Python is a popular language in the world of programming. Python offers a robust community, plenty of tools and libraries built right on top of the Python stack and is one of the more straightforward programming languages to learn. Plus, Python skills can provide a lucrative career path. Python developers can expect yearly salaries of around $92,000, according to PayScale1. This guide outlines what it takes to become certified in Python and how professionals can use their Python certification.
What Is a Python Certification and What Are the Programs to Obtain One?
A Python certification offers a suite of training courses designed to communicate to employers that students are fluent in the Python programming language. It’s common for data science positions — one of the fastest-growing career sectors2 — to require knowledge of the Python language and ecosystem. Many popular websites, social platforms, and search engines are built on Python, including Instagram, Spotify, Netflix, and Google.
Python is an accessible language to learn for beginner coders, and a certification course provides the foundational knowledge needed to build your own solutions, break into data science, or work with a top company offering online and virtual solutions.
There is no official Python certificate, although the Python foundation has discussed creating one standard certificate in the past. Instead, students can take advantage of local software schools or online options, each with their own version of the certificate.
Each school or site offering a Python certification is a little different, but they are typically divided into three sections:
Certified Entry-Level Programmer
May include instruction for basic Python skills, boolean values, data aggregates, expression values, and basics of computer programming.
Certified Associate Programmer
May include object-oriented programming (OOP), Python runtime environments, multi-dimensional arrays, and more complex syntax and semantics.
Certified Professional Programmer
May include advanced object-oriented programming, Python tools and frameworks, GUI programming, network programming, and PEP conventions.
Some sites offer certification tests without the need to take courses, making them a good choice for self-taught students. Others provide full-scale courses that end in a certificate. In general, it’s recommended for students to research the certifications preferred by their current or ideal employer before selecting a program.
How Can I Use a Python Certification?
Python is a strong skill to have for positions in computer science, data science, programming, cybersecurity, and tech in general. Python skills open the door to data scientist positions (with yearly salaries around $103,0003), computer and information research scientists (with yearly salaries around $127,0004), or machine learning engineers (with base yearly salaries around $130,0005).
The best thing to do is combine your Python certificates with a real-life portfolio of what you’ve accomplished in Python programming. Because there’s no official Python certificate, employers may need something else to determine if you’ve got the chops for top positions in technology.
Some ways to improve your portfolio:
- Open a Github account and join projects or create your own.
- Join “hackathons” or other real-world competitions designed to solve challenges.
- If you’re also a good writer, submit articles on cutting-edge Python topics or join forum discussions.
- Think about burning questions you have, ideal products you’d use, or other personal challenges and build your own solutions.
A certificate can give you the confidence to take on Python projects, but combining a certificate with a portfolio gives you greater appeal in the job process.
Python Certification Courses
Students can choose from a variety of self-taught Python courses, but well-respected certifications include:
PCEP (Certified Entry-level Python Programmer): 45-minute exam
Students with knowledge of Python programming fundamentals can take this exam6. Topics include basic formatting, boolean values, fundamentals of computer programming, and rules governing the building of expressions.
PCAP (Certified Associate in Python Programming): 65-minute exam
This associate-level exam follows the PCEP7 and includes multiple-choice, drag-and-drop, and fill-in-the-blank questions. It covers topics like compilation vs. interpretation, fundamentals of object-oriented programming, inputting and converting of data, and name scope issues.
PCPP1 (Certified Professional in Python Programming 1): 65-minute exam
For students who pass both PCEP and PCAP, PCPP1 offers verification of advanced skills in Python programming8. Topics include file processing, graphical user interface programming, metaprogramming, and advanced features and perspectives of object-oriented programming.IBM Python for Data Science Badge: 20-hour course and certificate
IBM offers an introduction to Python for data science through this online course9. Students complete the course learning Python fundamentals for programming and data science. Coursework takes about 20 hours of effort, and an exam at the end verifies skills mastery.
Preparing for the exam
To prepare, students should take Python programming fundamentals and learn to code in the language. They should expand beyond the language to master common Python libraries and tools. The ecosystem is enormous, but some popular components include:
- Scikit-learn: A machine learning library
- Caffe: A deep learning framework
- TensorFlow: A numerical library designed for visualizing results from numerical computation
- NLTK: A natural language toolkit
- Django: A web application framework
- NumPy: For multi-dimensional array (very large calculations)
- Matplotlib: A 2D mathematical plotting library
- Pandas: Open-source data science laboratory
Working with the Python programming language, you’ll be able to move into niche areas in your career development. Web programmers may explore Django, for example, while chatbot builders might enjoy NLTK. Data scientists should become masters at TensorFlow, and AI engineers may need Caffe.
What You’ll Do
The tech field relies on actionable advice and hands-on instruction to help you learn. Here are some things to expect in your Python course:
Instruction often takes the form of real-world challenges. They’ll offer instruction but shift to application quickly, allowing you to put skills to use in a trial-and-error, problem-solving, and collaboration-based environment.
It’s important to employers to showcase what you’ve accomplished rather than simply what you’ve learned. In many Python courses, the end result will be a full-scale project showcased as a portfolio you’ve worked on throughout.
Computer programming may seem like a solo field, but these courses strongly encourage new developers to learn from each other. They may require a GitHub account so that you can work on open-source projects, for example.
There’s always something new happening in the world of programming. These courses will expect you to foster a sense of lifelong learning to keep up with the latest advances in Python and its ecosystem.
Although not exhaustive by any means, the one thing courses and certifications have in common is a focus on the accomplishment of the student. Think “What can I do and what have I accomplished in Python?” instead of “What have I learned?”
Python Certification Course Concentrations
Python doesn’t offer specific concentrations because there is no official certification in Python. That said, there are a number of ways that students can niche their Python skills to a specific field. Some common options include:
Python for data science
The data science world is largely built on two languages, Python and R. If you’re going into data science from a business perspective, Python is the way to start.
Python for web development
Web developers can use Python to build out dynamic websites and change the way users interact with internet sites.
Python for artificial intelligence
From chatbots to computer vision, Python is helping us build better AI.
Python for virtual reality
Students can also build the next VR solution, including those in the industrial and healthcare spaces, using the Python ecosystem.
It’s also common for students to take Python certifications as part of another degree track, such as computer science, information technology, data science, or cybersecurity. Students can also minor in a computer science degree field and study Python through the required coursework.
How Long Does It Take to Earn a Python Certification?
Python certification does not require a certain amount of work experience for eligibility. Exams from the Python Institute take about 45 to 65 minutes to complete6,7,8.
Students participating in boot camps or training courses typically spend three to six months at each level of Python with a part-time weekly schedule. Those seeking an associate degree in computer science spend two years completing courses and a bachelor’s degree typically takes four years of full-time school.
Discover More About Python Certification Programs
Q. What is the Python certification application process?
Certification exams require only a signup and completed payment to sit for the exam. Courses may require signup plus a waiting period for the next cohort to start. With degree programs, you must be accepted to the degree before beginning the coursework.
Q. Are there Python certification scholarships available?
There are no official scholarships for certifications. Check with your chosen degree program or course delivery site to see if there are scholarships, payment plans, or grants available.
Q. Is getting a Python certification worth it?
Python is a solid choice for professional learning. The job market is expected to grow, and Python mastery opens the door for many six-figure career fields.
Q. Are online courses and exams for Python certification an option?
There are many choices for both online or on-campus Python learning. Students can take advantage of free resources such as Codecademy, take certificates like Microsoft’s option, or find software schools or traditional degrees.
Q. Can I tailor my Python certificate to my needs?
Because Python skills can be applied to so many different career fields and disciplines, it’s possible to concentrate your training on the niche you choose. Most certificates, however, will focus on general Python skills from entry-level to advanced.
 PayScale. (2021). Salary for Skill: Python. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Skill=Python/Salary
 Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Fasting Growing Occupations. https://www.bls.gov/emp/tables/fastest-growing-occupations.htm
 Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Data Scientists and Mathematical Science Occupations. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes152098.htm
 Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Computer and Information Research Scientists. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-and-information-research-scientists.htm
 PayScale. (2021). Average Machine Learning Engineer with Artificial Intelligence (AI) Skills Salary. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Machine_Learning_Engineer/Salary/a2126e2b/Artificial-Intelligence-AI
 Python Institute (2021). PCEP – Certified Entry-Level Python Programmer Certification. https://pythoninstitute.org/certification/pcep-certification-entry-level/
 Python Intitute (2021). PCAP – Certified Associate in Python Programming certification. https://pythoninstitute.org/certification/pcap-certification-associate/
 Python Institute (2021). PCPP – Certified Professional in Python Programming Certifications. https://pythoninstitute.org/certification/pcpp-certification-professional/
 IBM (2021). IBM Training: Python for Data Science Badge. https://www.ibm.com/training/badge/91e77961-2bcc-4b3a-9ff8-9333921bb2c4