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Best Mobile App Development Certifications 2019

Best Mobile App Development Certifications 2019
Credit: Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock

When you read stories about 11-year-olds creating fantastic apps that make it to the Windows Store, Google Play or Apple's App Store, it makes you wonder why anyone really needs a mobile app certification. The reality is that few professionals are going to make their fortunes, or even a living, by creating and selling the next big app. In fact, most will take jobs as developers for major companies or do freelance app development.

Employers who hire app developers look for candidates with experience creating apps, especially customer-facing apps. They often want candidates with a wide array of knowledge about various programming concepts and languages, such as application programming interfaces (APIs), user experience (UX) design, Python, C#, PHP, JavaScript, HTML/CSS and Swift.

Employers also tend to prefer or require a bachelor's degree in computer science or some related field. But because mobile app developers are in high demand, some employers will train (or pay a third party to train) candidates with a background in a related IT area, such as networking or engineering, or train experienced developers on another platform in mobile development tools and platforms.

[Interested in app maker development software? Check out our top picks.]

So where does certification fit in? Although mobile app development certifications are not widely requested in job descriptions, a certification can get your resume noticed or prove that you deserve a promotion, and a mobile app developer certification can help you achieve a decent salary. Glassdoor reports that the national average salary for mobile developers is $101,572, where Simply Hired's national average for mobile app developers is $83,400. Those salaries are consistently higher than other common IT jobs that require a few years' experience. For example, compare average developer salaries to those of software engineers ($89,978), system administrators ($74,598) and network engineers ($77,428).

We took a detailed look at certifications from Microsoft, Google (Android), GIAC, Kony, Salesforce and more. We chose these because of their presence in the industry, their demand by employers and their overall value to certification candidates. We also mention some certifications in the last section of this article that are worthy additions to a developer's portfolio but don't carry as much recognition or cachet as our top five picks do.

Before you begin exploring the featured certifications, look at the results of our informal search of various job boards to see which certifications employers are looking for across the U.S. These results are a snapshot in time from a particular day and may not reflect the actual job demands in your locality, but they should give you some feel for the relative demand for each certification. Alas, most of these are distinctly underwhelming, with two of them totaling under 100, and another two under 200.

Certification

Simply Hired 

 Indeed 

 LinkedIn Jobs 

 TechCareers

Total

Associate Android Developer (Google)*

175

247

64

14

500

GIAC Mobile Device Security Analyst (GIAC)

18

19

31

12

80

MCSD: App Builder (Microsoft)**

17

19

29

8

73

MTA Developer (Microsoft)

55

73

0

13

141

Salesforce Certified Platform App Builder

36

44

38

19

137

*More than 1,217 hits using "Android developer certification" as the key term.
**More than 782 hits using "MCSD developer certification" as the key term.

Android and iOS dominate the smartphone operating system market, and Android maintains a solid lead with a whopping 87.9 percent market share, according to Statista. The demand for Android apps is also soaring, which means that skilled Android developers are in high demand as well.

Google provides training and certifications through its Google Developers Certification program to help churn out a competent Android developer workforce. The Google Associate Android Developer is the program's only Android credential, alongside Mobile Web Specialist, Google Certified Professional – Cloud Architect, Cloud Certified – Professional Data Engineer, and Cloud Certified – Associate Cloud Engineer certifications.

The Google Associate Android Developer certification recognizes skills in designing, building and debugging Android apps, designing solutions for storage, and designing applications to integrate with interfaces outside the core Android application. The single performance-based exam also requires candidates to put application user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) concepts to work by creating standard and custom layouts using XML and Java code.

Although training for the Google Associate Android Developer isn't required, Google offers numerous free courses for newbies, as well as for-a-fee courses for seasoned developers through Udacity.

Certification name

Associate Android Developer

Prerequisites and required courses

None

Number of exams

One performance-based exam (a coding project) and an exit interview

Cost per exam

$149. Sign up through Google.

URL

https://developers.google.com/training/certification/associate-android-developer/

Self-study materials

The Google Developers Training site offers several resources, such as beginning, intermediate and advanced courses through Google and Udacity. Workbooks and study guides are available in most courses. (For supplemental learning, anyone can go through the free training on Android.com.) Students may also join a free study jam to discuss Android topics with fellow students, or take Google Developer Codelabs (short, self-paced online modules).

Making a comeback to the leaderboard this year is GIAC's Mobile Device Security Analyst (GMOB). We previously featured this cert in 2017 but did not include it in our 2018 top five. However, the GIAC GMOB made a strong showing in the job board search results this time, earning it a place in the top five.

The GMOB credential targets IT professionals who work to ensure mobile phone and tablet security when accessing networks and other systems. Successful candidates should have an understanding of penetration testing for mobile devices, be familiar with common mobile attack methods, use and configure encryption and other mobile device protection techniques, be able to conduct mobile security analysis tasks, and understand mobile security, operating systems and architecture.

There are no prerequisites for the GMOB. Although highly recommended, training is not required for any GMOB credential. Candidates must pass a single exam to earn the designation. Also, you must renew the credential every four years to stay current.

Certification name

GIAC Mobile Device Security Analyst (GMOB)

Prerequisites and required courses

 None. Training is recommended but not required.

Number of exams

One (75 questions, 2 hours to complete, 71 percent required to pass)

Cost per exam

1,899 without training (called a GIAC certification attempt; includes two free practice exams)
$769 as part of a training course
$769 retake fee
$429 certification renewal

Exams administered by Pearson VUE.

URL

https://www.giac.org/certification/mobile-device-security-analyst-gmob

Self-study materials

Two practice exams are included in the exam fee. Additional practice tests are available on the GIAC exam preparation page ($159 each). GIAC does not provide a GMOB study guide. Training is recommended but not required. GIAC also recommends candidates attend training at live conferences, review self-study materials and gain practical experience to prepare for the exam.

Microsoft offers some of the most popular developer certifications in the world aimed at app developers (mobile and web), software developers, web developers and quality control engineers. Aspiring developers who are just getting started can begin with the Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA): Developer certification (covered later in this article). Those who are ready to build mobile and/or web applications and services should consider pursuing the Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD): App Builder credential.

The MCSD: App Builder requires candidates to have a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) in Web Applications or Universal Windows Platform certification, and then pass one of several exams on Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Visual Studio or Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server. Training is recommended but not required for an MCSD exam. That said, we think a candidate should have one to two years' experience working with Azure, C#, SharePoint, Office Client, Visual Studio, .NET or HTML5 – whichever technologies or platforms are pertinent to the chosen MCSD exam – to have the best shot at passing the exam on the first take.

The Microsoft Certification Program underwent extensive changes in September 2016. Once you earn one MCSD: App Builder certification, you do not have to recertify within three years as was previously the case. However, by passing an elective exam each calendar year, you add an entry to your transcript that indicates a commitment to staying current on technologies and expanding your skill set.

Certification name

MCSD: App Builder

Prerequisites and required courses

MCSA: Web Applications or MCSA: Universal Windows Platform certification

Training is recommended but not required.

Number of exams

One; choose from the following:
70-532: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions
70-535: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions
70-487: Developing Microsoft Azure and Web Services
70-496: Administering Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server
70-497: Software Testing with Visual Studio
70-498: Delivering Continuous Value with Visual Studio Application Lifecycle Management

Cost per exam

$165. Exams administered by Pearson VUE.

URL

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/mcsd-app-builder-certification.aspx

Self-study materials

Visit the certification webpage and Microsoft Learning for exam prep videos, practice tests, free online training, Microsoft Official Curriculum in-classroom and on-demand training, books, online resources, and more.

Microsoft created the MTA certifications to help high school and college students get started with technology certifications, but the certifications have proven to be great steppingstones for anyone looking to enter the IT field and for IT professionals who want to change careers (or specializations) as well. Achieving an MTA certification can also help candidates prepare for higher-level Microsoft certifications, like the Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD), mainly by getting hands-on experience with applicable products and technologies.

One important thing to note is that MTA exams are not prerequisites for more advanced Microsoft certifications and do not qualify for Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) certification.

The MTA certification program offers certifications geared toward IT infrastructures, databases and developers. Because the focus of this article is mobile app development, we'll focus on the MTA Developer track rather than the Infrastructure or Database paths.

While only one exam is required to earn an MTA designation, there are currently nine different MTA exams available on the Developer track:

  • Software Development Fundamentals
  • Cloud Fundamentals
  • Mobility and Device Fundamentals
  • HTML5 App Development Fundamentals
  • Introduction to Programming with Block-Based Languages
  • Introduction to Programming Using Python
  • Introduction to Programming Using JavaScript
  • Introduction to Programming Using HTML and CSS
  • Introduction to Programming Using Java

If you're uncertain where to begin, then consider the MTA Software Development Fundamentals, which is a great starter certification. Follow this with other MTA credentials more specific to individual career goals, such as the Mobility and Device Fundamentals, or one of the MTA programming certs.

Finally, candidates may choose to move on to a higher-level certification. Candidates for an MTA Developer credential should expect to understand and use the latest version of Microsoft Visual Studio as their primary development tool. Unlike many other certifications, MTA credentials don't expire. Once you achieve an MTA certification, it's good for life.

Certification name

MTA: Developer

Prerequisites and required courses

None. Recommended: three- or five-day instructor-led training and some experience with specific programming languages and/or tools.

Number of exams

One per track:
98-361: Software Development Fundamentals
98-375: HTML5 App Development Fundamentals 
98-380: Introduction to Programming Using Block-Based Languages
98-369: Cloud Fundamentals
98-368: Mobility and Devices Fundamentals
98-381: Introduction to Programming Using Python
98-382: Introduction to Programming Using JavaScript
98-383: Introduction to Programming Using HTML and CSS
98-388: Introduction to Programming Using Java

Cost per exam

$127. Exams administered by Pearson VUE (for non-academics).
Visit the Certiport site to learn about MTA exams for students and faculty in academic institutions.

URL

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/mta-developer-certification.aspx

Self-study materials

Each exam webpage includes links to self-paced training and practice tests. The Microsoft Virtual Academy has additional resources and Born to Learn offers study groups and forums. Exam prep books can be found on Amazon and other online bookstores.

Salesforce, a leader in customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, has more than 150,000 customers worldwide. Salesforce supports its customers with a variety of solutions, including sales and service, productivity, analytics, and the internet of things (IoT).

With so many products and services available, it's no surprise that the Salesforce certification program is both broad and well developed, and it includes an App Builder credential that generates a good deal of interest on job boards.

The Salesforce Certified Platform App Builder aims at professionals who design, build and implement custom applications for the Force.com platform. The certification requires candidates to pass a single exam, which covers data modeling and management, security, business logic, user interfaces, and use cases for social features for custom applications. Candidates must also know how to customize applications for mobile use and deploy them, as well as design reports and dashboards.

Salesforce requires App Builders to maintain current skills. Credential holders must pass maintenance module exams with each new product release cycle (typically in summer, winter and spring).

Certification name

Salesforce Certified Platform App Builder

Prerequisites and required courses

None. Salesforce recommends DEV402: Declarative Development for Platform App Builders and/or CRT-402: Certification Preparation for Platform App Builder.

Number of exams

One (60 multiple-choice/multiple-select questions, 105 minutes, 63 percent required to pass)

Cost per exam

$200. Onsite exams administered by Kryterion; online exams administered by Salesforce.
$100 for a retake exam.

URL

http://certification.salesforce.com/appbuilder

Self-study materials

The certification page includes a link to the Salesforce Certified Platform App Builder Exam Guide. Salesforce recommends hands-on experience, completion of one or more training courses, Trailhead trails and self-study. See the Exam Guide for more information and links.

While they didn't make the leaderboard, there are many more great certs out there for mobile app developers. The IBM Certified Mobile Application Developer – Worklight Foundation (featured in 2017) is a great one, as is the Android Certified Application Developer by ATC (also featured in 2017). While not included in the top five, both are still highly worthwhile.

Similarly, the Oracle Mobile Development 2015 Certified Implementation Specialist and Red Hat Certified JBoss Developer don't generate much traction on the job boards, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't investigate them on your own. That goes double if you work with Oracle technologies, Java or Red Hat Linux.

Apple doesn't (yet) offer an official iOS developer certification, but anyone interested in immersive iOS developer training should check out Big Nerd Ranch bootcamps. You can also take self-paced training courses through Udemy and Pluralsight, and you can find plenty of iOS app development training opportunities by searching the internet.

CIW, which is known for its web design and development certifications, is launching the Mobile Application Developer certification as part of its CIW Web and Mobile Design series. The credential was originally slated for release in the fourth quarter of 2017, but its website currently indicates that its release is deferred. Once released, this certification will aim at application development for the Android, iOS and Windows Phone operating systems.

Learning Tree offers Application Development Specialist and Expert certifications for Android, iOS and mobile web design. A few other mobile app certifications you might be interested in are those from Axway (Appcelerator) and OutSystems.

Many colleges and universities also offer mobile app development certificate programs. Browse these offerings from UC IrvineSan Diego State University, the University of Denver and Southern Methtodist University as examples.

And there are many more. A quick Google search every quarter should reveal at least a few more mobile app developer training opportunities.

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