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DB2 version 8 certification: Everything you need to know

This article was reprinted courtesy of IBM DeveloperWorks.

 

Introduction


The biggest trend in IT careers is certification. You see it everywhere you look... certification books dominate the

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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:

  1. Certify with a product that has major marketshare (and is on the upswing)
  2. Investigate the marketability of the specific cert in which you're interested

On the first point, DB2 is the right choice. Most analysts agree that IBM has taken the lead in the database market away from Oracle ( 

First Exam Experiences
Some Struggle?
"My first exam was a total disaster? and I really studied! I?m not so sure about this certification thing anymore..." - Bob K., database administrator
"It?s was completely, totally impossible. Nobody knows all that stuff! I?ll never know how I passed. Maybe a higher power guided my mouse." - Chris P., DB2 developer

Some Soar?
"It was pretty much what I expected? not difficult if you were ready. I?m sure glad I asked around and got on the forums first." - Rajni P., database administrator.
"Piece of cake.. well, not quite that easy, but really not that bad if you knew what to expect. How could anybody not?" - Reilly C., programmer

Why ?
What these widely-varying experiences show is that before taking your first certification exam, you need to plug into what to study and how to study. The candidate who learns about the process from others who have been through it, who has worked with the right resources and taken the right practice tests is light-years ahead of those who have not. A few hours of orientation up front can make the certification process easier, more effective, and ultimately more successful. Sharing this information is the purpose of this article.

 

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.

Benefits must be weighed against costs. Discussion on popular certification web sites like  

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 Fundamentals _ 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 Expert _ (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. _ 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 Exam _. 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

 

For Exams Title Authors ISBN
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.

If you need any of the DB2 manuals, all come with the product and are accessible when you install the database from the CD-ROM. Or you can  

  • 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

 

For Exams 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.

 

What next?


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

References


       

 

  • (1) See articles in EWEEK from 05/26/03, 03/17/03, 05/08/02 and 07/07/02; INFOWORLD, 05/08/02; DATABASE TRENDS AND APPLICATIONS, 07/02 and 06/02; INTELLIGENT ENTERPRISE 06/28/02.
  • (2) Gartner Dataquest statistics quoted from EWEEK, 05/26/03, p. 18.
  • (3) The RDBMS Top Ten: License Sales Analysis and Market Forecast, 2001-2006. Document #28096. International Data Corp. (IDC), 10/02.
  • (4) COMPUTERWORLD 03/01.
  • (5) Posted at Cramsession.com 10/03.
 About the author


Howard Fosdick is an IBM-certified DB2 DBA and an Oracle-certified DBA. He's a founder and former president of IDUG and the Midwest Database Users Group. He works hands-on as an independent DBA contractor and can be reached at:

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This was first published in March 2004

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