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The Certification Debate

By Steve Jones,

Every once in awhile the certification trend rises and everyone seems to want to pass a test and get some credentials after their name. I was actually amazed how many speakers at the 2006 PASS Summit listed all their credentials on an opening slide. Not that it's a bad thing and they certainly should be proud of the work they've put in, but I just never list it after my name. It's strictly a resume item for me.

Last year I got a Beta invitation to the 70-441 exam and took it. I wrote an article about my experiences as the exam was quite a change from the SQL Server 2000 exams I took many years ago. Initially I got a note that I hadn't passed, but then later received a "regrading" notice where they admitted some errors and gave me a coupon for a free exam. Since then I also passed the 70-443 exam, a good thing since I wrote the book on this exam for Sybex.

So I've been looking at that coupon lately, thinking that I should be getting ready for and taking the 70-431 exam. In case you've been completely focused on work and reading this nonsense as a way of taking a break or combating insomnia, the certification program has changed for SQL Server 2005. Now there's a MCTS, a Technical specialist, that you get by passing the 70-431, install and maintenance exam. From there you can become an IT Pro by adding on the 70-441 or 70-443 exams. Since I haven't gotten the MCTS part done, I'm in a little limbo here.

I'm not sure how important this is to me, though conceivably I should prove to you some bit of knowledge if you're going to take what I've written in the technical area seriously. I saw this article on certifications and payoff, which seems to suggest that they aren't valuable. Certifications are what I've always believed, a part of your skillset, and not the defining part.

To me you should know how to do the work, understand the product and be able to act in a competent manner before you seek a certification. At that point, the certification is the formality. It's simply the sign that you can focus your skills to pass a test when need be.

Steve Jones

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