To SQL Server Certify ,or Not Certify that is the Question?


Please excuse my paraphrasing of a quote from Hamlet. I spent last week in Shakespeare’s county, Warwickshire in the UK. I was teaching an onsite course for a Learning Tree client. The course I was teaching was 534 Developing SQL Queries for SQL Server. I like to rank courses the courses I teach in terms of my preferences for teaching them. This course is near the top of my favorites list.

During the week I was staying in a hotel and during the evenings I was busy learning some new data technology and writing some blog posts on them. When I travel my downtime normally consists of activities like that. Also being away from home I have more time than I would otherwise to think about technology and technology careers. A question that I got asked recently was about certification. When teaching SQL Server courses a question I’m often asked by attendees is should I certify? Should I pass the Microsoft Exams and get a certification in SQL Server?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Often the answer I give, is the answer to a lot of questions regarding SQL Server. It depends. It depends on your career, what skills and achievements you have to differentiate you against somebody else that might be applying for the same permission as you. Passing a certification is one of many ways of doing that.

There are advantages to passing the exams including:

  • It shows or demonstrates a level of knowledge to pass an exam in a given technology
  • It differentiates you from someone who doesn’t have them
  • Potential can lead to an increase in pay
  • If the job advertisement requires you to have a certification then it may be a necessity to get the job.

The four benefits listed in the above list are all related. It demonstrates you know enough to pass and exam in the technology you’ll be working with. It can stand you in good stead if you are up against someone who doesn’t have the certification and I have seen some businesses that reward staff or tie salary increases to passing these exams.

Certifications and Microsoft certifications at that have over the years got a bit of bad wrap. Often with people with little experience in the technology passing the exams through textbook preparation and studying books and study guides. The exams perhaps didn’t represent experience. It has led to certification’s not having the impact that they used they won’t guarantee any of the above either and there is a cost to taking the test.

I’m not sure if there is an argument for not certifying per se, however, I don’t think a certification is necessarily needed to have a successful career. There I think the answer comes down to one point. Does passing the exam help you differentiate yourself from your peers and colleagues when applying for a job or being awarded a pay rise? Passing the Microsoft SQL Server certifications might be one way of achieving this but there are many other ways to differentiate yourself too. Writing blogs, answering forum posts, to name just a few.

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