I have come across a lot of content recently around the subject of SAP Certification. To say this is a hot topic does not really make the point well enough. It has been a key talking points for many years now and I cant see the subject going away without drastic changes but that is another blog all by itself.

  SAP is a truly Global product, with a Global appeal. SAP as a company has been growing by double digits for the last couple of years, and the number of products keeps on growing due to acquisitions and innovation. All this means is that the volume of work is growing as well. For every large licence sale that SAP make, there will be a large implementation project consisting of a small army of consultants. Some of these consultants, maybe internal, some may come from a SAP Partner and others could come from SAP themselves. There will be project management resources, as well as program management resources, as well as technical and functional consultants.


   Geographically the maturity of the SAP market will vary. Europe and America will have a number of experienced consultants and at times the volume of consultants is more than the volume of work driving down the rates. In the UK we have noticed the contract market rates for “commodity skills” drop around 15-20% over the last 12 months for example.

  How do you enter the SAP fold?


There are two common entries into the world of SAP. The first would be as a graduate or higher educated level where the employee would be joining a SAP Partner to learn SAP (normally a chosen area or product niche). There is still a strong stream of employees taking these types of roles up, and there is a clear appetite within the SAP Partner ranks to acquire talent and grow this way.

  The second is the more complicated route. The employee will not be sponsored by a SAP Partner. They may have some business knowledge, however they wish to bypass the Graduate route and seek direct employment. Normally this is successful is where the employee works for a Company that is either thinking about implementing one of the many SAP products, or they currently use one or more of the SAP products and require internal assistance. Sometime business users who are using SAP want to try and work closer with SAP products in terms of configuration.


So when is the right time?

  For the graduate the right time might feel like getting certified as the first part of their employment at their SAP Partner. However I am not sure this is right. Apart from a piece of paper stating the employee has passed an exam what skills can that employee over to a potential client (leading to chargeable work)? Some technical roles may just require the employee to learn a new technical skill or language, however if this cant be put into a business context the benefit of the certification is watered down. Surely the best start to their professional education is hands-on work with certification occurring once they can put the technical requirements into context with the actual consulting work they are performing.


The non graduate route is slightly more complicated. Any would-be SAP Consultant thinking of becoming certified prior to gaining a SAP based role within a Company is doing things the wrong way. It is much safer to try and secure employment and then look at education. A certified consultant without SAP consulting experience or implementation experience is not attractive to most Companies. When there are others out there with both, why would you select
someone that has no experience?

Please note the type of SAP product may sway this argument.
Having a certification in a “hot product” will be attractive, however not as
attractive as someone with the certification and the experience.

Working for a Company that uses SAP is a good place to start. You may be working for example in the Accounts department, but you wish to become a certified SAP Finance Consultant. To do this, you need to learn how to use the product as a business user. Remember if you become a SAP Finance
Consultant this is the type of individual you will be servicing and assisting. You also need to engage with the current Finance support team and understand
who they are and how they work. If you can see a viable plan to move into the team try and make the move, but you need to be honest with yourself about this if this is achievable.


There is also an option that certification is not actually valid for you. You have to question why you want to be certified. If it is to get a job within SAP Consulting, and you have one you may question the benefits of the piece of paper. From my experience most roles, especially more senior roles do not ask for certification as a requirement.The experience you will pick up over 4-5 implementations or support cycles will be more valuable than that piece of paper.

You may also need to walk away from your dreams. I have read a few blogs where consultants have gone into great details as to why they wanted to be SAP certified. One common theme, is their perceptions around being SAP Certified and the realities they faced after are totally different. I would have loved to be a footballer but due to a lack of skill I never got the chance. If someone had told me I could attend a course and I would be playing Premiership football, I might have been tempted. Hopefully I would have questioned the merits of this scheme. If it is that easy to do, why doesn’t everyone do it that way? Your career should be something that aligns to your actual skills not skills you dont have but could pick up on.

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  1. Jarret Pazahanick

    Very good blog and advice Mark as I ALWAYS recommend when “freshers” reach out to me to try to find a job with a company that has SAP installed in ANY role and try to work your way onto the implementation team. For many they expect their first SAP job after certification (many times due to false advertising) to be as a SAP consultant but it shouldn’t be any surprise that customers who are hiring these consultants want people with implementation and project experience. There is very little  value can many people who ONLY have SAP certification bring to the table as a consultant which is why joining a company that has SAP installed as a full time employee can be good career strategy.

    As we have seen recently with the blog DOs & DON’Ts for SAP Career (Certification) on the basis of my on going journey from an Accountant to SAP FI Consultant. there are a lot of expectations and promises on what certification can bring which often dont correspond with the reality on the ground.

    1. Mark Chalfen Post author

      @Jarret – you make a very good point.

      Where someone expects to walk into a SAP implementation after certification highlights potential ignore and nievity around what a SAP Consultant actually does.

      Where recently qualified certified consultants are moved straight into a project it sounds like they perform non-value add tasks and sometime are actually kept away from coding or configuration. So even if they do get a job they cant get the experience they require to progress.

      Nothing can beat actually using a system for a functional consultant prior to learning what is under the hood.

  2. Nathan Genez

    I’m not sure I would advise anybody to break into SAP unless it was a new area like HANA or mobility.  I just can’t, in good conscience, recommend that a new business professional start their career working in SD, BI, or CRM because of the high number of experienced resources in these areas.  The barrier of entry is just too high.  After all, if you want to increase your chances of winning, you need to be playing the right game.

    1. Mark Chalfen Post author

      HI Nathan

      You have summed it up very well.

      We take on Graduates every year – but I have never taken one as they dont know Finance processes yet.

      HANA, Mobile and new functionality feels the right place to start.

  3. Susan Keohan

    Hi Mark,

    Good content, as always. 

    I can agree with what Jarret said – I was lucky enough to be working for a ‘company’ that decided to implement SAP.  Because of my experience as a developer, and because of the area where I built my expertise, I was selected to be on the implementation team.  That was long ago, and although I have had a lot of training, I am not certified in anything.  YET.

    I will be taking the Workflow Certification in late August – but for me this will not necessarily be for a jumping off point to the next great thing, but a personal validation.

    I do recall, back in the day, our SI had a lot of interns running around our project. They were taking meeting notes, and updating spreadsheets, and so forth.  I was very interested years later to discover how incredibly critical they were to our success 😉 – when some of their resumes crossed my desk.

    I do agree that your career should align with your skills, but I would also add that you should be working towards a career you feel passionate about.  It’s not enough to say ‘I’m smart, and good with xxx, and want to earn the big bucks, so I think I will learn SAP’.


    1. Sascha Wenninger
      I do agree that your career should align with your skills, but I would also add that you should be working towards a career you feel passionate about.  It’s not enough to say ‘I’m smart, and good with xxx, and want to earn the big bucks, so I think I will learn SAP’.

      I couldn’t agree more! 🙂 I pretty much followed the second pattern Mark mentioned: I looked for employment in the IT sector during my last year of study at uni with both the big consulting firms and some other “user” companies. As it happened, I landed a job at one of the latter and stumbled into SAP from there. But I’ve always looked for work which I thought might be enjoyable and an opportunity to learn more. Money never made it anywhere near the top of the list of priorities in my career choices (otherwise I wouldn’t have gone into IT straight after uni :-P) but it’s always followed. After all: http://www.gapingvoidart.com/love-what-p-1718.html

      Just because all of us here on SCN are super-passionate about SAP stuff doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. So starting out from uni/whatever and seeing an SAP career of some kind as a goal to aim for, then I think they’re already taking the wrong approach. And if anyone thinks SAP == big bucks, then they are certainly in it for the wrong reasons and will more than likely be disappointed.

      An SAP career isn’t some kind of nirvana. It might be for some people, but then only because it happens to align well with that they’d want to be doing anyways. To think otherwise is to confuse correlation with causation.



      1. Tom Van Doorslaer

        Passion and talent have always been and will always remain, the two key elements in a successful carreer.

        If you’re passionate about something, and you have a slice of talent, it doesn’t matter at which level you start. You will eventually grow into the role you so much desire.

        from that perspective, it’s not a shame for a graduate or even an experienced person, to take on a role in a company, which at first glance is not exactly what he/she might aim for. Because if you have talent and passion, someone will notice you, and you will be able to reach for the role you so much desired.

    2. Mark Chalfen Post author

      Sue – good luck with your certification.

      I dont think anyone left school wanting to be a SAP consultant.

      I wanted to work in Finance and ended up in SAP after a SAP implementation at the company I was working for (I was not part of the original implementation team)

    3. Martin English

      Mark, Sue,

      I think this goes to something deeper than just certification; too many customers see SAP as the answer to their prayers, a black box that will solve all their problems with little or no understanding required on their behalf of how the tool (because that’s all that it is) actually works. It leads to basic mistakes like separating SAP from the rest of the IT infrastructure, not knowing enough to ask sensible questions when interviewing senior consultants, and inappropriate timelines for implementations and upgrades.  These all lead to projects blowouts, or projects that appear to have completed on time / in budget, but have gaping holes in the deliverables, the performance, or the ongoing maintenance and support processes.

      Sometimes, it is too easy to see the people driving this as ‘just’ rabid SAP evangelists, driven by their ‘passion for SAP’. I’ve fought the occasional battle  over whether a particular SAP product or component is the appropriate tool, especially compared to some of the free tools and utilities available. In these situations it soon becomes obvious whether the protagonists prefer SAP and SAP technology based on experience, or if they are arguing in favor of SAP because that’s all they know, or ‘believe’ in. After all,  for many of the decision makers, the “company” has determined that SAP is the core enterprise system, careers and promotions are going to be won and lost on it, the (big fat) cheque has been handed over, and come hell or high water we will use SAP for everything !!!

      Not because it’s the right tool, but because it’s the only tool technology they know how to spell.

      PS If any of my kids wanted to become an SAP consultant, I don’t know whether I would be proud they thought enough of me to want to copy my career,  or disappointed in my self as a parent….

      PPS Sue, I’m curious about how SAP will mark your exam; perhaps they will give you 100% and mark the other attendees according to how much they deviate from your answers ? 🙂 Good luck with it !!

  4. Srikanth Naidu Akula

    Hi Mark,

    Totally agreed and nicely said. “As a fresher one mustn’t be tempted to get into certification”. I see people those who are certified inquiring for Job opening for Certified fresher on different streams of SAP in many social & professional networks like Linked-in. I was bothered that people having certification are not able to get the job then what is the objective of certification.

    I understood that mere certification can’t fetch a job in SAP without good working knowledge along with consulting experience. And I have withdrawn my ideas to go for certification at this level.

    Thank you for such writings.


    Srikanth Naidu. Akula

    1. Mark Chalfen Post author


      Thanks for your reply.

      I have seen comments elsewhere where there is a feeling that certification in SAP should lead to a job or work.

      I cant see this happening – and the only way this would work would be for the certification to include actual project work.

      I hope you focus on getting actual SAP HCM implementation experience as this is the best way to learn and grow. I would also you suggest trying to focus on the “hotter” products within HCM.


    hi Mark ,

    Great blog . I would agree with your take on the Certification . As I know some of my friends who had left their jobs to do a SAP certification and after getting certified could not break into the consulting world and had to go back to their original domain . I have done 4 Projects as a contractor and now I have decided to take a Certification , I would agree that with the Real time experience it makes more sense to appear for a certification . As nathan as said , the barrier of entry is too high .

    I have seen a Certified Consultant walk into our Project and could not understand the business process and had to face lot of challenges .

    I would also like to add , that there are so many new functionalities getting added , i find it so difficult to learn and update , I can only imagine for a  fresher  how difficult that would be .


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