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Best 5 Programming Certifications

Updated Jul 31, 2023

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Mary Kyle
Contributing Writer at
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  • Computer programming certifications demonstrate that someone is competent in a specific language, platform or development style. 
  • Programming certifications today are as much about development platforms and environments as specific languages. 
  • Valuable certifications are tied to well-known companies’ products, such as Microsoft’s Azure, and specific, ubiquitous programming languages like C/C++.
  • This article is for IT professionals interested in pursuing programming certifications to further their careers. 

There’s no denying that software runs the world, and underpinning all excellent software is (hopefully) well-written code. Programming skills are considered among the most in-demand career skills in today’s IT environment, so it makes sense to hone and sharpen your programming expertise. 

We’ll examine five worthwhile programming certifications for IT professionals to pursue to enhance their professional development and brighten their job prospects. 

Did You Know?Did you know

When hiring for a new business, owners and managers tend to outsource programming needs, making programming a valuable freelance skill.

Top 5 programming certifications to pursue

Today’s computer programming certifications are as much about development platforms and environments as specific programming languages. The best programming certifications include an interesting mix of language-focused or language-specific credentials – like C/C++ certifications – and platform-oriented credentials like Microsoft’s Azure Developer Associate certification. 

Here are our top five programming certifications to consider:

1. C and C++ certifications

The programming languages C and C++ have been around for years, making their debut in the 1960s to 1970s (C) and the 1980s to 1990s (C++). Although nearly every college and university in the U.S. offers a C/C++ programming course, the C++ Institute and Pearson VUE decided to carve a niche in this part of the certification landscape by offering the world’s first international C/C++ certifications.

Candidates can choose the C or C++ path and move up the certification ladder from associate to professional to senior. 

  • CLE: C Certified Entry-Level Programmer
  • CLA: C Programming Language Certified Associate
  • CLP:  C Certified Professional Programmer
  • CPE: C++ Certified Entry-Level Programmer
  • CPA: C++ Certified Associate Programmer
  • CPP: C++ Certified Professional Programmer

C++ Institute certifications are good for life because these languages haven’t changed much over the years. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a high demand for such skills. And a C/C++ certification is a perfect stepping stone to many platform- and vendor-specific certs.

C/C++ certification facts and figures

Certification names

  • C or C++ Certified Entry-Level Programmer (CPE/CLE)
  • C or C++ Associate and Professional C Programming Language Certified Associate (CLA)
  • C Certified Professional Programmer (CLP)
  • C++ Certified Associate Programmer (CPA)
  • C++ Certified Professional Programmer (CPP)

Prerequisites and required courses

Professional- and senior-level credentials require certification in the lower credential.

(Note: Online courses are free and offer a 50% discount on the cost of the exam if you score at least 70% on the course exam.)

Number of exams

There’s one exam per credential (55 to 60 questions; up to 75 minutes).

Depending on the certification level, you’ll need a 70% to 80% score to pass.

Pearson VUE administers exams.

Cost per exam   

$295 for nonstudents (includes one free retake)

$147.50 if taken in conjunction with the course (which is free)

Retakes are free for candidates who paid the full exam price or completed the CPP course in self-study mode. You must request retake vouchers within 30 days of failing an exam. Retake vouchers are valid for 45 days.


Self-study materials

C++ Institute provides links on exam web pages to the exam syllabus, objectives, study resources and more. Free online courses are available at the C++ Institute.

Did You Know?Did you know

Knowledge of C++ is also helpful when becoming a mobile app developer because it helps provide a framework for working as a software developer in general.

2. Chef-certified badges

As the combination of software development and IT operations (DevOps) becomes the norm to shorten software development timeframes and increase build quality, there’s a strong demand for Chef-certified professionals. Chef currently offers a wide and varied range of learning paths to help educate users about the various technologies underpinning Chef. These broad offerings allow professionals to match skills to emerging technologies and problems.

Currently, Chef offers a Chef Principles Certification Exam to demonstrate knowledge of Chef OSS tools, solutions and products. The exam also aims to provide a wider measuring stick for general DevOps practices. This certification is good for two years. 

Chef facts and figures

Certification name

Chef Principles Certification

Prerequisites and required courses

No prerequisites are specified, but training is highly recommended.

Number of exams

There’s one exam (90 minutes long) that requires 70% to pass. 

Cost per exam   

The exam is free.


Self-study materials

Chef offers a range of self-study tracks that cover necessary materials and additional topics relevant to professional development goals.

3. CSSLP: Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional

Like other (ISC)2 certifications, the CSSLP is a vendor-neutral credential relevant to many programming and development projects. Aimed at software developers, engineers, enterprise IT architects, QA and penetration testers, security specialists, and others, the CSSLP recognizes competency in securing applications throughout the software development lifecycle.

The exam covers all phases of the software development lifecycle, including:

  • Secure software concepts
  • Requirements
  • Design
  • Implementation 
  • Coding
  • Testing 

Candidates should also be up to speed on the eight CSSLP Common Body of Knowledge (CBK) domains, which include:

  • Software concepts
  • Requirements
  • Design
  • Implementation/programming
  • Testing
  • Lifecycle management
  • Deployment
  • Operations and maintenance, along with supply chain and software acquisition

CSSLP facts and figures

Certification name

Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP)

Prerequisites and required courses

Candidates need at least four years’ full-time work-related experience in the software development lifecycle (SDLC) in at least one of the eight CSSLP domains or three years’ experience plus a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in an IT-related field such as computer science or information technology.

Other requirements include:

  • Passing score on the CSSLP exam
  • Endorsement from an (ISC)2 active member within nine months of exam completion
  • Recertification is required every three years via 90 credits of continuing professional education (CPE); must earn 30 CPE credits each year; annual maintenance fee is $125.

Number of exams

There’s one exam (three hours, 135 questions) that requires 700 out of 1,000 points to pass.

Pearson VUE administers the exam.

Cost per exam   



Self-study materials

The certification web page maintains links to multiple study tools, including exam outlines, textbooks, glossaries, study guides, interactive flashcards and training seminars.

Third-party certification prep materials are available at Amazon and other retailers.


If the CSSLP isn’t for you, check out our guide on the best InfoSec and cybersecurity certifications of 2023 to help you get ahead in the IT industry.

4. Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate

Microsoft certifications have seen a recent shift. Before Microsoft retired its Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) certificate in January 2021, it was Microsoft’s prevailing certification for programmers and application developers. With a broad emphasis, MCSD focused on application developers and validated a candidate’s knowledge and the technical skills necessary to build web services, web applications and mobile apps. 

However, Microsoft revamped its certification process and learning paths to focus on employee roles. Following this shift, Microsoft recommended that any MCSD aspirants pursue its Azure Developer Associate certification. This certification is designed for cloud developers who participate in – or are interested in learning more about – cloud development, deployment and maintenance. 

This certification assumes candidates have one to two years of professional experience and familiarity with the Azure command line, an Azure-supported language and Azure PowerShell. 

Did You Know?Did you know

If you’re interested in cloud certifications, consider exploring Google Cloud certifications to enhance your knowledge of cloud security, storage, engineering and more.

Azure Developer Associate facts and figures

Certification name

Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate

Prerequisites and required courses

Training and familiarity with Azure are recommended.

Number of exams

One exam: the AZ-204 exam

Cost per exam   

$165 per exam; prices vary by location outside the U.S.


Self-study materials

Exam reference materials, including practice tests, instructor-led training, self-paced training kits, Microsoft Press books and Microsoft online resources, are available at Microsoft Learning.

5. PCP: Puppet Professional Certification

The Puppet Certified Professional (PCP) first appeared in this roundup in 2017. Founded in 2005 by Luke Kanies, Puppet is best known for its configuration management tool (offered in both open-source and commercial formats) and its automation software. Since its inception, Puppet has grown considerably. Its reach now extends to offices in the U.S. (Portland, Oregon) and the U.K., Ireland, Australia, and the Czech Republic. According to Puppet, more than 40,000 companies worldwide use the Puppet tool and software.

The PCP validates a candidate’s technical knowledge and expertise in administering systems using Puppet. While there are no formal requirements to earn the PCP, successful candidates should understand Puppet documentation and best practices, working with data (developing modules, external sources and data separation), and maintaining OS components.

Candidates should also have hands-on experience using Puppet. The company highly recommends that candidates take the Foundation and Practitioner training courses (or possess equivalent skills) before attempting the exam. The cert does not expire, but exams are updated to match the current version of Puppet software. 

Puppet Professional facts and figures

Certification name

Puppet Professional Certification (PCP)

Prerequisites and required courses

Candidates should have familiarity with Puppet documentation, best practices and the Puppet Language Style Guide.

Additionally, they should have experience working with Puppet automation software, administration of system infrastructure and the ability to develop basic modules.

Also recommended are Puppet Fundamentals and Practitioner training courses or equivalent skills.

Number of exams

One exam: PPT 206 – System Administration Using Puppet (60 questions; 90 minutes)

Cost per exam   


QuestionMark administers this exam.


Self-study materials

The certification and exam web pages have links to various Puppet docs, the Puppet Language Style Guide, practice exams, the Puppet Enterprise Users Guide, training opportunities and more.

Beyond the top 5: More programming certifications

Many other certification programs can help further the careers and professional development of IT professionals who work as programmers. Here are a few certs and resources to consider:

  • Adobe Experience Cloud certification: The Adobe Experience Cloud certification didn’t make the leaderboard, but it’s still a credential worth pursuing. 
  • Vendor-neutral certifications: It also makes sense to investigate the plethora of vendor-neutral certification programs available for those who work with specific programming languages or development platforms, particularly those that are open source. For example, consider the Zend Framework and Zend PHP, Ruby on Rails, and the Ruby Association’s Certified Ruby Programmer
  • Programmer training organizations: You can also find offerings from providers like ExpertRating. These and similar organizations offer programmer training and testing on dozens to hundreds of topics, including mobile applications development, Android and iOS, and web programming. 
  • Vendor-specific certification programs: Additionally, a careful examination of vendor-specific certification programs with broad developer footprints – such as BMC, IBM, SAS, Oracle (Java programming, OCA, OCP, OCM, OCE and more), Teradata, and Amazon’s AWS – can also open doors for developers and provide ongoing job or contract opportunities. 

Consider vendor-specific certification programs like SAS certifications and Oracle certifications, and take advantage of free AWS online training resources.

Choosing the right certification

Pursuing the best IT certifications, including programming certs, is an excellent career advancement asset that validates your skills and knowledge.  

Those interested in programming certifications have no shortage of choices, so choose carefully and wisely. IT professionals should carefully determine the technologies used in their work environments and consider the roles they may want to pursue in the future.  

While certifications can be highly beneficial in demonstrating your current state of knowledge, they are also helpful aspirational tools if you are interested in making a career shift. 

Jeremy Bender contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. 

Mary Kyle
Contributing Writer at
Self-motivated, results-oriented project management professional with successful track record in the areas of project and program management, leadership, customer relationships and negotiation with a reputation for meeting challenging organizational goals and objectives. Proven ability to build, motivate and lead collocated, virtual and international teams to achieve maximum productivity and exceed customer expectations. Highly effective communication, presentation, planning and coaching skills. Detail oriented with excellent organizational, problem solving and risk management skills.
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