This article was reprinted courtesy of IBM DeveloperWorks.
The biggest trend in IT careers is certification. You see it everywhere you look... certification books dominate the bookstores, classroom training now guarantees a "pass," and IT professionals even sign their emails with a list of their "certs."
Certification has arrived, no question. But as a DB2® professional, should you certify? Will it increase your abilities or help your career? How can you do it quickly and inexpensively? That last thought is key -- knowing the inside story on DB2 certification before you proceed will save you a ton of time, stress and money. This article tells you what you need to know to decide if DB2 certification is for you, and if so, the secrets to doing it successfully, quickly and inexpensively.
Is certification "worth it"?
First, understand that an entire industry profits from certification. Trainers sell certification-oriented courseware, consultants push training, publishers market books, and vendors sell all the above. The upshot is that you can't take most articles on certification at face value. Let's take a different tack. We'll try to look at the issue objectively, strictly from the IT professional's standpoint.
Why certify? Some do it for the challenge of demonstrating their knowledge, or for the inner satisfaction that comes from mastery of the material. Whether a "certified DB2 developer" is better than one that is not certified is, to say the least, highly debatable. What we can say for sure is that if you certify you'll end up knowing more about DB2 than you did when you started.
Many certify for career benefits. If you view it this way, you need to:
- Certify with a product that has major marketshare (and is on the upswing)
- Investigate the marketability of the specific cert in which you're interested
First Exam Experiences
DB2 marketshare continues to expand. How did IBM pull off such a feat in a "mature" market? The company bought Informix® for one billion dollars and shrewdly invested another billion in the Linux marketplace, positioning DB2 as the leading database on this exploding platform (
Since database marketshare varies by platform, which platform you work on should factor into your decision. DB2 completely dominates on mainframes and the IBM e-server® iSeriesTM (AS/400), with over 90% of the database marketshare for each. IBM comes in a strong second in UNIX® database marketshare, and a distant but growing third on Windows® Server. Data for Linux is sketchy, but DB2 appears dominant among the commercial databases (
- A DB2 programmer wanted to shift into database administration. Getting her DBA cert bagged her the transfer.
- A DB2 developer was great with JavaTM but felt too narrow because he didn't know about other approaches to DB2 application development. Getting the "developer" cert gave him the breadth he needed.
- A stay-at-home mom wanted to reenter the workforce after a 10-year absence. She got certified and successfully leveraged this as "proof of currency" for her skills.
- A new college grad desperately wanted to be a DBA but only received programming job offers. He proved his devotion to his goal by certifying as a DB2 DBA, which led to an entry-level DBA position.
- A mature database veteran realized he needed to update his skills. Certifying both did this for him and supplied the proof. Age discrimination? His certification is as current as anyone else's.
As a contractor, I've directly benefited from certification. It gives me instant credibility with potential employers who've never met me and serves as my trump card for contractor interviews. It deals me an Ace in today?s extremely competitive job market.
Employers desperately want some standard measurement to quickly separate qualified from unqualified candidates. Fair or not, they've adopted IT certifications as that yardstick. There is little question that DB2 certification can help your career, but ultimately each person must decide for him or herself whether it's worth the time and effort.
How to certify
You certify by passing one or more exams. The Roadmap to DB2 Version 8 certification in Figure 2 shows that you certify as a DB2 Database Associate by passing the required entry test, "DB2 Family Fundamentals, 700." Then take any of the five additional certification exams, depending on your area of interest. For example, to become a certified DB2 Database Administrator, pass "DB2 DBA for Linux, UNIX and Windows, 701," or certify as a mainframe DBA by passing "DB2 DBA for z/OS, 702." (Note- exam #702 will be available in 1st quarter 2004). You could also become a Certified Application Developer by passing "DB2 Family Applications Development, 703." Or certify in Business Intelligence by taking "DB2 Business Intelligence, 705," or specialize in the Content Manager via exam #442.
A really nice feature of the DB2 certification program is its modularity. After passing the ?DB2 Family FundamentalsÂ _ entry test #700, take whichever exam(s) you like. Each one you pass gives you another certification.
IBM introduced several new features in the Version 8 certification program. First, there is a tripartite path yielding three ascending levels of DBA certification. This clear path replaces the grab-bag of advanced ?Certified Solution ExpertÂ _ (CSE) exams in Version 7:
Table 1. The version 8 DBA certification path
|Step||Exam Number||Exam Title||Certification|
|1.||700||DB2 Family Fundamentals||Database Associate|
|2.||701||DB2 Database Administration||Database Administrator|
|3.||704||DB2 Advanced Database Administration||Advanced Database Administrator|
The Version 8 program also introduces a single test by which Version 7-certified DBAs can upgrade their certification. This is called ?DB2 for Linux, Unix and Windows Version 8 Upgrade Exam, 706.Â _ If you are a Version 7 certified DBA, you can either take this new upgrade test, or simply pass the standard database administration exam #701 to upgrade your DBA cert to Version 8. The Upgrade test features fewer questions and is a shorter test, but many more study resources are available to help you pass the standard DBA test, #701. In Version 8, IBM introduced a new test called the ?DB2 Problem Determination Mastery ExamÂ _. The exam covers problem determination using DB2 tools, for installation, configuration, communications and the like. Technically, it is not a certification exam, so it has no formal pre-requisites, nor do you achieve an official certification by passing it. This test will be of great interest to those who certify as a DBA and want to strengthen (and prove) their problem identification and resolution abilities. The test costs only $40 and can be taken online via the web. For full information on this exam, and a free, downloadable set of nine study tutorials, visit the exam web page at Table 2. Exam information
|Exam||Exam Title||Number of questions||Correct questions to pass||Time (minutes)|
|700||DB2 UDB V8.1 Family Fundamentals||54||61%||75|
|701||DB2 UDB V8.1for Linux, UNIX and Windows Database Administration||70||61%||90|
|702||DB2 UDB V8.1 for z/OS Database Administration||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|703||DB2 UDB V8.1 Family Application Development||63||57%||75|
|704||DB2 UDB V8.1 for Linux, UNIX and Windows Advanced Database Administration||57||56%||75|
|705||DB2 Business Intelligence Solutions V8.1||56||58%||75|
|706||DB2 UDB V8.1 for Linux, UNIX and Windows Database Administration Upgrade exam||30||55%||40|
|442||DB2 Content Manager V8||64||64%||90|
|n/a||DB2 Problem Determination Mastery||n/a||n/a||60|
Before starting the certification process, read the IBM for their program to ensure you understand and feel comfortable with it before committing.
What are the tests like?
Different candidates have different experiences. Nevertheless, there exists some conventional wisdom on the subject. Compared to other database vendors' exams, the questions on the DB2 tests are difficult. But as Table 2 shows, the percentage of questions you need to answer correctly to pass is quite low. Experience at IDUG conferences indicates a pass rate of about 75% for DB2 exams. Remember that all questions are multiple choice, so answer every one (there is no penalty for wrong answers, so at least guess at every question). The exam software allows you to mark questions to return to later, so you can skip hard questions and return to them.
The time allowed for the exams is generous. You'll only consume the allotted time if you check your work carefully. When you're done with the exam, click the Done button and the software instantly shows you whether you passed. You can print copies of your score on the spot via the LAN-attached printer. If you pass, IBM sends you a certificate via mail for printing and framing. You may also request one by mail.
What if you do not finish the test in the allotted time? The screen freezes, a message tells you the exam has ended, and you'll see the same pass or fail message you would if you had clicked the Done button yourself. Oops!
You must study for the exams. Being a DB2 guru won't help if you don't study! The tests are broader than most IT pros' knowledge base and also very specific in what they ask. They are designed to be rigorous.
Compared to competing database vendors' exams, the IBM DB2 tests seem to have fewer overly specific trivial pursuit questions and more questions requiring deep thought. The exams are intended to test your DB2 knowledge and ability to figure out DB2 problems (not just your ability to memorize what's in the certification study guides). My feeling is that they achieve this a little better than competitors' tests. Be prepared to stay cool while facing some tough questions. Remain secure in the knowledge you'll only need a low percentage of questions answered correctly to pass.
Useful background information on certification is freely available at
What should you study?
Books that specifically target certification are your best bet. Their coverage matches what you?ll face on the exams. Other DB2 books can be useful in pursuing your goal as well, but concentrate your effort on those designed to help you certify.
Table 3. DB2 version 8 certification books
|700||DB2 UDB V8.1 Certification Exam 700 Study Guide||Roger Sanders||0131424653|
|700, 701||DB2 UDB V8.1 for Linux, Unix, and Windows Database Administration Certification Guide||Baklarz and Wong||0130463612|
|701||DB2 UDB V8.1 Certification Exams 701 and 706 Study Guide||Roger Sanders||0131840487|
|703||DB2 UDB V8.1 Application Development Certification Guide||Martineau et al||0130463914|
|702||DB2 UDB for OS/390 Version 7.1 Certification Guide (Version 8 release in 1st quarter 2004)||Yevich and Lawsonl||0130650765|
|705||Business Intelligence for the Enterprise||Mike Biere||0131413031|
|704||Advanced DBA Certification Guide and Reference for DB2 UDB V8.1 for Linux, Unix and Windows||Snow et al||0130463884|
|706||This book also covers the Upgrade Exam -- DB2 UDB V8.1 Certification Exams 701 and 706 Study Guide||Roger Sanders||0131424653|
|Other worthwhile DB2 books|
|--||DB2 Version 8: The Official Guide||Zikopoulos et al||0131401580|
|--||DB2 UDB V8 Handbook for Windows and UNIX/Linux||Philip Gunning||0130661112|
|--||Teach Yourself DB2 UDB in 21 Days (covers Version 8)||Susan Visser and Bill Wong||0672325829|
|--||DB2 Developer?s Guide||Craig Mullins||0672311682|
|--||DB2: The Complete Reference (covers Version 7)||Zikopoulos et al||0072133449|
|--||DB2: The Complete Reference (covers Version 7)||Zikopoulos et al||0072133449|
|512||DB2 Fundamentals Certification for Dummies (covers Version 7)||Zikopoulos et al||0764508415|
|512, 513||DB2 Administration All-in-One Exam Guide (covers Version 7)||Roger Sanders||0072133759|
Whichever certification guidebook you choose, you increase your chances of passing by supplementing them with complementary study resources. Here are some suggestions.
IBM offers two free courses that you install and learn from on your PC. Both are GUI-based and interactive. The first is oriented to the DB2 developer cert (exams 700 and 703), the second towards the Linux/Unix/Windows DBA tests (exams 700 and 701). Download both from IBM at
You'll need hands-on experience with DB2 to pass the exams. Get it at work, or install DB2 UDB V8 on your home PC running Windows or Linux. You can directly IBM support and downloads tab at the top of the webpage). Many of the certification books for the core tests include a CD-ROM with a trial copy of DB2 UDB V8 for Windows PCs. The trial versions shipped in the books have a special trial period of 180 days. The trial version that is downloaded is 90-days. You can always reinstall the program if your certification effort takes longer.
- Book study
- Practice tests
- Hands-on DB2 experience.
The sources above give you everything you need to cover these bases.
How to get certified for (almost) free
A Computerworld article (Table 4. Recommended FREE DB2 resources
|Most||Free testing at conferences:
Pool your resources
I've known several IT pros who successfully certified by creating a study group, or teaming up with a study buddy. You've seen by now that certifying requires some up-front work in gathering resources and making judgments about what and how to study. The whole process can be a lot easier (and more fun) when done with friends.
If you take this approach, be sure you've all got compatible goals. It doesn't matter much if one person in a study group drops out before completion, but a shared schedule is critical. All members must commit to taking the exams in the same order in about the same timeframe for the group to succeed.
Don't have local friends with the same certification interests? Try a virtual community at one of the web sites below.
Whether DB2 certification is "worth it" is a highly personal decision. My friends, professional peers, and I have benefited, but research the issue for your own satisfaction before committing to the effort. Check out certification trends and community at major certification websites like