Is Computer Science Certificate Worth It?

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  • Post last modified:May 1, 2022

Getting a computer science certification, such as in AWS, seems like a great investment in your skills and career, but do employees actually care about it? And is it worth it?

Computer science certificates may give you a slight boost because they validate your skills and expertise, but they’re worthless without experience. That being said, a valued CS certification might help you get your first job or earn a promotion, depending on your career path.

For example, certification isn’t that valued in programming, compared to security, networking, or cloud where you can give yourself a boost and invest in your skills and career by getting an AWS, Azure, CompTIA Security+, or Network+ certification. However, you’ll have a tough time getting past HR without experience or a degree, regardless of your certifications.

The truth is, it’s entirely possible to make $100k in IT without a single piece of paper showing you passed tests. However, it is almost impossible to make any money in IT without experience, which is why experience trumps all else in this industry.

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Is Computer Science Certification Worth It?

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Depending on which path you take, certificates can range in usefulness. For example, if we’re talking bout doing software development, certificates aren’t that relevant, but they will still complement your resume, make you stand out for entry-level jobs, and will increase your value, and improve your skills.

Certificates are much more important in IT than in programming, but they can still be useful depending on your role. For software development, you’ll need personal projects, education, and work experience. This is what gets you a high-paying job.

However, there are many software engineering certificates you can still take, courses in programming and data structures, databases, etc. which will not only complement your resume, but you’ll learn valuable skills while trying to obtain them. This increases your value, and with time, your salary will increase too.

As far as other paths go, certifications can be much more valuable. Security, Cloud, Networking – these are all areas where certifications are much more valuable. Here are some of the more valuable security certifications represented as a roadmap.

Keep in mind that we are talking about CS certification from a professional organization, not the CS certificate you get from a college which is often next to worthless, though they are often interchangeable and the first one is sometimes referred to as a certificate, as well.

Computer Science Certification cannot replace Experience

It’s inspiring to know that many people started their careers simply with CS certs, and are now making a decent salary. Therefore, if you can afford to get a certificate and you’re willing to learn long-term, then you should go for it because in this sense it’s well worth it. You can start checking out these articles on whether Microsoft or Google Certifications are worth it.

However, there is no substitute for experience, and this is what matters the most. You need to know the stuff from these courses during your road to certification, and you need to apply them in the real world.

Certificate vs Certification vs Degree – Which is Better?

While it is true that you can get a job without the other, it is also true that those without a (college) degree don’t earn as much as those with a degree, on average, or they don’t move up as much. In this sense, a degree is the best, while 2nd best is a Certification, and finally a certificate.

Computer Science Certification is offered by a national organization as a professional credential that is awarded to you once you finish the program. It meets the industry standards, affirms expertise in an area or skill, and awards you a professional designation. Example: AWS Solutions Architect, or CompTIA Sec+ certification.

Computer Science Certificate is typically offered by the educational organization and represents a diploma or some other credential that enables you to access further knowledge or skills. In a professional setting, they are all but worthless, unless you learn a lot and can use that knowledge or skills.

So there you have it, a (college) degree is the best, but all of them get obsolete once you have experience, which is worth more than any certificate out there. But the knowledge you learn from doing the certification program will help you a lot on your road to success.

Do Employers Like Computer Science Certifications?

Neither a cert nor a degree guarantees anything, but they often do matter from the perspective of employers depending on the job position. Companies may pretend they don’t care, but certificates are an important part of an overall picture of a job qualification.

Certification can make you stand out from other applicants, especially for an entry-level position, and it will serve as a good sign in a candidate. It’s not a lot, but it’s a small plus, depending on the HR, and your chosen career path.

However, any time someone with experience applies they will likely be hired before anyone else without experience regardless of certifications, or degrees.

Experience > Degree > Certifications

If you’re trying to advance, one of the things you can do is ask your employer what they feel you’d need for advancement at work. Many companies have budgets for certifications so they may even chip into the cost.

IT certifications show your interest in continued learning and this is highly valued because we live in a fast-changing world and it’s easy to get left behind. Regardless of employers, you’ll want to ensure that you got a job in the future, and doing an IT course will help you with securing that future.

Can You Get a Job With a Certificate in Computer Science?

A computer science certificate alone can’t get you a job, but it can increase your chance of both getting and passing an interview, provided you can show off your skills. It’s a small plus, but you’ll still need experience and skills which are much more valued than a cert.

Both certificates and a degree don’t guarantee a job, nor are they required. For example, what gets you a job in programming is being able to program and being able to demonstrate that fact. You also need to be able to sell yourself and your skills to the interviewer.

In an interview, you’ll need to show some projects you’ve worked on, so try to create some projects. Document them on Github, and then you’ll need to convince an interviewer that you know what you’re talking about. Basically, in programming, your GitHub repos are your certs. If you did well, you’ll pass to the next round of interviews, or land a job immediately.

Granted, not all of computer science is about programming, but the point is that experience, skills, and the ability to prove those skills are much more valuable than any kind of certification.

One of the ways to get a job in computer science while programming is to simply maintain an active Github account, write a lot of useful code, and be able to explain it. You can also contribute to open source projects that use a particular technology and then be able to point to your contributions to the hiring manager. 

This is better evidence of your skills than any CS cert can provide.

Therefore, you can get a job but only if you’re able to showcase the stuff you learned while doing that certification program. Sometimes it’s all about the demonstration of skills and knowledge. And no matter what CS certification you’re looking to get, be sure to try and get some experience as well. 

What kind of jobs can you get with a CS certificate?

Depending on your path a certificate might help you a bit, or a lot. Since certification is almost nonexistent in programming, you might want to look at jobs in the cloud (AWS and Azure Architects), security and cybersecurity, networking, and database architect jobs.

Can You Get a Computer Science Certificate Online?

You can definitely can. Online certificates can be done at websites such as Amazon (AWS), Microsoft (Azure, Security), CompTIA (Security, Networking, IT), Oracle (Oracle DB), Google Cloud (GCP), and others. Some are better than others, depending on your path. You can check out these posts to determine if Google or Microsoft certification is worth it.

You can get both a degree in computer science and certification online as well.

Some universities, such as WGU, will actually count certifications as having done a class already. In fact, at WGU, you can get a degree and certificates at the same time. So by the time you graduate, you can have certifications such as CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+, LPI Linux Essentials, CCNA, Amazon AWS SysOps Administration Associate, and others.

Are online certificates good?

A valid online certification related to your career path and the field is taken as a validation of your skills and expertise. However, they are only as good as you are able to use that knowledge and showcase your skills.

Typically, the knowledge you gain is more important than the course. Nobody will care if you did some Coursera course if you haven’t learned anything. Same with proper certifications, such as AWS or CompTIA. While they are a small plus, they won’t help unless you regained the knowledge, and you can demonstrate that knowledge.

What Computer Science Certifications Are in Demand?

Certifications that are highest in demand are those more closely related to Cloud and Cybersecurity, such as Microsoft Azure, Oracle DB, and CompTIA certifications related to security, but also those closer to IT, such as System Admin or Network Admin certs. 

The future will be revolving closely around AWS, Microsoft’s expansion, and the growth of Cyber. Google Cloud will also be popular, so any certifications related to those areas will not go to waste.

What CS Certification Should You Get First?

If you’re looking to get into computer science, the first certificates to get should be something like an intro to programming languages, database systems, algorithms, and then whatever else sounds interesting to you. A python certification is a good start.

Foundation certificates are the key to getting into computer science. One of the more useful certificates could be a python certification or some kind of a course in Data Structures and Algorithms.

Python certification is useful for a SysAdmin job, but it has extensive libraries for data science, machine learning, web development, and many more so you can use it for many different paths in your career.

You could pursue Security+ from CompTIA later on if you’re looking to get into cybersecurity or you can apply it to software development. You could also begin to start working toward A+ certification, which is highly valued but may not be a perfect cert for every CS career.

Best Certifications for Computer Science

One of the best certifications for computer science is related to Amazon AWS (e.g. AWS Certified Solutions Architect), Cisco (e.g. CCNA), Microsoft Azure (e.g. AZ-900), Oracle DB (e.g. 12c Admin OCA), Security and cybersecurity (e.g. CompTIA Sec+), and networking (CompTIA Network+).

Truth be told, there isn’t one best computer science certification, because it all depends on the level you’re at and your skills, as well as the path you take in computer science. 

In any case, you’ll learn a lot from these programs and exams, and they’ll give you a broad stroke understanding of a particular technology.

Can a CS Certificate Increase Your Salary?

Computer science certification can help increase your salary and increase your chances of moving up in the organization as well. However, a certification is only a small boost, and the only way to definitely increase your salary is through experience.

A computer science certificate salary isn’t something that can be calculated and doesn’t exist separated from your experience and skills. Your salary will depend on a lot of factors, with the main ones being your ability to program and showcase your skills to your employer.

However, some computer science certifications may help you get higher-paying jobs, but only if you combine them with experience, and your ability to showcase those skills you learned from those courses.

What computer science certification pays the most?

There aren’t CS certs that will guarantee a definite pay, but there are many who require a lot of hours and will help you invest into yourself, so you could sell yourself better.

With that in mind, here are some of the highest-paid CS certifications:

If you’re new to computer science, you’ll notice that most of these programs are too difficult for you. In that case, you’ll need to start with intro courses, until you can take these.

Keep in mind that a lot of people make above $100k without any sort of certificates, or degrees. But even though certificates don’t equal experience, the knowledge you can learn from these is a huge investment into yourself, which raises your value. And when you raise your value, you’ll notice that your income grows as well.