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XML and Certification

In this tip, Ed Tittel discusses a variety of certifications that either focus on XML or include substantial XML coverage amidst their exam objectives and questions.

Every now and then the subject of pursuing certification on XML comes up from readers who find themselves pondering how to develop and/or demonstrate XML proficiency. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, let me begin my address on this subject with a mangled restatement of a famous aphorism—namely, "If you know enough to wonder about the value of XML certification, you probably don't need it" (which mangles the old saw: "If you have to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it.")

That said there are plenty of certifications that either focus on XML or include substantial XML coverage amidst their exam objectives and questions. On the XML focused front, the leading contenders are:

Brainbench, that purveyor of oodles and scads of topical tests for employees to demonstrate (and employers to check) specific areas of proficiency, also offers:
But these latter items don't really measure the same levels of knowledge and skill that the first two do, even though they do a halfway creditable job of assessing fundamental terms, concepts, and markup structures.

Outside the realm of certs with a more or less exclusive XML focus, lots of developer credentials include or concentrate on XML as part (but not all) of their coverage. Most notably, these include:
  • Microsoft's MCAD and MCSD requirements mandate that candidates must master .NET-XML content to earn these credentials; for the MCDBA, XML is optional and thus, rather less likely.
  • Most of Sun's various Java Technology certifications include some XML coverage, but those related to J2EE include the most XML content, among which the three developer credentials focus more on XML than the single architect cert.

There are plenty more, as any rapid scan of various other developer credentials from Oracle to Zend will attest.

But as for so many other developer credentials, the weight of experience is such that those who have lots of experience seldom bother with certification, while those with strong interest but little or no experience are most likely to find certification worthwhile. In a recent editorial, in fact, Micah Dubinko makes the basic point that certification is a good demonstration of interest and capability for those who might not otherwise have strong topical XML experience, but that those who possess such experience will have little truck with any of the certifications mentioned here (he also incorrectly identifies Whizlabs as an independent XML credential, when in fact the company provides cert prep materials and practice tests for the IBM certification only, and omits mention of the Brainbench and other certs covered here).

Those seeking entry-level XML work that don't already have on the job experience to match their proclivities will probably learn something from these programs, and find that it enhances their credibility to one degree or another. Practicing XML professionals have already had to learn how to master new (plus revised or restated) markup languages based on XML; they really don't need these certs—unless, of course, an employer requires them outright, or will fund the costs, time, and effort required to earn them.

Ed Tittel is a full-time writer and trainer whose interests include XML and development topics, along with IT Certification and information security topics. E-mail Ed at with comments, questions, or suggested topics or tools for review.

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