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So I looked over the topics on the exam to become an Oracle Certified Associate (Java 7 programmer) and I'm 99% sure I know everything on the test, and could get certified right now. Should I spend the $50, take the test, and try to get a real programming job while I'm technically only a freshman? Would getting certified really help me that much (read: make it possible to get a job without a degree)?
Clayton Langford's profile photoJon Yoder's profile photoJames Power's profile photo
Possibly. Certifications help when you're a developer, but I know some employers care more about the ability to write good code, solve problems, and continue learning throughout your career. I certainly can't hurt. At the same time, work on getting your CS degree even if the classes right now are pretty lame. A lot of employers look for a CS degree.
It's not that I don't want to get a degree because I do. Very much. I just would like to actually get a job that pays more than minimum and actually gives me experience in the field. If I could do that anytime in the next couple years, I would be ecstatic.
Well, try to get into the Google Summer of Code this next summer. The stipend is pretty good, you get to cut your teeth on some real code, and work on an open source project betters both your resume and the project you work with. Worst case, something like the Geek Squad may not be development, but it's at least in the field and IIRC it does pay better than minimum. Just a thought.
One of the worst programmers I worked with in class assured me of his abilities by letting me know he was Java certified. So from my anecdotal experience I am not concerned with whether a candidate has some certification.

I think +Jon Yoder is giving some really good advice. The way to get better at this stuff is to continue working on new things. Google Summer of Code is great, checking out projects in GitHub or Google Code and contributing to them, creating your own things on these sites, all are good to have on your resume.

Having a few interesting projects listed on your resume will get your foot in the door for a good internship where you can expect to make much more than minimum wage. Look for startups in your area, I worked with two in Columbus and one remotely in Pittsburgh that Ohio State hooked me up with - they paid well and padded my resume nicely. So yes, try to get a real job - you have some real world projects you can point to (and demo live during an interview even) that show some of your technical ability. Showing your code off I think is more important than showing a cert.

Also, apply for an internship at Google soon :P I'll help you out with the interviews as much as I can.
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