Seven surefire certs for web developers

Web Message in a Bottle

Web designers focus on the look, feel, and usability of a site. They are experts in information flow, color schemes and graphic design, and bring artistic talent to the table. Web developers code the functionality that brings a static design to life. Developers use semantic markup languages and programming languages such as PHP, HTML, CSS, ASP, Ruby on Rails, and others to turn design layouts into working sites. Sometimes a single individual will bring both design and coding talents to the table, but more often these roles are filled by different people.


When it comes to web design and development, a portfolio of your work is key to building credibility. Certifications can play a role too, and their use as a learning blueprint is especially valuable in this area. For example, earning a certification in a heavily-used web design product such as Adobe Photoshop will flesh out your skills and introduce you to product features and techniques you might otherwise remain oblivious to — thus it not only helps you land the job, it helps you perform it better.


The same holds true for certifications that come down solidly on the developer side: Your work portfolio will receive the highest consideration, but putting yourself through a certification regimen will arm you with a broader set of skills than you would otherwise bring to projects.


It's surprising that there aren't more solid web designer/developer credentials available, but certifications worth considering are actually in pretty short supply. To be worthwhile for our purposes, a certification needs to be offered by a reputable, established program, certify skills that are in demand, and do so at a respectable skill level that's neither silly low nor over-the-top. We went in search of web developer credentials that measure up and wound up with a grab bag of credentials that reflects the diversity of skills a web developer can possess.


Adobe Certified Expert


Adobe's tools, including Adobe Dreamweaver, Adobe Flash, Adobe Photoshop, and a host of other Adobe titles, are mainstays of web design. Brand yourself as an expert on one or more of them by passing the associated Adobe Certified Expert exam. Most Adobe exams cost $180. Although recertification is only required on Adobe Digital Marketing Suite products, it's encouraged on all products and recertification exams are very affordable at $60.


A big plus of this certification program is visibility. Once certified, you can opt to be listed in the Adobe Certified Expert Finder on — it's a great marketing tool, as well as an easy way for potential employers to verify your credentials. It's good to be versed in these tools even if you're a primarily a coder.


Zend PHP Certified Engineer (ZCE)


PHP powers many web applications and underpins widely used content management systems like WordPress and Joomla. This certification encompasses the PHP language, incorporates object oriented programming principles, and folds in key web programming security concepts. PHP and SQL go together like peanut butter and jelly, so this exam incorporates SQL and database concepts as well. The exam costs $195 and an inexpensive study guide is available for purchase online. Certification addresses a specific PHP version, currently 5.5.


MCSD: Web Applications Solutions Developer


This three-exam certification is Microsoft's top contribution to web developer credentialing. The first exam is all about web technologies, testing mastery of HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS3. From there you head to .NET, something many corporate America web applications rely on. The final exam is Developing Microsoft Azure and Web Services, which tests knowledge of Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform.


As a developer, your employment prospects are going to hinge more on your programming portfolio than on certifications, but this is one that will help you demonstrate to corporate employers (and yourself) that your web .NET skills are truly fleshed out.


MCTS: Web Applications Development with Microsoft .NET Framework 4


If you're not prepared to go whole hog with the MCSD, then this is worth a look. It's a one-exam route to certification on .NET web application development using Microsoft Visual Studio. This technology is commonly used in a corporate environment. If you have significant experience with it, this certification won't add a whole lot to your employability, but if you like to challenge yourself and want to add a little extra shine to your resume, give it a look. The exam costs $150.


Amazon Web Services Certified Developer


A lot of web services are getting launched into the cloud, and a chief platform for them is Amazon Web Services (AWS). This is a fledgling certification program that offers a great opportunity to get your foot in the door as web developer for the cloud. The AWS Certified Developer credential is for individuals who have in-depth knowledge of at least one programming language and are ready to apply that to designing, developing, and deploying cloud-based solutions using AWS. This is currently available at the Associate level; a Professional level exam is in beta.


You'll also find these certs on the cloud certifications list that I recently mapped out for Certification Magazine (look for it in the fall quarterly issue, as well as at, because they're also ideal for web developers who want to catch the cloud wave.


Certified Usability Analyst (CUA)/ User Experience Analyst (CXA)


User-centered design is a subspecialty of value to all developers, web or otherwise. These two vendor-neutral certifications from Human Factors International (HFI) demonstrate expertise in user-centered design and "persuasion engineering." The CUA, in particular, is sometimes specifically requested in job postings, and over 5,000 individuals have earned it to date. The CXA is a step higher up the certification ladder, and you must hold CUA certification first or take the associated courses.


Oracle Java Certifications


While Java isn't only for web developers, it's behind many online applications. A quick search of a major job board such as will turn up over 20,000 Java positions, many of which are for web developers. Oracle operates a long-standing certification program with multiple levels. The entry level cert is Oracle Certified Associate – Java SE Programmer. This is a one-exam credential covering fundamental Java programming knowledge. The exam costs $245. The next step up is Oracle Certified Professional – Java SE Programmer, also $245. There's a Master level credential too, but it hasn't been updated since Java SE 6, has a training requirement, and is costly.


Other Options


There's a PayPal Certified Developer credential that's potentially useful if you integrate e-commerce, plus you get listed in the online developer directory. The program isn't currently terribly responsive to inquiries, however, so be sure to check its status out carefully before investing your time and money in it.


As mentioned above, this is quite a grab-bag of certifications. There is no central, go-to certification for web developers, and when it comes to landing a job as a web developer, your programming portfolio will have the greatest influence. All of the above credentials, however, will add some extra zing to resume as well as help you hone your craft.


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About the Author

Anne Martinez is a certification industry veteran and the founder of She has been observing the industry and writing about IT certification since 1998.