The Java programming language has been around since 1995, introducing the “write once, run anywhere” pipe dream we’re still chasing with languages such as Swift and Kotlin. Like those newer languages, Java is iterative and borrows from C-based languages, ensuring it can evolve to meet increasingly modern applications.
As we near version 20 of the language, Java continues to enjoy widespread adoption, particularly in the mobile and enterprise realms. And despite some concerns that it might be losing ground to other, ultra-popular languages such as Python, knowledge of Java can still prove quite lucrative.
But can you land a Java-related job with skills alone, or can certifications give you an advantage in a crowded marketplace? We asked some experts about whether Java certifications matter, and why you should (or shouldn’t) obtain one.
What are the best Java certifications for job seekers?
Because Java was introduced by Oracle, Oracle is still the go-to for certifications. Oracle University has six unique certification paths for developers.
“The certification that really seems to matter most is the Oracle Certified Professional Java SE 8 Programmer credential, otherwise known as the OCJP,” says David Patterson-Cole, CEO at Moonchaser. “Recruiters are probably going to be on the lookout for well-known certifications, and with a well-known organization like Oracle backing this one, your resume has a better chance of standing out.”
There are two Java SE 8 paths: associate and professional. Keep in mind the associate level certification is a prerequisite for the professional certification.
Do you need a Java certification to get a job?
Leonid Ivankin, Android developer at MTS Group, tells Dice Java certifications are “irrelevant,” adding: “I know about Oracle certifications, but no one has asked me, my colleagues, or friends about them. Accordingly, no one receives them. It’s a marketing move.”
Instead, Ivankin urges you to build your skillset and build your knowledge of “algorithms, data structures, and design patterns.” Ivankin also believes the update process for Java, which is now every six months, can quickly make certifications obsolete: “If you receive the certificate today, it may be invalid tomorrow.”
Patterson-Cole acknowledges skills matter, but says certifications can often help you actually build those skills—and demonstrate your knowledge to hiring managers and recruiters: “If you want to learn a lot about the principles and syntax of Java, then you’re in the right place for that. Some of the more poorly understood concepts like polymorphism or lambdas are central to the OCJP certification, meaning you may know more than a developer who lacks this certification.”
Jobs at organizations with a significant Java codebase are always on the potential lookout for those technologists skilled in the language. “While the certification may not add a whole lot to your resume if you’re applying at a tech company,” Patterson-Cole says, “government jobs are keener on certifications. These positions are heavily bureaucratic, meaning hirers have more boxes they need to check than in a startup or even a company like Meta or Alphabet (Facebook and Google parent companies). If being employed in a government agency is your goal, it’s worthwhile to have the diploma from a well-known firm like Oracle.”
How Much Does a Java Certification Cost?
This can depend on where you obtain your certification, as well as the actual certification you obtain. Through Oracle, Java certifications are $245 each. This cost can compound, though, if you obtain higher-level certifications which require other certifications first. That said, obtaining every Oracle-produced Java certification will cost $1,470.
Patterson-Cole also says: “If you’re in it for the knowledge alone, then you can just download the materials and take practice exams on your own for free. The exam itself only costs $245, while other lesser-known certifications can run into the thousands. Testing your knowledge with the Oracle exam may be worth the small price, given what it adds to your resume.”
There are other Java certifications available; just know that Oracle is the industry-standard Java certification. If you obtained a certification from another source (such as a Udemy course offering a certificate of completion), not all recruiters or hiring managers may recognize it.