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Surveying the Database Certification Landscape

Table 1 presents a list of certifications that I situate within the proper domain of database certification, per se. Following the table, I provide some additional analysis, competitive rankings, and information that individuals considering such certifications should consider when choosing one such program over another.

Table 1: Database Certifications Proper





Numerous related exams*
- DB2 Administration (OS390)
- DB2 Administration (UDB)
- Oracle Designer 6i






Master Accredited Systems Engineer (MASE)



Oracle on Tru64 UNIX: http://h10017.www1.hp.com/certification/

Oracle on Windows: http://h10017.www1.hp.com/certification/

SQL Server: http://h10017.www1.hp.com/certification/

Crystal Decisions

Authorized Crystal Engineer (ACE)





IBM Certified Specialist


IBM Certified Solutions Expert


IBM Certified Advanced Technical Expert


IBM Certified Database Administrator


Learning Tree



Access Certified Professional


Oracle9i DBA Certified Professional


Oracle8i DBA Certified Professional


SQL Server 2000 DBA Certified Professional



Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA)





MySQL 4 Core Certification


Certified MySQL 4 Professional



Oracle Database Administrator (DBA)

Oracle8: www.oracle.com/education/certification/

Oracle9i CCP Upgrade Path: http://www.oracle.com/education/certification/

Oracle9i: www.oracle.com/education/certification


Sybase Certified Adaptive Server Administrator


Sybase Replication Server Administrator





Teradata Certified Professional


Teradata Certified Implementation Specialist


Teradata Certified SQL Specialist


Teradata Certified Administrator


Teradata Certified Designer



Various general and platform exams


*The list in this table is not inclusive. Visit the Web site for more details.

When it comes to database certifications in general, be they what I call proper database certifications or boundary database certifications, there's no denying the importance of the underlying database product or platform when it comes to selecting particular credentials. In plain English, this means that where you work now—or where you want to work in the future—will normally dictate the kind of database certifications you seek. Conversely, once you obtain such certifications, where you work in the future will often be a function of which organizations use the database platform or platforms in which you've obtained certification.

The sole exceptions to this invariable rule appear in various exams (and related certifications) that organizations such as Brainbench and U2test offer to the public. You can take exams from either organization at modest prices to verify your general working knowledge of database design, relational database concepts and operation, the ANSI standard SQL, and other applicable database technologies, languages, and general-purpose tools. Of course, the relevance of such certification to particular platforms is limited, so what this really means is that if you're interested in database certification, you can use the offerings from either organization to get yourself started in the database field as you learn and absorb basic, generally applicable information. But sooner or later, you will have to specialize, at which point the credentials from one or another of the organizations listed in Tables 1 and 2 will become relevant.

This also means that market dynamics tend to govern the distribution of the certified population across the various offerings. Simply put, this means the most popular database platform—namely Oracle—has the largest population of certified individuals. Other certified population sizes also reflect the uptake of their respective products and platforms in companies and organizations. With the recent introduction of certifications for the Open Source product MySQL in the second quarter of 2003, another large population of database professionals gets access to certification credentials, and may give Oracle a run for its current domination of this sector.

One concluding note before I move on to discuss boundary database certifications: Learning Tree is an interesting player in this field, because it offers alternatives to vendor-sponsored certifications for various platforms, as shown in Table 1. Although they apparently can make a viable business out of an alternative or aftermarket certification, I suspect the numbers of individuals they certify in their programs is less than 10% of the numbers that official programs certify. For database credentials, the vendor is a key element in the equation; this also argues that official vendor or sponsor approval for a certification becomes important.

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