Prof Accr Web Dev
September 26, 2011 9:44 AM   Subscribe

I realised last night that I've never seen a Web Developer (like wot I is) claiming any kind of professional accreditation. Why not? Is there another professional organisation that would take us?

A quick Google on the subject reveals a couple of organisations that claim to do it, but one was last updated in 2006, and the other's website is under construction. While I love the irony, I doubt that they're really the answer to my question.
posted by sodium lights the horizon to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It's the wild west, baby.

Most agencies that develop websites I know are in the AMA or the AAF if they are in an organization.
posted by michaelh at 9:50 AM on September 26, 2011

Nope, no accreditation -- possibly because usually it's impossible to take one test and say "yes you're an awesome web developer!" That usually only works for the sys admin types who can get certs in really specific things, like Cisco routers.

Mostly, the websites you've done are your proof of ability, that and your quick mind and experience in jobs and whatever advanced education you have. That would be my qualifications for hiring a web developer. Heavy on their personal interviews with me too.
posted by minx at 10:04 AM on September 26, 2011

Honestly, I think the web moves too fast for most certification processes to keep up. If an exam takes a year and a half to be developed, tested, and approved, and certification is good for two years, that means an accredited developer could be certified against a three and a half year old skillset. That's an eternity ago.

Also, what would the scope of the accreditation be? "Web Developer" covers a pretty broad range of skills and technologies. Would developers be certified in a particular language (Python? Ruby? Java? Perl? JS?) and what about frameworks (Django? Rails 2.x? Rails 3.x? Spring? jQuery? Ext JS?)? How much of the accreditation process would cover back-end programming vs. front-end programming vs. front-end design/layout (HTML/CSS)? How much are accredited web developers expected to know about databases and SQL queries? Should they know basic system administration, and if so, what OS and what server stack? Are client relations and the overall specification process part of the web developer's role, or handled by a separate account management person who liaises between the client and the developer?

The only real way to make this work is to either get super specific, at which point you have programs like SpringSource Certification, or absurdly broad, at which point you have endless exams, yet your accreditation is meaningless and employers don't care about it.

In short, a professional accreditation process is only useful if employers look for and respect the accreditation. Most hiring is done on the basis of personal referrals, past experience, and on figuring out in the interview whether you'd be a good fit for the human relations side of the project. An accreditation isn't going to help you with that.
posted by zachlipton at 10:13 AM on September 26, 2011

Why should there be "any kind of professional accreditation"? It's a design field - this is what a portfolio is for.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:31 AM on September 26, 2011

Response by poster: Maybe I've got the terms wrong in my question.

My brother is an aeronautical engineer, and as such he's a member of something like the IET. There's no way that he sat a test to get this accreditation (although his degree is probably connected to it). If you're an Accountant, you get to join the ACCA who don't get to say if you're a good accountant, but do say that you were a credible one when you joined.

I'm somewhat surprised that there's no-one (W3C would be a logical start) trying to wring some official money from the area.
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 10:56 AM on September 26, 2011

Well, there's the ACM. Which I am a member of, but would never bother to put on my resume.
posted by phearlez at 11:28 AM on September 26, 2011

I think part of the ambiguity is in what "web developer" really means. Do you mean you're a programmer who specializes in the type of design patterns that web applications require? Are you only versed in web frameworks and assorted language principles like many people who use PHP or Ruby on Rails may be, but you're not really able to make a desktop application? Are you a JavaScript guru who knows nothing of "backend" programming but you have a strong design background? Maybe you're a user experience designer who does wireframes and user acceptance testing.

While some of these have more specific titles, I've seen all of them claim to be "web developers" of a sort. While W3C would care about HTML/CSS standards, they barely acknowledge the JavaScript (or ECMAScript, if that's your naming preference) side of things and only go so far as to talk about the Document Object Model (DOM). Certification in different programming languages and methodologies is available. I do not believe there's one specific set of expertise that aligns with the tag "web developer."
posted by mikeh at 11:56 AM on September 26, 2011

There are so many ways to do any one thing on the web that to define the accredited way to do it would be a logistical and philosophical (graceful degradation vs. mobile-first, for example) quagmire. By the time you finish creating a test it would be obsolete, since the W3C standards will have moved on, the browser space would have changed, there could be a whole new platform emerging, etc.

And as mikeh said, there are a lot of different jobs/skillset combinations that all have the name web developer attached to them.

It would be nice if we all agreed on certain things, like hunting down the last IE6 users and forcing them to upgrade, but given the state of the industry that seems unlikely.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 12:23 PM on September 26, 2011

My brother is an aeronautical engineer, and as such he's a member of something like the IET. There's no way that he sat a test to get this accreditation (although his degree is probably connected to it). If you're an Accountant, you get to join the ACCA who don't get to say if you're a good accountant, but do say that you were a credible one when you joined.

Ok that's fair enough, but then what are the standards for accreditation? If there's no standardized exam, what criteria do you apply to determine whether someone gets to be accredited or not? Some professions handle this with a mixture of education requirements and examination (e.g. architecture, law, some engineering certifications), but how can that apply to web development, a field which isn't really taught in higher education and where a great many practitioners are self-taught?

The W3C would be an unlikely choice for this. Given their deathly slow process for proposed standards to reach recommendation level, when exactly would a W3C standard the maturity required to include it in the accreditation process? Keep in mind that XMLHttpRequest is still a Working Draft, yet it's an important piece of web technology. Other key parts of web development (the entire server-side stack and JavaScript/ECMAScript, for instance) aren't within the W3C's remit at all. Furthermore, I don't see why the W3C, which relies mainly on corporate membership for its funding, has any real interest in putting resources into such an effort.
posted by zachlipton at 3:11 PM on September 26, 2011

like hunting down the last IE6 users and forcing them to upgrade

I think we're all pretty much agreed on the first part, although simply forcing them to upgrade would be letting them off lightly IMHO, they need to be made to pay for our suffering ;)

I agree that 'web developer' is too new and too ever changing for accreditation to be meaningful or trustworthy. PHP and mySQL have certifications (as I'm sure do many other languages/platforms) but I know very few people who have them and I've never been asked if I have them. (I planned to but then I got really busy with real work)
posted by missmagenta at 3:12 PM on September 26, 2011

Back in the early days of the web when everyone had annoying button images that said Optimized for Netscape or IE or whatever, they might also have an HTML Writer's Guild Badge.

Website is here:

But yeah, past web sites you have built are your resume.
posted by banished at 6:13 PM on September 26, 2011

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