Chidi Okwudire IT Professional. ERP Enthusiast. NetSuite Certified (Administrator, SuiteCloud Developer II, and ERP Consultant). Celigo Certified (Level 4+). Passionate About Empowerment Through Knowledge Sharing. Always Eager to Learn.

Certification Insight #3: How valuable are NetSuite certifications? (Part 1)

5 min read

“All that glitters is not gold”

William Shakespeare

It’s time to address the “elephant in the room”. Whether you’re certified or not, whether you plan to become certified or not, whether you factor certification into your recruitment process or not, it’s worthwhile to contemplate the value of NetSuite certification. In this part, we focus on the intrinsic value of certification (in the next one, we’ll address the perceived value). The short answer: It depends on who you ask but, if we’re honest, NetSuite certifications are objectively not worth very much.


Let’s be clear, NetSuite certification is not the same as a college degree, a high school certificate, or any formal training certificate for that matter. Yes, NetSuite offers a list of recommended courses that you can loosely compare to a curriculum of some sorts, you indeed get a certificate after you complete the 1 to 3-hour multiple-choice test, and it’s probable that someone out there might be more likely to hire you if you’re certified. But that’s pretty much as far as the comparison gets.

Here are a few reasons why I suggest that NetSuite certification is worth very little intrinsically:

  1. Qualification is not validated. While NetSuite provides a list of recommended courses, there’s no process to vet if a candidate applying to take the certification exams has taken completed those (paid) courses or met the listed criteria for a qualified candidate. The only check are the exams which, although not necessarily easy, can be passed with limited knowledge or practical experience. Fair enough, NetSuite lists these materials/qualifications as recommendations not prerequisites so there’s no obligation to check them. However, what that also means is that you might have a certified professional who knows their stuff or simply one that was fortunate to pass an exam. The certification program provides no means to distinguish between the two.
     
  2. Pass marks are confidential. NetSuite does not publish the pass marks for the exams. How can you valuate an exam when you don’t know the pass mark? It certainly makes a difference whether the threshold for passing is 40%, 60%, or 80%. I still have no clue why NetSuite opted for this route but it certainly casts a huge shadow on the certification program. What’s the value of not disclosing the pass mark? It’s okay if the pass marks change over time but at least be transparent about what they are and let us draw our own conclusions as to whether we find them too high, too low, etc.
     
  3. Appraisals are a formality. The annual process of renewing one’s certification (a.k.a. “New Release Quiz”) is a mere formality. It’s simply an open-book, untimed review of the release notes from the previous year. All you need is the release notes PDF and “CTRL/CMD + F” (to search for phrases from the “quiz”). So, it’s not really checking if your knowledge is current, it’s just… well… checking if you’re able/willing to spend a few minutes in a trivial exercise. Obviously, the hope is that you’d actually review the releases in detail (which you should). But again, there’s no process in place to validate that or deny you a renewal if you don’t.

    Of course, it is in your best interest as a NetSuite professional to keep abreast of new releases and changes. However, we’re focused on assessing the value of the certification program and I’m saying the current process pretty much produces never-expiring certifications since I don’t consider the annual new release quiz to be a solid appraisal.

    Let me point out that the certification agreement which you receive along with your certificate states that “After the initial period, additional requirements may include i) annual new release quizzes that you must take on a regular basis (e.g., annually) to validate awareness of new NetSuite features and ii) refresh examinations, which are an update of the entire exam that you must take within 12 months of a new exam being announced.” I don’t know when last such a refresh exam occurred, if at all. If you do, please let me know as I’m curious.
     
  4. The certification program is not publicly audited. There is no external assessment or audit of the certification program to the best of my knowledge. So who is vouching for the quality and ensuring that there’s no foul-play? How often is the question pool refreshed? How are the questions and answers evaluated for correctness? How easy is it for the questions to get leaked? These are all aspects that increase the intrinsic value of any certification program and are lacking or at least not publicized for NetSuite certifications.
     
  5. Question do not closely mimic real life. The exams lean heavily towards testing head knowledge and rote memorization as opposed to actual problem solving. So who cares whether a particular feature is under Company >> Enable Features or Accounting >> Accounting Preferences? Such questions on the Administrator certification exam might make the exam appear tough but they are really misguided. The focus should be on making sure that I know what the feature does, what its limitations are, etc., and that I know how to search via the Setup Manager if I don’t remember the exact location of the setting. This is just one example to illustrate the point. Of course, there are definitely questions that test relevant knowledge. However, the tests are generally focused on facts, head knowledge, right-or-wrong rather than on practical situations.

    In real life though, a NetSuite professional is faced with more nuanced situations that require problem analysis, design, collaboration, creativity, etc. An exam to designate one as such, should therefore incorporate more of the real-life scenarios, e.g., using case studies and open-ended, non-boolean questions, the types we face on a regular basis in our work with NetSuite. For a given challenge in NetSuite, there are often multiple plausible solutions which a professional has to weigh to determine the most appropriate, given the context. Admittedly, preparing such exams will be much more challenging but that’s not an excuse.
     
  6. The feedback loop is weak. Finally, an important characteristic of any good training program is to produce more knowledgeable professionals. And a huge part of that is helping them know their relative strengths and weaknesses, even if they passed the exam. However, NetSuite certification exam results do not provide adequate feedback on the areas of strength and weakness. You get an instant “passed” or “failed” with no clue of which areas need improvement, unless you failed (there is one notable exception below).

    As per the official NetSuite certification page:

    Question: “If I fail, will you tell me what areas I should study?” 
    Answer: “You will be notified of sections where you scored less than 50% correct. It is possible to score above 50% on all sections and still be below the passing score.”

    So you get extra info only if you failed but if you passed, you’re all good? Interestingly, the SuiteCloud Developer II deviates from this rule as I received a breakdown per section after passing (see below). For other certifications, I got a simple passed/failed. The bottom line is that I think a solid feedback loop is essential.

I can go on and on but I think the message is clear by now. So the next time you come across someone touting their NetSuite certification as though they’ve obtained some high degree… Well, be gracious to them, congratulate them, and make sure you refer them to this series as they might be due for a reality check 😉

As an aside, and to illustrate the sixth point above, here are snapshots from my exam results. For the SuiteFoundation, Administrator and ERP Consultant exams, I simply got a pass or fail:

ERP consultant exam result merely states pass or fail

However, the SuiteCloud Developer II exam result included useful details one would expect, helping me see how I did in each area and providing me feedback on where I need to brush up, despite having passed the exam. This is what I’d expect for all certification exams, regardless of whether one passes or fails. Furthermore, if I passed, I’d like to be able to review the specific questions that I got wrong along with the correct answers and rationales so that I can learn!

Developer II certification result includes breakdown

Hopefully, this article has provided some useful insights. And just in case, I come off as anti-certification, I’m not! I hold four NetSuite certifications and I don’t regret getting any of them.

My goal with this series is to present you with balanced information to help you make sound decisions and not be swayed by what everyone is saying or doing. Am I totally unbiased? No one is. But I sincerely hope that I’m enabling you to come to your own conclusions and make your own decisions. If you don’t feel that way, please let me know via the comments section. Furthermore, the certification survey linked below showcases the thoughts of the community where you’ll find the sentiments in this article echoed strongly.

Finally, low intrinsic value does not mean no value at all. In the next article in the series, I’ll share how you can still leverage NetSuite certification in your professional career.


The insights in this article represent the views of the author, who, by the way, holds multiple NetSuite certifications. However, the perpetual certification survey that’s been running since January 2021 reflects the collective thinking of the community on the subject matter.

Our hope is that the combination of both resources will provide you with a balanced view. Take the certification survey today! Once completed, you’ll unlock the anonymized aggregated survey results with nice charts and stats. Alternatively, you can subscribe to our NetSuite Insights newsletter using this link to gain immediate access to the survey results and email notifications when we publish new insights.

Other Articles in the NetSuite Certification Series

Chidi Okwudire IT Professional. ERP Enthusiast. NetSuite Certified (Administrator, SuiteCloud Developer II, and ERP Consultant). Celigo Certified (Level 4+). Passionate About Empowerment Through Knowledge Sharing. Always Eager to Learn.

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