A few weeks ago I was engaged in a useful discussion about the merits of getting certified on Microsoft SQL Server. A number of people I've talked with about the MCDBA certification share my opinion that these tests were too easy and therefore held limited value to one's career. After all, what does it matter if you have a mess of alphabet soup beside your title if everyone else in the field has the same thing?
For that reason, I have been hoping for a tougher set of certifications - and at first glance it appears that I won't be disappointed. The talk among those who have taken the various SQL Server cert exams is that the exams are passable but are tough as nails. In fact, I have been working with SQL Server 2005 since its final CTP, and I failed the first few online assessments I took on the Microsoft training site. Even though it gave me a little sense of defeat to read "You Failed!", I am encouraged that the exams actually test the level of knowledge and experience with the product rather than testing one's ability to memorize a lot of facts. Even the guys at Microsoft say that the new SQL Server exams are some of the toughest that they've taken.
In addition to the difficulty of the exams, Microsoft has dictated that this new family of certifications will expire three years after issue. This is a marked difference in the "once certified, always certified" model that Microsoft has used in the past. While I don't enjoy the thought of having to spend time and money to recertify every three years, this requirement can only drive up the market value of being certified.
Microsoft can't set the market value for their certifications - only the marketplace can do that. However, by implementing more difficult exams and expiring certifications, they have given us as SQL Server professionals a higher standard of excellence. As I pursue my MCTS and later the MCITP, I will be interested to see how these new certs are regarded by prospective employers and clients.