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DBA Certification

Professional certification is a recent trend in IT and is available for many different IT jobs. The availability and levels of certification for database administration have been growing at an alarming rate. Certification programs are available for most of the popular DBMS platforms including IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server, and Oracle. The idea behind DBA certification is to ensure that an individual is capable of performing database administration tasks and duties.

This is a noble goal, but the problem is that passing a test is not a viable indicator of success with the complexities of database administration. Some things you just have to learn by doing. I'm not saying that certification is useless: Taking the test and focusing on the questions you miss can help to point out areas of weakness. But does anyone really believe that someone passing a formalized test is necessarily as capable as someone with several years of experience as a DBA? Organizations should hire DBAs based on experience that indicates a level of capability. Of course, a DBA with both experience and certification is even better.

That said, I do recommend that professional DBAs take the time to study and pass the certification exams. Not because certification will make you a better DBA, but because it will make you more employable. Some companies hire only certified professionals. The trend toward using certification to guide hiring practices will increase because of increasing IT complexity. If you think you might change jobs at some point in your career (and who among us will not?), then certification is a worthwhile pursuit.

Keep in mind that DBA certification tests sometimes ask arcane syntax questions that are not good indicators of a DBA's skills. Getting the syntax 100% accurate is what manuals and design tools are for. Memorizing every detail about SQL syntax and structure is a waste of time because it is complex and changes all the time. It is better to know where to find the syntax, parameters, and answers to your questions when you need them—that is, which manuals and textbooks contain the needed information. DBAs should possess a broad, overarching knowledge of DBMS concepts, IT fundamentals, and the working of their organization's database systems. In other words, it is better to know off the top of your head that something can (or cannot) be done than to know the exact syntax for how to accomplish it.

If you decide to pursue certification, take the time to prepare for the tests. Books and self-learning software titles are available that can be quite useful. These books and programs cover the most common test topics and provide sample questions to help you prepare. In many ways, it is like preparing for a college entrance exam like the SAT.

Finally, once you earn your certification, make sure you display it proudly on your resume and your business card (if your company allows it).

Table 1-3 lists Web sites that contain information about professional certification for the most popular DBMS products.

Table 1-3 Sources of DBA Certification Information


Web site



Microsoft SQL Server




Sybase Adaptive Server




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