In these times of economic slowdown and uncertainties, more and more IT professionals are concerned about their job security and their qualifications. With job insecurity looming on their minds, it is a common trend for developers to start hunting for ways to update their skills. Sound knowledge and real world work experience are always a good way to help secure your future. However, a great way to demonstrate knowledge and competence is by having a certification in the technology one claims to be proficient in.
Microsoft offers a series of certifications for IT professional including developers. In this article, we will cover the following topics.
- Importance of Certificates
- Certification Structure
- SQL Server Certifications
- Exam Preparation
- Registration for Exam
- Post Examination Benefits
Microsoft certifications are very reputed and validate developers’ practical experience.
Importance of Certificates
Certificates demonstrate developers’ expertise in technology as well their willingness to go the extra mile to prove their ardent interest in the realm of technology. Microsoft certifications add value to developers’ existing credentials. It is widely believed that certifications aid in resolving practical technology problems, together with enhancing developers’ professional performance. Whenever a new technology is released, Microsoft introduces new certifications. Achievement of new certificates clearly indicate developers’ advancement in technology as well as their keenness to move ahead in their chosen career path. Having said this, it has been commonly seen that there are a number of candidates who achieve certifications but are not concerned about upgrading them. I strongly suggest developers take advanced certifications and keep their knowledge upgraded to gain competitive edge.
Microsoft Certifications are structured in four levels.
a) Technology Series - This certification series validates developers’ skills in implementation, building, troubleshooting, and debugging of Microsoft Technology. The certificate that can be acquired in this series is Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist.
b) Professional Series - This certification series is focused on a single job role and validates developers’ skill to have the required knowledge and expertise to complete a particular job. The certificates that can be earned in this series are Microsoft Certified IT Professional and Microsoft Certified Professional Developer.
c) Master Series - This certification series requires having a profound understanding of a particular product. Developers awarded with this certification are expected to design and implement complex business requirements. The certificate that can be achieved in this series is Microsoft Certified Master.
d) Architect Series - Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) is the most difficult certification. To achieve it, developers have to go through rigorous peer review process. Developers having a minimum experience of ten years in advanced IT industry are considered for this credential. The certificate that can be attained in this series is Microsoft Certified Architect.
SQL Server Certifications
Currently, there are certifications for three editions of SQL Server. I recommend everybody to settle on the SQL Server 2008 certifications. Microsoft certifications for SQL Server 2008 have already been released and we will be discussing them in detail. We will also explore the upgrade path from SQL Server 2005 to SQL Server 2008.
- MCTS: Technology Specialist Paths - One exam to earn each of the MCTS certifications
- 70-432: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Implementation and Maintenance
- 70-433: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Database Development
- 70-448: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance
MCITP: IT Professional Paths – Two exams to earn an MCITP certification
70-450: PRO: Designing, Optimizing, and Maintaining a Database Server Infrastructure using Microsoft SQL Server 2008
Pre-requisite: 70-432: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Implementation and Maintenance
70-451: PRO: Designing Database Solutions and Data Access Using Microsoft SQL Server 2008
70-433: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Database Development
70-452: PRO: SQL Server 2008, Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance
70-448: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance
SQL2K5 to SQL2K8 Upgrade Paths – One exam to earn MCTS and MCITP certifications. If developers have MCTIP certification for SQL Server 2005, they can take only one exam to upgrade their credentials to SQL Server 2008. By taking only one exam developers can achieve two certifications.
To get: 70-432 and 70-450
70-453: Upgrade: Transition your MCITP Database Administrator Skills to MCITP Database Administrator 2008
Pre-requisite: MCITP (Database Administrator -SQL Server 2005)
To get: 70-433 and 70-451
70-454: Upgrade: Transition your MCITP Database Developer Skills to MCITP Database Developer 2008
Pre-requisite: MCITP (Database Developer -SQL Server 2005)
To get: 70-448 and 70-452
70-455: Upgrade: Transition your MCITP Business Intelligence Developer Skills to MCITP Business Intelligence Developer 2008
Pre-requisite: MCITP (Business Intelligence Developer -SQL Server 2005)
Microsoft Certified Master: Microsoft SQL Server 2008
No separate exam is conducted for Master certifications. Developers who already have MCITP (SQL Server 2008) certification can attend a three-week training program delivered by recognized experts from Microsoft and their partner organizations. On successful completion of the training and on meeting all the pre-requisites listed on MS site, developers can achieve this certification.
Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA): Microsoft SQL Server 2008
No separate exam is conducted for Master certifications. Developers who have already been awarded with all MCITP (SQL Server 2008) certifications can attend a four-week training program delivered by recognized experts from Microsoft. On successful completion of the training and on meeting all the pre-requisites the candidate has to go through an intense program interview process. Visit Microsoft official website for more details on this program.
The path to achieve a certification is not difficult, but at times, it can become perplexing. Make sure that you do not become “Certificate Happy.” It is quite common that developers start dreaming about the several paths of certifications but in reality get nowhere. It is imperative to determine the right certification for yourself. If your career goal or expertise lies in the database field, endeavor toward database certifications first rather than attempting something unusual. You must select only those certifications that will add value to your career and will provide you maximum benefits. In addition, make sure those certifications test developers on hands-on experience. If certifications’ exams are attempted without having enough hands-on experience, it will be difficult to pass the exam.
If a developer realizes that additional training can enhance the knowledge of a product, it is a good idea to get training from a professional trainer. But in this case, attend the training for the product not for passing examination. There is a huge number of online courses and local institutes that claim to provide developers with certifications. A course that just helps you learn about certifications will not help your career in the long run. Thus, selecting the right course is a very important career-related decision for you. I only trust organizations where Microsoft Certified Trainers or Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) are teaching the courses. Besides, gather information on what an exam contains and also, do the trial run with a practice test. As per my personal experience, I often find it easier to pass an exam after practicing the trial exam.
Please refer to the following additional resources, which are very helpful to prepare for the exam.
- View exam preparation guides (http://www.microsoft.com/learning/mcpexams/prepare/findexam.mspx)
- Search for Microsoft Press training kits (http://www.microsoft.com/mspress/findabook/list/subject_category_T.aspx)
- Browse through the Learning Catalog (http://learning.microsoft.com/Manager/catalog.aspx)
Registration for Exam
Prometric, an independent testing organization with over 3,000 locations worldwide, administers all MCP exams. Each exam typically costs US$125. You can register for your exam online (http://www.register.prometric.com/DirectInput.asp?DirectInput=1&Client=132), through your local testing center or via telephone. Remember, many employers have training budgets in place for such professional growth.
Post Examination Benefits
There are several benefits you can gain after clearing certification exams. After passing the first exam, developers earn credential of Microsoft Certified Professional commonly known as MCP. Once credentials are achieved developers get access to an official transcript, logos and certificates, and have their own landing page on Microsoft.com! According to Microsoft’s official site, real MCPs get real benefits of Reward, Respect and Recognition.
Please feel free to send me email regarding any of the Microsoft programs or for additional information about any of the certifications. I am more than willing to share my personal notes for examination with my readers. Visit http://blog.sqlauthority.com/ to contact me. Additional details about certifications are available on MS official site: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/mcp/default.mspx.