The value of formal certification differ quite a bit depending on your situation. A formal certificate may be the golden ticket to getting a foot in the door for a junior position. However, “Practical experience is King” is the mantra most of our experts rely on.
“If you can show two or more years of good results, whether you have certification or not is completely irrelevant,” said Matthew Billingham in his guest column The Keys to ABAP success last month.
This potential for diminished value of certification is obviously a problem for SAP, but it seems SAP recognized it. Announced at TechEd, there are now three levels of certification for SAP professionals:
- SAP Certified Associate is the basic stamp of approval for budding SAP professionals, suitable for recent college grads and those who recently moved to the SAP world.
- SAP Certified Professional goes one step further, requiring proven experience and good understanding of SAP basics. This step is suitable for those with at least two years practical, hands-on experience.
- SAP Certified Master is the trial-by-fire achievement that is likely to involve practical testing as well as interviews and written tests. I say “likely” because this flavor of certification is still under development and won’t be available until 2008.
On that note, there are still branches of the Professional level that are under development too, although I’m told this will be resolved shortly. Another quirk worth mentioning: For Associate and Professional levels, you choose a technical or functional angle for the topic you seek certification in; for Master level, you have to know both sides of the fence, said Michael Smith, eLearning Manager at SAP America in Atlanta, Georgia.
“One notable difference with the new certifications is the type of questions,” Smith said. “Instead of multiple choice questions from the study material, you get more open questions like ‘If you’re faced with problem X, how do you solve it?’”
That’s probably a good thing, seeing how there have been grumbles about SAP certification holders with subpar practical know-how — which typically doesn’t become evident until the project goes awry, be it a consultant or salaried employee.
“As a rule, SAP professionals tend to overestimate the power of certification,” said SAP career expert Jon Reed. “My experience is that most hiring managers are far more impressed by strong project track record than they are with a piece of paper.”
Reed will take an in-depth look at SAP’s new certification program in the weeks ahead, providing practical advice for new and current SAP professionals on what options are best suited to their current skills and interests.