Should I get a Java Cert?
July 24, 2006 7:36 AM   Subscribe

As a programmer who prefers coding in Java, would it be worthwhile to get a Sun Java Certification? Particularly a Sun Certified Programmer or a Sun Certified Enterprise Architect?
posted by delmoi to Education (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: As a programmer who prefers coding in Python, higher level positions for Java and .NET languages seem to advertise certs as either a requirement or a huge plus. If you can get your current employer to pay for study materials and for the test, or if you're light on experience, planning on switching jobs soon and looking for an upper-mid-level position, I'd say go for it.

If you've got a lot of experience, you might have to explain why you don't have certs for a higher level position, but if you know your stuff, I don't think you'd hit a lot of problems by not having them for any company that'd be any fun to work for. A company that has a strict certs-only policy is likely to have a lot of other bureaucratic crap to deal with as well.

I have no actual experience in this arena, though, and the sometimes perceived-importance of certs is one reason I don't like working in these languages.
posted by ThePants at 7:47 AM on July 24, 2006

Response by poster: I realize that certs shouldn't really matter, but it seems like they would be a good way to communicate to non-technical people that I really know my stuff.
posted by delmoi at 7:54 AM on July 24, 2006

Best answer: I realize that certs shouldn't really matter

Really however they do. We see a lot of programmers come in with a lot of disparate backgrounds so having the certification at least means they studied enough to actually get the certification (retention of knowledge? maybe not).

Having this on your resume will help get you past initial screenings in hiring and we even suggest it to programmers we already have working for us who are making a leap from another language to Java to make sure they are getting a good base.

Plus you may actually learn something ;-) All told there doesn't seem to be a downside.
posted by bitdamaged at 8:04 AM on July 24, 2006

The Certified Programmer exam is a multiple-choice test that is actually quite a rigorous test of your knowledge of the minutiae of Java syntax.

Half of the Certified Developer exam is take-home and requires you submit code for a client-server or similar application. The other half (more like 5% after you finish) is a written exam explaining your design reasoning. You will likely need to understand and use design patterns (such as factories, singleton classes, etc.) and distributed objects for maximum credit.

Since Sun Microsystems is nearly bankrupt and no one in the non-technical, HR world knows much or anything about Sun, my certifications have done little for me in the way of professional accreditation and direct career advancement, but I learned plenty about Java from forcing myself to pass them with excellent scores. As it should be, frankly.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:07 AM on July 24, 2006

I have the Architect certification and it was well worth the effort.
posted by toastchee at 8:18 AM on July 24, 2006

I'd go by the conventions and hiring practices of the particular industry you're in. if you're after higher-level enterprise programming positions, you want to manage big programming teams and projects, or you work for big employers like banks, the certifications will probably help.

I'm doing mid-level programming for website back-ends in Java, C#, occasionally PHP and Perl, and in this business, certifications count less than my track record. So I've never bothered to chase certifications, I put the effort instead into trying to stay current.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:41 AM on July 24, 2006

The Certified Programmer exam is a multiple-choice test that is actually quite a rigorous test of your knowledge of the minutiae of Java syntax.

I've never seen the point of this one. Intricate questions about inheritance and such.
posted by smackfu at 8:51 AM on July 24, 2006

I got my Java programmer cert literally without ever compiling a Java program (except once, Hello World). I received a 93 or 94 out of 100 on the test, when the score to pass was something like 70 or 80; my biggest downfall, iirc, was in not remembering all of the stream classes and some of the ranges of types (how many bit sin a java int?) .

But I went into it knowing C++ very well, so my biggest problem was "forgetting" all the various OO things C++ allows and Java doesn't; the OO concept I already had pretty well internalized.

Does it help me get job? I suppose it must, but probably not that much. Why? Recruiters seem to typically focus on number of years experience, (including such solecisms as "How many years of POJOs do you have?"). Technical people are more concerned with either questions that are harder than what's on the java exam (Programmer's exam, I can't speak for the Dev exam, I wasn't interested in coughing up the cash to take it) or on knowledge of frameworks and protocols (like J2EE). Technical managers (the good ones) care about experience, but even more about the ability to learn: I got my first programming job from somebody who said "You can do the programming if you can learn Language X in two weeks". I got my last one after admitting I'd never used Framework Y, but had spent the last four days intensively going through its tutorials and reading up on it, and didn't see it being a problem for me.

The truth of that matter is, the questions on the Programmer exam (again, can't speak for the Dev exam) are mostly rote, and they don't tell you much about the test-taker's ability to "think in Java" or to really understand OO.

What would impress me more (and I'm only speaking for me) is familiarity with another OO language, or exposure to the GOF books, or -- this always impressed me -- having read and re-read Coplien's book. Just about any monkey can learn syntax; it's understanding OO and even more, what Patterns to apply, what algorithm and data structure to uses, that distinguishes a code-monkey from a programmer. The size of int you can look up, or the ctor arguments of IOStream, you can look up.

(No offense to our college cmonkey, who I understand is a linux kernel hacker, and my hat's off to him.)
posted by orthogonality at 9:09 AM on July 24, 2006

s/college/colleague. Must learn to not accept spellchecker's first guess.
posted by orthogonality at 9:11 AM on July 24, 2006

I would say that there is no harm in getting the certification. If you have many many years of programming experience it will show that you still have a willingness to learn something new.

If you are a junior programmer (or just out of school) it will give you a better change to get a job. That little piece of paper could put you one step ahead of other people on the same level.

It hopefully shows that you at least know the syntax and that is something the company doesn't have to train you on.
posted by cbushko at 11:21 AM on July 24, 2006

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