On Drupal certification programs

Every once in a while, the discussion of Drupal cerification comes up. Is a Drupal certification program a good thing or a bad thing? Are certification programs overrated? Isn't one's track record as a contributor on drupal.org the best measure of someone's past (and possibly future) performance? Should the Drupal Association manage the program, and if not, then who? What do other Open Source projects do?

Lots of unknowns and lots of subjective questions always make for a good discussion.

While I'm often skeptical about certification programs myself, I do see the value in them. Certification isn't for everyone but for some people it is valuable. A masters degree from MIT, an MBA from Harvard or a Ph.D. from Stanford is a form of certification too. But, just as there are good examples, there is no lack of examples where bad certification programs deliver certified engineers that don't know what they are actually doing. That fact, though, doesn't invalidate the valuable certification programs that do exist; for example, the CISCO certification program is very thorough and valued by the market. Similarly, I think that employers do value certificates achieved in higher education. All things considered, I believe there is value in having a well-executed high-quality Drupal certification program, especially as Drupal continues to grow.

My personal view is that the Drupal Association is not the best body to create "the" Drupal certification program. It is my belief that we are best served by allowing many organizations to create their own Drupal certification programs, and have the marketplace set their value — similar to how universities build reputations. Competition around Drupal certification programs could be a great thing, because it would likely improve quality and allow for specialization. A certification, of course, is ultimately only as valuable as the organization standing behind it. In such a scenario, it is very important that the certification programs are labeled properly; that is, "ACME Drupal certified" rather than just "Drupal certified", where ACME is the name of the company or organization providing the service. It has to be ACME's reputation that is on the line for the quality of their participants. The Drupal trademark policy is designed to help achieve that.

I also don't believe that a certification program is a zero-sum game: that is, holding a certification doesn't imply that your track record on drupal.org (through your user profile) is of either less or more value. Again, the market and the buyer will determine the value of a drupal.org user profile versus a certification program versus a resume versus a portfolio versus degrees obtained through higher education. In any event, it is unlikely that one would hire someone solely on the basis of having a Drupal certification. I certainly wouldn't.

When we launched Acquia two years ago, we announced a Drupal certification program code named 'Yellow Jersey'. That program hasn't materialized yet, and we're not putting resources in it at this point in time. Building a high-quality certification program is a significant undertaking and we're not ready to take on such a program. And last but not least, the marketplace hasn't demanded these types of programs to a sufficient degree. Yet.

Other Open Source projects like MySQL, Zend, Linux, Ubuntu, RedHat, BSD all have certification programs so I think it is a matter of time before we see one or more Drupal certification programs emerge. Personally, I would support a well-executed high-quality Drupal certification program.