15 Hiring Managers Reveal If Python Certifications Are Worth It
“What’s the best Python certificate?”
That’s a common question among programming and data science beginners. If you Google that phrase, the results can be overwhelming.
Python certifications range from those that are free, to those that are part of a Python course, to those that cost thousands of dollars.
This article answers three very important questions about Python certifications:
- What do employers actually think about them?
- Do they do a good job at demonstrating skills?
- Which ones are the best?
What Employers Think of Certifications
While putting together the Dataquest Data Science Career Guide, we spoke with more than a dozen recruiters and hiring managers in data science.
When we asked them what they wanted to see from applicants, not one mentioned certifications. Not one.
This may be puzzling, since most Python courses or programs that offer certificates praise their importance. Unfortunately, that's just an example of good marketing.
Why Credentials Don’t Work The Way You Think They Do
While there are some good Python certification programs out there, there are simply too many programs for recruiters to keep track of. It’s hard for them to know which certifications are selective and which will grant certificates to anyone willing to pay.
This means that certificates aren’t a very useful credential on their own, even if you get one from a highly selective bootcamp program.
A prospective employer is typically going to spend about fifteen seconds assessing your resume. They’re not going to take the time to Google course details for the Python bootcamp you attended and try to determine if it was sufficiently rigorous.
This is true even of university certificate programs.
Many universities offer online certification in Python and all sorts of other skills. But these training programs are not as selective or as rigorous as real degree programs. Often, they’re administered by outside education companies that are simply leasing the university’s “brand” and some video lectures.
Despite what you would think, even “big-name university” certificates don’t carry much weight with recruiters and hiring managers.
What Employers Actually Want
So if a Python certification isn’t all that attractive to an employer, what do they actually want to see?
The answer is skills.
Showing what you can do is key to impressing employers because it demonstrates that you have the skills and knowledge to do the job.
But how can you show employers your skills if you don’t yet have experience in the field? This is where a project portfolio can help you.
It makes sense when you think about it — your projects are a stand-in for the job experience you may not have yet. Unlike a certificate from some online program a hiring manager may not have heard of, your project portfolio is proof that you have the skills to do the job.
With projects, employers don’t have to trust or assess a third-party certificate-issuing organization; the code is right there on your GitHub or portfolio website.
Need to Build a Project Portfolio? We Can Help
Projects are key to our teaching method here at Dataquest. You’ll learn data science skills while you write code in our interactive, browser-based lessons. And then you’ll put those skills together in our guided projects.
Guided projects help you bridge the gap between the skills you’ve just learned and the data science work you’ll have to do in the real world. They’ll help you get a head start on your job applications, too, since you can include your best work in your project portfolio.
Here are a list of our guided projects that you can immediately add to your portfolio upon completion:
- Prison Break — Have some fun, and analyze a dataset of helicopter prison escapes using Python and Jupyter Notebook.
- Profitable App Profiles for the App Store and Google Play Markets — In this guided project, you’ll work as a data analyst for a company that builds mobile apps. You’ll use Python to provide value through practical data analysis.
- Exploring Hacker News Posts — Work with a dataset of submissions to Hacker News, a popular technology site.
- Exploring eBay Car Sales Data — Use Python to work with a scraped dataset of used cars from eBay Kleinanzeigen, a classifieds section of the German eBay website.
If the Dataquest approach sounds attractive to you, get started today with our free Python for Data Science: Fundamentals course!
Which Python Certification Is The Best?
If you’re still looking for certification-granting training programs to learn Python, then here are the best options for you.
Here at Dataquest, we offer career-specific certifications in Python for aspiring data analysts, data scientists, and data engineers.
These certifications are different — there are no exams. Instead, you earn the certifications by completing Dataquest’s online learning modules. Each certification requires completion of a path of courses designed to take you from beginner to job-ready.
Unlike other Python certification training programs, these focus specifically on working with data in Python — they aren’t designed for aspiring Python software engineers or game developers.
Each path also includes relevant data skills beyond Python, including SQL, the command line, and Git. Most courses also end with projects designed to help you apply what you’ve learned and expand your project portfolio.
Dataquest’s premium subscription costs $399/yr (monthly option available), which gives you access to all courses and lessons. Most learners reach their goals in less than a year of part-time study.
The Python Institute
The Python Institute offers some of the most well-known Python certifications with four primary certificate level exams:
- Certified Entry-Level Python Programmer (PCEP): $59 (exam only)
- Certified Associate in Python Programming (PCAP): $295 (exam only)
- Certified Professional in Python Programming 1 (PCPP-32-1): $195 (exam only)
- Certified Professional in Python Programming 2 (PCPP-32-2): $195 (exam only)
These certifications are progressive, meaning that you earn PCEP before PCAP (and so on). In many cases, the preceding certificate is required for the next certification exam.
As you might expect, the material covered in each exam increases in complexity. The PCEP exam covers basic topics like Python operators, Boolean values, etc.. By the end of the sequence, the PCPP-32-2 test requires complex skills like integrating Python with SQL databases.
If you pass all four certification test levels, you may also call yourself a Python Institute Certified Expert in Python Programming (CEPP).
These certifications are just exams. The Python Institute does provide some free study resources, but you can learn the material any way you’d like and then sign up for the exam whenever you feel ready.
In this regard, the Python Institute only provides the certification — it doesn’t offer courses to learn Python.
Microsoft offers an entry-level Python certification exam called “Introduction to Programming Using Python.”
The exam costs $127, and, like the Python Institute certifications, it doesn’t include any actual curriculum to work through. It’s only an exam. According to Microsoft, learners interested in taking the exam should have at least 100 hours of experience with Python and should be comfortable with writing, debugging, and maintaining “well-formed, well documented Python code.”
Conclusion: Portfolios > Projects for Python
Some Python certification programs have their merits. But don’t get hung up on them as the key to getting a job. Instead, spend your time learning real-world skills. Then, show off your skills with a portfolio of projects that will impress prospective employers. Get started today with Dataquest.