Sun: Finding the Perfect Blend of Java Certifications

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When Sun introduced Java in 1995, the tiny product team led by James Gosling couldn’t possibly know the impact its efforts would have on programming and the Internet. “Oak,” as it was called before it became known as Java, started out as an embedded OS for a wireless PDA device originally designed to control TV set-top boxes. Coincidentally, the commercial form of the Internet was being born. Static Web pages gave way to dynamic content and Web-based applications for which Java was a perfect match. From those humble beginnings, Java became a leading programming platform for the Web, and today it boasts as many as 4 million developers worldwide.

With the adoption of Java exceeding all expectations, Sun introduced the Java Programmer Certification version 1.0 (SCJP). Today, a Java credential is one of the most valuable credentials that a programmer or developer can have, according to Certification Magazine’s December 2005 Salary Survey.

With a continuous demand for qualified Java programmers, developers and architects, it’s not surprising that Sun expanded the Java certification program to include an entry-level certification in Java. The Sun Certified Java Associate (SCJA) certification, released in August 2005, was designed to provide a credential for those programmers new to Java, possibly migrating from other platforms, and for software project managers who work in Java programming environments.

“We wanted to provide a certification for those people who are just coming over to Java from other OO (object-oriented) environments like C+ and for programming students just getting started and for software project managers who need to show that they have a good grasp of the Java Programming environment,” said Evelyn Cartagena-Meyer, Sun Microsystems program manager for Java certification. “It started out as a simple entry-level certification, but as we learned more about the needs that employers had for the role, we discovered that in addition to just basic Java language fundamentals, they also needed to have the big picture of the Java technology.”

This led Cartagena-Meyer to introduce additional objectives that require an understanding of client technologies such as applets and server technologies (EJBs and servlets), as well as an understanding of the different Java Platforms (Java SE, Java EE and Java ME).

“This certification is perfect for someone just starting out in the Java space who wants to prove they have the language fundamentals and that they get the big picture of the Java technology. From the associate level, it’s a natural progression into programmer and the advanced certifications,” Cartagena-Meyer said.

The recommended training for the Java Associate certification includes Fundamentals of the Java Programming Language (SL-110), a five-day instructor-led course available worldwide, and Java Platform Overview for Managers, a Web-based course. The Sun Certification Web site offers additional resources such as books and Web sites that prospective candidates will find useful in preparing for the Java Associate Certification.

Prior to taking the certification exam, Cartagena-Meyer recommends spending $35 for the practice exam, also available on the Sun Web site. “It’s a really great way to get prepared. When you take the e-practice exam, you will have a really good feel for the depth of the exam questions, and it’s a good way to determine if you are ready,” she said.

Following the Java Associate certification, most candidates will pursue the Sun Certified Java Programmer (SCJP) exam. Java Associate is not a prerequisite for Java Programmer. “Java Programmer is a big step up from associate,” Cartagena-Meyer said. “In order to earn the Java Programmer 5.0 certification, you really need to have solid competency in the Java language. We recommend that you have at least six months of serious Java programming experience before you attempt this certification.”

The Java Programmer 5.0 certification is quickly becoming Sun’s most popular credential. It requires programmers to understand Java syntax so they can build applications for Web and desktop environments. The exam makes use of a great number of code samples that require the candidate to recognize, analyze and organize code snippets to satisfy a given scenario or functional requirement. “We’ve made the exam more practical by using a lot of drag-and-drop items, where you are working with the code, rather than a battery of multiple-choice questions,” Cartagena-Meyer said. Candidates who’ve taken the new Java Programmer 5.0 exam have commented that it is harder than previous versions of the certification, but that the exam is a realistic blend of the broad knowledge and language depth that one needs to be a certified Java Programmer.

In preparing for the Java Programmer exam, Sun recommends programmers attend its Java Programming Language course (SL-275) in one of its three delivery formats. The course is available on the Web, on CD-ROM or as an instructor-led class. As with most Sun certification exams, there is a Web-based e-practice exam for Java Programmer 5.0 with more than 200 questions that will give candidates a good barometer of their readiness for the test.

Sun has bundled all of these learning components—the classroom training, Web training, practice exam and certification exam—into a career accelerator package. The career accelerator packages are designed to make it easy to get all the training and certification products for a particular career in a discounted bundle. The product offering has been successful for Sun.

Following the Java Associate and Java Programmer certifications, candidates have a wide array of areas in which they can specialize their skills. The Java certification program includes certifications for Java Standard Edition (JSE), Java Mobile Edition (JME) and advanced levels of Java Enterprise Edition (JEE).

One of the most popular advanced certifications in the Java program is the Sun Certified Web Component Developer certification (SCWCD). This certification is for Sun Certified Programmers who use the Java technology servlet and JavaServer Pages (JSP) application program interface (API) to develop Web applications. To qualify for this certification and other specialty certifications, candidates must already hold the SCJP certification.

Along this same path but designed for programmers who are involved in creating business applications with Java is the Sun Certified Business Component Developer (SCBCD). This certification is for programmers and developers who are responsible for designing, developing, testing, deploying and integrating Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) applications.

Sun offers the Sun Certified Mobile Application Developer (SCMAD) credential for programmers who develop for mobile devices. With more than 579 million cell phones running Java and another 750 million Java-enabled smart cards, it’s no wonder this certification is taking off.

The final specialization in Java is the Sun Certified Developer for Java Web Services (SCDJWS). This exam is for developers who have been creating Web services applications using Java technology components such as those supported by the Java Web Services Developer Pack and the Java Enterprise Edition.

Outside of the specializations in Java, the advanced credentials include the Sun Certified Java Developer (SCJD) and the Sun Certified Enterprise Architect (SCEA) certification. Both of these certifications are practical exams that include an assignment. Candidates are required to develop code that satisfies a reasonable scenario. These certifications consistently win awards in the industry.

Sun’s Java Certification offerings provide Java professionals with a broad range of opportunities to promote their skills and enhance their careers. A Sun Certified Java credential provides employers with a means to differentiate potential employees

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