Hi, after having done the SCJP 6 a few years back, I feel relaxed and strong enough to go for my next SUN/Oracle certificate..
At first I thought I would need to do the developer to do the architect certificate, but now it seems you can go straight for the architect certificate...
Besides improving my skills, another reason for doing those certificates, of course, is getting better jobs and so getting more $$$$$
Most employers don't have a clue about certificates, but when a certifcate calls you an architect, they are fine calling YOU an architect - which would tell me
to go straight for the architect certificate - after all, from what I've found out so far, it seems like they are not that much different knowledge wise -
the OCMJD handles Java SE only, as such handles stuff like RMI and Swing. RMI I have no clue about yet, SWING I used 6 years ago, so I guess I will need
some study / personal training for the OCMJD anyway. The OCMJA on the other hand, it seems there is a multiple choice test, like for the SCJP was,
plus some practical part where you just have to do some design diagrams, which sounds rather easier, or at least not harder then programming for the
SCJD. For my personal job, I am working with the Spring framework, so the new knowledge in RMI / Swing, as well as new knowledge for Java EE
(like ugly Java Server Faces) is both only slightly helping me for my job at hand. The worst thing about the OCMJA I have found out so far is that there
already seems to be a OCMCJA 7, but the first books specifically training you for the multiple choice questions will be out sometimes in August this year...
In short: Would you recommend to go for the Developer certificate before jumping on the architect certificate, or would it be okay to skip and go straight to the $$$?
Well, I'd take first OCMJD. I personally feel that I became a much better developer after taking this certification. And to me, an architect that is not a good developer is a poor architect: how can an architect choose between too different technologies if he doesn't know how to apply them in practice? I think that taking first OCMJD then OCMJA you add much more value to your professional life... and you'll feel more confident to act as designer/architect/tech lead.
The architect cert OCMJEA is a 3-part process - MC exam+design (UML) project+essay. The programmer+developer (OCPJP+OCMJD) combo is also 3-part process. The OCMJD project is as you mentioned about Swing and RMI/Socket and concurrency.
I agree with my good friend Roberto about having the practical hands-on as developer role before design as architect.
For the OCMJEA, don't under-estimate the design project because it's just UML diagrams. In fact with the experience of doing the OCMJD I think will help you with OCMJEA. Of course one is Java SE and the other Java EE ... but the approach is the same.
Oh don't forget that there is mandatory training for both OCMJD and OCMJEA, if you don't also have training, then do a course that satisfy both certs.