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The Missing Certification

By Steve Jones,

Certification is one of those hot-button issues, with many people coming down on either on the side of "certifications are good" or on the other side where "certifications are worthless." I tend to come down in the middle since I think that a certification can show something about a person's knowledge or ability to work with SQL Server, but it doesn't necessarily do that for all people. In other words, it depends.

I saw a great post recently by Simon Sabin that talks about the gap between someone that is MCSE certified (or MCDBA/MCITPto/etc) and someone that achieves the MCM. I completely agree with Simon that the MCM isn't for everyone, and probably not for many people. I know I couldn't take 3 weeks off, and not just because of work. Asking my wife to handle the household for three weeks while I go to Seattle might be a bigger issue than asking my boss!

I've thought for years that the entire certification process needs some revamping. I like Simon's note of an apprenticeship for beginners, perhaps something like the Pragmatic Works Foundation class, but I also think that we need to build more advanced certifications as well that provide stepping stones as well as specialized certification.

In my mind, the MCITPro certification ought to require some level of experience before a person is allowed to take the exam. It ought to also be specialized in certain areas. We ought to have testing specifically for replication, for backup and restore, for SSIS, and other areas, with people being required to perform simulated tasks just as they would in the real world. No picking from multiple choices, but actually clicking buttons to perform tasks.

And I'd like to see the exams hard enough that the first time pass rate is lower, perhaps in the 60-70% pass range. It ought to be hard to get this certification, so that if you achieve it, someone out there viewing your credentials actually has some confidence to can perform certain tasks.

We are a long way from getting here, especially with regard to the costs involved, but I hope that the people that would like certified employees would put some pressure on Microsoft and other vendors to build exams that really test skills and knowledge.

Steve Jones


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