Adobe Certification: A Good Move Forward

May 16, 2011 12:19 am

Tags: Adobe

Adobe Certification: A Good Move Forward

Just as Adobe is committed to providing the best in multimedia design software, they also offer the best of support and education right along with it. Adobe provides exceptional resources, such as books by their own Adobe Press, as well as having training providers available across the globe. There are also plenty of free online resources through Adobe forums, as well as video learning at Adobe TV.

But, to take what is learned and acquire something tangible, like Adobe Certification, may very well be a good move forward in standing out to prospective employers. Or, if one is in business for themselves, having that validation visible on a website could also be a great idea. Having long been a proponent for continuing education and a firm believer in having the appropriate credentials, I wanted to shed some light on what some may not know is available, especially in today's competitive job market.

With this in mind, I took the opportunity to find out more about Adobe's Certification programs direct from the source. What follows is a brief e-mail interview I conducted, with combined responses from Adobe's Nell Hurley, Program Manager, Worldwide Education, and Tiffany Powell, Certification and Assessment Manager.

What are the differences between the Adobe Certified Expert and Adobe Certified Associate programs?

The Adobe Associate certification (ACA) provides an individual with validated entry-level skills needed to plan, design, build and maintain effective communications using different forms of digital media. Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) exams are targeted toward individuals who use Adobe software on a daily basis for work. The differences in the audiences compelled us to offer different levels of exams for select products – in some cases, only an ACE exam is available as the software would only be used by professionals.

The testing experience also varies between the two programs. ACA exams combine traditional multiple-choice questions and simulated application environment test questions. Our ACE exams are comprised of traditional multiple-choice questions. Further, our ACA exams are delivered through Certiport and the ACE exams are delivered through Pearson VUE.

When did each program start?

The Adobe Certified Associate (ACA) program was introduced in 2007 with full product launch in 2008. The program launched with three exams: Web Communication using Dreamweaver, Rich Media Communication using Flash and Visual Communication using Photoshop. In late 2010, we added the Video Communication using Adobe Premiere Pro exam.

The first ACE exam for Photoshop 5.0 was delivered in September of 1998.

Would you suggest that someone looking to become certified have quite a bit of working experience (with any specific product) under his/her belt before considering taking either of the exams?

It depends – we recommend evaluating your personal experience and goals before deciding on which exam to take. Again, the ACA certification is geared toward the first-time or entry-level job seeker who wants to demonstrate Adobe product knowledge together with related design and development principles. ACE exams are for those who have professional experience with Adobe products – more than 30 percent of our ACE exam candidates have between one and three years experience with the product on which they test.

When updating exams for the current program release cycle, how much emphasis goes into the new portion of any specific program?

This entirely depends on the types of new features that are added – we review all of the updates and determine what should be included and, in some cases, what should be omitted. For example, because the ACA covers basic skills, we don’t include test content on highly technical features. However, we occasionally omit new features from ACE exams as well. An example of this would be the image quantitative analysis features in Adobe Photoshop Extended. Although those features provide an incredibly powerful tool set, they typically do not map to our creative audience so we purposely have not added test question on those features.

Are there certification exams being developed for CS5.5?

We are reviewing how the release of Creative Suite 5.5 impacts our current ACA and ACE exam content but there are no current plans to update the exams.

What is currently the most popular certification among the individual Adobe products?

The most popular ACA certification is Visual Communication using Photoshop, followed by Web Communication using Dreamweaver.

Photoshop exams are the most popular ACE exams – the Dreamweaver, Flex, and Illustrator exams are also popular.

Given the present state of the economy, has there been a noticeable increase in those becoming certified?

We have seen demand grow for certifications in the Adobe enterprise offerings (Omniture-powered solutions, LiveCycle and developer tools like Flex). Additionally, the ACA program has continued to grow year over year – in fact, it is one of the fastest growing certifications today.

Do you see more people moving into specialist certifications?

Not specifically, though the certifications for the enterprise space have increased and the enterprise products naturally differentiate across specialties. For example, LiveCycle and Flex exams are typically taken by individuals in developer and technical job roles; the audience for Omniture-powered technology exams includes online marketers and analysts.

Do you get any feedback on the best ways to prepare for the exams? Is there a favored approach to studying for any exam?

There are a number of ways to prepare for the ACA exams. An individual may choose self-paced study using official Approved Courseware for the ACA such as Peachpit’s “Learn by Video” series. Some of those titles are listed here: 

Alternately, ACA candidates can prepare for exams in the classroom. Adobe has several curriculum resources for educators that can help them prepare their students for the ACA. Namely, the free digital careers teaching resources that include guides for alignment to the ACA objectives. That curriculum is also available on this page:

Additionally, ACE preparation methods vary by audience. Our creative audience typically prepares by attending instructor-led training and using “Adobe's Classroom in a Book” series. Developers, on the other hand, rely more on their work experience and tend to study user guides and product documentation.

We highly recommend individuals preparing for an ACE exam to review the preparation materials and pay close attention to the exam objectives. (You can find preparation guides for all of our ACE exams at The objectives detail the specific topics we measure in the exams. Identify the areas in which you need additional preparation from the objectives and study.

Who is responsible for putting the exams together? Is there a specific department tasked with this?

The ACA exams are a collaborative effort between Adobe and Certiport, Inc., Adobe’s test development and delivery partner. Certiport is the world leader in performance-based certifications and practice test development. Certiport provides complete certification solutions that include test development, psychometrics, program management, sales and marketing. 

All ACE exam development is managed by a team in the Adobe Training Services organization. Some exam development is sourced through external subject matter experts (SMEs) and contractors who are experts in their respective fields. Other exams are developed using SMEs from internal teams.

What do you feel is the value of becoming certified?

Adobe certification allows one to demonstrate proficiency in Adobe digital communications tools, which in turn can open doors to new career opportunities. Certification differentiates candidates in a competitive job market and simultaneously boosts an individual’s confidence that he/she is career-ready.

Statistics show that a job candidate with an industry-recognized credential is more likely to be hired full-time and receive a higher starting salary. Evidence also exists to say that certification programs in high schools lead to lower drop-out rates and higher post-secondary enrollment.

Have you received a lot of feedback on success after certification?

The ACA program is still a fairly new - the majority of exams having been taken in the last two years. However, there are several customer success stories we can point to as we continue to gather data on individuals’ successes after certification. More often, we see our community celebrate their certification status through social media outlets (e.g., Twitter, blogs and professional profiles).

Many thanks to Nell Hurley and Tiffany Powell for answering my questions. I hope this information proves helpful, and I invite everyone to have a look at the following related links:

Nick C. Sorbin is a digital artist, sculptor, writer, and Managing Editor for Renderosity's Front Page News.
Renderosity Homepage


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