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The Value of Certifications

A former co-worker recently sent me an email asking about Microsoft certifications, and if I pursued them, and what I thought about them.  I started to write a response and it sounded like a good blog post {-: so here it is:


I am certified through the gills in SQL 2000 (MCDBA) and 2005 (MCITP), but when it came time to upgrade to 2008 I got distracted by life and let it slide.  I finally tried the upgrade exam once right before it retired and just missed passing it.

My experience with certs is that many people don't value Microsoft certs because they are seen as just paper - the only cert that really is valued in the community is the MCM (now the MCSM) - the Master certification.  The catch in the MCM/MCSM is that it requires most of the lower level certs as prerequisites - you have to be an MCITP Admin *and* an MCITP Developer as prereq's for Master.  (The developer requirement is why I sincerely doubt I will ever pursue MCM/MCSM.)

Unless you are interested in going for Master (or are looking at a specific job listing that requires you to be an MCITP) I would not spend your effort (and $$) on it - you will not see much real reward out of it other than whatever intrinsic feeling of accomplishment you get from passing tests - there are no raises or better jobs or anything else just from being certified *if* you already have experience.  For a brand-new DBA there may be some benefit if you are competing for jobs against other new DBA's - the guy with the no experience and the cert may have an edge over the guy with no experience and no cert.

Having said that, the certification blueprints (topic lists) are good sources of study material if you just want to know what there is to learn for learning's sake - but you can do that without shelling out a few hundred dollars per test for multiple tests.  Most of my SQL 2000 and 2005 certs were achieved while I was working for a boss who saw great value in certification and education and therefore funded everything.

Someone told me back when I worked at the University of Nebraska - a certification just tells a potential employer one thing - that you know how to take tests.  For Microsoft certs lower than Master, I completely agree.  The Master is a two-part written and lab exam and is supposed to be the best exam MS has ever created.  One of the guys in our office recently took (and passed) the Knowledge (written) half of the exam and it blew his mind compared to all of the MCITP tests.

So....if you are thinking of becoming a certified Master (I think there are ~75 of them in the world) then you *have* to take the lower tests and you should get on it.  If you are not thinking of that, then I wouldn't worry about it.


...and that's my $.02

Nebraska SQL from @DBA_ANDY

I’m a forty-something Microsoft SQL Server DBA of 15+ years, a devoted husband, and a father of three young boys. I have been a DBA at a public university, at a major bank, at a healthcare system, and I now work as a remote DBA with customers across the United States. I write and speak primarily about the tips and tricks that I discover along my SQL Server journey.


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