Certificates in Software Architecture

Image 1. Monument Valley game

Let’s continue investigating Software Architecture. In this article we will consider the certification of architects. We will analyze issues related to the types of certificates and methods of obtaining them. Also we will become aware of the need for certificates for a Software Architect.

Article series

  1. The Path to Becoming a Software Architect
  2. Stakeholders in Software Architecture
  3. Types of Software Architects
  4. Quality attributes in Software Architecture
  5. Documentation in Software Architecture
  6. Certificates in Software Architecture
  7. Books in Software Architecture
  8. System Design Cheat Sheet

Why does Software Architect need certificates

Certificates are an official and documented way to show your skills. According to Microsoft, 86% of recruiters track the existence of certificates from the candidate. 64% of HR managers indicate that existence of certificates affects career in IT. Certificates confirm skills and help the candidate find work easier. If the recruiter sees two identical summaries, then his choice will fall on the candidate, who has a certificate confirming her/his skills.

If certificates really influenced the career of the architect, they could be considered as a silver bullet. However, there are moments that devalue certificates:

  • The uniqueness of the architect. A certificate for an average developer means much more. This is because when searching for a developer in companies such as Google or Facebook, the recruiter accumulates hundreds of resumes for one position. One of the options to highlight your resume among the rest may be the availability of a certificate that formally proves the candidate’s skills. For a software architect, such a scheme is not suitable, because there are very few architects on the market, and usually they have great visibility.
  • Software Architecture is a practice. Each certificate implies passing of the theoretical part. But for the architect nothing can replace practical experience. In theoretical preparation there is no answer to the question of what to do if the cost of a solution error costs millions of dollars, and the consequences can be understood six months later. Or how to connect non-functional requirements for a project on which 30 stakeholders with the same degree of responsibility. In theory, there are several approaches to solving this problem, but in practice they may not work. Therefore, the loss of an architect for a company rises in an insane amount of money, just like the growth of a new one inside the company. Nothing can replace practical experience.
  • A certificate is a formality. Many certificates can be obtained by spending a month preparing and not understanding the topic before. All questions take place within a month, then the memorized correct answers are displayed in the exam. A month after the successful completion, the candidate no longer remembers a single answer, but the certificate is received. There are special guides and manuals how to pass on the required certificate and what you need to learn for this.

At the beginning, we specifically considered the minuses of certification, so as not to get the impression that it is a must-have for the architect. Now let’s look at the existing certification systems and find out what pluses certificates give for the architect’s career.

Certificates for Solution Architect

Let’s consider the basic universally recognized certificates for Solution Architects (see who’s Solution, Enterprise and Domain Architects in the previous article):

  • Certified Software Architect by Carnegie Mellon University. One of the most formal options. It consists of three courses. Almost like Master Degree in Software Architecture! The certificate is free, but there is a nuance — you will have to pay all three courses of study :)
  • CITA-P: Certified IT Architect. It costs US$ 300. Held by IASA (an Association of All IT Architects). It looks like a classic certification system with online / offline courses, own book and the opportunity to become a part of this association.
  • Certified SOA Architect. Provide a separate school for architects. The school consists of 23 lessons and is the most complete of the entire list of this article. One of the most interesting options for learning and becoming a software architect.
  • Private certifications SA. Large companies have their own certification systems for architects. For example, EPAM Systems has Solution Architect University, which consists of three levels. Each level implies 4 months of training and contains a large amount of theoretical and practical work. The biggest plus of such certification is that they are more directed to practice than others. The biggest minus is availability only to the company’s employees.

Certificates for Enterprise Architect

In this part we will consider 5 most popular certificates for enterprise architects:

  • ITIL Master (Axelos). The cost depends on the place of passing. ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) is a global provider of certification and quality assessment systems in a wide range of software development areas. And also, one of the most popular certification systems in the world (more than 2M certified specialists in the world, but not all of them are architects). There are 5 levels of the exam, the architect needs to get the last fifth level — ITIL Master Certificate — IT Service Management.
  • TOGAF 9 (The Open Group). There are two levels. It costs US$ 320 per level or US$ 496 for both. It is the recognized leader among certification systems for enterprise architects. In fact, it represents a framework for the organization of development and architecture in more than 80% of companies in the world. There is documentation for this framework, consisting of ± 500 pages, which should be used when preparing for the exam.
  • CTA (Salesforce). The cost is US$ 6,000. It is carried out by Salesforce. A distinctive feature is the requirements that must be met for the exam. Namely, 5 years of proven practical experience in the full development cycle, or 3 years of proven practical experience in the role of architect.
  • Zachman Certified — Enterprise Architect (Zachman). To obtain this certificate, it is necessary to pass a 4-day workshop priced at US$ 3,499. It is a recognized ontology of enterprise architecture. Created by John Zachman. Like a TOGAF it is a framework. Its distinctive feature is the presence of four levels of the certificate: from associate (level I) to educator (level 4).
  • RHCA (Red Hat). Costs are from US$ 2000 for level I to US$ 2,400 for level II. It is held by Red Hat. It has a wide set of requirements for passing the certificate exam. In particular, you need to get 5 basic certificates. To pass the exam, you must use the company’s paid resources, including the possibility to hire an instructor offline or online.

Certificates for Domain architect

For Domain architects, there are also certificates. There are much more of them than for Solution and Enterprise architects. Most of the large companies provide certificates both for individual directions, like JavaEE from Oracle, and for certain technologies, for example, Amazon Web Services. Let’s consider a special case of such certificates related to cloud computing:

  • AWS Architect certification. From US$150 for the Associate level to US$300 for Professional. Requirements for passing: a year of experience with AWS for the Associate level, and you need to have the Associate certificate to apply for Professional. A distinctive feature is that the exam itself is updated every six months.
  • AZURE Architect certification. From US$100. Microsoft has a large number of certificates that are recognized throughout the world of development and affect the developer’s career. Like Amazon, Microsoft actively updates all certification systems.

Certificates for Domain architects have some distinctive features to be differed from Enterprise certificate & Solution Architect certificate:

  • Knowledge, like certificates, is becoming obsolete quickly. Yesterday you passed the exam for one version of technology, today another one has come out and the knowledge has become invalid. Count on the “lifetime” service time certificate is not worth it. In domain areas everything changes often and knowledge becomes obsolete every day.
  • Domain certificates are most of all. It is necessary to competently approach the choice, so as not to waist money and time.
  • Narrowly specialized. As a rule, they confirm highly specialized knowledge. It is worth remembering that the higher the architect is on the career ladder, the more abstract the way of her/his thinking is. Therefore, these certificates are rather suitable for developers of specific platforms.

Why does Software Architect need certificates

This question was repeated twice in the article. And the certification systems mentioned above exist for a number of reasons. Perhaps, one of those reasons will be a key for you, and that will encourage you to receive one of the certificates:

  • Customer’s requirement. The customer can require certified employees only. This is one of the key points, why you might need certification. For non-technical persons, certificates are one of the few ways to understand that an expert has the skills to perform a particular job.
  • If you work on the global market. If you have not been heard about in the country of relocation, even if you are a good and well-known specialist on your market, the certificates will allow you to prove your skills.
  • If you want to change your job. The more tags in the resume, the easier it is to change job. But developers know that the more experience they have, the more often the work is looking for them, and not vice versa. For an architect, as for an extremely unique resource on the human resources market, this phrase is even more reasonable.

It is your own decision whether you need a certificate with confirmation of your skills or not. Usually this situational decision is based on current needs. I believe that certificates for an architect are not needed and you do not need to pass exams for them, if this is not required by the reasons outlined above. Practice and constant independent theoretical preparation have much greater importance for the career of an architect.

In the next article, we will consider the list of literature for a Software Architect.