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Do FreeCodeCamp Certifications Hold Weight?

steelvoltage profile image Brian Barbour Updated on ・3 min read

I'm in a handful of developer/coding groups on Slack and Facebook. I usually share my wins and lament my frustrations there. It's nice to connect with other people learning and progressing as programmers. Their advice and support has been invaluable in my journey.

Recently, I finished my Front End Libraries certification through freeCodeCamp. I shared my certification with one group in my excitement.

Someone responded asking me this exact question:

"Do these certifications hold any weight with employers?"

It wasn't a malicious question, rather a legitimate one. To be honest, I had never considered that before.

You see, I took on said certifications as a way to benchmark my own progress. The notion didn't cross my mind whether or not an employer would look at them favorably.

I spent the weekend mulling this over and these are my thoughts on the matter.

First off, any certification does not serve as a replacement for a college degree. You don't need a college degree to become a developer, but it never hurts to have one. I don't have one. I've chosen the much harder route of self education, as it has always fit me better anyway. I don't think I would do well in the college format of learning. I much prefer to dive deep into one thing, rather than spread my learning out across multiple subjects at once. I'm the type that circles backs and fills in the blanks when they become relevant to what I'm doing.

Despite that, these certifications represent something. Dedication, hard work, and perseverance, because to me they weren't easy. They put to test all the fundamentals that the lessons before them taught. They required me to plan and see the big picture. They even had Agile style user stories and unit testing to ensure that the project met requirements.

Those are things I have no doubt I would have to deal with on the job.

I put myself in a hiring manager's shoes, the best I could. If I saw that someone had taken the time to cement what they've learned and get a certification from a website, I would be impressed. Also, I would review the curriculum and ask them pointed questions about the projects and lessons during the interview.

A degree or certification of any kind is only as good as the effort you put into it. You can't just learn something and never use it. The Front End Libraries certification that I received challenged my React skills in ways I hadn't dealt with doing my own projects. I'll always have those apps as a reference point if I need to do something similar in the future.

If I had cheated or scummed my way through the certification, it would be obvious to anyone interviewing me. My projects are going on my portfolio and are up on my Github. I'm proud of them. That alone is more important than the "piece of paper" I got saying I did it.

These are my thoughts. What do you all think? Are any of you hiring managers that have seen these certifications on applicant's resumes? Do they hold any weight with you?

Interested in learning code? Check out this brand new Facebook group.

Posted on May 28 '19 by:

steelvoltage profile

Brian Barbour

@steelvoltage

Software Engineer at Community Brands and Javascript enthusiast.

Discussion

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That is an interesting question I have made myself several times before. After the third certification I noticed I could add FCC certificates in LinkedIn. Here in Uruguay there are lots of open IT positions and the certificates gave me more visibility, like 10 times more people checking my profile. I must say that I started working before I found FCC, but as you say, having the certifications and the projects for your portfolio should be enough.

 

I've done the first three, gives me hope that I could probably get a dev job soon!

 

If you continue with the other certificates I'm sure you will get one soon!

 

I have a BS in IT and Masters in ISM and I’ve been working in education for about 5 years now.

My traditional education as stated above was only comprised by development courses by a small amount (and anything I do remember is now outdated). Everything I do now is purely self-taught.

Despite my current skills being self-taught those degrees were necessary for me to be in the position where I am today. Sometimes it was it just giving me the courage to apply cause I “checked” the boxes in my application.

I recall when I was working for my degrees thinking that once I have that diploma jobs would appear in my lap and I would magically understand everything. As I’m sure you no - I was so wrong.

What I did get with my traditional education is
✅ increased confidence
✅ learning how to learn
✅ improved soft skills
✅ find the subject that led me to “find my spark” (that’s what I say at GWC sessions)

Ultimately, both are a piece of paper. The knowledge gained is where the money is at. That being said, my only word of caution for those who say no to earning college degrees is that right now our economy is pretty good but when it crashes (it’s just the nature of it, politics aside) and all other things being equal the showing of the degree can make or break a job offer.

My advice to students? Keep earning certifications (I am) but if the opportunity is there at least complete an Associate Degree.

 

I have an associate degree in MIS. It has helped me to learn several programming languages. As you said, during the crisis period of unemployment, it helped me. Also, there are times when you meet professionals, they look down on you if you do not have a degree.

 
 

I would if college wasn't overpriced.

 

It is very overpriced I agree. Student loans aren’t fun. For me, college was a necessary step because at the time I didn’t realize there were other options but I don’t think I would be where I am today if I didn’t have that paper I’m currently car shopping and car prices are so ridiculously high and it made me think about how much an Associate degree was in comparison (a lot less) and I think that was an interesting comparison. IMO, a car’s ROI isn’t anywhere as high as an education and an education (traditional or non) is not something that can be taken away.

I guess it's a trust thing too. I don't trust colleges. They seem like one bit profit driven Ponzi scheme.

They can be if you think of institution as a whole. I think it’s the individual teachers and them sharing their knowledge and experience is where the value is at - not just reading from dated textbooks and PowerPoints. So often people don’t pursue a career path that they would love because they don’t know it exists. The instructors share what they know and point out paths to students to help expose them to a world that options are limitless. 👩‍🏫

Fair enough! I think if it we're free for most people in the USA, then it would be less punishing to do that sort of exploration.

 

You know you can move to a cheaper country and earn a degree there.

Eh it's not even worth it at this point in my career to get one.

Ofcourse, I get that :)
I am self taught too. I have a law degree but, kinda considering if I should go to school again since, I am only 24! :D But, it is still inconvenient in other regards I guess.

 

As a hiring manager I believe in them a lot. I'm biased because I'm not a believer in the college system so I value these certifications as a mechanism that indicates you learned something on your own time.

Coupled with a solid GitHub account that demonstrates you're into learning different things and figuring stuff out is pretty much all I need to know.

That's the beauty of self-learning: it proves you can learn on your own. The individual skills mean very little compared to the desire to learn.

 

I believe as someone who did the original front end certificate you should consider the following few items:

  1. The vast majority of employers won't look at the FCC curriculum. The vast majority of the time employers ask for a degree in any field is because they don't have time or inclination to discern whether a candidate is capable or not and so they jack up the requirements to many multiples higher than is needed to reduce this burden. There is no HR system that substantially impacts this problem. So you and I are always going to have to find ways to give them overt and obvious proof they should consider us.

  2. All paper is based on reputation. No rational person should actually believe that Stanford or Harvard has a lock on the best education. Their reputation merely allows them to recruit the best candidates and these candidates are inherently more skilled and talented than most, which means they will succeed at a higher rate than all others. This applies to FCC. If thousands continue to graduate and go into the workforce and deliver good results then the value of your paper will rise. Like any brand really. So talk it up as much as you can and whenever you can, as it's in your benefit to market it.

  3. I hate to say it, but I don't think the new FCC curriculum is nearly as challenging as it once was, nor is it as self limiting. Don't get me wrong as you said the more put in the more you get out, but by breaking it down as they've done they've made it more accessible, which waters down the graduating pool. With less determination and grit will come lower quality graduates. It's sad, but likely to be true. I'm basing this on my background as a meeting professional who has to understand human behavior to an extent. I would hope I'm wrong about point #3 though.

 

I kind of agree with your third point. I've been using FCC on and off for about 3 years now, and I 100% agree that the previous Front End, Back End and Data Viz certifications are a lot more difficult. They required a lot more projects and much more time.
However, while the new 6 certificates are somewhat easier to obtain, I don't think it's causing that many "lower quality" people to graduate. I follow the freeCodeCamp twitter account and the #100DaysOfCode hashtag and often see people tweeting their certificates. Most of the certificates that are posted are the Responsive Design, and less often the JavaScript Algorithms and Data Structures, and rarely the Front End Libraries. So I think it just made it easier for people to start learning and get that first certificate, but there still remains the self-motivation and determination that a lot of people can't find.

 

Thank you for sharing your observation on this matter, because I did worry very much about the credibility of the curriculum after the change.

Side point:
In my heart of hearts I do wish they'd bring back the certificate for the front-end; maybe once you have those three certificates you get one 'super' one that declares you front end capable... Why? Because it would then go on supporting my previous efforts.

If FCC is successful in the marketplace, then these new certs will be understood and it'll obfuscate the value of my very. Then I'll likely have to explain and justify it, because no one will understand it. Bringing it back in some form would allow for some form of continuity. Thoughts?

I don't think they'll bring back the old certificates. I read some news a few weeks ago that they'll start working on a new version of the curriculum. The new curriculum will try to group certain challenges (like CSS for example) into a series of steps so that the user creates a small app by the end. This is supposed to help students transition from the challenges mentality where they just do what they're told to understanding how to structure and create their own projects from scratch.

But you can still get the old certificates! When you go to Settings, you can see each project required for the legacy certificates and submit them to earn the Back End, Front End, or Data Viz.
I've never been asked about the significance of the certificates in an interview but I personally care more about having the projects in my portfolio rather than the certificate itself.
Legacy Back End Projects

 

They're worthless and showcasing them on your LinkedIn makes it easy to identify who is "green" in the market.

If you've taken a bootcamp or you've completed these free certifications you're better off hiding them then displaying them.

Cloud Computing certifications are highly valued.

 

I'm proud of them and don't feel they're worthless. I put a lot of time and effort in. I don't think it's a fair thing to say, logically speaking.

Also, I am new... Why would I want to deceive employers into thinking I'm not? Seems shady.

 

You aren't deceiving employers. You are hacking the gatekeepers such as ML tools, HR and in-house or third-party recruiters whose job is to filter out candidates. They filter candidates based on profiling techniques that do not give merit or deep consideration to the individual.

I have been contracted to build ML/AI hiring tools which make predictions, so I have powerful insight here. A prediction that the machine could make could be that holding an FCC certification equates to junior.

The gatekeepers who uses said hiring tools are told by management to only look at senior talent.

Management is asking for senior talent to do junior work. Why? Because boot camps flooded the market with graduates passing them off as junior talent. Companies were disappointed with the results of this talent and then said only hire senior for now on.

Boot camps have improved, but impressions have been made, and that is part of the story why it can be tough to find a job even when you're qualified.

If you're from a small town, then these rules may not apply, but small town jobs don't usually pay what people hope. I'm from a small town, and it saddens me that I cannot operate in one and have to stay close to a large city to future proof my career.

I started getting AWS Certified because I saw in San Franciso they started asking it as a nice to have or a prerequisite to get jobs. Toronto is always a year or two behind, but whatever happens, there will happen here. Many San Fran companies use Toronto as their second base of operations because talent is still high quality, but costs are low.
Toronto has lots of AI talent since the creator of AI is from Toronto. Most startups are data-driven, so that's another win. Toronto is an international city where a very high percentage of the population was not born in Canada. It's common for international talent to use Toronto as a stepping stone to the states. If your talent is flowing through Toronto, it makes sense to capture the talent there where the costs will be lower.

I have two babies and a host of responsibilities; my feelings and thoughts on fairness are far down on my list of things to be concerned about.

Being proud doesn't pay the bills.

You haven't convinced me that employers in general share your opinion that it's better to not show off a FCC certificate. A certificate indicates hundreds of hours of effort. And if you get a certificate then you can showcase the projects you did as a requirement for that certificate. Also FCC is very well known and has a good reputation.

Another commenter said their LinkedIn profile views went up after they got FCC certificates.

Most people share their certificates within their feed and that's is a means of views.
Views don't matter. Getting offers does.

 

As someone who has worked in IT recruitment for a major UK based recruitment firm. I have to completely disagree with you. Of course, just the certificates of FCC do not hold major value and those alone do not get you a job at a major company or a VC backed start-up. However, I have seen my own candidates landing jobs easier just because of the sign that they put so much of their free time in learning something. You should definitely not hide them.

 

I think same as you. For me the degree 📜 don’t make the developer (myself don’t have one...), but I can’t tell it’s useless, for sure!
Every repo, every certificate, every gist, is something that has increased my knowledge and my experience, so can’t be useless.
A recruiter should always have this in mind

 

I think they're worth something, most colleges don't offer certificates for front-end development (or even teach Angular, Vue, React at a). Having these certificates will show that you're open to learn new technologies 😎

 

Right. The hard part is focusing on techs and not delving down every rabbit hole I see!

 
 

As you say in your post, the certificates themselves likely aren't worth that much in and of themselves. But if they are helpful in motivating someone to learn to code or expand their existing coding skills, then that's great and they are inherently worth something.

I'm currently working through the final projects in the Front End Libraries certification (I previously did the Responsive Web Design and JavaScript Data Structures & Algorithms courses and projects) and by the end will have five ReactJS projects I can talk about and an expanded skill set, so I feel good about the process.

 

I'm super proud of my certificates. Because, I know the effort I put into them. I could care less if employers thought positive or negative about them.

But, I have a hard time seeing any employer looking at them in a negative scope. They show you're able to start something (many projects in this case) and finish them all within requirements.

That's what you have to do at work as a software engineer.

 

Certifications are tangible representation of your effort. Not skill, not knowledge, not understand; effort.

Why are we told to go to college and get a degree; then never use it*? A degree is a tangible representation of dedicated effort.

A Certification is the same, though on a smaller scale. 'Completion' certificates rank lower than tested certs. Tested cert have two categories: self test and proctored. If you have to schedule the exam and go to a control environment; those hold the highest regard in my book.

For example: AWS SA Pro: 3 to 4 months of dedicated study, $300 USD per attempt, limited to two attempts per year. That is worth way more than an W3C Schools HTML4 completion certification.

I can say, given two near equal candidates, the person with certs gets the offer.

I could talk on this for ad-nauseam but I think that gets my opinion across.

  • I do actually use my degree, and I know many do..but many do not either.
 

I don’t think any certifications hold weight with employers unless a specific certification is an expectation of the job, which I think tends to be established, paid programs in things like systems and network admin. I think Free Code Camp is great and things like it can go on your LinkedIn or may have a place on your resume, but the real value is what you learn and the ability to say to yourself and to others that you made a commitment and carried it through. If it’s there on paper, that’s one thing. But if you can tell a story about the experience and what it’s meant to you, that will make the difference.

 

Right. The paper is a paper. It's those skills you take away. Still I'm proud of my papers, as a bench mark of my progress.

 

I was once told Paper makes paper and certifications are the best way for advancement. Both statements have held true in my personal experience.

I do agree that some hold more weight than others. CompTIA = nope. AWS/GCP/MS = yes please.

 

FCC certification is underestimated. Their courses are really hard, yet teach you how to solve problems on your own, look for resources on your own, to come up with your own solutions. An astonishing number of people get stuck at the Javascript part, me included, and quit. Those who finishes FCC, did a lot more than following a free online course. They learned perseverance, looking for answers, dedication.

I have a bachelor degree in CS, and to be honest, I've learned much more with FCC content than my fundamentals lacking classes at school.

 

I work on education and lets me explain how it works.

degree

Sometimes, companies need somebody with a degree (not a certification), it is a must-have requisite. However, this requisite is outdated and its getting less and less traction. In the past (10-15 years ago), it was a must, while now it is less and less required.

When :

  • Big companies or government agencies.

When not:

  • Startups
  • Modern companies.

Certification

Certification is a touch point. It is a degree granted by a private company (instead of an educational institution), so the certification weights the same than the company that grants it. For this reason, most certifications are useless.

Companies to look at:

  • Cisco
  • Microsoft
  • Oracle
  • Redhat (now IBM)
  • SAP
  • PMP
  • ITIL
  • VMWare
  • And of course, ISO (usually they certificate processes, not people).
  • and a few others.

Certifications that are useless

  • Adobe
  • Most government IT certifications (UK, I'm watching you).
  • Ethical Hackers and whitehat.
  • Agile certification (SCRUM Master for example)
  • Comptia
  • And any certification created by a small company/school.

http://careerlevelup.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/recycle-bin-449340_960_720.jpg
Comptia A++ in a nutshell

However, the topic/technology of the certification matters.
For example, Microsoft Certificated Professional in Windows Server or Sql Server is important while Microsoft Certificate Professional on C# not so much.

When

  • Platform, OS and database, also systems and networking

When not

  • Programming

Some people use the certification as a way to validate their ineptitude, i.e. a way to cheat the hiring process. At least for programming, this strategy is useless. For example, we try to hire a new developer and we found some guy with +5 certifications. We say: "ok, this guy must be good" but he wasn't. We discarded him in the first 5 minutes.

Courses / bootcamps

Courses and bootcamps are not aimed to achieve a certificate but to learn the skill. So they are different and weights differently. For example, most of my students have a bachelor or post-degree, so they have a diploma but they lack the knowledge to do the work or find a new position.

When

  • Every IT topic, from platform, OSes, database to programming
  • Usually it works in tandem with a degree or certificate.

When not.

  • If the objective is to collect certificates then not, it is not worth.

Online courses

Are mostly useless, so the certificates.

 

No education is useless, so I'm not sure why you would claim that online courses are useless, especially since many are the same college classes that people who go to those schools also do. The only difference is one doesn't get college credit for doing them. Even the online courses that aren't given by actual colleges aren't bad. True, there are some mediocre ones out there, but many are extremely well done, such as on Udacity and Udemy. Improving oneself by learning is never a bad thing no matter how it's done. Also, I wouldn't call the CompTIA Certifications as useless, since many companies won't hire someone unless they have one, such as the A+, Network+, or Security+. They're entry-level certifications that are expected of many IT professionals these days. Lastly, I'm not sure if you're talking about every Penetration Testing certification, but many of them are highly respected, such as the OSCP and those given by SANS. Even the CEH is starting to gain respect. The CISSP is also held in high regard, although that certification isn't a Pen Testing cert.

 

Now that I see you work as a Software Engineer. How was your journey