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There are lots of very good ABAP programmers with gaps in Java knowledge who wish to bridge it. I want to advise them about a way to do it that has proven its efficiency by a number of my colleagues and it is a pretty interesting challenge. I’m talking about Java certification. Actually the question about the value of certification is as old as the IT industry; but being an adherent of certification as a way to learn, I’ll try to convince others to choose this way or at least will show you what attracts me.

When you want to learn a new language or technology it’s vitally important to build a roadmap for learning. In our case it’s too vague to target a self-studying program such as “I’ll learn Java”. It should be defined. Besides the basic language syntax on which API gets into your learning, you spot what particular technology implemented in Java is noteworthy for you. Even when you specify for yourself a number of areas you want to study after learning basic Java, another problem arises – what books to read in a particular realm and what tasks to program to test your newly acquired knowledge? (Each IT book is not really easy bedtime reading.) Whatever you choose, lots of uncovered issues are left. In contrast, by choosing certification usually you know in advance what areas the certificate covers and you may estimate in advance its value for your level of knowledge. Beside the fact that a certificate requires a few areas to be learned in detail, usually you have to practice new knowledge to understand it well. A good certification program is comprised of the areas one really needs if you want to work in that position. Now let me tell you what options we have in Java.

The truth is that today the single valued certifications for Java are ones from SUN. Here we have a bunch of certifications for several levels.

The first is Sun Certified Java Programmer (SCJP). The certification includes only one exam that consists of 61 questions covering all areas of Java as a language. To prepare for it you have to understand the Java syntax well and all basic API. I’d really recommend this exam for those who want to quickly but thoroughly make the acquaintance of Java. You’ll learn some tough areas which you would probably skip over if you were reading about them, until you need them in practice (like a branchy family of Streams and Readers or a chapter about static inner classes). You ought to learn to read tangled code snippets to answer questions like “what’s wrong in this code?” I think this exam may be nominated as the fastest jump-in program to grasp Java as a language.

Next one is Sun Certified Java Developer (SCJD). This exam has no test questionnaire but a project you have to complete and submit. The project gives you a user case scenario and an existing API that you have to complete and use to create a Java application to implement the case’s requirements. Apart from learning RMI, Security, Swing and other areas of Java, you will have to know how to create Java and project documentation in a proper way. Although the SCJP exam maybe passed theoretically without writing a single line of code, this exam ultimately demands programming and is a kind of challenge even for ones have programmed in Java before. The exam requires that a candidate must first pass SCJP.

Close to SCJD stand certifications with deep qualifications in a special area, namely: Web Component Developer (about JSP and servlets and Web technology), Business Component Developer (mostly the EJB world), Developer for Web Services (the name explains itself) and Mobile Application Developer (Java micro edition). This group of certifications helps you to prepare in a specific area of Java technologies but personally I don’t find them as useful and attractive as the first two exams.

Last but not least is Sun Certified Enterprise Architect for J2EE (SCEA). This exam stands a bit aside from the rest since it is not for developers or programmers but for architects and enterprise designers (and so doesn’t require any other exam to be passed first). To pass it you have to, first of all, take a multiple-choice exam and second to complete a project similar to one from SCJD. This time you don’t have to write a single line of Java in the project but need to draw lots of UML diagrams and several pages of explanations of the solutions advocating them, and detailing their pros and cons. The exam is quite tough and I’d say it’s the most difficult Java exam from SUN. As a matter of fact the exam covers not only Java-related topics but also topics from enterprise architecture, design patterns, protocols, legacy systems and security. I also recommend this exam as a basis for a learning program on the enterprise technologies.

I’ve covered all Java certificates from SUN and should add few standard phrases usually used in touting certifications. The market recognizes these certifications. They’re well known and welcomed by HR groups. The higher the level of certificate program you choose the fewer people already posses this certificate. But personally I’m sure that any certificate merely helps you to get to an interview but not to get a job. So I consider any certification solely as a pathway for self learning and this way has been proven by lots of people. Try it too! 🙂

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4 Comments

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  1. Stepan Samarin
    Roman, actually I would not recommend this exam as a way for learning architectures and J2EE. It must be one of the steps after you had experience in the field. It’s really tough, and now it’s also a bit dated. At least, Part I. For the start a set of books would be fine.
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    1. Dagfinn Parnas
      Just as important as learning the java syntax, is to understand object-oriented design/programming.
      After learning this you can move on to more advanced topics such as J2EE, patterns ++
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      1. Stepan Samarin
        I guess it was already discussed somewhere on SDN…OO skills is a must for a person, doing development in Java, C++ or whatever else OO language you name.
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