With digital certificates getting more and more popular in the tech community and the emerging of platforms that offer certificates by the end of courses. It might worth investigating whether it is right or not to chase certificates. In this blog, I will go into my personal experience with certifications and a problem with certificates that you might have and not aware of.
When I started learning to program, I used YouTube to learn and get familiar with technologies. I found some useful YouTube playlists and series that cover coding topics in a good and easy to understand way. Learning from these different resources allowed me to verify what I am learning. There was no certificate or anything that confirms course completion. The only things I got by the end of these courses are skills, real practical skills.
Things changed when I discovered online courses platforms and started doing online courses on popular platforms. Initially, I completed courses intending to gain skills but quickly I developed an addiction to certificates. My mind liked the happy feeling of seeing a certificate and feeling the achievement. It did not take long for me to get into the habit of speed-running courses. My goal turned into collecting a certificate and not gaining a skill.
The worst part of all this is that I began to take courses about skills that I already had and mastered. I once looked at the certificates that I had - which I printed a hard copy of them by the way - and questioned myself about what motivated me to get certificates in skills that I already learned and used in real situations. An answer that I could find beside the love of certificates was that I did not have self-confidence in my skills.
Thankfully, after reflecting on the way I am learning, I adjusted how I approach learning a new skill and developing my skills. I learnt that learning should be my goals and not the certificate I will get by the end of the online course. I also began to learn new skills using various ways like reading good books on the topic I am learning.
There is nothing wrong with taking a course to refresh a skill that you have not used for a long time. But if you are taking a course that is way lower than your current level, then there is something wrong.
Our industry relies on practical skills that you can be used in a real-world situation. There is an analogy that I like which says that I can talk with you about riding a bicycle for hours and when you try to ride a bicycle for the first time, you will fall. So, if you do not use your skills and apply them, you have not learned them.
No, as I have motioned before, your goal defines your success in your learning journey. Certificates are very useful when used in the right way and reflect that you care about your personal and technical development outside your normal work or studies. But you also need to have evidence that you applied the skills you learned. Otherwise, your certificates might not be convincing.
Moreover, some certificates reflect that you have the needed skills and you have applied them. For example, I have taken Harvard’s CS50x a while ago, and part of the course was to submit assignments that apply the skills you learn from the lecturers. You do not get the certificate until you finish the real-world practical assignments.
Back to the point of confidence. if you have many certificates on your CV, this might reflect a bad image of you to the recruiters/employer who is reading your certificate and give them the impressions that you don’t have self-confidence. It also might give them the impression that you don’t have the skills described by the certificate if you took many courses in a short period. Remember that employers are more interested in the experience you have than the certificates you gained.
I suggest reading this short article for more points on the topic:
Cover photo: https://unsplash.com/photos/iC3z2DkVcdE
That was my experience and my opinion. Please feel free to share your opinion in the comments section.