17th of August, 2016

Have you been in this scenario before?

You are looking to beef up your portfolio for employer, do a Google search on how to be a marketable web developer and you come across ‘certifications’.

Looking more into it, you find an on-going battle from tweets to forum rants on their worth, their costs, that employers love them, that they hate them—everything except the answer to the fundamental question!

Are web development certifications worth the extra time and money to obtain?  

Like you, I was looking for answers and only finding questions. However in a constantly changing industry like web development, I have found that for talented beginners looking to build and grow in the industry, I have found the answer to be yes.

What The Heck are Web Development Certifications?

Let’s back up for a moment. Web development certifications are additional exams that test your expertise in a specific language or skill set. These certifications were created in order to increase labor market value and to promote continual learning to stay current in web development trends. This is useful to new web developers as it can be a way to prove your commitment to the industry.

Stacey Ferriera of MySocialCloud agrees. She states, “The most important skill a web developer can have is the willingness to learn. Programming languages, like everything else, are constantly changing. Even if someone has great previous work experience, he or she has to be willing to keep learning and stay up-to-date with an ever-changing industry.”

Isn’t A Degree Enough?

Hiring managers look for two things in a web developer:

Notice I didn’t mention degrees here. Obtaining a Bachelor’s degree simply aren’t enough to make you stand out. According to the National Center of Education, nearly 1.8 million degrees were awarded just last year.

To be frank, a degree only proves that you can follow through with a commitment — it does not prove your competence or expertise in the subject. It’s why employers are doing more aptitude, personality and skills tests in interviews — they need more than a degree to tell if you can do the work. In fact, on my last job interview I was asked to pass a technical exam despite having a programming degree. Degrees are requirements, not outliers, and in turn you need other components of your resume to show your expertise in your field. In addition, degrees give you a static knowledge that doesn’t reflect on a constantly evolving industry.

April Clipliver, a programmer who holds both a PhD. and over 25 computer certifications sums it up perfectly in this blog post on certification.com, “My college degrees are what GOT me my job, but it is my certifications that are allowing me to KEEP my job. Certifications continue to provide a value-added component to my employer… I’m in IT. The learning simply cannot stop.”

So How Do Web Development Certifications Help?

Certifications Build Credibility

Like I mentioned above, hiring managers and prospective clients look first to your experience beyond anything else. It doesn’t matter how many degrees you hold—if you can’t solve the client's problem, you are not useful to the company. Employers need more than just a degree to determine your credibility to demonstrate your expertise. This is hard to accomplish if you are just starting out and don't have a strong portfolio yet. However certifications can ease the worry of employers and give you a much needed boost credibility.

Certifications Focus on Your Skills

Where college gives a broad look into subjects, certifications drive in to the specificities needed to complete a job. A hiring manager looking for a MySQL administrator won’t be able to tell how masterful you are from a Computer Science degree. They can get an idea however if you have a MySQL certification. While a developer certification alone won’t land you a job, they certainly show that you hold interest in your chosen field and that you have enough drive to look for more opportunities to learn.
Think about it: A JavaScript certification can prove more to an employer than two classes. Anyone can pass a test; not everyone can apply what they’ve learned in business situations. Learn more about certifications that can test both your book smarts and street smarts here on CancanIT.

Certifications Are Tie-Breakers

What’s that I hear? You have a pretty solid portfolio and a degree to boot? That’s great! So do a lot of highly qualified developers. Certifications are a great way to add that extra 'oomph' to your resume, making you stand out. If I had two web developers with relatively similar experience and portfolios, I would give the one with the certification a call first.

Certifications are Relatively Cheap

While certification programs can be an investment, they are a drop in the bucket compared to another degree. According to a survey done by Student Loan Hero, the class of 2016 has 6% higher debt than the previous year, and it’s estimated to be getting higher. Web development certifications take less time and less money to complete and still show a commitment to your craft. I received a freelance job offer from a company needing a website done because of my portfolio and a certification from a program I had just completely and passed. That is not bad for a $150 investment.

Certifications Can Only Build You Up

At the end of the day, the key to finding a successful job isn’t found on one path. In order to move your career forward in the right direction, you will want to have a combination of experience, degrees and certifications. Look at how you want to present the most value to your employers and/or clients. Web development certifications can’t make your resume look bad, they can only boost your credibility up. Every job is different, but everyone can agree on the fact that in this day and age where the competitiveness for jobs is high, it’s best to check off as many boxes as you can to be marketable. The more things you have evidence of, the more things you can add to your arsenal of employability tools, the greater potential you have to getting hired.

Elisabeth Jackson
Elisabeth Jackson Contributing Author

Elisabeth Jackson is a front-end designer, content-superhero and public speaker. She works with talented rockstars to boost their public speaking skills and ace their next interview. She believes that looking for Pokemon is a form of cardio, and life is a lot brighter when you add sweets to your diet.

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