I just took a pair of online DBA tests the other night. Both were focused on database development. Both had a lot of questions that I really wanted to select "None of the Above", but it wasn't available as an option. It was quite obvious that the people who wrote the test questions were academics, not professional database devs, just from the wording and the answer options.
Many would have resulted in heated discussions on the intellectual merits of the author if they had been in the QotD section of this site, and in several cases, Steve would have had to clarify the questions, modify the answers, and reward points.
The test on SQL 2005 had 39 questions, and 14 of them were on CLR, including one that didn't directly indicate it was about CLR, but where the "correct" answer was to spawn a thread in your trigger so that the trigger wouldn't hold up the main transaction. Based on Microsoft's own data on CLR adoption, that's WAY too heavy an emphasis on CLR, at over 1/3 of the questions on the test.
Tests are only as good as the people who write them.
I've taken a number of such tests over the last several years, and I've yet to encounter one that could tell me whether I had the skills necessary to take a job of Senior DBA.
One certification exam I took (but never paid the fee for the cert), half the emphasis on the exam was on issuing commands to SQL Server via the command line interface. I don't know about other DBAs, but I've yet to need to know those, in 9 years of being the only DBA (senior, junior or otherwise) for three different companies. If I ever do need them, I'll look them up at the time. Amazingly, even with not knowing ANY of the answers to half the questions, I scored better than 90% of the people who take the exam. That's a Brainbench cert exam for general DBA duties.
So, I have my doubts about certs/exams giving any real measure. Theoretically, they could, but practically, I don't see it.
I'd also have to say that the qualifications for a DBA, senior/junior/middle/whatever, are going to vary depending on the needs of the company.
A small company that has a single SQL Server instance on a single virtual server which is just used for nightly ETL is going to have very different needs from a company with dozens of highly transactional databases on dozens of actual servers that are housed on different continents. And so on for everything else. Plus, it's going to vary based on whether the "DBA" does any T-SQL coding, and CLR coding, or just server admin/monitoring, or some combination thereof.
So, what makes a person a senior DBA? I'd say they would have to have and demonstrate all the skills necessary to handle the database(s) and server(s) of the company involved. Junior would be someone who would need significant supervision to handle those, and middle would be someone who can handle parts of it without supervision but not all of it.
Does that mean a senior DBA doesn't need to look stuff up or ask questions online? No. It means they can handle the general stuff without doing so, and only need to do so in unusual circumstances. And "unusual" better not include "restoring a crashed database from backups", even though that had also better not be "usual/daily", if you know what I mean. The senior DBA should be able to do that kind of thing easily, but the databases better not require it very often.
- Gus "GSquared", RSVP, OODA, MAP, NMVP, FAQ, SAT, SQL, DNA, RNA, UOI, IOU, AM, PM, AD, BC, BCE, USA, UN, CF, ROFL, LOL, ETC
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"Nobody knows the age of the human race, but everyone agrees it's old enough to know better." - Anon