Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Let me put it this way: they're "nice", but for the real in-the-trenches programming positions I was hiring for, I'd have a hard time saying they were important, at all.
Let me explain why...
I have mixed feelings about certifications. When I interviewed people I rarely looked at or for them. I was more interested in accomplishments and abilities. What can the person do.
The problem is that it's unclear to me how well certification maps to abilities. Knowledge, maybe, but abilities?
A lot of people think that they are fantastic programmers because they know a lot. But knowledge alone doesn't make for an engineer that can actually do anything. And certainly it says nothing about what they can, or cannot, do in a production environment.
A sharp interviewer will look for abilities - remember that a good interviewer is looking for what you can do. Knowledge contributes, but at the end of the day, knowledge alone doesn't produce results.
Now, all that being said, some folks do look for certification as a checklist item - sometimes it's a requirement to get past the Human Resources resume screener. Sometimes it's one way of demonstrating certain knowledge. And it can certainly be a reasonable and structured way to educate yourself for yourself.
But ultimately I don't think they're truly important, unless your prospective employer or segment of the industry typically requires them to get in the door.
And admittedly, they certainly don't hurt.
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