July 13, 2022
“What’s the best Python certificate I can earn?”
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.
The truth? You don’t need a Python certification to get a job.
What Is a Python Certification?
Python certifications are a type of credential.
Credentials are largely how the traditional education system works. You go to a university and earn a degree. When you apply for a job, your degree acts as a credential.
Employers then use that credential as a proxy for experience when deciding whether to hire you. It’s proof that you’ve learned the things you say you’ve learned.
What Employers Think of Certifications
The problem is that Python certifications aren’t actually a good indicator of your qualifications.
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.
The reason for this is that credentials themselves don’t actually help. At least not in the way you might think they do.
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, 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.
But Don’t You Offer Python Certifications?
At Dataquest, we offer interactive data science courses that teach people the data science skills they need to get hired, and we give students a certificate as they complete each course. So why do we do it?
While certificates might not be particularly meaningful to employers, certificates that come from courses you complete are worthwhile. They give you a sense of achievement, which in-turn helps with motivation. Staying motivated and feeling like you’re making progress is crucial to success in your learning journey.
So certificates can be useful when used as indicators of progress and as motivational aids, even if they’re not useful to employers who are screening applicants.
What Employers Actually Want
So if a Python certification isn’t attractive to an employer, what do they actually want to see?
If you don’t have prior experience in the field, the answer is a project portfolio.
Showing what you can do is key to impressing employers because it demonstrates that you have the skills and knowledge to do the job.
This 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.
We’ll Help You Build a Project Portfolio
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:
So don’t get hung up on Python certifications 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.
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 looking for certification-granting training programs to learn Python, then here are the best options for you.
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 operates on a subscription model with an asynchronous, on-demand cadence, so the cost of a certification varies depending on how long it takes you to complete the relevant courses. Most learners reach their goals in less than a year of part-time study, and a year’s Premium subscription only costs $399 at full price (discounts are occasionally available).
Dataquest’s certification is more about what you learn and the projects you build than the certification you get at the end of the course path.
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.”