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Best Database Certifications for 2019

Best database certifications 2019
Credit: Best-Backgrounds/Shutterstock

Savvy, talented and knowledgeable database professionals are always in demand. Here are some of the best certifications for DBAs, database developers and anyone else working with databases.

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 computing, storage or computer forensics, but the reality is that there has been and will always be a need for knowledgeable database professionals at all levels and in numerous database-related job roles.

To get a better grasp of the available database certifications, it's useful to group them around 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, etc.) to establish data history, analyze trends, generate reports and forecasts, and support general ad hoc queries.

Careful attention to these database job roles highlights two important technical issues for would-be database professionals to consider. First, a good general background in relational database management systems, including an understanding of 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 deliver come from proprietary, vendor-specific technologies. Serious, heavy-duty database skills and knowledge are tied to specific platforms, including various Oracle products (such as the open source MySQL environment and Oracle itself), Microsoft SQL Server, IBM DB2 and more. That's why most of the certifications relate directly to those very same and enormously popular platforms.

It's important to note that NoSQL databases – referred to as "not only SQL" and sometimes "nonrelational" – handle many different 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. Although there is some natural overlap, for the most part, we cover those certs in our annually updated Best Big Data Certifications article.

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

Certification

SimplyHired 

 Indeed 

 LinkedIn Jobs 

 LinkUp 

Total

IBM Certified Database Administrator - DB2

428

475

284

221

1,408

Microsoft SQL Server database certifications**

5,447

6,525

8,984

3,522

24,478

Oracle Certified Professional, MySQL Database Administrator

432

534

50

200

1,216

Oracle Database 12c Administrator

217

241

33

176

667

SAP HANA

88

82

12

43

225

*See our complete methodology for selecting top five certifications in the "Best Certifications" series.

**Combined totals for MCSA: SQL Database Administration (540), MCSA: SQL Database Development (569), MCSE: Data Management and Analytics (640) and MTA: Database (503).

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 $86,861 as the national average in the U.S., in a range from $59,696 to over $126,000. Glassdoor's average is somewhat higher – $93,164 – with a top rung right around $123,000.

Now let's look at the details of our top five database certification picks for 2019.

IBM is considered one of the leaders in the worldwide database market, according to an article on Gartner. The company's database portfolio includes the industry standard DB2 as well as IBM Compose, its 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, System Administrator, Application Developer and more. It's a big and 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.

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

Certification Name

IBM Certified Database Administrator - DB2 11.1 (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)

PLUS

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

               OR

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

Cost per Exam

$200 (or local currency equivalent) per exam ($400 total). Sign up for exams at Pearson VUE.

URL

https://www.ibm.com/certify/cert?id=08002109

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. Also, visit the Prepare for Your Certification Exam webpage.

More: IBM Certifications & Career Paths

According to Gartner's piece, Microsoft's SQL Server platform bumped Oracle this year to earn the top place in DBMS market share, and it ranks third in overall database engine popularity as of August 2018.

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.

Learn Microsoft SQL and DataBase concepts from scratch on Udemy 

The MTA program includes a single database-related exam: Database Fundamentals (98-364). This credential is ideal for students or as an entry-level cert 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, there is one SQL database credential: Data Management and Analytics. This certification requires an MCSA as a prerequisite (list of valid items follows in table) and then passing one elective exam.

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 2012/2014 (70-461)
Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012/2014 Databases (70-462)  
Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server 2012/2014 (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 Solutions (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 Data Warehouse Using SQL (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)

Implementing Microsoft Azure Cosmos DB Solutions (Beta) (70-777)

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

URL

www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/certification-overview.aspx

Self-Study Materials

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

More: Microsoft Certifications & Career Paths

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), MySQL (Database Administration and Developer) and Oracle Database (versions 12c, 12c R2, and 11g, 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 5.7 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 5.7 Database Administrator

Prerequisites & Required Courses

None required

Recommended: MySQL for Database Administrators Ed4 five-day course; on demand $2,325, classroom $2,650, live virtual $2,525

Number of Exams

One exam: MySQL 5.7 Database Administrator (1Z0-888) (75 multiple-choice questions, 120 minutes)

Cost per Exam

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

URL

https://education.oracle.com/pls/web_prod-plq-dad/db_pages.getpage?page_id=654&get_params=p_id:260

Self-Study Materials

Exam topics and links to recommended training are available on the exam webpage (click the Exam Preparation tab).

More: Oracle Certifications & Career Paths

Most Oracle DBMS credentials require candidates to attend authorized training classes to qualify for the related exam, but MySQL (and Sun-derived) credentials often do not. Oracle certifications also represent a true ladder, in that it is generally necessary to earn the associate-level credentials first, professional-level credentials second and master-level credentials third, culminating at the expert level.

Oracle Database 12c R2 is the latest Oracle database version, which includes enhancements to Oracle Database 12c. Currently, Oracle 12c certifications are offered at the associate, professional and master levels.

A Foundations Junior Associate certification (novice level) is also available for Oracle Database 12c, as are three specialist designations – the Implementation Specialist, the Oracle Database Performance and Tuning 2015 Certified Implementation Specialist, and the Oracle Real Application Clusters 12c Certified Implementation Specialist. Expert-level credentials that are available include the Oracle Certified Expert, Oracle Database 12c: RAC and Grid Infrastructure Administrator, Oracle Database 12c Maximum Availability Certified Expert, Oracle Certified Expert, Oracle Database 12c: Data Guard Administrator, the Oracle Certified Expert, and the Oracle Database 12c: Performance Management and Tuning. Oracle offers two 12c R2 certifications: Oracle Database 12c R2 Administration Certified Associate and Professional. Oracle 11g certifications are still offered as well.

Note: Although premium support for Oracle 11g Database ended on Dec. 31, 2014, extended support is until December 2020, so it's probable Oracle Database 11g will remain in use for the next few years.

We focus on requirements for Oracle 12c and 12c R2 Database certifications. One important consideration is that Oracle 11g is forward-compatible with Oracle 12c, but Oracle 12c is not backward- compatible with the prior version. Because Oracle 12c is a newer version, IT professionals possessing Oracle 11g certifications should explore upgrades to those credentials.

Certification Name

Oracle Database 12c Administrator Certified Associate (OCA 12c)
Oracle Database 12c Administrator Certified Professional (OCP 12c)
Oracle Database 12c Administrator Certified Master Certification (OCM 12c)
Oracle Database 12c Maximum Availability Certified Master
Oracle Database 12c R2 Administration Certified Associate (OCA 12c R2)
Oracle Database 12c R2 Administration Certified Professional (OCP 12c R2) upgrade

Prerequisites & Required Courses

OCA 12c: Training recommended but not required

OCP 12c: OCA 12c credential, one training course required, complete course submission form

OCM 12c: OCP 12c or 12cR2 credential, two advanced training courses (must be different than the course used to achieve the OCP), complete course submission form, submit Fulfillment Kit Request

Oracle Database 12c Maximum Availability Certified Master: Three credentials:
Oracle Database12c Administrator Certified Master
Oracle Certified Expert, Oracle Database 12c: RAC and Grid Infrastructure Administration
Oracle Certified Expert, Oracle Database 12c: Data Guard Administration

OCA 12c R2: OCA Database SQL, OCA 11g, OCA 12c or 12c SQL Fundamentals

OCP 12c R2: OCA 12cR2 credential, complete required training course, complete the course submission form.

Oracle Training: Classes typically run two to five days; costs vary between $1,360 to over $5,580

Number of Exams

OCA 12c: Two exams
Choose one exam from the following:

Oracle Database 12c SQL (1Z0-071) (73 questions, 100 minutes)

     OR

Oracle Database 12c: SQL Fundamentals (1Z0-061) (75 questions, 120 minutes)

     PLUS

Oracle Database 12c: Installation and Administration (1Z0-062) (67 questions, 120 minutes)

OCP 12c: One exam: Oracle Database 12c: Advanced Administration (1Z0-063) (80 questions, 120 minutes)
OCM 12c: One exam: Oracle Database 12c Certified Master (12COCM), a two-day, performance-based exam

Oracle Database 12c Maximum Availability Certified Master: None
OCA 12c R2: One exam: Oracle Database 12cR2 Administration (1Z0-072) (70 questions, 90 minutes)
OCP 12c R2: One exam: Oracle DBA 12cR2 Advanced Administration (1Z0-073) (70 questions, 100 minutes)

Cost per Exam

OCA 12c: 1Z0-061 costs $125; 1Z0-071 and 1Z0-062 cost $245 each

OCP 12c: 1Z0-063 costs $245

OCM 12c: 12COCM costs $2,584; contact Oracle for pricing/availability of upgrade exam

Oracle Database 12c Maximum Availability Certified Master: None

OCA 12c R2: 1Z0-072 costs $245

OCP 12c R2: 1Z0-073 costs $245

Note: Prices vary by geography

URL

https://education.oracle.com/pls/web_prod-plq-dad/ou_product_category.getFamilyPage?p_family_id=32&p_mode=Certification

Self-Study Materials

Each Oracle certification exam webpage lists exam topics as well as recommended training courses, seminars and practice tests. A variety of self-study guides are available on Amazon. Oracle Database certification candidates benefit from student manuals, labs and software provided as part of class offerings.

More: Oracle Certifications & Career Paths

SAP SE (SAP) has a large portfolio of business application and analytics software, including cloud infrastructure, applications, and storage. The foundation of the SAP HANA platform is an enterprise-grade relational database management system, which can be run as an appliance on premises or in the cloud. The cloud platform enables customers to build and run applications and services based on SAP HANA.

SAP offers a large certification program, built to support its various platforms and products. We chose to feature the SAP Certified Technology Associate - SAP HANA cert, because it is closely aligned with other certifications in this article and because of employer demand. This certification ensures that database professionals can install, manage, monitor, migrate and troubleshoot SAP HANA systems, which covers managing users and authorization, applying security, and ensuring high availability and disaster recovery techniques.

SAP recommends that certification candidates get hands-on practice through training or on-the-job experience before attempting this exam. The SAP Learning Hub is a subscription service that gives access to a library of learning materials, including e-learning courses and course handbooks. A free trial is available for first-time users; the annual subscription rate for individual users is about $300.

Typically, SAP certifications achieved on one of the two most recent SAP solutions are considered current and valid. SAP contacts professionals whose certifications are nearing end of life and provides information on maintaining their credentials.

Certification Name

SAP Certified Technology Associate - SAP HANA (Edition 2016)

Prerequisites  & Required Courses        

 None required
 Recommended: SAP HANA Installation & Operations SPS12 (HA200) course, $3,750

Number of Exams

One exam: SAP Certified Application Associate - SAP HANA (Edition 2016), exam code C_HANATEC_12, (80 questions, 180 minutes)

Cost per Exam

$500. Purchase exam voucher through SAP. Exam administered by SAP Education organization centers and Pearson VUE

URL

https://training.sap.com/certification/c_hanatec_12-sap-certified-technology-associate---sap-hana-edition-2016-g/

Self-Study Materials

The certification webpage includes a link to sample questions. SAP HANA trade books and certification guides are available on Amazon. The SAP Help Center offers product documentation and a training and certification FAQ. The SAP Learning Hub (available on a subscription basis) provides access to online learning content.

More: SAP Certifications & Career Paths

Beyond the items mentioned in this article, other database certification programs are available to further the careers and professional development of IT professionals who work with database management systems.

While most colleges with computer programs offer database tracks at the undergraduate, master's and Ph.D. levels, there are few well-known vendor-neutral database certifications. The Institute for the Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP) is part of this unique group, offering its Certified Data Professional (CDMP).

EnterpriseDB administers a small but effective certification program, with two primary certs: the PostgreSQL Associate and the PostgreSQL Professional. PostgreSQL is the No. 4-ranked relational database management system in August 2018 according to DB-Engines.

Credentials from GoogleMarkLogicTeradata and SAS may also be worth pondering. However, such niches in the database certification arena are generally only worth pursuing if you already work with such platforms or plan to work for an outfit that uses them.