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Do certifications help?

markbdsouza profile image Mark Dsouza ・7 min read

I've seen a lot of people in the industry really hate the concept of certifications and keep saying that they are a waste of money (and a money making strategy for the companies offering it). And that all you need to know are the concepts and the certification as such has NO value at all.

Well, I think they are partially right. At the end of the day it is only the knowledge that matters. But certifications (more importantly the process) do give you a slight edge and I'll go through how through some common questions about them.

Contents

Can a certification get me a job?

Absolutely NOT! No one is going to see a certification on your resume and blindly offer you a job offer for a tool/tech. The only thing it tells a recruiter is that this person 'should' know a bit about the topic in question. But at the end of the day you need to be able to answer the questions being thrown at you.

Can a certification get me opportunities?

Having a certification could open a few doors for you. Having a cloud certification to compliment your developer exp could help you find certain opportunities that you probably wouldn't get offered without it. A lot of organizations are looking for people who know a bit of everything in today's world of agile teams.

Does the certification give me an advantage in interviews?

Maybe. Maybe not. End of the day it really depends on the recruiter. No one in their right mind would think its a bad thing to have a certification for yourself in a craft you want to work in.
I've been in the industry over 8 years now and would pick a candidate who shows the most promise and eagerness in getting the work done. BUT if I had 2 very very similar candidates and 1 has done a bunch of additional learning and certification over his work ex and has shown the interest to constantly learn and improve, I'd be inclined to go with them over someone who just does what needs to be done.

How does it help me apart from a line on my resume?

There are 2 instances I can think of where one would take a certification

  1. A new tech you want to explore - Having certifications on things you dont really know yet can really really help you gain critical knowledge and help build a solid foundation. This is especially useful to ramp yourself up for a new role or open opportunities in projects where they need a mix of skills. A great example is the cloud. If your current project doesn't use cloud for infra or if your client doesnt want to use it, ull never learn anything about the cloud. Cloud providers have a 1 year free tier which helps you get good hands on in tech.
  2. A tech you've been working on/have worked on a bit - You've been working on it for a little time and want to get better. Google and Stack over flow being your best friends (along with Copy Paste) . Yet there are some concepts you don't really get. Preparing for a certification really strengthens -
    • Things you already know well cos you use it every day
    • Parts of the tech you don't use regularly
    • Get a deeper understanding of why things work the way they do It can only make you a better programmer.
  3. A tech you're great at - If you're really good at what you do and have great hands on experience, then there probably isn't a lot of gain in getting a certification unless you feel there are aspects to the tech/product that you might not be using regularly. At the end of the day its about the knowledge you have and nothing more. Surely consider doing it if your company reimburses you for the certification.

I don't have hands on work experience with a tool/tech. Does doing a certification in it help?

It surely can. Why? because in the process of that certification you do get hands-on experience as you explore the various concepts you are tested about. This isn't as good as client work experience but it is better than none. It will surely give you a strong foundation and prove that given the opportunity it isn't going to be something new to you.

How do I prepare?

Research. Most certifications have dedicated study material to get through their certification(sometimes free). There are also technical books that give you a strong foundation and more. The only thing is you might not get a clear idea of the level of difficulty and type of questions being asked in the exam.
Make a plan for yourself. Take your time in your preparation. It's fine to take a few weeks or a months to prep for a certification. The only deadline is the one you keep for yourself. A good way to make sure you do not slack off is booking your exam slot when you start your prep forcing yourself to stick to your timelines.

Should I buy mock exams?

There are a bunch of websites and even specific Udemy courses aimed at helping you clear popular certification exams. There are specific courses which give you 5-6 mock exam question sets which are usually harder than the actual exam. So they really do prepare you to ace your exam for the most part. These courses have proper explanations as to why the answer is as such. Do not mug up but rather understand why the specific answer is true. This will help you when the questions are tricky and more importantly help you in real life.
If you do not want to spend money on the exam, make sure you find a resource to take 1 free mock exam somewhere and if you clear it well above the cut off you're probably good to go.

Do I need to go somewhere to take the test?

Given the pandemic around the world, almost all tests are proctored online exams. Make sure you have a laptop with a webcam with a good internet connection and a room for yourself while you take the test. Each exam provider has a bunch of checks to make sure you don't cheat or get help during the exam.
Some providers allow you to reschedule as well, so make sure you read the terms and conditions well before you fix your date.

How can I afford certifications?

Certifications are expensive. Period. The best way to do one is to see if your current organization has policies in place to either fully or partially fund your certification. If they do, you might only need to convince your reporting manager or boss why you need to it and how it would help you deliver. A little red tape, and you could get a really expensive certification for 0$. A PMP certification costs around 555 USD which is pretty expensive.
If they don't, analyze how much you are willing to spend and hoyouw relevant the course is to your current and future ambitions. Example: If you're someone looking to get into cloud, AWS, GCP or Azure certifications are great to get started. Or if you want to move into management maybe a CSM or PMP certification. Just preparing for the certification will also give you a lot of hands on knowledge that you can use.

How long are certifications valid?

It depends on the provider. Due to constant changes, product companies keep updating their exams and probably keep it between 2-5 years. Post this you will need to pay (hopefully a reduced rate) and appear for the exam again this time with the latest features. Keep this in mind when you choose your certification.

I have a certification but do not have the opportunity to work on it. What do I do?

Implement something related to your current assignment if its posible. If not build something for yourself and share a prototype with your reporting manager to showcase your new skills. Again, just having the certification means nothing if you aren't able to implement something. Talk to your manager about your ambitions and what you would like to work on. Reach out to others in your organization working on the tool/tech and find if there are openings on their teams or how maybe you can partially support them.
If none of these work out, maybe even think of looking to jump to a different organization looking for enthusiastic people in the tech.

Conclusion -

In the end its the knowledge that comes along with the preparation and the hands on you get with it that is more critical than the certification itself. Another line on your resume doesn't harm you and could give you some opportunities which you might not have got otherwise.
Practice. Practice. Practice. Don't stop practicing after clearing the exam. The more you do the better you become.
Keep in note the cost and make a plan for yourself and stick to it. Give yourself ample time as some certifications can take months to properly prepare.

Discussion (1)

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Yuri Filatov

Thank you for your work :)