One DBA's Ongoing Search for Clarity in the Middle of Nowhere


Yet Another Andy Writing About SQL Server

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Value of Certifications

A former co-worker recently sent me an email asking about Microsoft certifications, and if I pursued them, and what I thought about them.  I started to write a response and it sounded like a good blog post {-: so here it is:


I am certified through the gills in SQL 2000 (MCDBA) and 2005 (MCITP), but when it came time to upgrade to 2008 I got distracted by life and let it slide.  I finally tried the upgrade exam once right before it retired and just missed passing it.

My experience with certs is that many people don't value Microsoft certs because they are seen as just paper - the only cert that really is valued in the community is the MCM (now the MCSM) - the Master certification.  The catch in the MCM/MCSM is that it requires most of the lower level certs as prerequisites - you have to be an MCITP Admin *and* an MCITP Developer as prereq's for Master.  (The developer requirement is why I sincerely doubt I will ever pursue MCM/MCSM.)

Unless you are interested in going for Master (or are looking at a specific job listing that requires you to be an MCITP) I would not spend your effort (and $$) on it - you will not see much real reward out of it other than whatever intrinsic feeling of accomplishment you get from passing tests - there are no raises or better jobs or anything else just from being certified *if* you already have experience.  For a brand-new DBA there may be some benefit if you are competing for jobs against other new DBA's - the guy with the no experience and the cert may have an edge over the guy with no experience and no cert.

Having said that, the certification blueprints (topic lists) are good sources of study material if you just want to know what there is to learn for learning's sake - but you can do that without shelling out a few hundred dollars per test for multiple tests.  Most of my SQL 2000 and 2005 certs were achieved while I was working for a boss who saw great value in certification and education and therefore funded everything.

Someone told me back when I worked at the University of Nebraska - a certification just tells a potential employer one thing - that you know how to take tests.  For Microsoft certs lower than Master, I completely agree.  The Master is a two-part written and lab exam and is supposed to be the best exam MS has ever created.  One of the guys in our office recently took (and passed) the Knowledge (written) half of the exam and it blew his mind compared to all of the MCITP tests.

So....if you are thinking of becoming a certified Master (I think there are ~75 of them in the world) then you *have* to take the lower tests and you should get on it.  If you are not thinking of that, then I wouldn't worry about it.


...and that's my $.02


  1. I am lucky that I still work for an employer who will pay for tests, and give bonuses for passing them. So that gives a little motivation for taking them. But if you are interested in just learning I found the Microsoft test prep books are great for covering a wide variety of the material. And if you want to learn more than the book offers, Google is willing to help.

    1. I learn endlessly from Google and from the blogs of the dozens of people who write them - many times Googling just takes me to either Microsoft (Technet/MSDN) or to one of the top blogs - shout-out to the blog list maintained by @SQLRockstar at - it is a great place to start your blog reading experience

  2. I have been in the DBA business for over 15 years. I am not certified in any Microsoft products. When I was thinking of switching from one job to another I worried about not being certified. Reading blogs helped a lot, because many employers and Techs are 50/50 on the subject. Some people don't understand how you can not be certified and some are just not interested. I believe that certifications have their place, especially if you are trying to break into the field and no one will give you a chance. But for the exereinced DBA, I don't see it as being a necessity. Good luck with your decision.

  3. I agree with this blog, where I had started with gaining MCP qualifications from NT4.0 right through to XP and then decided to stop and pursue tertiary studies path to further develop my research skills.

  4. Totally agree, but unfortunately that's not how recruiters see things most of the times.
    He/She is not certified - Okay let's skip this fella!