At a recent Northern Virginia SQL Server user group meeting, a debate was held about the Microsoft Certified Database Administrator\Microsoft Certified Information Technology Professional : Database Administrator being a 'must-have' for all SQL Server DBAs. As such, let's explore some key questions. Is it worth studying for the MCDBA\MCITP:DBA exams or not? Is this time well spent? How time consuming will the studying be to pass the tests? Is the MCDBA\MCITP:DBA just about studying for and passing tests? Will the MCDBA\MCITP:DBA help DBAs get a job or a raise?
In an earlier tip (SQL Server 2000 and 2005 Certification Resources), we outlined the steps needed to earn the premier SQL Server certification. During the debate at the recent user group meeting, what really surfaced is that the Microsoft Certified Database Administrator\Microsoft Certified Information Technology Professional : Database Administrator has a different meaning for each person, at a high level, but the bottom line is that the certification is not a single indicator of a DBAs performance on the job. In reality the premier SQL Server certifications are just one of many factors to land a SQL Server DBA position, but the feedback from the user group could be categorized in the following manner:
With the MCDBA\MCITP:DBA this is one indicator that can open the window of opportunity at particular organizations.
At some organizations, particularly government organizations, the MCDBA\MCITP:DBA certification is a requirement for particular types or levels of positions.
From an employers perspective, the certification is an indicator that the individual has the aptitude to study and pass a test.
For some organizations the MCDBA\MCITP:DBA certification is considered a viable assessment for a DBAs skills. Since the tests are written and administered via a third party, they can be assured that the testing body has the base set of knowledge that the organization does not have internally to make a technical assessment.
If the certification is used as an opportunity to learn, it can serve as time well spent learning about SQL Server.
No single certification can measure technical, problem solving, etc. skills to serve as a definitive assessment for successfully building and managing SQL Server applications. This is especially the case if the questions and answers are just memorized, and the true opportunity to learn SQL Server is not leveraged.
Just because someone passes the certification tests does not necessarily mean they will fit into the team and make positive contributions to the organization.
The tests only take into consideration native Microsoft options, not third party solutions that may be a better solution.
The MCDBA\MCITP:DBA certification is only one of many indicators that should be taken into consideration when hiring or promoting a DBA.
Many highly skilled and qualified DBAs do not have certifications, but are more than knowledgeable and capable of building and supporting SQL Server applications in the enterprise.
The bottom line is that the MCDBA\MCITP:DBA certification means many different things to many different people. However, in our opinions, if it is used as a mechanism to learn about SQL Server to genuinely expand your knowledge then it should be considered a positive experience. When it is balanced with experience and many intangible skills, then the certification is one of many litmus tests. If you are new to SQL Server, either switching database platforms or trying to get your start in the industry, then the certification is a means to open that window of opportunity. So go for it!
From an organizational perspective, keep in mind that the MCDBA\MCITP:DBA certification does not necessarily equal success from either a team perspective or organizational contribution. This means that the certification is only one of many factors that should be included during the interview process, not a single definitive indicator to a DBAs success.
As a DBA, figure out where you stand on this debate and think about how the MCDBA\MCITP:DBA certification can help you in your current position and in your overall career.
As a Database, Operational or Development Manager, pull together your thoughts on the value of the MCDBA\MCITP:DBA certification then determine how it should impact your current team members when it comes time for training and raises as well as a factor for hiring your future team members.
As an organization, the bigger picture question here is the investment in your employees from an educational, certification and continuing education perspective independent of the department. See where this priority fits into the overall organizational list.
Jeremy Kadlec is a Co-Founder, Editor and Author at MSSQLTips.com with more than 300 contributions. He is also the CTO @ Edgewood Solutions and a six-time SQL Server MVP. Jeremy brings 20+ years of SQL Server DBA and Developer experience to the community after earning a bachelorís degree from SSU and masterís from UMBC.
In the past 2 years, I have passed MCTS and MCITP: DBA. My aspiration is to transition from Database Architect to a DBA. I wanted to take positve steps in achieving this goal. I felt like getting these certifications is the best way I can prove to a would be employer that Im worthy of the opportunity. I certainly cant see how it could hurt.
Sunday, December 16, 2012 - 2:36:45 PM - Jeremy Kadlec
Hi! I am a current college student and was looking into getting the MCDBA (Microsoft Certified Database Administrator) Certificate that is offered at my school. I was wondering, if i was to get this certificate and not yet have my degree, would I still be able to get a good job with only the certificate?
Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - 2:58:24 AM - Abid hussain tabassum
While I do not have any certifications under my belt, I do think that anyone who is serious about SQL Server should attempt to get the certifications or at least take the practice tests. As others have noted, the tests force you to learn parts of SQL Server that you may be less familiar with and that knowledge can make you a more valuable employee. I am currently reading a SQL BI training book and even though 75% of the book has been review for me, that 25% of information that I am picking up has already helped me optimize some of my current work and given me inspiration towards some future development. So, in my opinion, unless you already know everything that there is to know about a product, reading up and getting tested can only make you a more knowledgable and more valuable employee. Plus it doesn't hurt to have that piece of paper come interview time!
For me studying for 2005 DBA gave me an inside in topics that I didn't know existed. I'm having a DBA meeting with 2 other DBA persons twice a month and in every meeting we have a learning moment where I demonstrate some of the knowledge I gained by becoming certified. We then discuss if and where we can use it. So yes, certification was important for me. Not to get a job, but to become better at doing my job. I'm now studying to upgrade my MCITP 2005 to 2008. I like studying things that make me better in my job, that help me do things faster or in less steps then I used to do.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011 - 8:29:34 PM - Jeremy Kadlec
When I studied for the 2005 DBA and BI exams I found there was some areas of SQL Server I did not know as well as I should have. It helped me professionally because I then applied what I learned to the job. It made such an impression that now our group is strongly encouraged to get the 2008 certs. The fact that the company pays for passed exams helps a great deal.
When bringing someone into our group it's not a requirement, but it does tell me that the person has the ambition and ability to learn, which I think is key to success.
Monday, April 18, 2011 - 7:50:56 PM - Jeremy Kadlec
I studied for 432 and passed it a couple years ago. I did it for personal growth. Since then, it has given me an edge getting interviews, especially at places that get audited on who they hire. Some companies need to provide proof that they hired a qualified candidate. To do this, they use MS certs to show the individual is competent. Having said this, I completely understand how some people disregard certs. You could study for the tests for a couple weeks and pass it without ever having any real world experience. Just like in history, we all studied when the Magna Carta was issued but how many people actually remember what the Magna Carta is?
When seeking certifications, I've found a huge benefit to studying for and achieving that piece of paper.
I was very comfortable in the environment and in the tools that I use every day to perform my DBA/Developer duties. However, after studying for the 70-431, 70-433, and 70-451 exams, I've "learned" that there are a lot of new features that would have made my job easier had I upgraded to MS SQL 2005 and/or 2008. I can now do natively in 2005/2008 what was impossible before, or difficult to implement, using native T-SQL or MS SQL 2000's features. These features can be of great benefit to the organizations you work for, and the certifications can only help (not hurt) your career.
We all knew MS SQL Server 2008 was the best database engine available today, but, with certifications, now you know why!