The Certification Shuffle

MCSA_SQL12_BlkLast weekend, I passed the last test needed to upgrade my MCTS: SQL Server 2008 certification to the MCSA: SQL Server 2012 certification. I still need to take one more exam to upgrade my MCITP: Database Administrator 2008 to the MCSE: Data Platform certification. I’ll  probably do this, but I’m not sure I’ll continue with Microsoft certifications after this. Here’s why:

Back in 2012, when Microsoft changed the (then still fairly new) MCTS and MCITP certifications to the MCSA and MCSE certs, I wrote what I liked about the change and also about several reasons why I didn’t like it.  As mentioned then, the new MCSE cert will no longer be tied to a specific version of SQL Server and will require re-certification every 3 years. At the time, I wrote “I have a strong suspicion that the re-certification exams are going to focus on the latest version of SQL Server that is out at the time. This puts people who work for companies that do not like to be on the “bleeding edge” at a disadvantage.

Sure enough… 3 years later, this appears to be exactly what has happened. The MCSE cert stated out with SQL 2012. In April 2014, the exam was updated with SQL 2014 topics. (See this and this (PDFs)). In January 2016, the MS 70-459 exam, which let you upgrade your MCITP: Database Administrator 2008 to MCSE: Data Platform will be retired. This is right around the time SQL Server 2016 will be out. So you can bet the exam for MCSE:Data Platform will be updated to include SQL 2016 features at that point.

And to make matters worse, Microsoft has announced that the MCSA level certification is ending with SQL 2012. Or, more specifically, that no MCSA: SQL Server 2014 will be offered – which more or less implies that there won’t be one for any other versions of SQL Server as well. (See the first question in the Q & A section in the link for more info.)

Taken altogether, let’s look at what this means for the SQL Server database professional in 2016 and beyond. No MCSA cert will be around, so we’ll all be forced to get the MCSE certification. This exam will focus primarily on the shiny new features of the latest version of SQL Server. SQL Server is now on a 2 year release cycle. This cert requires re-certification every 3 years. This means we will always be tested on the latest features of the latest version of SQL Server. OK, I can see why Microsoft wants to emphasize that. The big problem? Odds are, we won’t have any experience actually using those features.

Most vendors I deal with are just now starting to support SQL 2012 – and it’s been out for 3 or 4 years already. They simply don’t have the manpower to re-test their products on a new database version every two years. As a result, the day-to-day work of a DBA tends to be more with older versions of SQL Server, because that is all our vendors will allow us to use.

Can you see the disconnect? Microsoft is asking up to get certified on products we don’t use. I thought certifications were supposed to demonstrate that DBAs had experience and proficiency with certain software. This new policy will simply demonstrate the DBAs have “book learning” about a product. There will be no guarantee that they actually have experience using a product.

I’m already not a big fan of certifications. I think they are expensive and of dubious worth. In my opinion, they primarily are useful when you are looking for a new job and need to get past that first batch of resume screeners looking to see if a candidate meets the minimum requirements for a position. With the new changes, I think their worth drops even more. I’m not sure I’ll bother with any more certifications going forward.

2 thoughts on “The Certification Shuffle

  1. I set up machines continually for customers on Azure and other hosting sites. SQL 2008 is available, but not recommended. I haven’t set up a 2008 DB in years; and haven’t set up 2012 DB in 9 months or more. Yes, many companies still rely only on 2008 (or older), but that’s only to their peril. When they get ready to move to Azure (or anything more current) they’ll find they have a lot to do (since we can assume their development practices are out of date, too). Yes, many are still stuck to W7, SP 2007, and who knows what else; that doesn’t make it the smart strategy. Fortunately, I only have to work with one of those (U.S. Navy).

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