SQLServerCentral Editorial

The Future of Certifications

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Hacker News is a forum for experienced developers. While I think plenty of beginners lurk there, the discussions seem to be dominated by those who have worked in the technology or software industries for years. I saw an interesting article that noted Hacker News doesn't seem to discuss certifications and backed up the claim with some search results that show few discussions for various terms.

I think that many experienced people working in technology are wary of certifications. With a little practical experience, one quickly realizes how little certifications actually do to prove you know how to work with a platform, or with code. Most companies that hire someone with a certification will need to allocate some time to training them how to work on their systems. To be fair, this is the case with a college degree as well.

The article goes on to talk a little on how colleges ought to be separating out a "degree" from more concentrated or focused evaluations of skills. I agree, though arguably this reduces the brand (and revenue) of many institutions. My view would be that many people don't need the two year degree. Those that do will come back and get it, or take additional classes to learn more.

I do believe that studying for and passing a certification forces someone to learn a bit about the technology area. It also helps the student decide if it's a subject in which they have an interest. It doesn't prove they have knowledge, but it does show some work in a particular area. I think certifications can be good for many people as my studies this year have definitely helped me learn a bit more about different areas of Azure that I knew little about. I'm not an expert by any stretch, but I have some idea of concepts and how to go about learning more.

My view is that beginners are very different from experienced people. We ought to understand that all of us are beginners in some technology area and certifications are a good way to focus effort and study in those areas. I would prefer that vendors not only have a path to more difficult and practical certifications but also that they lower the cost. I'd even like to see a second chance at exams given at 1/2 or 1/4 price. That would encourage more people to take a chance on an exam and not worry about the cost so much. This also might reduce some of the brain dumps and other cheats if someone isn't overly stressed about the cost of exams.

I'd actually like to see exams focused on very tight areas, like only T-SQL DML or T-SQL DDL, with actual code being written and tested, not multiple-choice questions. This is the type of program that might even encourage employers to regularly test their candidates before hiring, or even encourage more employees to cross-train into new technologies.

There is a shortage of talent, often in new areas that vendors are selling products and services. Demand that vendors also provide training and focused exams that are based on the current versions at low costs. We can make this cheaper and easier to do. We've done that with most parts of technology services, why not exams and certifications?

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