Certifications – Do they really matter?

There are hundreds of thousands of certifications available for people working in the IT industry. These certifications cater to all types of job roles and seniority levels – programmers, system administrators, network professionals, project managers, testers, product managers to name a few.

In order to write something meaningful in a single post, we have restricted ourselves only to discuss about Programming related certifications.

Most of these certifications do cost a lot of money. It costs so much money that one begins to wonder who is getting the benefits – the certifying company or the certified individual? One has to ask themselves many questions before committing to get a certification – Does it make sense to go for these certifications? Do they carry enough value? Do they have a long-term benefit? etc.

Programming certifications are a Want, not a Need.

Its much the same as the discussion of whether to go to college or not. Some believe they should drop out of college to be the next Bill Gates, others believe that the success of Bill Gates had nothing to do dropping out of college, but attribute his success to the other great skills he possessed.

Generally topics like this are treated in black and white. But there is a shade of grey as well. Here is what we think about programming certifications.

Who doesn’t benefit significantly from certifications?

By benefit, we mean the positive change in terms of skills, remuneration, career progression, finding a job etc.

However, it doesn’t mean that the above people shouldn’t do certifications. At the very least, it tells us that they have put in great effort to stay up-to-date and marketable in-spite of their success.

Who benefits from certifications?

  1. An average programmer. An average programmer can market himself much better with certifications and can show that he is trying to add more skills to his repertoire.
  2. Someone who doesn’t live and breathe by code. This kind of person probably doesn’t code apart from his work. Now, don’t go bonkers hearing that! Not everyone can code after work on personal projects. They might be people who are victim of circumstances or may have other interests to pursue after work.
  3. A poor programmer. When a poor programmer studies for certifications, they gain a basic knowledge on which to build upon and to understand stuff that they would have previously failed to comprehend. All the effort to study for the certifications will not go down the drain. However, it is extremely unfair to expect them to over perform from the day they received their certification.
  4. Relatively inexperienced or college graduates. Certificates are a great way to distinguish yourselves from the rest of the crowd. Sometimes, all you need is an interview call and certifications might just be the way of landing one!

Is real world experience more valuable than any certification?

Yes. Nothing teaches like life. Programming certifications are a Want, not a Need. One who shows real experience walks away with the job.

At the same time, certifications are not the end. There are the means to an end. It definitely doesn’t speak of their skills as a programmer.

Are all certified employees good at their job? Are all certified employees bad at their job?

The answer to both questions is a resounding NO.

Certifications are not about skills and competence of the person. Certifications show that:

  1. The person wants to be considered seriously.
  2. Is serious about career.
  3. Wants to standout from the crowd.
  4. Has put in some effort to learn.

Longevity and Subject matter

Software technologies are changing more rapidly than any other technology in the past two decades. If you decide to get certifications, choose wisely so that it stays relevant at-least for a year or two.

On the other hand, there is no point having a certification from the 1990’s. It is going to work against you if you ever send it with a job application!

Subject matter (area, technology or domain) of certifications matters a great deal too. Certifications on technologies and products specific to and internal to a company are not of value in the outside world.

Job Prospects

Well, at the start of this post, we listed the type of people who may not benefit from certifications. These are also people who do not find it tough to get an interview call or land a job. The rest of us have to standout among hundreds if not thousands of other capable candidates.

An employer should measure the skills of programmers by asking them to program. However, unfortunately, interviews don’t happen that way. The employee only codes after joining the team. With most companies out there, this process is not going to change anytime soon.

Most of the initial screening and interviews are carried out by HR and managers. They definitely place more emphasis on certifications. They see a combination of experience and certifications more valuable than just experience.

Consultants (especially the self-employed) benefit immensely from certifications too. It allows them to “sell” their skills to a client in a simple and straight forward manner.


Certifications might open up doors that you never knew existed. You may end up gaining little or next to nothing. But it is not going to cause any harm either. Now a days, most companies also encourage employees to take certifications and also pay the fees. Definitely, by all means, go for that certification!