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Narrowing the odds

Certification is never a sure route to success, but one JAVA programmer may be able to optimize his odds through on-the-job experience and self-study.

Dear Molly: I am a budding JAVA programmer gaining experience in my current job, but I will be seeking extra training soon. How beneficial would a JAVA certification be? Should I just be happy with the experience I am getting, or should I spend the extra money to gain the certification?

Molly says: What a great question! It goes right to the heart of the difficulties many IT workers are coping with: We all want to earn more money, but certification programs usually cost so much that we wonder, in the end, if they are worth it.

I wish I could tell you that earning a certification would pay for itself within a year or two, but I can’t. Your current employer hired you without a certification, so it’s unlikely they’d pay you a lot extra if you got one. The company may even be reluctant to pay for your training. So, to get more money you’d have to change jobs.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that there are other benefits to getting a certification beyond the possibility of making more money. You gain a depth and breadth of knowledge in a much shorter period of time than you could accomplish studying on your own or learning on the job. By having the certification, you make yourself more attractive to potential employers. If you and another candidate are neck and neck for a position, your certification might give you the edge you need to win the job.

Since you’re interested in JAVA, check out the recent changes in this certification program by visiting the Sun education site. The test has been changed to make it much harder to pass by simply memorizing material. You need to have at least six months of hands-on programming experience. Since you already have that, you may be able to train yourself using books and in a few months pass the exam.

I think in your case, if you can lower the expense of training in some way, doing so would make that certification much more attractive to you.

Molly Joss also writes the monthly Career Advisor column for ComputerUser magazine. Ask a career-related question at [email protected]

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