sir, here is it. We've a promotion today: for 2 WebLogic certifications, you've one Oracle for free.

Customer: Hum... I think I'll go for IBM today. How fresh are their certifications ?

Sales: The Rational ones are recent Sir. But I would not recommend the others. Are you sure it's for a gift ?

Customer: Hum, in fact no, it's for me. How did you guess ?

Sales: By experience, Sir. You are young and seems to have no years of experience to put on your resume.



Shortly after Java was released in 1995, Java developers had not much choice to get certified. You got the SCJP (Sun Certified Java Programmer) and you were “Java certified”.
Fast forwarding to the present, we frequently see questions at JavaRanch and JavaBlackBelt from developers trying to get their first job or advance to a higher level job.  They wonder whether getting certified will help.  And if so, where to start.

They wonder: what does it mean to be a “Java developer”, nowadays? There are so many technologies around Java that developers usually have to specialize, as front end web developers (Html, CSS, Ajax, JavaScript, Struts/Servlet/JSP,…), integration developers (XML, JMS, ESB,…), or persistence developers (JPA, Spring transactions, SQL, RDB,…). Each specialization includes many technologies.  And of course many different exams.  The range of certifications expanded as well. There are so many on the market; which ones should a Java developer choose?

We started thinking about we would tell such a confused developer.  We start this series of articles around the certifications in the Java world to help clear things up. In this first article we list and compare the existing certifications. The next article will cover the SCJP. The third one will open a more philosophical debate about certifications and how they fit the industry needs.



Common Ground

Most of the certifications listed here are composed of 50 to 90 multiple choice questions. They are taken in a closed book situation: you cannot read your notes or any book, and you have no access to the internet. You go to a local Prometric or Pearson Vue center, take the exam there and get the result immediately after the exam. You usually know your score for each part of the exam, in order to identify the part to improve if you failed.

A few of the certifications below include an assignment to be done home within a few weeks, and an in-person exam in a testing center.



Sun Microsystems

The most common approach we hear questions about is getting Sun certified.  Most developers start with the SCJP exam.  There is also the SCJA - Sun Certified Java Associate - exam for entry level programmers (or project managers).  However, we see many entry level developers go straight for the SCJP which is more recognized by industry.


Exam

Full Name

Summary

Price

Pre Reqs

SCJA

Sun Certified Java Associate

Entry-level Java

$100

N/A

SCJP

Sun Certified Java Programmer

Thorough Java language

$200

N/A

SCJD

Sun Certified Java Developer

Avanced Java

$450

SCJP

SCWCD

Sun Certified Web Component Developer

Servlets & JSPS

$200

SCJP

SCBCD

Sun Certified Business Component Developer

EJB

$200 

SCJP

SCDJWS

Sun Certified Developer for Java Web Services

Web Services dev pack

$200

SCJP

SCMAD

Sun Certified Mobile Application Developer

Java Micro Edition

$200

SCJP

SCEA

Sun Certified Enterprise Architect

Enterprise Architecture

$650

N/A


Exam

# Multiple Choice and Drag/Drop

Hands on

Latest Version of Technology

SCJA

51

None

Any

SCJP

72

None

Java 6

SCJD

no

Assignment and Essay

Any?

SCWCD

69

None

JEE 5

SCBCD

61

None

JEE 5

SCDJWS

69

None

JEE 1.4

SCMAD

68

None

Any?

SCEA

64

Assignment and Essay

JEE 5



The scope of Sun in the certifications is around knowledge of the Java specifications they maintain.

Note that the heart of the Java language is covered by these certifications. There are many areas of Java, developed by Sun, that are not covered by any of these certifications. Additionally, other companies have developed additional products in the Java world, some of them with the corresponding certifications. 


IBM 

IBM is a long time player in the Java industry. It proposes many multiple-choice questions based certifications related to the Rational and WebSphere products along with job roles.  IBM also offers some technology neutral ones including exams on requirements, analysis and XML.  A number of them are listed here:

Exam

Full Name

Summary

Price

Pre Reqs

255

IBM Certified Associate Developer

Entry level RAD 6 exam

$150

none

150

J2EE 1.4 Web Developer

Part 1 of IBM Certified Solution Developer - RAD 6 exam

$150

none

256

Application Development with RAD 6

Part 2 of IBM Certified Solution Developer - RAD 6 exam

$150

none

257

IBM Certified Advanced Developer

J2EE 1.4 RAD 6 exam

$150

none

649

IBM Certified Solution Designer

RSA/modeling exam, expected to know tools well

$200

Computer Based courses?

833

OOAD - Analysis

Part 1 of IBM Certified Solution Designer - OO Analysis & Design

$200

none

834

OOAD -Design

Part 2 of IBM Certified Solution Designer - OO Analysis & Design

$200

none

142

XML

XML & Related Technologies

$150

none


Exam

# Multiple Choice

Hands on

Latest Version of Technology

255

55

None

J2EE 1.4/RAD 6

150

54

None

J2EE 1.4/RAD 6

256

51

None

J2EE 1.4/RAD 6

257

49

None

J2EE 1.4/RAD 6

649

50

None

J2EE 1.4/RSA6

833

50

None

UML 2

834

60

None

UML 2

142

49

None

XML 1.1

Oracle/Weblogic 

Oracle is first known for their database product and second for their Java development IDE and application server.  It provides certifications for several database roles along with tooling exams for developers.  We skip describing the database certifications here since the article is meant for Java developers. Similarly, we skip the e-business, Peoplesoft, etc exams.  More certifications including the 11g ones are coming out this year.

Oracle provides titles that you earn as a result of passing exams.  Note that Oracle has acquired BEA (Weblogic) which means the certifications are likely to change once things get settled.  Both are listed here for comparison of the current offerings.

Exam

Full Name

Summary

Price

Pre Reqs

OAS Admin I (1Z0-311)

Oracle Application Server 10g Administrator: Certified Associate

Basic administration of app server

$125

none

OAS Admin II (1Z0-312)

Oracle Application Server 10g Administrator: Certified Professional

Advanced administration of app server

$125

OAS Admin I

Weblogic 9

BEA Certified Developer

J2EE Development

$125

none

System Admin

BEA Certified Administrator

Administration of app server

$125

none


Exam

# Multiple Choice

Hands on

Latest Version of Technology

OAS Admin I (1Z0-311)

66

None

OAS 10g

OAS Admin II (1Z0-312)

90

Must submit proof that you took hands on course

OAS 10g

Weblogic 9

70

Multiple choice with specialist option for course

Weblogic 9

System Admin

51

None

Weblogic 9



JBoss 

JBoss stopped offering certifications on their application server effective January 1, 2008. You had to take (pay for) a JBoss course to be eligible to take the certification, which you had 24 hours to do (home).  While Red Hat still offers certifications they are for Linux rather than Java developers. 

SpringSource 

SpringSource recently announced a Spring certification, based on a 50 multiple-choice question exam.
You first take a 4 day course from their company or a business partner, then you can buy a voucher ($150) for a PearsonVue exam center. 

They introduced the concept of "grandfathered" candidates to skip the course step. If you can show evidence of having implemented Spring at a customer project, or that you are active in the Spring community, then you can request taking the exam without the course. That way both their education business and their community can be happy.

SpringSource plans to announce more certifications soon.

Exam

Full Name

Summary

Price

Pre Reqs

SFC

Spring Framework Certification

IoC, AOP, Web and Integration (JDBC, remoting, transaction,...)

$150

4 day course or "grandfathered" in


Exam

# Multiple Choice

Hands on

Latest Version of Technology

SFC

50

Pre-requisite is hands on, course is not

Spring 2.X




Adobe 

Adobe offers a variety of certifications for their products.  The one of most interest to a Java developer is their flex exam .

Exam

Full Name

Summary

Price

Pre Reqs

9A0-310

Adobe Flex Developer Exam

Flex developer exam

$150

None


Exam

# Multiple Choice

Hands on

Latest Version of Technology

9A0-310

65

No

Flex 2




JavaBlackBelt

Last but not least, JavaBlackBelt proposes community made exams. They are smaller (20 multiple choice questions) than typical certifications (50 questions). Some are for beginners and others are specialized/advanced. Another noteworthy difference is the open book situation. These are not “by heart” exams as you have access to your notes, books and IDE during the tests.

According to the amount of exams you pass, you get a belt color from white to black. These exams are free but to go further than the green belt, you must contribute to improving the exams in order to get access to more exams.

We don’t list these exams here as there are 85 and growing every month. There are 15 Java SE exams, a few Java EE, a few on Hibernate, Spring, OO, XML, RDB, Ajax and more. They started being recognized in the industry as more and more resumes/CVs mention JavaBlackBelt belt rank.


Summary 

Most certifications are multiple choice exams with a few requiring hands on knowledge or course attendance.  While a few are process or conceptual based, most are tied to a certain technology.  Of those, the Java ones are most generic and the tooling ones are most specific.

In the next article, we detail the SJCP certification, with preparation resources, advices, and various usage of it that we noticed in the industry.


[img_assist|nid=4464|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=100]John Rizzo helps development teams to improve their efficiency and satisfaction. He builds Java related education plans for companies, and he helps others in their developer’s recruitment strategy.  He trained a few classes to help developers succeeding some Sun and IBM Java certifications.

John is the founder of the JavaBlackBelt.com community. He sometimes admits having a WebSphere and a Java certification.


[img_assist|nid=4463|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=100|height=118]Jeanne Boyarsky is a developer for a bank in New York City.  She is a volunteer moderator at JavaRanch and JavaBlackBelt.  Jeanne is BrainBench certified in the Java role and has a brown belt at JavaBlackBelt.  Jeanne has not gone for any commercial certifications as she has not needed them to advance in her career.







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