I have held various certifications through my DBA career, from CompTIA A+ certification back when I worked help desk (I'm old) through the various MCxx that Microsoft has offered over the years (although I never went for Microsoft Certified Master (MCM), which I still regret).
I have definitely gotten some mileage out of my certs over the years, getting an interview or an offer not just because I was certified, but rather because I had comparable job experience to someone else *and* I was certified, nudging me past the other candidate.
I am currently an MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Administration and an MCSE: Data Management and Analytics, which is pretty much the top of SQL Server certifications currently available.
I also work for a company that is a Microsoft partner (and have previously worked for other Microsoft partners) and part of the requirements to become (and stay) a Microsoft partner is maintaining a certain number of employees certified at certain levels of certification dependent on your partnership level.
I completed the MCSE back in 2019, and my company is starting to have a new re-focus on certifications (a pivot, so to speak - I hate that term but it is accurate), so I went out to look at what my options were. We have two SQL Server versions past SQL Server 2016 at this point, so there must be something else right?
On top of that, the MCSA and MCSE certs I currently have are marked to expire *next* month (January 2021 - seriously, check it out HERE)...so there *MUST* be something else right - something to replace it with or to upgrade to?
I went to check the official Microsoft certifications site (https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/certifications/browse/?products=sql-server&resource_type=certification) and found that the only SQL Server-relevant certification beyond the MCSE: Data Management and Analytics is the relatively new "Microsoft Certified: Azure Database Administrator Associate" certification (https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/certifications/azure-database-administrator-associate).
The official description of this certification is as follows:
The Azure Database Administrator implements and manages the operational aspects of cloud-native and hybrid data platform solutions built with Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Azure Data Services. The Azure Database Administrator uses a variety of methods and tools to perform day-to-day operations, including applying knowledge of using T-SQL for administrative management purposes.
Cloud...Cloud, Cloud...Cloud...(SQL)...Cloud, Cloud, Cloud...by the way, SQL.
Microsoft has been driving toward the cloud for a very long time - everything is "Cloud First" (developed in Azure before being retrofit into on-premises products), and the company definitely tries to steer as much into the cloud as it can.
I realize this is Microsoft's reality, and I have had some useful experiences using the cloud for Azure VM's and Azure SQL Database over the years...but...
There is still an awful lot of the world running on physical machines - either directly or via a certain virtualization platform that starts with VM and rhymes with everywhere.
As such, I can't believe Microsoft has bailed on actual SQL Server certifications...but it sure looks that way. Maybe something shiny and new will come out of this; maybe there will be a new better, stronger, faster SQL Server certification in the near future - but the current lack of open discussion doesn't inspire hope.
Looking at the Azure Database Administrator Associate certification, it requires a single exam (DP-300 https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/certifications/exams/dp-300) and is apparently "Associate" level. Since the styling of certs is apparently changing (after all it isn't the MCxx Azure Database Administrator) I went to look at what Associate meant.
Apparently there are Fundamental, Associate, and Expert level certifications in the new role-based certification setup, and there are currently only Expert-level certs for a handful of technologies, most of them Office and 365-related technologies.
This means that for most system administrators - database and otherwise - there is nowhere to go beyond the "Associate" level - you can dabble in different technologies, but no way to be certified as an "Expert" by Microsoft in SQL Server, cloud or otherwise. (The one exception I could find for any sysadmins is the "Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert" certification, which is all-around design and implement in Azure at a much broader level.)
After reviewing all of this, I am already preparing for the Azure Database Administrator Associate certification via the DP-300 exam, and I am considering other options for broadening my experience, including Azure administrator certs and AWS administrator certs. I will likely focus on Azure since my current role has more Azure exposure than AWS (although maybe that is a reason to go towards AWS and broaden my field...hmm...)
If anything changes in the SQL Server cert world - some cool new "OMG we forgot we don't have a new SQL Server certification - here you go" announcement - I will let you know.