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Becoming A Zend Certified PHP Engineer - A Career Changer For PHP Developers!

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Everything you ever needed to know about the Zend PHP Certification

Daniel Gheorghe - Zend Certified PHP Engineer My name is Daniel, I started out writing PHP back in 2005 and earning my Zend PHP Certification has been one of my goals from the very beginning. It took me 10 years to feel confident enough to take the exam. During that time, I struggled to find quality information about the certification and the exam itself, so when I finally did become a ZCE I thought that this post would help shed some light on the entire process.

Update: April 13th 2017 - The PHP-2017 certification

Zend PHP 2017 Certification BadgeMid February 2017, Rogue Wave Software, the company that now owns Zend has announced an updated Zend Certification Exam. As an addition to previous exams and diplomas, this new certification will test your skills on PHP up to PHP 7.1. While all other details have remained the same, and you can catch up with them by reading through this post. What's even more interesting is that the badge for these new ZCEs has also changed, thus emphasizing the "new PHP" factor which has revolutionized the industry since PHP 7.0.

Even the List of Exam Topics has been updated by incorporating the most modern features of the language. The list can be seen here.

Getting the Zend PHP Certification will make you the "Most Wanted" PHP developer in your region - facts and fiction.

A simple search inside the Zend Certified PHP Engineers Directory, the place where all the certified PHP developers are listed, will expose the following facts:

  • You will only find a handful of PHP Certified Engineers in your region. Actually, there are only around 10.000 engineers on the entire planet! In my region, I am the only one.
  • Almost all of them have Lead Web Developer jobs or activate as successful freelancers and even more are, or have been, employed by the largest companies in their area. Just check them out inside the Zend Certified PHP Engineers Directory and you will see for yourself.
  • Zend PHP Certification can help you get the job you're seeking or, at the very least, give you the upper hand at the next round of salary negotiations. The reason I'm saying this is because the test itself is not an easy one and employers know this fact: If you've passed the ZCE Exam you're no longer one of the many.

Is it worth it ?

My short answer is that it was for me, but it might not be for others. Does it say more than your GitHub profile ? No it doesn't! Your contribution to quality code and projects is far more important than taking this exam. However, adding the certificate to your resume is a strong point for sure.

What is the Zend PHP Certification

Zend Technologies Ltd. is a U.S. Company, based in California. Zend creates products for PHP applications, ranging from development software to PHP deployment products. In 2016, Zend was acquired by Rogue Wave Software.

The primary goal that Zend has for Certified Engineers is to help them find better jobs in the PHP Industry. To achieve this, Zend lists all the ZCEs that have ever passed the Zend PHP Certification Exam, on their website, in a section called "Yellow Pages for PHP Professionals". Also, Zend allows Certified PHP Engineers to place a ZCE logo on their personal web site or resume.

The exam itself is meant to cover the 10 most important topics that a PHP Developer must know: Code Basics, Functions, Arrays, Object-oriented PHP, Security, Databases, Data Format & Data Types, Strings & Patterns, Web Features and I/O. The exam is composed of around 70 randomly generated questions that vary in their level of difficulty. The person taking the exam must respond to all the questions in 90 minutes (at least that's how it was when I took it).

How do you know you're ready to take the exam ?

Zend Certificate Diploma

The exam is a serious one and the questions are moderately difficult so a firm grasp of the subtleties in PHP is required to pass. However, an experienced PHP developer should be able to easily pass, even if he doesn't spend endless hours learning function parameters by heart. I only studied for two days, but I was confident that the experience I gained since 2005 will help more than learning function names by heart.

The first method through which you can determine if you are ready to take the exam is to purchase the Certification Study Guide that Zend sells. The study guide contains guidelines about specific topics that you need to know and a set of quizzes for each of these topics.

For me, the learning process was like this:

  • I browsed through the study guide and stopped at the topics I knew I didn't have a firm grasp on (XML for example).
  • Then I went to php.net and refreshed my memory about that particular topic.
  • At the end, I ran through all the quizzes in the study guide and calculated my score, which was a little over 80%.

If you are looking to test yourself now, you can try one of my free PHP quizzes, I have written it to resemble the exam questions as much as possible, but this quiz is unquestionably NOT an evaluation tool.

There are also additional resources that can help you learn and get ready for the exam. For example, if you're an absolute beginner you can check out my Learning RoadMap

How much does the Zend PHP Certification cost

Zend Studio License Confirmation Email

The exam voucher itself costs $195.00 (a little expensive, I know). However, it is the only payment you need to make to participate in the exam.

What I didn't know, and this hit me as a wonderful surprise after the exam, is that, once I earned the ZCE Certificate, they gave me a free, perpetual Zend Studio License ( worth around $200/Year - Click the screen-shot thumbnail to see the surprise email I received). As an addition, Zend currently states that people who pass will also get a free perpetual Zend Server Developer Edition License.

Another benefit, I didn't know about when I enrolled is that once you pass the certification exam, you also get free access to this exclusive group reserved only for Zend Certified Engineers. The group focuses on discussion related to PHP coding standards, scalability, optimization and other challenges that PHP devs face every day - very informative to say the least.

Is the Zend PHP Certification better than other similar programs ?

Screenshot from the PHP Employers dashboard on phpclasses.com

There are a lot of PHP Courses available online and offline and many of them do offer certifications once you finish the course, but the question is if they're worth the effort and money. To answer this question, I went ahead and visited phpclasses.org the largest online community for PHP developers (stats taken from alexa.com). This website also features a "jobs" area where you can add a resume and hope that employers will hire you. Have a look at the screen-shot and decide for yourself!

What others say about the Zend PHP Certification

While researching if this is really worth it, I thought it would be useful to see what developers that had already taken the exam think about the Zend Certification. I gathered their opinions from various interviews or blogs and put them in the image testimonials below.

Zend Certified Engineer Testimonial Zend Certified Engineer Testimonial Zend Certified Engineer Testimonial

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