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Is vendor sponsored software certification the way to go?

Posted on 19 February 2009 by Demian Turner

In his article Three elements of certification success, Darren Hague, a friend and former colleague, argues that when software vendors are driving the certification process, there is a conflict of interest worth examining.

For example, in the case of Zend PHP certification which has been around for several years now, who ultimately benefits more from the programme – the software devs or Zend?

Currently Zend certification is one of the only options available to PHP devs who want to get accredited, however.  But judging by general feedback from the community  it would appear that, despite the current certification choices, quality discrepancies between PHP devs on the market can still be pretty … impressive.

Getting quality programmers is no problem as long as you have a bulletproof hiring process I hear you say – that’s another subject 😉

Darrens’ final comment gives a nice insight into why PHP certification might not be more widespread:

The third major element of certification is market demand. Of course, if you are a doctor or a lawyer, then you cannot legally practice unless you are certified, which certainly helps with the demand side of things. Unless professional IT certification is legislated (an unlikely prospect for the forseeable future), then certification will only succeed if customers demand it.

Maybe industry demand for certification is not higher due to the lack of independent certifying bodies?

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4 Comments For This Post

  1. Thomas Koch Says:

    On a sitenode: I would consider a Linux Professional Institute Certification much move valuable for a web developer then the Zend certificate.
    As a web developer you won’t need only PHP, but also knowledge in networks, server administration, email, web standards in general. So I think that the LPIC Level 1 covers much more of the necessary topics then a Zend Certificate.

  2. Mike Says:

    Certifications such as the Zend cert are of no value to business at all.

    What you’re looking for when you are hiring is a good *programmer*, not just someone who knows PHP. Any fool can learn PHP and even pass the Zend cert. I’ve seen this happen for real and the business was disappointed with the developers immaturity (wrt programming practices).

    A good programmer will be able to pick up PHP pretty quickly and apply their programming knowledge to any language. In fact, in this case the Zend cert would be beneficial to the good programmers in order to accelerate their learning of the more obtuse behaviours of PHP.

    What would be valuable to business is a web programming cert using PHP as the language of choice. So, teaching proper OO practices, separation of concerns, scalability considerations, security considerations, how to effectively structure applications, peer review practices, unit testing, showing how to write more succinct code with php features, debugging with xdebug etc etc

    Spotting obtuse code errors and testing memorisation of a bunch of function arguments can be achieved with elementary understanding of the language and some intense cramming.

  3. paul morgan Says:

    A timely post as it has been crossing my mind recently too.

    Perhaps another reason for lack of take up might be as Rich Harrison describes on his blog (


    “They tapped me up through the ZCE Yellow Pages – a direct result of me taking the certification.”

    I would like my team to take the certification, but why pay out for it in time and money only for them to get poached away – it’s hard enough finding good talent as it is and holding on to it.

    Any sane SME owner is going to think twice whilst the certification is not independent.

    The words “gamekeeper” and “poacher” spring to mind.

    See you on the 27th Feb.

  4. Alex W Says:

    Best approach might be similar to Sun’s. Namely, the certificate (best equivalent to Zend qualification) is an entry-level qual and everyone in Java world knows it’s like having survival French – you won’t end up destitute and lost in your trip to Paris but try to communicate beyond phrasebook level and you’ll bomb.

    The roadmap after the cert is much more focussed on project-based work – you implement a web application or Swing-based GUI app with networking. If you don’t get threading, or the Swing or APIs, and don’t test the app in a real network setting or plan the object hierarchy properly you *will* blow it.

    Of course these sorts of test are more expensive to administer and evaluate than the jumping-through-hoops of electronic multiple choice questions but the end-user (corps or private devs) might consider covering the enhanced cost if they think they’re getting a good indication of coder quality.

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