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Best Database Certifications 2018

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During the past three decades, we've seen a lot of database platforms come and go, but there's never been any question that database technology can be a crucial component for all kinds of applications and computing tasks.

Database certifications may not be as sexy or bleeding edge as cloud computingstorage or computer forensics. But the reality is that there has been, is, and always will be a need for knowledgeable database professionals at all levels and in many related job roles.

To get a better grasp of the available database certifications, it's useful to group them around specific database-related job roles. In part, this reflects the maturity of database technology, and its integration into most aspects of commercial, scientific and academic computing. As you read about the various database certification programs, keep these job roles in mind:

  • Database Administrator (DBA): Responsible for installing, configuring and maintaining a database management system (DBMS). Often tied to a specific platform such as Oracle, MySQL, DB2, SQL Server and others.
  • Database Developer: Works with generic and proprietary APIs to build applications that interact with DBMSs (also platform specific, as with DBA roles).
  • Database Designer/Database Architect: Researches data requirements for specific applications or users, and designs database structures and application capabilities to match.
  • Data Analyst/Data Scientist: Responsible for analyzing data from multiple disparate sources to discover previously hidden insight, determine meaning behind the data and make business-specific recommendations.
  • Data Mining/Business Intelligence (BI) Specialist: Specializes in dissecting, analyzing and reporting on important data streams, such as customer data, supply chain data, transaction data and histories, and others.
  • Data Warehousing Specialist: Specializes in assembling and analyzing data from multiple operational systems (orders, transactions, supply chain information, customer data and so forth) to establish data history, analyze trends, generate reports and forecasts and support general ad hoc queries.

Careful attention to these database job roles highlight two important kinds of technical issues for would-be database professionals to consider. First, a good general background in relational database management systems, including an understanding of the Structured Query Language (SQL), is a basic prerequisite for all database professionals.

Second, although various efforts to standardize database technology exist, much of the whiz-bang capability that databases and database applications can deliver come from proprietary, vendor-specific technologies. Most serious, heavy-duty database skills and knowledge are tied to specific platforms, including various Oracle products (such as the open source MySQL environment), Microsoft SQL Server, IBM DB2 and more.

It's important to note that NoSQL databases – referred to as "not only SQL" and sometimes "non-relational" – handle many types of data, such as structured, semi-structured, unstructured and polymorphic. NoSQL databases are increasingly used in big data applications, which tend to be associated with certifications for data scientists, data mining/warehousing and business intelligence.

Before you look at each of our featured certifications in detail, consider their popularity with employers. The results of an informal job search conducted on several high-traffic job boards shows which database certifications employers look for when hiring new employees. The results vary from day to day (and job board to job board), but such numbers provide perspective on database certification demand.




LinkedIn Jobs



IBM Certified Database Administrator - DB2






Microsoft SQL Server database certifications*






Oracle Certified Professional, MySQL  Database Administrator






Oracle Database 12c Administrator**












*Combined totals for MCSA: SQL Database Administration (1,413), MCSA: SQL Database Development (1,177), MCSE: Data Management and Analytics (664) and MTA: Database (356).
**Search phrase included the word "certification." More than 2,490 hits using Oracle Database 12c Administrator as the search phrase.

If the sheer number of available database-related positions isn't enough motivation to pursue a certification, consider average salaries for database administrators. SimplyHired reports $85,330 as the national average, in a range from $58,000 to just more than $124,000. Glassdoor's average is somewhat higher – $89,626 – with a top rung right around $122,000.

IBM is considered one of the leaders in the worldwide database market, according to Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems. The company's database portfolio includes the industry-standard DB2, as well as IBM Compose, Information Management System (IMS), lnformix, Cloudant and IBM Open Platform (Hadoop). IBM also has a long-standing and well-populated IT certification program, which has been around for more than 30 years and encompasses hundreds of individual credentials.

One of the company's major certification categories is called IBM Analytics, which includes a range of database credentials: Database Associate, Database Administrator, Advanced Database Administrator, Solutions Developer and more. It's a big complex certification space, but one where particular platform allegiances are likely to guide readers straight to the handful of items that are probably relevant to their interests and needs.

Database professionals who support DB2 (or aspire to) on Linux, Unix or Windows should check out the IBM Certified Database Administrator - DB2. It's an intermediate-level credential that addresses routine administration, basic SQL, and creation of databases and database objects, as well as server management, monitoring, availability and security.

The certification requires candidates to pass two exams. Training is recommended but not required.

Certification Name

IBM Certified Database Administrator - DB2 (z/OS, Linux, UNIX, and Windows)

Prerequisites & Required Courses

None required
Recommended courses available

Number of Exams

Two exams: IBM DB2 11.1 DBA for LUW (exam C2090-600) (60 questions, 90 minutes)


  • DB2 10.5 Fundamentals for LUW (exam C2090-615) (62 questions, 90 minutes)


  • DB2 11.1 Fundamentals for LUW (exam C2090-616) (63 questions, 90 minutes)

Cost per Exam

$200 (or local currency equivalent) per exam. Sign up for exams at Pearson VUE.


http://www-03.ibm.com/certify/certs.html?unit=IBM Analytics

Self-Study Materials

Each exam webpage provides exam objectives, suggested training courses, and links to study guides for sale through MC Press Publications. Click the Exam Preparation tab for detailed information. Visit the Prepare for Your Certification Exam webpage.

While it is not the No. 1 database platform (that honor goes to Oracle), Microsoft's SQL Server platform bumped IBM a few years ago to take second place in DBMS market share (per Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems, 2016), and it ranks third in overall database engine popularity as of October 2017.

SQL Server offers a broad range of tools and add-ons for business intelligence, data warehousing and data-driven applications of all kinds. That probably explains why Microsoft offers database-related credentials at every level of its certification program, from the Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) all the way to the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) program.

In September 2016, Microsoft announced significant changes to its certification program, adding five new certifications to the MCSE and Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) programs alone. These certifications are designed to support Windows Server 2016 and Microsoft SQL Server 2016, among other technologies. For database administrators, the new MCSE: Data Management and Analytics may be of most interest, which you'll learn about later in this section.

The MTA program includes a single database-related exam: Database Fundamentals (98-364). This credential is ideal for students or as an entry-level certification for professionals looking to segue into database support.

Microsoft offers several SQL-related credentials at the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) level:

  • MCSA: SQL Server 2012/2014 (three exams)
  • MCSA: SQL 2016 BI Development (two exams)
  • MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Administration (two exams)
  • MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Development (two exams)

At the Microsoft MCSE level is one SQL database credential: Data Management and Analytics. This certification requires an MCSA as a prerequisite and then passing one elective exam. To maintain this certification, individuals must pass an additional elective exam each year.

Certification Name

MTA Database
MCSA: SQL Server 2012/2014
MCSA: SQL 2016 BI Development
MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Administration
MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Development
MCSE: Data Management and Analytics

Prerequisites & Required Courses

No prerequisites for:
MTA Database
MCSA: SQL Server 2012/2014
MCSA: SQL 2016 BI Development
MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Administration
MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Development

MCSE Data Management and Analytics prerequisite (only one required):
MCSA: SQL Server 2012/2014
MCSA: SQL 2016 BI Development
MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Administration
MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Development
MCSA: Machine Learning
MCSA: BI Reporting
MCSA: Data Engineering with Azure

Training courses available and recommended for all certifications but not required.

Number of Exams

MTA: One exam, Database Fundamentals (98-364)

MCSA: SQL Server: Three exams:
Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012 (70-461)
Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases (70-462)
Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server 2012 (70-463)

MCSA: SQL 2016 BI Development: Two exams:
Implementing a SQL Data Warehouse (70-767)
Developing SQL Data Models (70-768)

MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Administration: Two exams:
Administering a SQL Database Infrastructure (70-764)
Provisioning SQL Databases (70-765)

MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Development: Two exams:
Querying Data with Transact-SQL (70-761)
Developing SQL Databases (70-762)

MCSE: Data Management and Analytics: One exam:
Designing and Implementing Cloud Data Platform Solution (70-473)

Designing and Implementing Big Data Analytics Solutions (70-475)

Developing Microsoft SQL Server Databases (70-464)

Designing Database Solutions for Microsoft SQL Server (70-465)
Implementing Data Models and Reports with Microsoft SQL Server (70-466)

Designing Business Intelligence Solutions with Microsoft SQL Server (70-467)

Developing SQL Databases (70-762)
Implementing a SQL Data Warehouse (70-767)
Developing SQL Data Models (70-768)
Analyzing Big Data with Microsoft R (70-773)
Perform Cloud Data Science with Azure Machine Learning (70-774)
Perform Data Engineering on Microsoft Azure HDInsight (70-775)

All exams administered by Pearson VUE.

Cost per Exam

MTA: $127 (or equivalent in local currency outside the USA)

MCSA/MCSE: $165 (or equivalent) per exam



Self-Study Materials

Microsoft offers the world's largest and best-known IT certification program, so the MTA, MCSA and MCSE certs are well-supported with books, study guides, study groups, practice tests and so forth.

Oracle runs its certifications under the auspices of Oracle University. The Oracle Database Certifications page lists separate tracks for Database Application Development (SQL and PL/SQL, and Oracle APEX), MySQL (Database Administration and Developer) and Oracle Database (versions 12c, 12c R2 and 11g, Database Cloud, and Oracle Spatial 11g).

MySQL is perhaps the leading open-source relational database management system (RDBMS). Since acquiring Sun Microsystems in 2010 (which had previously acquired MySQL AB), Oracle has rolled out a paid version of MySQL and developed certifications to support the product.

A candidate interested in pursuing an Oracle MySQL certification can choose between MySQL Database Administration or MySQL Developer. The Oracle Certified Professional, MySQL 5.6 Database Administrator (OCP) credential recognizes professionals who can install, optimize and monitor MySQL Server, configure replication, apply security and schedule and validate database backups.

The certification requires candidates to pass a single exam (the same exam can be taken to upgrade a prior certification). Oracle recommends training and on-the-job experience before taking the exam.

Certification Name

Oracle Certified Professional, MySQL 5.6 Database Administrator

Prerequisites & Required Courses

None required

Recommended: MySQL for Database Administrators five-day course; on demand $2,325, classroom $2,650, live virtual $2,525

Number of Exams

One exam: MySQL 5.6 Database Administrator (1Z0-883) (100 multiple-choice questions, 150 minutes)

Cost per Exam

$245 (or local currency equivalent). Purchase exam voucher through Oracle University. Exam administered by Pearson VUE.