Consider this the biggest change in the realm of Java certification since the SCJP designation was first introduced over ten years ago.
So what’s changing? Well, at the most fundamental level, the JDK version being tested has been updated. The latest incarnation of the Java Professional designation from Oracle will be testing candidates on version 1.7 of the JDK, not Java 5 or Java 6, as the previous examinations did.
Secondly, the name of the designation is changing. There is no longer a Sun Certified Java Professional (SCJP) designation. Instead, the new vernacular is OCP, standing for Oracle Certified Professional. Of course, Oracle started with this re-branding of the designation once the Sun takeover was completed. However, the old SCJP name has managed to stick around, largely owing to the fact that the actual exam never really changed, either in content or format. This time though, the change is significant, so you can kiss the old SCJP name goodbye.
Thirdly, you can no longer simply walk into a Prometric testing center (Pearson VUE is the new exam proctor), correctly answer the majority of the sixty or so question, multiple-choice exam, and walk out with your Java Professional designation. Obtaining the Professional designation is now a two step process, which starts first with passing the Oracle Certified Associate exam, or as it’s referred to on Oracle’s certification site, the Java SE 7 Programmer I test. Once you pass the new Associate exam, you are then qualified to write the Java SE 7 Programmer II exam, and if you pass that, you’ll have gained your Java Professional designation.
And finally, the last major change is the cost. In years past, writing a Java certification exam meant your wallet would be lighter by $150 or $200. In recent times though, the price to sit an Oracle certification exam has been raised to $300. The cost of taking the OCP exam will likely remain at the $300 rate. However, since the $300 OCA exam is a prerequisite, you will now have to pass two exams to obtain your OCP designation, which means people who aren’t fortunate enough to simply write an upgrade exam are looking at a whopping $600 price tag in order to become a certified Java 7 professional.
One way around the cost is to write the beta exams while Oracle tweaks the final product. You can currently write the Java SE 7 Programmer I test while it is in beta for only $50, although the opportunity expires on December 17th, so you better book now. The Java SE 7 Programmer II test has not gone to beta yet, but that will likely be announced within the next couple of months, giving early worms a chance to pass both exams for the low, low price of only $100.
Of course, if you miss out on the beta, you better start saving. A $300 Java Professional certification will soon become a thing of the past.
By the way, the old SCJP/OCP 6 exam won't be retired for a while, so another angle on getting your Java Professional certification in one fell swoop is to pass the prior exam. There are some great resources on the market that will help you pass the exam quickly, including the following:
OCP Java SE 6 Programmer Practice Exams (Exam 310-065) (Certification Press)
OCP Java SE 7 Programmer Study Guide (Certification Press)
SCJP Sun Certified Programmer for Java 6 Exam 310-065
A Programmer's Guide to Java SCJP Certification: A Comprehensive Primer (3rd Edition)
SCJA Sun Certified Java Associate Study Guide for Test CX-310-019, 2nd Edition