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Oracle DBA certification, part I: Introduction

The Oracle Certification Program continues to be the most popular certification among all database vendors. Here's an introduction to the 9i DBA track.

The Oracle Certification Program continues to be the most popular certification among all database vendors. This is no surprise considering Oracle has dominated the market for large scale relational databases worldwide. Oracle has completely revamped the DBA Certification track with the release of the Oralce9i database. To best understand the modifications that the DBA track has undergone, it's best to first review the Oracle8i DBA track.

To become an Oracle8i Certified Professional (OCP) DBA, the certification candidate needed to pass five exams:

  • Introduction to Oracle: SQL and PL/SQL
  • Oracle8i: Architecture and Administration
  • Oracle8i: Backup and Recovery
  • Oracle8i: Performance Tuning
  • Oracle8i: Network Administration

Passing all five exams was a very challenging task, to say the very least. The first two exams in the track were often considered to be among the mastery of their content was essential in passing exams 3 and 4. The Network Administration exam was an entity of its own, containing content much different than the others...although extremely important for the DBA to perform his or her duties.

With Oracle9i, the DBA Certification track is now divided into 2 primary tiers, as well as a third Master-level tier:

  • Oracle9i Certified Associate (OCA)
  • Oracle9i Certified Professional (OCP)
  • Oracle9i Certified Master (OCM)

The core Oracle9i DBA track consists of 4 exams: 2 for OCA, and an additional 2 for OCP.

Oracle9i Certified Associate (OCA)

The OCA tier was designed to provide for an entry-level DBA certification designation for the Oracle9i platform. Information Technology professionals with little or no Oracle experience can obtain the knowledge and skills necessary to break into the highly lucrative and challenging Oracle profession. The skills obtained from completing this certification track will allow the candidate to participate on Oracle-related projects acting as junior-level DBAs. Typically, a senior-level DBA will work closely to assign appropriate DBA tasks to strengthen existing skills, and challenge them to learn slightly more advanced procedures.

The Oracle9i Certified Associate (OCA) requires passing two exams:

  • Introduction to Oracle9i: SQL
  • Oracle9i Database: Fundamentals I

Oracle9i Certified Professional (OCP)

The OCP tier was designed for mid to senior-level DBAs with one or more years of focused Oracle DBA experience. The knowledge and skills obtained from completing this tier of the certification program prepare the DBA to provide the full assortment of DBA-related tasks...from Database Design and Development to production tasks such as Performance Tuning and Backup & Recovery.

The Oracle9i Certified Professional (OCP) requires passing the two exams in the OCA Tier, plus two additional exams:

  • Oracle9i Database: Fundamentals II
  • Oracle9i Database: Performance Tuning

Note: It is also possible to become an Oracle9i Certified Professional (OCP) by taking one exam: Oracle9i: New Features for Administrators. To qualify to become an OCP by taking this one "Upgrade" exam, you must first be an Oracle8i Certified Professional (OCP).

Oracle9i Certified Master (OCM)

There is a third tier to the Oracle9i DBA Certification Track, the OCM. This track is targeted at very senior level DBAs and Oracle consultants. If you have less than 5 years of serious Oracle work experience...and have not spent many hours working with and testing advanced Oracle9i features...don't even consider this Tier as an option. I don't mean to sound negative about this, but let me continue with more on the requirements...and hopefully you'll see what I mean.

The OCM designation first requires that you obtain your Oracle9i OCP credential. Once this is secured, Oracle requires that you take two advanced Oracle courses from Oracle University. These are Instructor-led courses that will cost on average $2,000 each. There are about a dozen different courses to choose from:

  • Oracle9i: Program with PL/SQL
  • Oracle9i: Advanced PL/SQL
  • Oracle9i: SQL Tuning Workshop
  • Oracle9i: Database: Real Application Clusters
  • Oracle9i: Database: Data Guard Administration
  • Oracle9i: Database: Implement Partitioning
  • Oracle9i: Data Warehouse Administration
  • Oracle Net Services: Advanced Administration
  • Oracle9i: Advanced Replication
  • Oracle9i: Enterprise Manager

Once you've completed the course requirements, you can then register for and take the "practicum" exam. The practicum is a two-day, hands-on performance exam that requires the candidate to perform a number of tasks using Oracle9i on the Linux platform. Some of the skills that need to be proven include: database configuration, replication, partitioning, parallel operations, diagnostics, troubleshooting, performance tuning, and backup and recovery...all with "real-world" scenarios.

So, what's the problem with that you may ask? First, the skills you'll need to know and be able to perform are covered in many more than just two of the advanced courses you'll be required to take from Oracle University. So even if you do take the two required courses, you'll need to learn and be prepared for much more. This could require many months of additional self-study or many thousands of dollars in additional Oracle University courses. Second, the cost of the practicum exam is an outrageous $2,000. You won't want to fail and re-take (re-pay) for this exam!!

Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of a Master-level Oracle certification, but the course requirements and exam cost make this Tier cost-prohibitive for most.

Continued in part II.


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