Certifiably Magento

Posted by | March 20, 2012 Magento Blog | 16 Comments

Certifiably Magento - Magento Developer Certification
Magento Certification, Where Have You Been??

At Blue Acorn, we quickly noticed a pattern: Company A would send out an RFP. We would leverage our experience as early adopters of the platform, respond with a fair and accurate quote, and then lose the bid to a shop that would promise to get the same job done for half the price. Company A would then come back to us six months later with a non- or barely-functional site: time and money needlessly lost.

Magento development – done well – is often challenging. Developers know this. Magento solution providers know this. Until recently, however, companies like Company A had no true measuring stick of whether or not the agencies they were receiving quotes from had the expertise on staff needed to properly execute their vision. References are nice, but what company doesn’t have a few good references? A good portfolio provides a little more assurance, but it doesn’t mean that each project was done right the first time or on schedule. With so many development agencies having the requisite references and portfolios, what is Company A supposed to do but go with the lowest bid?

This is where the Magento Developer Certification program comes into play, and Magento, Inc. got it right. Their method for establishing a truly meaningful certification was simple: recruit talent with a track record of programmer education and certification success, and use the development community to build an exam that tests developers on the elements of the Magento framework that are actually important. To ensure that the test was applicable, Magento, Inc. created a Certification Advisory Board, which assessed both the needs of Magento-based retailers and the abilities that capable Magento developers should possess. In addition to being part of the Magento U education initiative, Blue Acorn was proud to have two of our own on the fifteen-member board. A set of general areas of competence was created, followed by the creation of exam topics. These questions were then peer-reviewed, evaluated, evaluated some more, and finally assembled into beta exams to test their validity.

The result of this process – hundreds of hours of effort from the Certification Advisory Board and Magento employees – are two certifications that are rooted in the fundamentals of the platform and thoroughly test a developer’s working knowledge of areas that see frequent customization, Magneto Certified Developer (MCD) and Magneto Certified Developer Plus (MCD+). Built by experienced developers and polished by a rigorous test-building methodology, the exams truly deliver as an essential measurement of developer competence, allowing businesses to make a well-informed decision when choosing a Magento solution provider or freelancer.

How to Become a Magento Certified Developer

Blue Acorn currently has three MCD+ developers (Senior Architect Luis Tineo, COO Toby Hemmerling, and myself), and we all agree: the MCD+ exams are thorough. Passing the exam is simply not possible without hundreds of hours of working experience.

Work. Work. Work.

As I mentioned earlier, the exams were designed to test a working knowledge of the framework. Therefore, candidacy for certification begins at your desk, in front of your computer, solving client problems. Your client needs a custom product type. What does that look like in the configuration and model layer? You have to create a custom entity and indexer. How much of this task can you do without referring to the codebase? While not necessarily on the exam, these are the kinds of tasks that a proper candidate will have dealt with and will understand enough to be able to identify correct answers.

But Magento is big!

Yes it is, and given the large size and feature set of the framework, a few of us from the Certification Advisory Board developed study guides. The goal of these guides (MCD available here and MCD+ available here) is to help developers target areas of the framework for practice or review. The guides are an excellent starting point, and they can aid both the seasoned professional seeking certification in the near future and the new developer seeking certification within the coming year. They contain exam topics, general questions about those topics, and code references that serve as starting points for understanding how each topic is realized in the framework.

Magento Certified Developer Exam Study Guide         Magento Certified Developer Plus Exam Study Guide

Again, keep in mind that the certification exams were designed to rigorously denote architects who understand the framework and the subtleties of certain implementations. Therefore, the amount of effort each developer will need to pass the exam of their choice is a function of understanding and experience.

Study. Study. Study.

Think of the study guides as a “horse’s mouth” resource. Outside of your client needs, you only have so much time and ability to compartmentalize and convert the code to certification-ready knowledge. Questions may contain recognizable code samples as part of the stem or among the answers, but you’ll likely need to independently recall general code application and architecture in order to rule out potential answers. The study guides were written by the same folks who wrote the exam questions, so they’re going to contain some pertinent information. The guides are offered as an entry point, rather than a complete resource, however, so certification candidates should make sure they understand even the low-level concepts that constitute the module operating environment.

If you have the availability, this would be a great time to look into registering for Magento U’s Fundamentals of Magento Development course, which involves five days of instructor-led training in an interactive classroom environment. If I’m teaching it, you’ll get extra brownie points for mentioning that you read this article. Write that down.

Other resources include Twitter, Stack Overflow, and the Magento website itself. You’ll want to pay particular attention to the forum, Magento Answers, and the knowledge base articles, especially those written by Alan Storm, author of the exhaustive No Frills Magento Layout.

For real-time help, you can dust off your IRC client, connect to Freenode, and hop in the #magento channel (You can use the webclient if you prefer. My handle is @confuzus.).

Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.

However you do it best – whether it’s with someone or by yourself – make sure that you are thoroughly prepared. Use the study guides and your working knowledge to generate your own test Q&A sets to see how well you do. Above all, move through the study guide questions incrementally to see if you can describe not only the answer, but the architecture by which the answer is realized. Write this down. Then review the code, even implementing the solution, and see if you were correct. Once you achieve a high level of recall, you are ready for the exam.

What does this all mean?

The early absence of a certification program was felt – often painfully – by the businesses that chose to adopt the platform. Magento Inc.’s deliberate and diligent approach to establishing certification was appropriate, though. The result is a highly relevant, thoroughly valid, and certainly valuable process of ascension to a high standard that was previously unquantified. The existence of the program is therefore a benefit to the ecosystem of Magento developers and its customers alike. Ultimately, the Magento Developer Certification program completes the picture of Magento Inc.’s education efforts, demonstrating the company’s commitment to elevating the level and quality of Magento solutions for its customers around the world. As advocates of establishing Magento development standards for years, we’re happy to see this come together, and even happier to have been a part of making it happen in our efforts to drive quality in the Magento ecosystem.

About Ben Marks


  • Hopefully this program will help clients make a more educated decision when selecting an proposal to move forward with. Unfortunately we see it all too often as well. Most of the time the discounted rates are coming back from overseas countries. Clients think that skills are equal and the prices are just that much lower because of the labor is cheaper. However, it’s usually a lack of fully understanding the projects needs that result in the quotes coming back lower. Granted there is some cost savings outsourcing. But if you’re quote’s coming back 50% cheaper, well, that should be a red flag not a green one.

  • Great article Ben. The 40-hours of Fundamentals of Magento Development videos really helps. I recommend that.

  • Marcos says:

    This was a great move. Hopefully we get a couple of our developers certified by this summer.

    BTW, where can we find the 40 hour video?

    Thanks and see you at Imagine

  • Alison French says:

    Great article Ben! I so know the pain of being a “Company A”. So thankful we found you and Kevin when we did.

  • Ben Marks says:

    Hey Marcos,

    Thanks for the feedback. The video is available in the Magento U On-Demand area of the Magento site. I hope that they are beneficial. I (unfortunately) won’t be at Imagine, but several of my Blue Acorn colleagues will be there. Have fun!


  • Ben Marks says:

    Hi Ricardo,

    I’m glad that you found the videos helpful. Hopefully Magento will have an in-person offering in Brazil soon 🙂


  • Great article, this has been long missing from Magento (ignoring the previous attempts at a certification qualification back in 2009).

    I’m putting all our developers through the test this month, it should be an honour to have 100% of the workforce certified.

  • Pierre FAY says:

    Thanks for the videos on magentoU and for your works.I’m a magento developper since about 1years. It helps me a lot improving my skills on magento and my understanding of how it works on a deep level.

    There was a long time i wanted to studing magento more deeply and understanding how it realy works.

    Again thanks for the article.

    Pierre FAY

  • Dgen says:

    Hello Ben,
    Your suggestions about magento certification helps any developer to come out from the very depth of confusion. Thanks for this. I am preparing the certification since a week and have realized that its hard to answer the question from certification guide, but makes easy with an experience. I really have not got chance to talk with certified developer. I would appreciate if you let me know some stuffs and believe you will do because I have found you helping people in most of places like stack, magento forum..
    Lately I came to know that we are also asked to choose PHP code as answer, let me make it clear. Lets say how does magento load its configuration files?
    If we go through the code form Mage_Core_Model_Config/App, there is long code and its also not possible to remember each and every piece of code but what I can do is I can understand what the actually the code does. My concern is should I also remember the lines of codes, name of functions from such core files?

    Looking forward to hear from you.



    • Ben Marks says:

      Hi Dgen,

      As a Certification Advisory Board member, question author, and MCD+ I can’t go into specifics regarding actual question and answers – I hope you understand that this is for the integrity of the test.

      Obviously the best test would be to have developers actually develop something, but that just isn’t feasible. I’ll point out that the goal of Magento developer certification is to point out developers with a good working knowledge of Magento. If the test questions are well-designed, when they reference or inquire about actual PHP or XML, the correct and incorrect answers should be recognized or at least discernable to a developer with practical experience. Because the exam is multiple choice, candidates need not worry about rote memorization.

      I hope that this allays your concern about the exam format. Study hard using the certification study guides, testing answers in the source code, and don’t forget about the recently-announced Magento Certification Study Pack.

      Good luck!

  • Dgen says:

    Thank you Ben, you stood up with my expectation.

  • Thank you Ben for Magento U videos .
    Really it very very helpful to me to learn about more and more in Magento.

    Now i really love so much Magento after seeing your videos.

    And i will go for MCD+ exam and i will definitely pass it of course after seeing your video tutorials.

    Thanks a lot Guru.

  • Nesh says:

    I really doubt that MCD(+) is anything than PR title — I saw tests and really … (average time to pass one is around under 10min for ppl around me who bothered to get it), hardest part: learning answers which go against any real/good practice related Magento or programing.

    Tip: you want to see if Company A is serious? Request QA and testing procedures, workflow setups, team sizes and organisation …

    MCD(+) only means that some spend few $$ to do trivial test and nothing else. IIRC + mostly just means we bought few EE versions(!?).

    p.s. sorry for the rant … PR is nice … but really, nothing will ever be fixed if we wont start calling this as they are without any sugarcoating and sadly magento codebase/community has a lot of parts whit are plain ….

  • Simon says:

    Hi Ben,
    Thanks to you give me best techniques, Hopefully we get a couple of our developers certified by this summer.

  • Hi Ben,

    Thanks a lot for this article. I watched the 40 hours videos in Magento U and that’s really helpful! I liked it very much!


    Tiago Sampaio

  • Hi Ben,

    Work, Study and Prepare.
    Thank you Ben for Magento U videos.
    Really it very very helpful to me to learn about more and more in Magento.

    Rafael Corrêa Gomes

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