The here, there, and everywhere of Google Certification
Posted on
March 28, 2022
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Would you like to have more information on Google's certification program for IT professionals? Be prepared to search for it. The massive tech company that saw its name become a verb in the early 2000s built its empire on finding information from disparate sources across the web.

It’s somewhat surprising, then, that Google's own training and certification program for IT professionals seems to be fragmented by design: a mixed bag of credentials haphazardly arranged around a number of industry roles and knowledge domains.

For being one of the biggest and most influential companies on the planet, Google's approach to IT certification feels experimental and random. Some components of its program — like its Google Cloud certifications — have the same look and feel as other IT vendor-based offerings.

But there are other elements of Google Certification which are less scrutable. The company's "Grow with Google" initiative, for example, offers a sort IT education buffet. Participants can earn “career certificates” — not certifications, notably — for different valuable tech skills, including IT support and programming with Python.

With all of that in mind, how does someone navigate the circuitous hedge maze of Google certification? Let's break it down into some identifiable IT flora.

Weaving a tangled web

Cloud computing is king in today's IT world, so it should come as no surprise that Google's cloud computing certifications are the most solid offering in its program. Google Cloud certifications are split into three experience levels: Foundational, Associate, and Professional. There is only one certification in each of the first two levels, while the Professional level is subdivided into a number of industry roles, including the following:

Cloud Architect
Cloud Developer
Data Engineer
Cloud DevOps Engineer
Cloud Security Engineer
Cloud Network Engineer
Collaboration Engineer
Machine Learning Engineer

(Google must not have received the memo from annoyed professional organizations demanding the title of “engineer” not be assigned to anyone who doesn't have an engineering degree from a university. Microsoft could tell them a thing or two about that particular harangue.)

Google Cloud certifications have their own website (https://cloud.google.com/certification/) and are well-organized and thoughtfully supported with training information and related industry stories.

At first glance, it would seem that the same care and attention has been given to Google's Developer certifications. The developer credentials have their own dedicated website (https:// developers.google.com/certification/) — but it turns out there is some bait-and-switch going on. Scanning down the page, you will find that there are only two unique Google Developer certifications:

Associate Android Developer
TensorFlow Developer Certificate

The remaining credentials are all duplicates from Google's Cloud certifications. Clicking on one of them redirects users to the Google Cloud certification site.

To be fair, cloud services and software development are peas in the same IT pod. But it seems odd that Google would create a seemingly separate branch of its certification tree for developers, only to leave that branch with almost no unique leaves.

Which brings us back to Grow with Google, an online education program that Google created in partnership with Coursera, a well-known massive open online course (MOOC) provider. Coursera has partnered with colleges, universities, and professional organizations around the world to offer everything from single courses to recognized degree programs.

There are a small number of Google Professional Certificates offered through the Coursera partnership. Here is a list of the current offerings:

Google Data Analytics
Google Project Management
Google UX Design
Google IT Support
Google IT Automation

Google isn't the only technology company to partner with Coursera. Facebook has courses for its own marketing analytics and social media marketing systems. IBM, Salesforce, and Intuit have also created content for their own branded Coursera courses.

Which raises some questions: When and why is a ‘professional certificate’ not a certification? Doesn’t the process of earning a certification culminate with the awarding of a professional certificate? Why has Google decided to split the difference?

Google’s certification strategy

"You can't tell your players without a scorecard," the old sales pitch goes, but there isn't a scorecard for Google's training and certification program. Google's professional credentials are spread across different sites or offered via a third-party education provider.

So why does one of the world's most powerful and influential tech companies treat the organization of its professional certification program like an afterthought? What’s the point of creating such a haphazard and roundabout path to even just identifying what Google’s professional IT certification offerings are?

It's clear that Google's primary focus is on its cloud services, and understandably so. The global cloud computing marketplace is currently valued at around $300 billion, and is expected to skyrocket to more than $900 billion in the next six years.

Google Cloud is in a highly competitive race with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure for a share of this revenue stream. Other smaller players like IBM, Alibaba, and Salesforce are pushing hard to catch up to Google in cloud services market share.

The cloud services market growth explains Google's prioritization of its Google Cloud product while it shows less attention to its other accredited disciplines. There is evidence to back Google's certification strategy. Two of Google's cloud certifications — Professional Data Engineer and Professional Cloud Architect — topped the list of highest paying certifications in the Global Knowledge 2021 IT Skills and Salary Survey.

And it's not as though Google is entirely ignoring its other disciplines. It is interesting, however, that the company chose to deemphasize certain skill sets like Data Analytics and UX Design by assigning them to a third-party education provider and giving them the lesser status of “professional certificates.”

Certificates for starters

The distinction between the credential levels becomes clearer as you drill down into the Grow with Google program. Google Career Certificates are clearly aimed at entry-level candidates looking to start a career in IT, or those who want to transfer from another professional field. The FAQ on the Grow with Google site gives the following answer to the question, "What background knowledge is necessary?"

"None! Whether you're completely new to the field or have had some exposure, a Google Career Certificate is the right program for you."

The Google Career Certificate program has other career development resources which aren't offered (or at least aren't advertised) with the company's higher-level certifications. For example, Google Career Certificate candidates can apply for financial assistance from Coursera to help pay the site's subscription fees. Google has also provided thousands of scholarships to a group of career development organizations that assist people in joining (or rejoining) the workforce.

Then there is the Google Career Certificates Employer Consortium, a group of companies partnered with Google to offer Career Certificate earners a straighter path toward applying for entry-level positions. This is similar to programs run by high schools and colleges in concert with regional businesses. Google Career Certificate earners can also access additional employment resources including a resume building tool, mock interviews, and career networking support.

Putting it all together

The disconnect between the Grow with Google program and the company's higher-level training and certification offering makes more sense when you consider the intent of each. Grow with Google is an entry-level industry initiative aimed at self-starters looking for a relatively low-cost IT education option.

By contrast, Google Cloud certifications are meant for intermediate-to-advanced IT professionals who want to become Google Cloud specialists within a specific job role like cloud architect or data engineer. These are certifications in the sense that we tend to apply across the professional IT spectrum.

So we've made it through the hedge maze of Google certificates and certifications, and emerged with a better understanding of who the audience is for each program. The good news is that there's a fit for both tenderfooted tyros and experienced pros within Google's accredited training curriculum.

If you're interested in a more detailed look at Google Cloud credentials, then we happen to have some information available at CertMag.com. Drop by for a bicameral Overview of Google Cloud certifications: Part One and Part Two.

About the Author

Aaron Axline is a technology journalist and copywriter based in Edmonton, Canada. He can be found on LinkedIn, and anywhere fine coffee is served.

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