JavaWhich Java Certification Path is Right for You?

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This article starts with the premise that certification plays an
important role in a person’s career path. As a quick review, the major reasons
for certification are as follows:

  • Certification establishes a skill level, which is one element in
    searching for a job.

  • Certification forces one to learn material outside of the box of the
    day-to-day job.

  • Certification is a badge of achievement.

If certification is important, so is the choice of a certification path.
The choice you make has an impact on who accepts the certification. For a
certification to having meaning, the issuer of the certification has to be
recognized as a valid certification authority. For company’s product, the
company is the ultimate certificate authority.

Certification for Java is different than certification for products of a
single company, such as a Cisco Certified Network Associate, or a Certified
Novell Engineer. For corporate certification, the corporation controls the
skill level breakdown, and the objectives for certification at each skill
level. On the other hand, Java does fit this mold. Java is a multi-platform
language implemented by different hardware manufacturers. For Java, the
definition of skill levels and objectives for each skill level goes beyond a
single company. The jCert Initiative attempts to create cross-vendor
certification objectives and exams.

The jCert Initiative

The jCert Initiative is a consortium
of companies (BEA Systems, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, ProsoftTraining, and Sun
Microsystems) that was established in 1999. Oracle was part of jCert, but left
the group as of the end of June 2002. Although the group of companies is small,
jCert has an important role to play in Java certification.

The phrase “Certified Once, Recognized Everywhere” expresses the
mission statement of the jCert Initiative. Through this mission, jCert seeks to
reduce the number of redundant certification exams in the industry. To
accomplish the mission requires an agreement as to the skill levels and the
objectives for each skill level.

The jCert Initiative defines three skill levels:

  • Skill Level 1 – Certified Programmer

  • Skill Level 2 – Certified Solution Developer

  • Skill Level 3 – Certified Enterprise Developer

Skill level 1 has a single set of objectives and a single exam. Skills
levels 2 and 3 consist of two sets of objectives and two sets of exams. Skill
levels 2A and 3A are common exams, while skill levels 2B and 3B are vendor
specific. Thus, there are really five sets of objects and five exams as

  • Skill Level 1 – Sun Certified Programmer for the Java 2 Platform
  • Skill Level 2A – Object Oriented Analysis and Design with UML

  • Skill Level 2B – Application Development for the Java Platform

  • Skill Level 3A – Enterprise Connectivity with Java Technology

  • Skill Level 3B – Enterprise Development with an Application

The prerequisite for each skill level is passing the exam for the
previous skill level. More importantly, it makes no difference whose exam you
take, as long as it is listed as a qualifying exam. Thus, you could take Sun’s
exam for skill level 1, CIW’s exam for skill level 2A, and IBM’s exam for skill
level 2B. The scheme works because of a common set of objectives to which each
exam must comply.

The vendor specific exams for skill levels 2B and 3B are related to
separate product lines. The skill level 2B exam relates to knowledge of a
vendor specific IDE tool, such as IBM’s Visual Age. The skill level 3B ties to
a vendor specific implementation of an application server, such as BEA’s
WebLogic server.

While jCert defines the skill levels and objectives for each skill
level, individual companies write the exams. Moreover, each member company has
a Java certification path. How well do these exams and paths comply with the
jCert standard?

Sun Microsystems

Sun actually has five separate certification exams related to Java as

Of the five Java certifications, only two qualify under the jCert
Initiative. The Sun Certified Programmer for the Java[tm] 2 Platform is the
only qualifying exam for jCert’s skill level 1. However, as of August 19, 2002
there are two versions of the exam. Exam number 310-025 is the older version of
the exam and ties to version 1.2 of the Java 2 Platform. Exam number 310-025 is
the new exam and is based on version 1.4 of the Java 2 Platform. Only exam
number 310-025 (for version 1.2) qualifies under jCert. The exam is also the
prerequisite for the developer exam and the web component developer exam. I
doubt that you will see a change in jCert’s recognition of the new exam, until
version 1.4 becomes the standard version of Java for the products from the
other members of jCert.

The iPlanet Application Server 6.0 exam qualifies for jCert’s skill
level 3B. Skill level 3B relates to a vendor specific application server. In
other words, the exam relates to an implementation of J2EE by a vendor, and not
the reference implementation that you can download from Sun.

The tendency is to take the developer exam after passing the programmer
exam. Yet, the developer certification is not accepted by jCert and is not a
prerequisite to becoming a web component developer. The developer certification
just does not fit into any certification path.

My first impression was that the web component developer exam would
qualify at jCert’s skill level 3A. Skill level 3A is a common exam dealing with
the components of the J2EE technology. Given the general nature of the jCert’s
skill level 3A objectives, my impression is that it will be approved as a skill
level 3A exam.

Since there is a difference in objectives, the architect’s
certification has no jCert equivalent. With three separate exams, the
certification stands by itself and has no prerequisites.

BEA Systems

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