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FAQ: Java vs. ABAP Programming Careers

I’m a strong JAVA programmer, how can I switch to SAP?  Can I become a Functional consultant?

I’ve seen a few questions lately from JAVA programmers who want to start a career in SAP programming or switch to Functional SAP Consulting. This blog is targeted to java programmers thinking about switching to ABAP or functional SAP consulting. My general advice to anyone seeking to switch careers is to use what you do know and the skills you have on your resume to leverage yourself into a new career. It is much easier, in general, to ease yourself into a new career than it is to make a complete break, learn an entirely new skillset and find a job in a field which has nothing in common with your old field. With programming, you can always make the case that one language is similar enough to another that you can be productive in a relatively short time after learning the new syntax, but it is useful to point out for folks with strong JAVA skills that switching completely over to JAVA from the beginning may not actually be necessary.

SAP has it’s own JAVA stack. If you have strong JAVA skills, I recommend you take some basic SAP courses plus some “JAVA in SAP” courses and then look for work as an SAP JAVA coder. Once you’ve got work on an SAP project, then you can talk to ABAP programmers and/or functional folks and get a better idea of whether or not you really want to switch to ABAP or functional. If you do, it will be much easier to switch once you’ve been through a couple SAP implementations as a JAVA developer.

Do I need to learn ABAP?

It is NOT necessary for you to learn ABAP although many folks will tell you to go that route. As far as I can tell, there is currently no certification for SAP JAVA so if you take the required classes and have a strong JAVA background you should not have difficulty finding work. You won’t be competing with folks who have certifications they can point to while you don’t. You *will* be competing with folks with ABAP and successful implementations on their resume, but you can argue that it is easier for you to learn the SAP twist on JAVA than for an ABAPer to learn JAVA.

Where do I find SAP JAVA classes?

SAP is developing a certification for Portal Developer (which requires JAVA development), so if you use that curriculum as you base, you’ll be ready once that test is offered. us-development-consultant-sap-netweaver-2004s-portal-sap-netweaver-portal-70-g-en

The bad news is that the classes in that curriculum are going to be hard to find. If you’re in Asia Pacific, probably none of the Institutes in the Asia Pacific region offer these classes. The Authorized Training Centers (in Asia Pacific and elsewhere) are generally set up to process the large numbers of folks who want to learn ABAP.  (You’ve heard the saying that when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail? If you tell an ATC you want to program in SAP, they’re going to put you in an ABAP track.) Some of the necessary classes are offered online (just be aware that if they’re live virtual classes, they’re probably going to be offered on US time zone schedule). It looks like the first class in the series, JA100, is going to be offered only one time this year, in Chicago.

SAP does open up classes if enough people sign up, so if you’re interested in any of these classes, be sure to register your interest on the training site and you’ll be notified when enough people request the class. I recommend connecting with someone from SAP education in your area to see if you can get a class scheduled locally. If you can get 5 or 6 folks to commit, SAP will often offer the class.

I can’t afford to take SAP classes!

Another option that might work, given the classroom situation, is to download a trial environment and take a look at SAP’s JAVA environment first hand. Please see my previous blog, Learning SAP when you don’t have an SAP job already, for hints on how to get a live environment in which to practice. Then get a good SAP JAVA book ( ;qid=1333630182&sr=8-1, =1333630182&sr=8-4, or 33630182&sr=8-7).

If your JAVA is strong enough that you can work through one of those books, then you should be able to sell your abilities even without classes. This makes SAP JAVA programming somewhat unique. I would never suggest that someone try to become an ABAP consultant or a Functional consultant or a Basis consultant without going through the classes. (Although I do suggest that folks get hired and have their employers pay for the training rather than paying out of pocket, but that’s a different blog.) The difference here is that nobody is SAP JAVA certified and that SAP JAVA is for the most part the same as any other JAVA so your non-SAP JAVA skills are directly transferable (especially if you’ve been using Eclipse as your development environment).

What is the market for SAP JAVA vs. SAP ABAP?

Both paths are valid. The bulk of SAP uses ABAP so there is more demand (more available positions) but there is also a huge supply of ABAP programmers. Java is used less frequently (mostly for portal and HR apps, but also other places). Since Java is used less frequently, there are fewer available positions, but there are far fewer JAVA developers knowledgeable in JAVA.

I’ve said this before and I will continue to say it until I’m blue in the face. Choose your career based on your passion and not a potential paycheck. If you know JAVA and love JAVA, then be an SAP JAVA programmer. There is plenty of room for folks who are passionate about whatever facet of SAP interests them. Regardless of how competitive a career becomes, it is the passionate ones that will get the jobs, because that passion will have enabled them to learn more and do more than the competition. If you choose a career path (be it ABAP or Functional or Java or whatever) ONLY because you think that career will provide you with steady employment, then you will inevitably sour on that path and each new thing you learn will become a chore. You will end up burning out and having to switch careers again and again.

There was a long distance runner named Micah True (who recently passed away, Rest in Peace) who was quoted by Christopher McDougall in his book, Born to Run.

“Think Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don’t give a **** how high that hill is or how far you’ve got to go. When you’ve practice that for so long that you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smoooooth. You won’t have to worry about the last one – you get those three, and you’ll be fast.”

Your SAP career should be the same. Pick a topic that interests you so much that learning more about it is easy. Then practice your craft until it becomes effortless and light. At the same time, work on communicating to others until your discussions on the topic become smooth. If you get those three, career success will take care of itself.

Other blogs on this topic:

XY: From Java developer to SAP Java developer by Otto Gold

Hope this helps!

Best regards,


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  • i am a java developer and working on Web dynpro java and SAP Portal, so i involved into the blog. last paragraph is worth taking a print and following.

    Great blog for building our SAP career.

    Glad to see all your blogs in one place 🙂

    thanks & keep writing,


  • Hi Tom,

    Excellent blog and the last quote from BTR is a gem.  I read BTR, what an awesome book. Micah True/Caballo Blanco (RIP) his words and philosophy are a source of great inspiration.  I work in SAP Data Services, do you have any write-ups on that? Thanks

  • [Post New]posted Today 10:15:18 PM


    Quote Edit

    Hi All...

    This is exactly my situation now. I hope you can best suggest me. I am an Unix admin working for 5 years (day and nights a hell) now I in new role as java application support role since 6 months and learning java , but I feel code is understandable but to support code and do bug fix i feel embrassing , At this moment I got to know a new SAP module (functionality)team is about to be reorganised in my company and looking for interested candidates. Now could you suggest me if i go and pic it up how long it does take for changing the mind set? I know its interesting , but what challenges did you face, How do you feel moving your career? any disappointments?unix night shift and java bug fix are both killing me. Do you think its good to stay back with Java application support and learn it slowly or take a step in ot SAP support ?I am also good at DB(7/10). Added i am not super talented but hard working ..Does SAP functional needs good grasping skills to keep the carrer? Any help is highly appriciated... would keep on refreshing this blog untill I see feedback from you...

    • Sree,

      I know your post was several months ago, I apologize for missing it when you posted! If you've been doing UNIX admin work and like system administration, a better fit for you is SAP Netweaver System Administration (a.k.a. Basis) See FAQ for SAP NetWeaver Admin (SAP Basis) Careers

      As it has been many months, you may have completed your transition to Java programming by now. You seem to have had an opportunity to jump to functional. I probably would not recommend that if you don't have the business background and/or interest in business processes..

      Sorry again for the delayed reply. I hope things worked out/are working out for you!

      Best regards,


  • Hi Thomas,

    I have over 6 years of Java work experience.  I just started working on SAP-Java

    project. Mostly i am developing function modules in ABAP and creatign web services

    from RFC, this web service is being consumed in Java client.

    I found this work really interesting, instead of usual web development in java.

    Now your blog really encoreged me to learn Java on NetWeaver server.

    Thanks a lot.

    • Hi Gunwant,

      I'm glad you found it helpful! I'll be interested in seeing a blog from you in a year reviewing your experience in your switch to SAP Java!

      Best regards,


  • Thomas,

    Great article, and even though it doesn't directly apply to my situation, it did provide some valuable insight.

    My company is just getting started on the SAP journey (we start the implementation process in August with a planned go-live in 2014), and we don't have any in-house experience with SAP development.  My personal background is with .NET development.  Is there any particular reason to choose ABAP or Java in a situation where either is a viable option?

    Thanks for your input!


  • Hi,

    I couldn't agree with you more on this. Good post. I am very much encouraged. Its all about what you are passionate about. If its ABAP you should probably follow that and get better at that. Learning never ends.

    Pick a topic that interests you so much that learning more about it is easy. Then practice your craft until it becomes effortless and light. At the same time, work on communicating to others until your discussions on the topic become smooth. If you get those three, career success will take care of itself.