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DBAs prep to skip Oracle school

Oracle this week added a "hands-on" course to its 9i Oracle Certified Professional requirements. The company presented the move as one that will lend credibility to the OCP certification, but some industry experts think the move may backfire.

Oracle this week revamped their certification requirements, adding a $2,000 "hands-on" class that must be completed even by those who pass the company's four exams.

The company has added the class to its Oracle9i DBA Oracle Certified Professional (OCP) path, saying the new mandate will lend credibility to OCPs, making their certifications more applicable to the real world. Those who already have an 8i certification will not have to meet that requirement and will only need to pass a single New Features exam to upgrade their certification. In addition, 9i OCP candidates who passed at least one exam prior to June 15 are exempt.

Critics charge the move is unnecessary and argue that demanding more money from potential DBAs in a harsh economy is bad business.

As news spread throughout the industry yesterday, the debate over the worth of DBA certifications was made more complex. Even those DBAs who believe certifications are smart investments were discouraged by the new requirement.

Before he heard the news, Leon Smith Jr., a document control coordinator at Webasto Roofsystems, Inc. in Lexington, KY, wanted to add Oracle certification to his resume. Despite the downward trend in IT spending, Oracle implementations have been a "hot ticket" in Smith's world. Just last week, Smith said he believed an Oracle certification would help him get his hands on a new project.

"I don't think that just the certification alone would do the trick," Smith said then. "But if it came down to me competing with someone who only had some experience, and not the combination of experience and certification, I believe that the certification would provide an edge."

Now, though, Smith is not willing to bet his own money on that competitive edge--at least not an estimated $2000 extra it would cost to take a course. "If I had to come up with the funding myself to get the certification, I would definitely think twice about how important the certification really was to me."

According to Oracle, there are now currently more than 115,000 OCPs, compared to only 60,000 in March of last year. That increase indicates that the value of the certification is increasing, according to Karen Morton, owner of Tenn.-based Morton Consulting Inc. and a SearchDatabase Oracle expert.

"When a credential becomes accepted across the industry as being a truly good measure of knowledge and implied capability, more people want to get certified," Morton said. "More employers look to that metric to assist in hiring and promotions." Morton is among those who provides training classes for OCPs. Passing her class, though, will not count toward Oracle's certification.

"Personally, I'm not too keen on the new requirement," Morton said. "I was surprised by it," she said. "I think it will be interesting to see how this plays out."

She believes if Oracle is serious about requiring hands-on experience before certification, the company should approve classes offered by third-party vendors and also credit the experience that many DBAs have already acquired in the workplace.

Edward Haskins, President of OraKnowledge, Inc., an Oracle training company in Lakewood, NJ believes he can predict the outcome of Oracle's move.

"The industry will become wise to Oracle's ploy," said Haskins, who believes Oracle is looking for extra dollars from potential OCPs. "Hiring managers will discount the fact that job candidates don't posses the OCP designation," he said. "They will simply look towards the job candidate's resume for proof of experience and skills."

Oracle defended their move in a newsletter delivered to OCP candidates yesterday. The news, and the newsletter, was a hot topic in at least one Oracle discussion forum.

The newsletter read, in part: "To help meet this demand and increase the value of the credential, Oracle is investing heavily in the betterment of certification exams and learning offerings. Oracle customers and business partners demand that their Oracle Certified Professionals have hands-on experience with all aspects of the Oracle database."

Oracle University could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, some job seekers remain skeptical of the process. Sherry Lapota, a student in West Hills, CA, is taking classes at the UCLA extension school and looking for a junior DBA position. She did complete several Oracle courses but they have not helped land her a job yet. Now she is wondering if she should have just followed the advice she kept hearing: "Buy a book, download the programs and teach yourself."

"I am wondering if I was being 'sold' classes," said Lapota. "I hope it is just the economy and eventually this time spent studying will pay off for me."

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