It seems like whenever the subject of SQL Server certifications comes up, people have strong opinions one way or another. For example, look at this post and the associated comments, http://www.sqlskills.com/blogs/paul/how-valuable-are-certifications/.
Now, to be perfectly honest, I have had mixed feelings on the subject, with a leaning towards them as being not that valuable or useful. And that is why I never spent the time or money pursuing any type of SQL Server certification in the past. I always felt that experience produces a better skillset and no amount of certification could compare with that. However, I recently embarked on pursuing a MCSA certification (http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/sql-certification.aspx) and I will attempt to explain why.
What are the benefits of certification?
- Lead to more business – Many companies like for their employees to be certified in certain technologies because this can directly lead to more business. For example, imagine that two companies have business proposals in to a third company. And everything in both proposals is pretty similar (i.e. prices, services, support, etc.), except one company has lots of certified professionals that will be handling the work and the other company does not have any. Which proposal might that company go with in making this business decision? Additionally, this can be especially true if you have your own consulting company and are trying to attract business.
- Make your company/boss happy – A person should never underestimate the value of the things they can do to make their company/boss happy. We all want to have good performance reviews, and if being certified will reflect positively on our review and help us financially, then it seems like a no brainer.
- Learn something new or improve a skill – In most of our jobs, we don’t touch every area of SQL Server, unless maybe you are a consultant with many different types of projects at many companies. So, from my personal experience in preparing for my first test, I brushed up on working with XML in T-SQL, which I do not do in my day-to-day work.
- Looks good on your resume for your next job – If you are looking for a new position, holding a certification may help to separate you from other applicants in the mind of a recruiter. Recruiters get a lot of resumes, and they are just looking for the small things to distinguish one from another.
- Gives you a feeling of accomplishment – Generally, when someone holds a certification or even a degree they are proud of it. It can serve as a personal accomplishment in their life. For example, many people in later years of their life return to college to get a degree. Eventhough they may not be trying to re-enter the workforce using that degree, they have a sense of personal accomplishment.
What being certified does NOT indicate?
- Experience with SQL Server – Although I just listed one point here, this is a HUGE issue I have with certifications. I have interviewed numerous individuals who have obtained SQL Server certifications, but did not have the practical experience that was necessary for the job. Perhaps they had the “book” smarts to pass a test, but not the “street” smarts to handle a real world environment. In fact, many people can get a book or take a training class to get them to pass the tests, but it does not mean I want them to be in control of my SQL Server environment. I have encountered people with certifications that do not understand basic querying (i.e. joins, indexes, etc.), which left a bad taste in my mouth about certifications. It is simply very hard for me to equate years of experience with passing a few tests.
So, are SQL Server certifications valuable or useful? Well, like most things in SQL Server, I think the answer is … “It Depends”.
SQL Server certifications can be very valuable and useful for some companies, recruiters, and to some SQL Server professionals personally. However, I don’t think a certification gives a complete picture of the skills of a person or how someone should be viewed within the SQL Server community. So, really I feel like the value or usefulness of a SQL Server certification comes down to the reasons a person is pursuing it.