2000/11/04

On Certification of Programmers

Steve McConnell, who has written at least one really good book on software engineering, wrote another book last year, called After the Gold Rush. Steve is very concerned with the “professionalism” of software engineers and the quality of their skills. The most controversial part of the new book is his call for some kind of official, government-type certification of programmers. His company’s website is full of statements like: “When ‘Professional Software Engineer’ certification becomes available in Washington…” When, not if. Yikes.

Needless to say, he’s not winning many friends with that idea. I would have written an essay about it, but Tom DeMarco has already done it much better than I could have. “Whatever the merits of certification, it has always been a big hit among those who get to do the certifying,” he writes. “Certification is not something we implement for the benefit of the society but for the benefit of the certifiers.” Read his short article, it’s great, and then ask yourself this: Would 18-year-old Shawn Fanning, who wrote Napster and changed the world, have been certified?

Don’t Buy “After the Gold Rush.” It’s wrong.

The new Robert Jordan book is about to ship. Buy that instead.

About the author.

I’m Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Trello and Fog Creek Software, and CEO of Stack Overflow. More about me.