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Are industry-recognized certificates a worthwhile investment?

radiomorillo profile image Stephanie Morillo ・2 min read

Earlier this week, I asked this question on Twitter. I wanted to understand why people got certificates and what value they derived from them.

While certificates aren't as prevalent in the web development discipline, they're much more widely adopted in other tech fields, like IT, Security, and Project Management (among others). Known certificate-issuing bodies include GIAC, CompTIA, ITIL, Scrum Alliance, Scrum.org, PMI, and vendors like Oracle, Cisco, Microsoft, and AWS.

So...are certificates actually a worthwhile investment?

The consensus among participants was that it depends. Here are some of the reasons why respondents got a certificate:

  • They needed it to get promoted
  • Their employer needed a certain number of people to possess a specific certificate
  • It was required to get (or keep) a job
  • They wanted a challenge
  • They wanted to break into a new role/industry
  • They wanted to prove to prospective employers that they possessed the requisite knowledge for the role
  • They wanted to learn something new

What I'd like to know is if they had any preconceptions about a cert (or studying for a cert) beforehand. What are the expectations associated with certs? Do we consider they have educational value, the way some look at degrees? Is it different? I leave these questions for you all to answer. :)

Your turn: if you have a certificate, how has it helped you?

I'll answer first.

I just passed the Professional Scrum Master exam and am now PSM I certified. I chose to go with this cert over the CSM (Certified Scrum Master) for a few reasons: the exam was much more rigorous, it was much cheaper, and did not require additional courses to qualify. I could self-study.

My engineering team already adopts Agile practices, but we don't practice Scrum. We do some "Scrum-like" things, like work in sprints, have daily standups, and retrospectives, but we do not have Scrum Teams and self-organized Development Teams; our process is still waterfall. I wanted to better acquaint myself with Scrum terminology and understand how we work in the hopes of adopting the Scrum framework in the future.

I got a lot out of studying for the cert. I created a short curriculum and read books, watched lots of videos, took free courses and quizzes. I began to understand the foundational concepts of the framework, and my goal is to get better at understanding the practical applications of Scrum. In summary, the study process was valuable; the cert itself just shows that I have foundational knowledge. It was a good investment of my time.

Do you have any certs? Which ones? How have they helped you, if at all?

I'm Stephanie, a Content Strategist and Technical PM. Visit developersguidetocontent.com to learn more about my work!

Posted on May 1 by:

radiomorillo profile

Stephanie Morillo

@radiomorillo

🇩🇴 I'm a Senior PM and Content Strategist with an MSc in UXD. I help developers become better content creators.

Discussion

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I think it goes the same as with formal education.
The best person for the job is not necessarily the one with the most amazing academic background, but a significant number of times it will be.

I dislike cramming in general and I've always felt more comfortable in learning by doing, so whenever I took a cert exam it wasn't a particularly happy place for me, since the format is usually unforgiving, but nonetheless a good measure of your knowledge of the subject.

I ended up having certifications that would comply with project or customer regulations (mostly systems and programming stuff), I learned on the process, but I don't think I would pursue them out of the blue or if I was the one paying.

Think it boils down to the point that if you're being evaluated against another person of apparent equal skill and profile, being certified will be a reassuring factor to whoever is making decisions.

 

I hear you on this! Your insight is really helpful. I know that many certs are prohibitively expensive which is a strong disincentive.
Based on the anecdotes people shared, many agree with your point here:

...being certified will be a reassuring factor to whoever is making decisions.

Certificates, like degrees, can help a candidate stand out. And depending on the role, they may be a requirement even if the material itself is of little practical value for day-to-day work.

Thank you for sharing!

 

I am a AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner, and a Neo4J Certified Professional. To be honest they're both pretty basic certifications, however in my day to day use of both products I felt I had some knowledge gaps. And even when I didn't feel like I was actively missing something, I felt unsure of some decisions I was making. Just by studying for both, I was able to bridge those gaps. So having the piece of paper to go with it is nice, but the confidence it gives me is much more valuable in my opinion.

 

Thanks for sharing, Dakota, I agree with you completely. My experience with getting certified was similar. The PSM is an entry-level cert—it does not signify one is a Scrum expert—but there was so much information to cover that I learned so much applicable knowledge. Certs provide a structured form of learning; you don't have to figure out where to start and what to learn next.

 

Typically the SAP certifications Ive seen were worthless, useless knowledge questions such as "which port does service X run on?". Then you have AWS certifications which are the complete opposite. The Solution Architect professional certification is probably the hardest thing I've done outside of university. They're a good indicator of deep understanding of the theory and some application of that technology.

In my experience it really depends on what a vendor wants to achieve with a certification. For some this means marketing, for others this actually means knowledge and experience.

 
 

I have three main reasons to train for the CKA and the AWS associate architect.
First and second are the ones you mention, the own challenge and the will of jump into the new role.
The thirth is that the company i work in request a minimum of official tech certificates at time to time, for the high tech roles, the pay them, so i have the encourage to take them and they will be free.

 

I also took the PSM 1 some days ago (I created a article here on Dev with my study notes). I have a Solution Architect AWS certificate, Oracle Java Associate and Professional, and a Spring Framework certificate. Among others with less value

I don't make certifications because of the certificate itself. I do them because of every bit of knowledge that I get while studying. There are so much to learn, and there are some study paths to certificates, like AWS SA or PSM, that is mandatory to study a lot of more areas and topics that the ones strictly required for the exam.

I really don't care about the nice certificates that we get. I care about the knowledge.

 

I have wondered about this myself. In my industry, getting a certified or passing the exam for the enterprise level email service provider we use is a popular upskill. I've debated if it is something I should strive for.

Currently, I do not have any certification, excluding a few "You have completed this mandatory 2 day training for this enterprise level syste?" pdfs. But it has not come up in my job search. Mentioning that I know XYZ program, does. The certification does not seem to matter so much as the skills learned, overall understanding, etc.

I not sure if any certifications for web dev exist 🤔

 

The certification does not seem to matter so much as the skills learned, overall understanding, etc.

I agree with that. And indirectly, I find that this is the value prop that is often overlooked; the credential itself isn't as valuable as much as the presumed knowledge you gained from preparing for it. Certs, like degrees, are a mixed bag: there are many certs of dubious distinction and a lot of certs from shady vendors who just use it as another means of making money. But from what I've learned from listening to others, they really are seriously considered in some fields (like the PMP for some project manager roles). I got my cert because I really wanted to learn Scrum and wanted a certificate that demonstrated the effort I put into learning more about the framework.

I haven't seen any certs for web dev, but if there were, I'd be interested to learn why they exist and how they've benefitted web devs!

 

Many companies in our industry spend massive amounts of money on them, and have seen an improvement in revenue and negotiating position as a result.

For Security Automation, my experience has been that it's a resounding "yes," at least in terms of sheer income.

 

I have a nanodegree from udacity, I took it cause I would work on web front-end technology anyway. Would I take another industry certification yes but for information & trainers who are teaching. I'm not looking to have for the purpose as one of a checklist of a job if I need that. Fortunately I'm in the software development field. Which we don't really prefer industry specific certificates unlike computer networking and project management.

 

As a backend dev, there aren't that many certificates related to my function as far as i know. I do have some google certifications (marketing, analytics, etc.). Main reason for getting those is to learn something new, and the fact that they give you a certificate for it is just a nice bonus.

 
 

Some certs are better than others. Some disciplines are more structured than others. The less important certs will fall by the wayside in 2020. There will be less of a need to justify a reason for being a part of a team. Either the person is productive or they are not.

 

Hello, thanks a lot for these informations. There are only a few online assessments to prepare the Professional Scrum Master 2 certification, here is one : certification-assessment.com/.