Java is a “generalist” programming language that’s managed to maintain its popularity for more than 25 years, which is an eternity in technology-industry terms. What’s behind that continuing usage? And if you’re applying for a job as a developer who focuses on the language, is it enough to simply show that you have the skills, or do you also need to be a certified expert?
First things first: Java, like other popular languages, benefits from something of a virtuous cycle. Companies and developers use it to build projects; then they must continue to use the language to iterate and build on those projects; and then, if those projects become enduringly popular, they must continue to maintain the legacy code. When it comes to web and mobile applications, there’s such a huge pile of Java code out there that the language is extremely unlikely to dwindle away anytime soon, no matter how hard Google pushes for developers to adopt Kotlin (which is positioned as something of a “Java killer”).
Java also benefits from its “write once, run anywhere” (WORA) design, which means it can run on any device with a Java Virtual Machine (JVM). That’s helped its spread into mobile devices such as smartphones and tables, as well as servers.
If you’re totally new to Java and looking for entry into the field, there are lots of learning resources online. For example, InfoWorld has lots of continually updated information about the language on its dedicated page. Oracle (which purchased Sun Microsystems, which created the language in-house) maintains a forum where you can ask questions and review what others are doing, as well as a tutorial site. There’s a subreddit, of course, for those needing help and tutorials.
Once you’ve gained a certain level of experience, you’ll find that Java expertise is in high demand for all kinds of projects, ranging from big enterprise software implementations down to little web projects. But will those employers want you to have related certifications?
Dice Insights spoke with Zoë Morris, President at FRG Technology Consulting, to find out the benefits Java certifications may bring, how long it will take you to get one, and the required skills you’ll need to get certified.
What are some of the certifications out there?
Morris noted Oracle offers Java certification pathways for both its Enterprise and Standard Editions. In fact, Oracle has a hub on its website breaking down everything from prerequisites to testing costs. Certifications that Oracle groups under Java SE include:
- Oracle Certified Professional: Java SE 11 Developer
- Oracle Certified Professional: Java SE 11 Developer (Upgrade from OCP Java 6, 7, and 8)
- Java Foundations Certified Junior Associate
- Oracle Certified Associate, Java SE 8 Programmer
- Oracle Certified Professional Java SE 8 Programmer
Then there are the Java EE and Web Service certifications:
- Oracle Certified Professional, Java EE 7 Application Developer
- Upgrade to Java EE 6 Oracle Certified Master
“Before you decide which certifications to tackle, you need to pick a lane to get started in, based on which version you’re currently using, or planning on using,” Morris said.
Whichever path you choose, there are foundational and advanced certifications you can take depending on your level of experience, as well as “upgrade” certifications for those wanting to switch to a more recent version of Java.
What benefits do they bring?
As Java certifications are issued by Oracle itself, Morris said, they’re a fantastic way of keeping your skills up-to-date and making sure you’re familiar with the latest developments.
Certifications instantly increase your “curb appeal” as a professional too, she noted.
“Not only do they help potential employers quickly size up your skills, having a certification shows that you’re dedicated to your professional development, and are willing to invest time into upskilling,” she said. “This is a desirable soft skill that employers love to see, so you’ll put yourself ahead of the pack on a job hunt. You’ll have more choice, too; a considerable percentage of tech jobs involve Java in some way, so being able to utilize it will broaden the number of roles you can excel in.”
Even if you’re not looking to move any time soon, getting certified boosts the value that you can bring to your organization—Morris pointed out that, oftentimes, certifications can be a great bargaining chip when it comes to negotiating a raise or promotion.
How long do they typically take to achieve?
How long it takes to earn a certification depends largely on which one you’re aiming for and where you’re starting from.
If you’re already working with the Java version that you’re hoping to get certified in, it might only take a few weeks of practice to fill in any knowledge gaps before you sit for the exam.
“If you’re newer to Java or are taking on an exam focused on a version you’re less familiar with, it could take longer,” Morris said. “It all comes down to your base knowledge level and how much time you can dedicate to studying.”
What are the most in-demand Java certifications?
Morris noted that, while Java 10 and 11 are growing in popularity, Java 8 is currently the most-used version.
“With that in mind, those who earn the Oracle Certified Professional: Java SE 8 Programmer certification will probably find themselves with the most considerable number of options available to them,” he said.
Those who hold the Oracle Certified Master (OCM) certification—currently only available for Java 6—will also be in high demand due to the depth of knowledge validated by such a specialist, top-level certification.
For those who know Java, but don’t have the time or money to pursue certifications, there’s also some good news: A small percentage of common technology jobs actually ask for Java certifications as a condition of employment. And according to Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, that situation is unlikely to change anytime soon:
If you’re a software developer with Java skills who’s looking for a new job, in other words, certification (or lack thereof) likely isn’t an impediment to future employment. These certifications are a “nice to have” in most circumstances as opposed to an outright requirement.
What are the required skills to get certified?
“It depends on which certification you’re going for, and at what level,” Morris said. “The absolute bare minimum you need to be able to tackle even the foundational certifications would be an understanding of the Java programming language and the associated concepts, plus an analytical approach to problem-solving and basic mathematical and logistical know-how.”
It’s also important be able to write and execute a Java program, and know your way around the Java Development Kit and Java Runtime Environment.
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