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