My Take on the MCDBA

There are some topics that you know are always good for a heated debate:  religion, politics, abortion, and the value of the MCDBA (Microsoft Certified DataBase Administrator) certification.  I don't think I'll open the floodgates on the first three subjects here on my SQLTeam weblog, but the last one is a suitable subject.

If you've been involved in any SQL Server discussion forum for a while, you're sure to have seen this one come up.  And what a flurry of posts it will produce.  But before I give you my opinion on the subject, I think it's important you know where I'm coming from, so you can assess what biases I might have.  You can read up on my background in my About Me article, but the points that are most relevant to this discussion are these:  1) I have been doing database development work since 1986, and started using SQL Server in 1999; and 2) I have never attained nor even attempted a database related certification.

So, you can probably guess really quick that I am not overly impressed with the MCDBA.  Everyone has a story about some goofball they met who had his certification (for any subject) but couldn't do anything with it.  There is no shortage of these anecdotes when it comes to the MCDBA, and that is really unfortunate because it taints those who hold the certificate and depreciates the value of being certified.  I'm not saying that the certification is no good, for if I were interviewing two candidates of comparable experience, all other things being equal, I'd lean toward the one with his MCDBA, because it shows some dedication, and willingness to learn and stretch himself.  BUT, given two unequal candidates, one with a lot of experience and no certificate vs. one with little experience and has a certificate, I'll go with the experience every time.  Book knowledge is no substitute for experience.  And that's even more true when the books are so accessible when you need them.

Last fall, Brian Moran wrote a couple of articles about the MCDBA in SQL Server Magazine, and essentially proposed the idea of a Masters level MCDBA program.  I think this is an excellent idea, and would even go so far as to suggest splitting up the certification between being a Development DBA vs. a Production DBA in addition to the Business Intelligence and Analysis Services demarcations that Brian makes.  While all of these have some overlap, the each also have their own set of specialized skills.  I think one of the problems with the existing MCDBA is that it tries to be too many things to too many people.

So if you're debating about whether you should go get certified, I say, if you've got the time, go for it!  It won't hurt you, you'll probably learn something new, and it shows a level of commitment to your chosen field.  And if you're new to database work, it helps answer the question of “What should I learn?”  But don't think it's going to be a free-pass when it comes to the job search, unless you're just looking to hoodwink a series of inexperienced IT managers.  Any IT manager worthy of the title will check you out to see if you've got any real smarts or just some book learnin'.

posted @ Sunday, January 04, 2004 6:05 PM

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# re: My Take on the MCDBA

Left by Brian Carroll at 1/5/2004 6:43 AM
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I take the same view towards certs as you.

I have the MCDBA (7.0), MCSD (VB6), and MCSE (NT4) certs. Yeah, they are all old, but I'm reluctant to invest the time needed to update them. Why? Because I'm often embarrassed to admit that I have them!

I've interviewed dozens of people that think they are qualified just because they have passed the exams. I don't want to be grouped with those people, so I usuaully only mention my certs if I'm asked. That seems to make a good statement.

Oh well, I'll probably update my MCSD and MCDBA just because I'm a freak and actually enjoy studying for and taking the exams. Sad, huh?

# re: My Take on the MCDBA

Left by AjarnMark at 1/5/2004 7:56 AM
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I think not bragging about them is a good approach. Ever notice how the people who are really good at something don't feel the need to constantly remind you that they're good at it?

And, to put a marketing spin on re-cert'ing, you could just say that you like to challenge yourself with continuous learning, and the only way to know if you've really got it is to be tested on it.

# re: My Take on the MCDBA

Left by al at 4/6/2004 12:39 PM
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I took 70-228 and flunked it today. I have been working with SQL Server since version 6.5 in many enterprise environments. In addition, I actually studied for it, but I was confronted with too many ambiguous (sp?) questions... there goes $125
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