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UK Java development

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I was hoping to get some advice relating to working as a Java developer in the UK.

I've been working in IT since graduating 13 years ago and all that time has been spent with the same company, a large financial organisation in the north. I've worked on IBM's iSeries and zSeries platforms and have also had roles as Java developer, on and off for the past 8 years. The nature of a large organisation means a lot of technical work has been offshored so in reality the developer's in the UK get little hand's on coding and the majority of time is spent on other areas of the software lifecycle, managing deliverables and offshore teams. For example, I've been on my current project for 3.5 months and must have spent less than a week cutting code. The company also places little importance on formal training so I have no industry standard certifications.

My job is safe and I get a relatively good salary but I'm thinking of relocating to the south west so my kids can be closer to my partner's family. Plus, 13 years is a long time with one company and not wanting to be a 'lifer' I think it would be a good experience to move occasionally. If I do carry through with this plan, then I will be looking to do it from summer 2014, so in about 18 months time.

I'm debating a complete career change or to carry on as a Java developer. When I look at advertised Java roles I do not feel that my coding exposure is sufficient so I think I need to spend the next 18 months training myself. If it is not feasible then I might look at a career change.

What I would like to know, is it worthwhile doing the OCJA and OCJP certifications and even the masters certification? Also, is 18 months a realistic timeframe given that I will be working full time and have family commitments? Realistically, I think I could spend an hour an evening training myself.

If time allows is there any other areas that is a must have for a Java developer's CV such as Hibernate, Spring MVC or Struts. In that regard is the LearnJavaNow that is advertised on the ranch worthwhile (currently offered at $49)?

Thanks in advance :-)

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