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Hello Eli,

Hello Community,


As Eli sometimes shows us CodeCademy, Udacity, Udemy (Eli the Computer Guy Collection some days ago) etc. I was thinking about buying some courses, which most of the time also provide some kind of certificate after completing the course.



What I mean by that in case of Udemy is “a piece of paper that tells that you took part” not a real certificate. That’s why I called it “pseudo” certificate in my last post “Sure that everyone can learn programming?”


Most of the time you get these certificates without doing some kind of test. So I was wondering:

What are paid online courses really worth overall

  • For me (in case of gaining knowledge. How good are they really? Are they worth the money? Are they really better than free online tutorials on YouTube?)
  • For employers (would you enclose those certificates to an application for a job and will they increase the chances of getting hired if you can’t prove your knowledge/skills otherwise)

To establish my perspective: Where I work, every resume is reviewed by an engineer.  I have no idea how the initial HR screen works at most companies, but I have given interviews and done technical resume screening.  I am also in the USA.

For us, courses on Udemy and Skillshare count for nothing.  We treat them as equivalent to “I learned […] on youtube.”  If you put a long list of Udemy courses down and are otherwise unqualified, my colleagues might laugh at your resume a little bit before rejecting you.  Things like Udacity, Coursera, and EdX count for something because they are college-level courses.  University extension schools (which are usually very expensive) count just below college courses to me, but I know other people who lump them in with Coursera and EdX.

However, projects on github or contributions to respected open-source projects are extremely good, and I will spend some time looking at your coding style.  Making a commit to an open-source project that we use and like is a virtual guarantee that you will get an interview.  Similarly, if you are a Udemy instructor or have a youtube channel, I will look at it, but github projects will get more attention.

I would just take courses for free on EdX or Coursera for personal enjoyment and development and not put them on your resume.


One other point about worth of showing completeness of courses.

In development world, github activity is a gold standard.  Open Source activity is either a plus or a minimum to be considered especially if you are unemployed. Problem with training course completion, is

  1. it still does not show me whether you can solve problems
  2. nothing is more certain than me looking at the code you have actually written in your repositories to decide if you are worth interviewing
  3. Code you are writing is actually useful to the industry, not some “hello world” tutorial, so if you are not making pull requests to open source projects I will have my doubts. Not a problem if you are already employed looking for something new, because its expected to not have free time after work to do so, but if you are unemployed, in software development world there is NO reason not to do it.

For you it will be a major benefit, because you will see what actual real world problems look like, not artificial torn out of context examples are. If being German you really need that certificate, pick a course that helps you fix a bug in some Open Source repository, please do  me a favor, not before (its so annoying to have coworkers that followed that path). In software dev, argument that its hard to get experience has absolute 0 credibility.


And did you know recruiters look at github, stackoverflow, experts-exchange, to look for candidates 😉


@Fred : Yes, my sister lives in Basel (CH), so I know a little bit about how your HR is different from us over here in North America (oh jeez, my German is so rusty….. but…..  Von der Wiege bis zum Grab braucht das deutsche Zertifikat ?). Honestly, I don’t see how it could hurt to add a completion certificate for a Udemy course. Depending on who you take the course from, you might actually get a “certificate of completion”. I have several of them.

I think you touched on an aspect that is correct, in that HR people don’t necessarily have the time to go through everything in high detail. To add onto that, @alextech brings up a good point that I wouldn’t disagree with either. If it were me hiring, I would take someone who has a passion for the industry vs someone who is technically certified, but maybe has an salty attitude. That being said, this depends highly on WHERE you are applying to work.

In a big company that has a dedicated HR department, very often, the person who will be your boss isn’t the person who interviews you. For example, the IT department manager submits a request to the IT director for another IT technician. The IT director checks the budget, sees that there is room for another employee, then sends an e-mail to HR saying “OK, we need to hire another IT tech. Same job description as the last one”. And the HR person pulls up the job profile that was used the last time they hired a tech, puts the ads out, etc. Resumes come in, they look for the keywords they’ve been given, they setup interviews, etc etc etc. My point being – if you’re going into a large company and the person doing the actual hiring isn’t working in the IT department themselves, then they won’t know whether having someone with lots of experience vs enthusiasm is a good or bad thing. They just know they were told to hire an IT technician the same as the last one.
If, however, you’re applying to a very small company where the person who will be your boss is the person interviewing you, then it’s more important to do things like making a connection on a personal level, etc etc.

Just my opinion of course 🙂


Going to add my few cents to confuse the situation! I feel it is needed, however, because it shows how much of this is based on your luck of who you end up talking to.

As someone who conducted interviews myself, went to tech conferences hearing hallway conversations and talking to them, certifications and degrees CAN hurt. Many employers have had such bad experience, in terms of training cost, hiring college graduates and certificate holders in comparison to those who had something like active github account that they do not want to deal with them again.