Certifications are all the rage these days, driven by both the demands of employers and a desire among IT professionals to stand out from the masses. More than 400 computer certification programs are already in place, and this number is rapidly growing.
The advantages of certification are clear. They give potential employers confidence that applicants will bring to the job the knowledge their resumes promise. And they allow DBA's and developers to gain advanced, cutting-edge skills, validate the experience they already have, and increase their earning potential by up to 30%.
However, certifications come at a cost -- literally. Training courses and exam fees can easily add up to US$ 10,000, and this is often not reimbursed by employers. In addition, certification is not a substitute for hands-on experience, and a salary increase won't be automatic without it. A more serious problem is that as more certifications are awarded, the value of the title may be diluted. For example, there are already over 100,000 Microsoft Certified Professionals, so its effectiveness as a differentiator is limited.
Here's a brief rundown of the top five vendor-specific certifications pertinent to database administrators and developers:
Microsoft Certified Database Administrators derive SQL Server database designs, develop logical data models, create physical databases, create data services by using Transact-SQL, manage and maintain databases, configure and manage security, monitor and optimize databases, and install and configure Microsoft SQL Server 2000. Four exams are required for certification on the Windows 2000 platform.
Oracle Certified Professional
Certified Oracle DBA's are experts in fine-tuning the day-to-day performance of Oracle database systems, scripting in SQL and PL/SQL, preventing crises and downtime, and recovering from crashes. This critical work requires a broad understanding of the architecture and processes of the Oracle database, as well as plenty of hands-on experience solving problems. Several versions are available: Database Administrator, Application Developer, Java Developer, and Database Operator. Four to six exams are required, depending on the exact certification track you choose. Note that Oracle 8 exams retired in March 2002, so now only 8i and 9i certifications are available. Click here for more info about new Oracle certifications such as Certified Associate and Certified Master.
Certified IBM DB2 Universal Database Administrators are experts in DB2 server management, data placement, creating DB2 scripts, monitoring DB2 UDB activity, DB2 utilities, recovery, maintenance, and problem determination. They learn skills on the Unix, Windows and OS/2 platforms, with an OS/390 platform certification requiring a separate exam. Multiple tests are required, depending on the whether you choose the Specialist, Solutions Expert, or Advanced Technical Expert levels. A new entry-level certification has just been introduced: IBM Certified Specialist - DB2 User.
Sybase Certified Professional DBA
Sybase offers several certifications, including Adaptive Server Administrator, SQL Server Administrator, and PowerBuilder Developer. These professionals possess detailed knowledge of a broad range of topics in Sybase client/server technology, including database design, optimizing device usage, effective use of indexes, tuning TSQL queries, optimizing locking, transaction processing, and more. Up to three exams are required, depending on the track you choose.
Informix Certified System Administrator
Although Informix is now a part of IBM, certifications remain for Red Brick Decision Server and Dynamic Server -- for now at least. Informix Certified Systems Administrators become proficient in the areas of general database theory, data models, entity relationships, and SQL constructs. You will also be required to have a deep understanding of data integrity, backup and restore strategies, managing and optimization strategies of databases, implementation, and troubleshooting. Four exams are required. Also available are two Informix Certified 4GL Developer tracks, which focus on SQL and 4GL programming, two-tier architecture, and GUI interface design. Two exams are required for this track.
For a list of dozens more certifications relevant to database professionals, check out the GoCertify site. Have fun, and good luck!
About the Author
Tim DiChiara is Editor of searchDatabase.com.
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This was first published in November 2001