I'll share my 2c worth on the SCEA certification.
Unlike many other certifications, the SCEA exam is really more about holistic approach to business problem decomposition. If you look very closely at the SCEA exam and its syllabus much of the exam is really about UML, patterns and the ability to understand a business problem and propose a solution path.
If you consider Part 1 of the SCEA as the technology portion and parts 2 and 3 as the real meat of the exam you will see where I am going with my argument. The Part 1 is replaceable. If there comes JEE6 instead of JEE5, retake part 1 and you will have your new SCEA certification. Similarly if there is a JEE7 instead of JEE6, retake part 1 for the new exam.
Parts 2/3 on the other hand are really technology agnostic for much of work. Creating business domain models, creating logical architectures are a step above base technology issues like EJB/Struts/JSF etc. I am not trying to say that you don't need to know the underlying technology to create the architecture, but definitely there is more to architecture than just the underlying technology.
I see a lot of questions such as "Can I use spring for Part 2, or can I use EJB2 for Part 2" etc. That really shows that many people are missing the crux of what Part 2 really is. If your part 2 solution involved detailed struts components or JSF components then in my opinion you have missed the crux of the Part 2 exam completely.
Having had the luxury of doing "pure" architecture for a few years I am slowly beginning to comprehend the difference in the architect and developer roles. Many people in the software industry don't know the difference between an architect and a senior developer either and therefore an architect ends up doing much more core development work that they should be.
To round up, I'd say take a look at a more mature industry like civil engineering. Think of what a Structural architect does, take a look at what a civil engineer does, take a look at what the construction supervisor does. Each has their roles well defined. Never ever does a structural architect pick up a brick in his hand and start laying the wall. Of course, if the structural architect does not know how much load a wall can hold, then the wall is going to come crashing down when built..
Similarly a software architect needs to know the pitfalls of his suggested architecture. In order to do that, the software architect needs to have experienced building systems, but the software architect does not need to be knee deep in the code to understand the pitfalls.
The SCEA (parts 2/3) exam makes one look at the non-functional requirements. The solution must meet the functional requirements, yes, but always always keeping in mind the non-functional aspects. This is the very crux of the assignment and this is what you will be graded on, not whether you used EJB3 or EJB2.
There is no other such certification in the industry, and therefore just for Parts 2/3 the SCEA exam is worth its money. Does it have the industry value, probably not, but it does give the student an exposure into the architecture side of the equation and thereby proves its value to the maturity of software engineering.
[ March 01, 2008: Message edited by: chris zielinski ]