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PHP certification: is it worth it?

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Categories: Interviews

This post focus on the question of whether it is useful for PHP developers to obtain a certification.

Maurício Garcia is a reputed PHP professional from Brazil that gives presentations about Zend PHP certification that help people to decide whether is it really worth taking the exam and how to get prepared to take it.

Maurício has given an interview that answers many questions that may help PHP developers decide whether it is worth obtain the PHP Zend certification and to prepare yourself to pass the exam. The complete interview is published in this article.

Loaded Article

- Themes wiki
- Apress sponsors the PHP Programming Innovation Award
- The importance of having a certification
- Zend Certified Engineer and other skills in the PHP professionals directory
- Interview with ZCE Maurício Garcia
* Is the PHP certification worth it?
* How to take the certification exam
* Preparation to take the certification exam
* The PHP Profissional book
* Final remarks
* Post comments and questions to Maurício

- Themes wiki

Before moving on to the main topic of this post, first a couple of news of interest to PHP Web site developers.

Packt Publishing, a well known publisher of books about PHP and other Open Source software, has launched a new wiki with resources to help developers and Web designers to create new templates and themes for several kinds of content management systems.

If you are interested in this subject, please check out the site here:

- Apress sponsors the PHP Programming Innovation Award

Apress, also another well known publisher of PHP books, has joined the already long list of sponsors of the PHP Programming Innovation Award that the PHPClasses site organizes every month since 2004.

This means that winners and nominees of this award now have a new option to choose the prizes that they may pick when their packages are voted by the site users. Here you may find the updated list of sponsors and the list of prizes they provide.

- The importance of having a certification

PHP certification programs exist for several years now but many developers have not obtain them, either because they do not know about them or do not see the need to take the certification exams.

When you apply to a job usually you state that you have certain skills. If those skills are important, the eventual employer will try to verify whether you have those skills before hiring you.

Some employers just make a basic interview asking some pertinent questions to evaluate the candidate skills level. Others give a basic test problem to evaluate the candidate coding skills.

In either case, the employer may still not have a good confidence on whether the candidate is really prepared to develop PHP applications.

A good PHP certification exam may be able to evaluate how well a job candidate is prepared.

However, many employers are not aware about the existence of PHP certification programs, or they do not know if passing the exam really demonstrates whether the candidates have the skills that matter. Consequently, until now you often do not see PHP certification as an employment requirement in job postings.

On the other hand, since PHP certification is not yet a common job requirement, very few developers have taken the exam. Therefore, it seems we have a chicken-egg problem.

Often I see PHP developers complaining that they are not very well paid. At the same time I see a great demand for qualified PHP developers. Qualified PHP developers are often very well paid. But if a developer has no way to demonstrate that he is qualified, he can hardly negotiate a better salary.

Although I am certain that having a PHP certification is not the only way to demonstrate that a PHP developer is really qualified, I am sure that it helps hinting employers about his skills, and so become more open to negotiate better salaries.

Having a PHP certification also helps a developer stand out from the crowd of developers that apply to a job but do not have any certification.

Standing out from the crowd is one of the top 10 tips that I presented a couple of months ago in an article about how to get better PHP jobs: ...

- Zend Certified Engineer and other skills in the PHP professionals directory

The Zend Certificated Engineer (ZCE) is a certification program that consists of an exam which evaluates whether developers have good PHP programming skills.

I understand that there are other PHP certification programs, but ZCE is currently the industry standard which is better known among the PHP community.

As you may be aware, the PHP professionals directory lists professionals available for taking PHP jobs. The professional skills page lists the skills that each developer has.

Earlier this month, Zend Certified Engineer was added as a new skill that a PHP professional may indicate he has. Now, businesses looking for PHP professionals with the Zend certification may easily search for them by ticking the respective check box in the search form: ...

The search results for all Zend certified engineers in the PHP professionals directory may be accessed directly by going to this page: ...

If you are a Zend certified engineer and you are not yet listed as such, please go in the professional skills page and update your records. ...

The site will require that you enter your Zend certification ID which looks something like ZEND00NNNN .

The PHPClasses site will attempt to verify that you are really the Zend certified engineer you claim to be. Make sure the name you entered in your professional profile page is the same by which you are listed in the Zend yellow pages.

In the future, alternative Zend certified engineer verification methods may be provided to allow listing developers that want to appear listed using their company names instead of their personal names. Later it will also be possible to verify developers that have chosen to not be listed in the Zend yellow pages.

I am also in talks with companies that develop the most common types of databases used with PHP, like Oracle, MySQL, PostgreSQL, etc., in order to provide means to verify whether a professional is certified by them.

For now, if you have never added your professional profile or you are listed with a different name, you may go here to update your professional profile details: ...

- Interview with ZCE Maurício Garcia

I have never taken the ZCE exam because I only develop PHP applications for my own projects. I do not really have the need to take that exam. So, I am not really the right person to talk about ZCE.

Therefore I decided to invite Maurício Garcia, who is a reputed ZCE in the PHP community of Brazil. He gives presentations about ZCE that help people to decide whether is it really worth obtaining the certification, as well how to get prepared to take the certification exam. ...

PC = PHPClasses
MG = Maurício Garcia

PC: Maurício, can you please talk a bit about yourself, how old are you, where you live, your education level, where do you work, and your PHP experience?

MG: I am 32 years old, I live in São Paulo, in Brazil. I work as a Web systems analyst at the Universidade de Guarulhos, near São Paulo. I am a Computing Science teacher of graduation and post-graduation courses. I am also one of the managers of the ProPHP users group of Brazil. I work in a PMI virtual team, made of mostly of north-american people, in the development of the Human Resources site. I work with PHP since 2001.

* Is the PHP certification worth it?

PC: Interesting. Which PHP or other certifications did you obtain? What motivated you to obtain such certifications?

MG: So far I obtained the Zend PHP certifications for version 4 and 5. I also have taken other certification exams in the past, such as the Oracle DBA. Currently I am preparing myself to take the PMP exam (Project Management Professional).

Several factors motivated me to obtain these certifications, such as: getting a qualification that can differentiate me as a professional, recognition in the market, professional networking, personal satisfaction, and searching for new challenges.

PC: So, do you think it is worth for all PHP developers to obtain the PHP certification or just in certain situations? Do you think the market is valuing more the PHP professional that obtained a PHP certification?

MG: I recommend getting a PHP certification to all professionals that work with this language, in order to have something outstanding in their resume. I do not recommend it to those that think that the certification just by itself will provide immediate advantages. I think the same about any other of certification, the PHP certification is not an exception.

The Brazilian market is valuing this new type of certification very slowly. Several factors may explain why the PHP certification is not so well spread in Brazil and other countries, like for instance: the fact that the exam is only available in English, the cost of the exam, etc..

Currently, there are some learning centers in Brazil that train Web development specialists with focus on PHP, on which one of the classes is precisely about preparing to take the Zend certification exam.

* How to take the certification exam

PC: What about the rest of the world? Do you know if the PHP certification may be obtained easily in any part of the world? Can you give a brief overview of the of the steps a PHP developer has to give to obtain the certification?

MG: The exam is taken by Pearson Vue. They have many centers around the world authorized to take the exam. The sign-up process is done on the Internet, including the payment and scheduling of date of the exam.

The first step consists on going to the Pearson Vue site and choose the Zend certification exam. Next the candidate must purchase a voucher, which costs USD $125, using an international credit card.

Right after that, the candidate will receive a special key that he may use right away to pick an authorized center and take the exam or within a time frame of 1 year, so he can choose a place to take the exam near where he lives and whenever is feels ready.

PC: You are talking about the Zend certification exam. So, Zend elaborates the exam and Pearson Vue, takes the exam, right?

MG: Correct, Pearson Vue takes the exam, not only of Zend, but also of other companies and topics. They are not restricted to IT.

PC: I suppose that is why the exam may be taken in many countries. Interesting. Is the Zend certification the only kind of PHP certification, or do you know others?

MG: The only official exam that I know is from Zend. Other companies may apply their own processes to certify PHP professionals, but as far as I know they are not sanctioned by Zend.

PC: OK, but is there any other company well known by the PHP community that certifies PHP professionals besides taking the Zend certification exam?

MG: I know there is another company named BrainBench that has PHP certification exams but I am not familiar with their processes. It seems they provide certification exams for all sorts of IT topics. The exams seem to be taken on the Internet, which does not inspire much reliability in the results.

* Preparation to take the certification exam

PC: Do you think the certification exam is too hard for the majority of the PHP professionals that you know? For those that want to obtain the PHP certification, what do you recommend to study and pass the exam?

MG: For every certification exam, including for PHP certification, it is expected that the candidate has a good prior knowledge of the subjects, either from the theory and practice perspectives.

Some candidates assume that the preparation studies are enough to take the exam. Those are the ones that think about the certification to obtain immediate benefits. However, a professional that does not have a good knowledge base may have his credibility easily questioned.

To pass the exam, besides that base knowledge, the candidate must review basic set of PHP language concepts listed in the Zend site. From there he may get good perspective of the scope of the exam. Other than that, there are several preparatory books and simulated exam tests on the Internet, as well several general purpose PHP books.

It is important to denote the psychological aspect of the process. The exam is composed of 70 questions to be answered in 90 minutes. It is a very limited period of time. The candidate must be ready to administer that period of time with tranquility. That is why I reinforce the importance of practicing with simulated exam tests in order to be able to answer the questions in an accurate and quick manner.

PC: It is good to be aware of that detail. A few years ago I attended a talk you gave in São Paulo to provide guidance to those interested in taking the Zend PHP certification exam. I thought it was very interesting as it helped a lot those that were willing obtain the certification, to know the process and how to prepare themselves to answer the kind of questions that appear in the exam.

Have you been giving that talk again regularly? Would you be available to give that talk again in other places in Brazil or even in other questions, if you get requests?

MG: Whenever possible, I always try to attend to events to which I am invited. So far, I only have given this talk in several places in Brazil, but if I get an invitation to talk in another place, I would gladly accept the invitations to attend.

* The PHP Profissional book ...

PC: I am aware that you published a book that provides guidance to PHP professionals. Can you give a brief overview about the book, specifically if it covers aspects related with the PHP certification?

MG: The book is called "PHP Professional" and it was released by Novatec publisher in Brazil. It was co-authored by Alexandre Altair de Melo from the PHP Santa Catarina users group (PHPSC).

It covers practical aspects of object oriented Web systems development employing design patterns. It also covers aspects about entrepreneurship in the IT business and provides an interesting discussion about the Zend certification.

PC: Great. Where the interested developers may find more information about the book and how to purchase it?

MG: You may find more information about the book in the Novatec site, as well download the source code of examples mentioned in the book. The book is available for sale in main book shops (physical and online) of Brazil.

PC: The book is in Portuguese. How has been the acceptance of the book in Brazil? Do you have plans to publish an English version of the book adapted to the global PHP market? If so, have you already made any contacts with book publisher to release the book outside of Brazil?

MG: We are very pleased! The acceptance of the book have been extraordinary in just 6 months since it was put on sale. We got numerous contacts from our readers, with many positive comments and compliments to our work.

Despite the hard work writing the book required, we are already surveying possible subjects we may cover in future editions, including the eventual publication of an English version, maybe next year?

* Final remarks

PC: Very interesting. Thank you for your interview. Is there anything else you that you would like to mention that was not covered in this interview?

MG: I hope all the candidates think very well about the real meaning of obtaining a certification, so it does not simply become a paper issued by Zend saying that they passed in the exam. The certification just by itself does not guarantee anything.

To Zend I would like to leave here my request to provide greater transparency to the exam. Since I took the PHP 4 exam more than 2 years ago, I have been receiving e-mail messages from other people asking me about the approval criteria of the exam.

Unfortunately Zend does not reveal the approval criteria. I believe that if the approval criteria would be published, more developers would become interested in taking the exam.

* Post comments and questions to Maurício

If anybody is interested in contacting me to talk about these subjects, they may find my contact in the Zend yellow pages or send a message to mauricio at .

PC: Finally, since the interview is being published in the PHPClasses site blog, I would like to invite you to follow its publication, as well the comments posted by the site users. Would you be available to answer additional questions that the users may post as comments to this interview article?

MG: Yes, absolutely!

PC: Great. Thank you once more Maurício.

So, if you have additional comments or questions to Maurício about this subject, please feel free to post them as comments to this article.

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