The Certification Debate

  • The Certification Debate

    Every once in awhile the certification trend rises and everyone seems to want to pass a test and get some credentials after their name. I was actually amazed how many speakers at the 2006 PASS Summit listed all their credentials on an opening slide. Not that it's a bad thing and they certainly should be proud of the work they've put in, but I just never list it after my name. It's strictly a resume item for me.

    Last year I got a Beta invitation to the 70-441 exam and took it. I wrote an article about my experiences as the exam was quite a change from the SQL Server 2000 exams I took many years ago. Initially I got a note that I hadn't passed, but then later received a "regrading" notice where they admitted some errors and gave me a coupon for a free exam. Since then I also passed the 70-443 exam, a good thing since I wrote the book on this exam for Sybex.

    So I've been looking at that coupon lately, thinking that I should be getting ready for and taking the 70-431 exam. In case you've been completely focused on work and reading this nonsense as a way of taking a break or combating insomnia, the certification program has changed for SQL Server 2005. Now there's a MCTS, a Technical specialist, that you get by passing the 70-431, install and maintenance exam. From there you can become an IT Pro by adding on the 70-441 or 70-443 exams. Since I haven't gotten the MCTS part done, I'm in a little limbo here.

    I'm not sure how important this is to me, though conceivably I should prove to you some bit of knowledge if you're going to take what I've written in the technical area seriously. I saw this article on certifications and payoff, which seems to suggest that they aren't valuable. Certifications are what I've always believed, a part of your skillset, and not the defining part.

    To me you should know how to do the work, understand the product and be able to act in a competent manner before you seek a certification. At that point, the certification is the formality. It's simply the sign that you can focus your skills to pass a test when need be.

    Steve Jones

  • I havn't yet had a problem getting a job without an appropriate piece of paper.

    I've always found my work experience and skill set got me my jobs.

    Although - I find myself going to do the SQL 2005 course just before the end of the year. A vendor has told us that they are no longer supporting 2000 and that we should upgrade our DB to 2005 to stay current with their support.

    I have never done any MS training, so it will be a first! - not too usre that I'll be opeining any conversations with Gavin Baumanis, Microsoft SQL 2005 Server certified.

    I work in a university - where most of the PHd holder prefer to be called by their first name rather than their Dr. title.

    Perhaps its an Oz thing? I dunno - but blowing your own trumpet all the time - (unless on the sauce) just isn't the done thing.

    Gavin Baumanis

    Smith and Wesson. The original point and click device.

  • I guess the certifications help on a resume, but for me, the training I do before taking the tests helps to round out my knowledge on the subject.

    So far, no one has ever told me I was hired because I was MS Certified.

    Note to Gavin...  If you'll load that S&W with some high quality ammo, it will still point, but you won't hear the click

  • I wish that I had the time to go to a school and get a certificaton, although I'm not sure what I would do with it or how it would help me.

    I've bumped heads with so many these "certified" folks that didnt have a clue of how to bring a proper solution to the business problem and after all, that is the goal. It's much like the comment from Gavin ,  does anyone besides me find it bizarre that his vendor no longer supports SS2000 ? Why not, what the heck are they doing in there that 2000 wont work?? Is Gavin's vendor so tied to a level of technology from a single provider ? That seems to make the application look much like a Flying Walenda's actm - you have no options in the event of a slight slip. THe Walenda's were certified by the way .. certified nuts !

    It seems to me that by the time the average Joe in this business passes all the exams, the platform changes and you have to restudy and retake everything. Nice little revenue mill for someone.

    Note to Gavin,, does that S&W have an optical pointer or an old fashioned mechanical pointer ??

    Del, HMFIC

  • I have continued to find exam taking beneficial for my day to day work. Studying for an exam exposes me to new areas of knowledge and ways of doing things. This is always a benefit.

    In addition to the advantage of learning while studying, I believe, perhaps falsely, that having certification makes me more marketable.

  • "In case you've been completely focused on work and reading this nonsense as a way of taking a break or combating insomnia..."

    Steve, I laughed out loud at that one, almost spit my coffee out! I actually WAS taking a break...

    Good article!

  • "To me you should know how to do the work, understand the product and be able to act in a competent manner before you seek a certification. At that point, the certification is the formality. It's simply the sign that you can focus your skills to pass a test when need be."

    I think this is a good way to look at it.  After all, for all the tests you took in college, how much of that stuff do you actually remember now?  Except of course the stuff you use day in and day out, which I think is the point.

    That begs the question though, why even have these certifications?  Although completing a certification suggests you are competent in that area, it doesn't guarantee it (and could actually be misleading to a potential employer).  It may just mean you're good at cramming for and taking tests, good at 'putting in the effort' so to speak.  Oops, the same can be said for my college degree so I'll be quite now...

  • I have the impression that the certification cycle is just another money maker for the companies that provide the training and testing.

    I'm sure the benefits of studying for an exam are real but I don't think the cost benefit is there.

    I'm getting cynical about college too when I look at the inflated prices for the training you get there just to make yourself marketable.


  • A few jobs back, we hired in a MCSE certified network admin.  The guy was like a reference book.  If you had a specific question, he could give you the answer off the top of his head without a problem.  BUT as soon as you needed to rely on him to troubleshoot, he froze, and invariably couldn't solve the problem.  I had always been good at troubleshooting, but, I can't remember a million minor details.  If I don't use it, that's what the reference books are for.  So, when he couldn't solve a problem, he'd come to me, and I'd use him as a walking talking reference book to solve the problem.  He had all the knowledge, but, when you hit on the more complex problems, he just couldn't put it all together.  I've been in the same position more then once with our network admins at several of my employers. 

    I can't say much about the SQL certifications, but, the MCSE seemed to produce people with the knowledge, but not necessarily the skills to use it.

  • I never took Microsoft exam but I took a lot of brainbrench exams. 

    All the microsoft certs, cisco certs, oracle certs were hot a few years ago but not anymore.  It is because many employers found out when they interviewed a candidate holding the cert, that person was not better than the candidate without a cert.  

    I used to work for Xerox.  All the field engineers requried to have MCSA cert.  They just read the book and took the exam.  Everyone of them got the cert but some of them did not even know how to turn on a computer !

    I guess that is the reason why the value of the cert went down.

  • Sorry.  I meant MCSE.

  • I think the reason you see an increase in salary with a certification is because HR people don't understand how worthless it is. I've had the same experiences as others with certified people. They have the knowledge but they sometimes don't have the skill to use that knowledge.

    I am thinking of starting a training program for developers which teaches the actual skills required to be a good programmer, rather than dumping a bunch of information on people for them to memorize. Testing mastery of a skill is not easy to do with a computerised standard test... you need essay questions or task completion tests, which have to be graded by a human being. If I ever get this going, that's what it will be... a certification not in technology, but in programming procedures, practices, and skills. This would be combined with knowledge of the student's choice of languages, with a required number to choose. Everyone will learn SQL.

  • I look at certifications about the same way I look at degrees.  They really don't mean all that much (depending on the degree...let's not get offended anyone).  They show you had the ambition to pursue whatever it is but they don't mean you are an expert.

    However....all things being equal they are an advantage.  Many customers now require certified professionals working on their accounts.  Perception is often greater then reality.

    I am required by my company to get my MCTS by the end of the year.  I find the process painful and time consuming but at the end of the day it is worth pursuing. 





  • Most of the jobs I applied did not require any certificate.  However most big company requires a degree though.   Also the salary is  based on the level of position not whether the person has any certificate. I know the salary would be different if you have a degree.

    I read a lot of resume applying the SQL Server developer job in my company, none of them had any microsoft cert.  ???  Is certain part of the country or certain company pay more attention to certificate?

    I knew a network engineer who got layed off, he had microsoft MCSE, Cisco cert and any certificate you could think of, it did not help him to find a job any easier than anyone who did not have any certificate.




  • MSFT spent a lot of time with the community to come up with these different "tracks" of certification.  Are these certs more meaningful than before?  Yes, I think so.  Would I base my decision to hire someone just because of the cert? No. Does it add value?  It Depends....

    Where does it add value?  I was involved in the Beta testing of the test and got my SQL 2005 certifications that way.  SInce I am a consultant, the certifications at least add a measure of credibility.  In my view, the earlier in the cycle certification is obtained, the more valuable it is.  If you are considering the 2000 MCDBA or the new certs, the new certs win.

    BTW.... If you attended PASS last week, there was a certificate in your bag for 50% off a test.  

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