I'm a PhD student in my first year. My field is biology but I've been using python and some libraries such us: Numpy, Pandas, statistics, SciPy and BeautifulSoup for analyzing, processing and searching for data.

The problem is that I do not have any certification about this and I have been self-teaching my self how to use all these tools with the help of the Stack Overflow community and some friends.

I really like programming and using it for my work but I'm afraid that maybe a recruiter would not give me a chance because I don't have anything to show them that I have these skills.

Do you think that people would trust me if I show them some of the codes that I have made or it would be necessary to do some courses to obtain certification ?

Could be a good Idea to do a posdoc related in bioinformatics or data science ?

Any opinion recommendation or answer helps!

Thank you

  • 2
    A lot of programmers are autodidactic learners, thou some certificates/degrees won't hurt.. Whats really important are your skills and that you are commited to get sh.. done..
    – iLuvLogix
    Mar 18, 2020 at 11:25
  • 1
    Myself a Physics graduate here. I didn't have any certifications when I joined in my first programming job. I love coding and programming and due to the pure interest in programming, I decided to become a coder/programmer. and I can tell certifications are good to have but skillset is important
    – S M
    Mar 18, 2020 at 14:28
  • 1
    Some employers rely heavily on diploma and certifications, some are interested in what people can actually do...
    – Laurent S.
    Mar 18, 2020 at 14:55
  • 1
    Ask to be allowed to publish some of your research software as open source e.g. on github. This paper explains why it is beneficial to both parties (you and your employer). And open source is related to open science and to reproducible science. See also softwareheritage.org Mar 19, 2020 at 21:19
  • 1
    Answer questions on Stack Overflow and you will have something to show. Nov 18, 2020 at 13:27

3 Answers 3


Programming isn't like being a gas fitter or pilot, where you need to be certified on a specific task, because you're rarely asked to do the same thing multiple times.

What is important is the ability to pick up a new tool, skim the manual (if there is one), dive in and have a go, troubleshoot and fix your mistakes. You can't get certificates in that, but it's probably exactly what you've been doing.

A senior engineer will be expected to have a few years experience of some tools, but they will still be expected to learn new things, and the probably aren't still using the tools they started on. Junior programmers usually find that learning their way around the company's code is the hardest part of the job.

In an interview, you can usually tell whether a candidate knows the basics of language/tool with a few simple questions, but what you really want to know is whether they're able to research something on their own, and whether they generally find a solution and make things work.

  • 1
    Thank you very much Robin this gave me a lot of hope to continue my path through this journey! and hope to contribute as all of you to this community some day
    – Nicolas
    Mar 18, 2020 at 15:25

Do you think that people would trust me if I show them some of the codes that I have made or it would be necessary to do some courses to obtain certification ?

You might be having a lot of certificates, but in the workplace world, showing them to a potential company/academia would not probably land you the job/course directly because it is the due diligence for certificates and/or interview for your knowledge as mentioned in those aformentioned certificates.

Certificates issued by reputed institutions could be of some value to a few recruiters because it lessens the efforts to test the candidate knowledge to an extent. Otherwise nowadays, most recruiters value what you have worked on and their models and results/observations. You could put it up in code-hosting sites like github, gitlab, sourceforge or your blogs.

Certificate is not a must unless mentioned by companies/universities. For instance, GMAT, IELTS, GRE, TOEFL and/or LSAT scores are made mandatory by most of universities for foreign students (and/or local students).

If you are confident and able to learn on your pace and comfort, then by all means, do it on your own. If you have doubts, then as you wrote in your question, you get help by using SO community and with your friends.

Could be a good Idea to do a posdoc related in bioinformatics or data science ?

Data science prepares you for any field that involves understanding and dealing with data whereas bioinformatics is more specialized form i.e data science + biology (dealing with biological data). But bioinformatics should also help you to transition to another field of informatics like astronomy or marketing.

Either way should help you for a career in data science.

That said, you need to see the reason to do postdoc. For most cases, PhD should be enough. So, you need to see whether doing postdoc would leave impressions on your career prospects.

  • Thank you very much! this helps a lot!!
    – Nicolas
    Mar 18, 2020 at 15:26
  • Hm, while bioinformatics or d. Science are important, I don't see how a postdoc (=doing research) would help especiallyfor an industry career.
    – guest
    Mar 18, 2020 at 18:28

I'm going against the two existing answers here.

You're into programming and that is all fine and good. However, the person looking at your application is looking for proof that you're not just talking big or overestimate your ability.

You don't have any proof. The application right next to yours has, so yours will land directly in the discard pile, unless there is a severe lack of applicants.

Proof doesn't have to be certificates, but lacking anything else, they might get you above the threshold. Proof is previous employment in the field, public projects you've done yourself, even blog posts and such. Anything to show that you can do what you claim you can do.
Code samples are nice, but they don't have any place in the actual application document and they don't show that you can do a project from start to finish. You can write small snippets, you can copy-paste a few stackoverflow answers, but can you actually program? The recruiter doesn't know.
From the recruiting side, prior professional experience is the first thing I look for, then any larger public projects someone did himself, then a finished degree and at the very last any certificates the person holds - since certificates are usually very easy to get.
If I have the choice between someone with professional experience and someone with a "Python 101 certificate", you don't even need to guess who I'm going to hire.

So in summary:
You need proof that you can do what you claim you can do, or your chances are very slim. You could try for an internship next to your studies, paid or unpaid, which reduces the risk for the employer and still would provide the "prior professional experience" for future applications. You could actually do a project from start to finish by yourself and publish it. You could finish a degree in Bioinformatics. Any of those options work, but without those, as harsh as it may sound, I wouldn't even invite you for an interview. You wouldn't even get a chance to show your ability.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .