On Sept. 1, the Oracle certification team announced the availability of two new credentials. The first is the Oracle Database 12c Maximum Availability Certified Expert. There is no test specific to this credential. Rather it is earned as a bonus credential by Oracle exam candidates who earn the following three certifications:
- Oracle Database 12c Administrator Certified Professional
- Oracle Certified Expert, Oracle Database 12c: RAC and Grid Infrastructure Administration
- Oracle Certified Expert, Oracle Database 12c: Data Guard Administration
The second new credential is called the Oracle Database 12c Maximum Availability Certified Master. As the name suggests, it is equivalent to the above, but requires the Oracle 12c Master credential. As with the expert-level certification, candidates will be granted the credential if they earn the 12c Master in addition to the 12c RAC and Data Guard expert credentials.
The Oracle Certification team has been making a number of changes to their program over the past several years. Some of the changes, such as the recertification requirement received a largely cold shoulder from the Oracle certification community, while others like a free 90-day subscription to Oracle Learning streams for earning a certification were warmly received. The current announcement fits in neatly with what appears to be a strategy for enticing certification candidates to earn or upgrade credentials for Oracle 12c.
The announcement is an interesting twist for Oracle Certifications. To my knowledge, it is the first time that earning multiple unrelated Oracle certifications will confer an additional credential. There have been levels of certifications for many years, of course. Candidates who pass two exams in the DBA track will earn the Oracle Certified Associate credential, and passing one additional exam will upgrade that to the Oracle Certified Professional level. There are also cases where holding one Oracle certification may be a prerequisite for earning another.
Combining a stack of credentials into one uber-credential, however, is more like what I have seen from a few other vendors. One example is CIW, which has series that include three single exams, each of which results in a certification. Candidates who pass all three exams in a given set are credited with an additional certification that represents the entire series. For example, the CIW Web Development Professional certification requires that an individual earn the following three individual certifications:
- CIW Perl Specialist
- CIW Database Design Specialist
I am confident the Oracle certification program has no plans for a mass migration of their exams into stacked credentials. I cannot help but wonder, however, whether they will be announcing more of these "bonus" certifications in the coming months. I consider it very unlikely that they would create any for exams that have been in existence for several years.
It is certainly possible that Oracle may announce more of these, though, as they roll out new exams. Developing and maintaining these "bonus" credentials would be a relatively inexpensive proposition for the Oracle certification program. From the standpoint of certification candidates, these bonus certifications certainly appear to provide an additional benefit without requiring any additional investment.
I use the word "appear" in the previous statement because I have started to have some second thoughts about these credentials. When I first read the announcement, my initial feeling was excitement. As one person on the OTN certification forum put it: "That is pretty cool." Since my focus is more of an Oracle developer than a DBA, I immediately started trying to predict whether any of these bonus certifications were likely to be created for combinations of SQL and PL/SQL credentials.
As I continued to work through the implications, however, much of my initial euphoria faded away. At the heart of the matter is the fact that if I were asked directly: "What does holding one of these new certifications mean to an Oracle professional?" I would have to respond: "Not much."
In my opinion, the two announced credentials do not provide any tangible value to an Oracle professional above and beyond what they gain from earning the three qualifying certifications. Said professional would gain an additional line on their resume and a new certificate to hang on their wall. Presumably they would also gain access to a new logo that they could add to their business card (but probably would not).
I have written several articles over the years about the value of IT certifications. In all of them, I point out that the real value of becoming certified is not about getting a piece of paper or adding a line to your resume. The point of pursuing IT certifications is to use them as a vehicle for increasing your knowledge and skills.
That increase can only come during the process of preparing for the certification exam. The newly-announced credentials have no associated exams and therefore represent no increase in knowledge. I will not go so far as to say they have no value, but I have to conclude that they have only a limited value to an Oracle professional.
If I were forced at gunpoint to define what exactly this "limited value" is, I would have to admit that it consists of the line on the resume. While I always emphasize how important the knowledge required to pass a certification is in relation to the credentials it confers, I do not dismiss the credentials as having no importance at all.
Certifications listed on a resume help to indicate your areas of interest and expertise. Recruiters use certifications as search terms to locate profiles on LinkedIn and resumes on job sites. In addition, a hiring manager might miss the significance of a candidate's 12c Data Guard and RAC certifications but notice that they are a Maximum Availability Certified Expert.
In any event, the idiom "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth" is applicable here. The certification costs nothing, so any value gained from it is a positive. I would not consider earning this credential to be a high-priority goal for certification candidates. If they already plan to earn the individual elements, however, then it makes a nice bonus.