Should Automattic Create and Manage A WordPress Certification Program?

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Peter Schilling thinks so. With WordPress now 10 years old, used across multiple industries, and powering 20% of the web, Schilling thinks it’s time a WordPress certification be created. According to Schilling, if a certification was created and managed by Automattic, it would help decrease the number of clients getting screwed by drive-by developers.

Automattic Is Not WordPress

On paper, having Automattic manage a WordPress certification program to give it weight sounds like a great idea. However, Automattic does not represent WordPress. WordPress is not a product created by a single entity. It’s a world-wide community effort. As Alvaro Santos points out, it’s already hard enough explaining to people that Automattic is not WordPress.

But I don’t understand why should Automattic be the certification provider. WordPress is not Automattic, Automattic is not WordPress. Asking Automattic to certify WordPress professionals is the same as asking Automattic to take WordPress as their own. It’s hard enough as it is to explain to people who WordPress is a community not a company. You probably know a lot of people who calls WordPress “The WordPress”, as if it was a company like Adobe or Microsoft.

Alvaro goes on to say that “the only certification that could be reliable and benign to WordPress itself would have to be given by the WordPress Community, a community of peers.” In this scenario, which organization or group of WordPress development agencies would be considered as the top class to receive a certification from? If the certification provider is just one of many WordPress companies, what’s the point?

Certifications Versus Real World Experience

A few years ago, I obtained my Net+ and A+ Hardware and Software certifications through CompTIA. These certifications were supposed to help me get a job in the technology sector. In reality, the certifications and the education to obtain them were a big waste of money. When applying for jobs, employers routinely asked for candidates to have a minimum amount of experience. For someone just entering the industry and in debt from the certification programs, this was infuriating.

With WordPress, anyone is able to look at the code and learn at their own pace. By creating plugins, themes, and contributing to the core of WordPress, you are building up real world experience. Two years ago, someone asked on the WordPress support forum if you could be certified as a WordPress expert. This response by Mika Epstein which was borrowed from Andrea_r is something to ponder:

Automattic maintains a list of devs on their site. Also, the new profiles at have a checkbox if you want to be listed as a consultant/freelancer, and people will be able to see how active/knowledgeable you are in the community before they decide to hire you.

Which I think is a really good way to go about it. Especially over some nebulous certifications.

VIP Featured Partners

While I was not able to locate a list of developers Automattic maintains, they do have a VIP Service Partners program. In my opinion, working with one of those companies or becoming a VIP partner would do more good than any WordPress certification. In fact, the VIP Partners program could be viewed as the certification program.


WordPress is the most popular PHP/MySQL powered publishing platform used on the web today. While a WordPress certification sounds good, becoming certified in the technologies the software is built upon would be more beneficial. PHP, MySQL, JavaScript, and other developer oriented technology certifications would be more valuable than simply having a WordPress certification. With this foundation, developers could apply their skills to multiple PHP based platforms and make themselves more valuable to employers.

What do you think?


22 responses to “Should Automattic Create and Manage A WordPress Certification Program?”

  1. I’ve run into problems with some of my museums hiring hacks to build their website then calling me to fix things when it inevitably goes bad, so I’d love to see a certification program happen. It sounds like something suited more for WordPress Foundation to oversee than Automattic. There could be two or more different levels of certification: an entry-level certification for those who just have classroom knowledge and then a higher level for those that have proven industry experience developing WordPress sites. This is how Project Management Institute structures their certifications with CAPM for beginners and PMP and other specialized certifications for experienced project managers.

  2. WordPress is part of the Web Development course that I took but not the only platform. There’s Joomla, which others prefer over WP. As such, I believe the only way to get “Certified” is take the whole Web Development Course, not just WP itself. Although WP is an important part of web development, it is not web development by itself.

    When we hire a web staff, we don’t ask if they are “WP Certified”. Experience and previous projects, that’s what matters. Show me what you’ve done and can do.

    And what does Automaticc (paid) have to do with WP (open source)?

  3. I think the overall idea of having a certification for WordPress is a great idea. I have run into numerous occasions where someone calls me and asks me to “fix” their site because the WordPress guru they hired to build it either left them high and dry and didn’t finish or created something that was such a mess that it had to be completely redone.

    Anyone can learn WordPress but not everyone can live and breath WordPress.

  4. I think the certification is well intentioned but since it can’t do what Mr. Schilling is hoping, it’s a waste of resources. A certification, much like a professional license, is not a guarantee of a successful project or competent certificate holder. Licensed electricians can still miswire a customer’s home just as easily as unlicensed ones.

    Experience trumps a piece of paper every day of the week.

  5. I’m one of the founders of Code For The People – we’re on the VIP Service Partners list, and yes, we absolutely consider that to be our formal certification of competence, for those who care about such things. Most of our enterprise-level sales inquiries come purely because we appear on that list.

    But when it comes to finding freelance (or permanent) staff, we use the Mika method. Your participation on trac, your inclusion on the Credits list, your list of themes/plugins in the official repo or Github, your Twitter account even – these things tell us more about you than your résumé or any formal certificate. That’s the beauty of open source.

    I’ve worked in parts of the IT industry where certification was considered essential. There’s a reason I switched to working with WordPress.

  6. WordPress Certification: yes (if it can be defined objectively first)

    WordPress-Certified by Automattic: no. as Syed said: any formal certification needs to come from the WPF (or an independent certification body), and not from a third-party commercial entity.

    That said: any formal, objective WordPress certification would be pretty difficult, I think. Perhaps some sort of WordPress “continuing education” credits (or something) would be worthwhile.

  7. Whenever someone asks me for a local referral and I don’t know anyone in their area, I just tell them to visit their local meetup and ask the organizers which developers in the group have been around for a long time and built a reputation for doing good work.

    I think that’s a much better way of finding experienced, reliable devs than asking for a certification.

  8. Yes! Just a baseline certification of the Codex/API, theme and plugin development. There are a LOT of devs out there that don’t really know enough (or don’t know what they don’t know). If there was some sort of study guide (i.e. a quick sheet like an infographic that describes the important sections on the test) that would help devs focus in on the most important skills they need to learn.

    I know that for me, I get intimidated looking at all the tutorials and the codex for WP. I know I can learn it but I never know where to start and what direction to go. I understand that there is a “Getting Started” area, but I’m way past that and yet I seem to get lost in the more advanced areas. It’s not about understanding the material, it’s more that I’m not sure what is the most important info and I don’t really know what I need to learn first in order to move on to the next area. I hope that makes sense.

    A test with a study guide that provides a “Learn This then Learn That” type of set up would be helpful for someone like me. It’s kind of already set up that way but what I’m referring to is almost like an infographic (for lack of a better example) that shows a map of how to learn WP. This certification is not just good for displaying a cert on one’s site. It’s good for helping devs focus on the most important elements of WP.

  9. Chip’s remark on defining what is to be Certified points to a big reality-check. Many working projects can’t be defined, and thus won’t certify.

    Per Chip; yes, it would be a big project, and a tough nut. The benefits, though, could – would – come to more, and I’d say a lot more, than just ending up with a Certification program.

    Per Jeff’s latest, Dries Buytaert at Drupal in his 2009 piece plays-down the certification idea. In the second piece, near 5 years later, he applauds its arrival.

    Lotta water under the bridge, at Drupal. Buytaert roughed up his people hard, by bringing in hired-gun programmers, ripping out familiar code en masse, and suffusing Drupal with a new framework & methodology. These are part of the price of making the project certification-ready. Drupal was a notorious hairball; undefinable in many ways.

    WordPress and Drupal are different products. What works or makes sense for the one, will have to be ‘taken on advisement’, by the other. But, likewise in the fairly recent past at WordPress, there have been sobering structural code & resource-organization issues, which would have red-flags carpeting the field of play in any attempt to create a ‘real’ certification system.

    I don’t know that Baytaert’s tactics would fly at WordPress, but WP should have options that will work for it. They won’t be cheap nor easy, though, or they would have been done years ago.


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