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SAP Certification Guide: Overview and Career Paths

SAP certification
Credit: Georgejmclittle/Shutterstock

SAP is a global company that specializes in enterprise business software, including customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, supplier relationship management and much more. SAP began in Waldorf, Germany, in 1972, headed up by five former IBM engineers who wanted to provide standardized software to integrate business processes. Today, SAP has more than 345,000 customers and more than 84,000 employees.

SAP reports that 87 percent of Ford Global 2000 companies, along with 98 percent of the 100 most valued brands, use SAP solutions. In addition, 100 percent of the top-scoring sustainability companies as reported by Dow Jones also use SAP. To accommodate the business need for qualified professionals, SAP manages a large certification program to ensure outstanding product and client support and to narrow the IT skills gap. Currently, SAP's certification program is home to more than 350,000 certified SAP professionals worldwide.

SAP offers more than 150 certifications, each targeted at some specific SAP product. You can explore SAP certifications on the company's website by product, solution category, or delivery method and location. Certifications are generally found at the associate, specialist or professional levels, which may be understood as follows:

  • Associate certifications: These are designed for people who are new to SAP solutions and may have learned about SAP technologies from manuals or training courses.
     
  • Specialist certifications: These build on the associate-level credentials and recognize professionals with skills in specific components or roles.
     
  • Professional certifications: These recognize individuals with deep knowledge of SAP solutions and hands-on experience.

No prerequisite skills, training or other certifications are required for the associate- and professional-level credentials. To obtain a specialist designation, candidates must possess an associate-level credential.

In addition, SAP certifications do not require recertification. However, to ensure skills remain up to date, SAP monitors your credentials and notifies you when one or more of your credentials becomes outdated. The company develops Delta exams when a SAP solution is released that has undergone significant changes. Certification holders must take one or more Delta exams within six months to keep their skills, knowledge and certifications current.

Associate- and professional-level certifications require a single exam. Specialty certifications require candidates to pass both the specialty and associate-level exam. You can purchase an exam voucher through the SAP website, and then take the exam at a SAP Training Center or through Pearson VUE.

Some certifications are available through the SAP Certification in the Cloud program. For an annual subscription of $550, candidates may take up to six exams in a 12-month period. (To understand the significance of this deal, the Certification in the Cloud fee is roughly equivalent to the cost of one exam when taken through a physical testing center.) For those seeking multiple certs, it's worth taking the time to review what certs are available through the Cloud program.

MORE: Best IT Training

Those familiar with SAP certifications may recall that, in the past, certifications were classified by job roles such as system administrator, system architect and developer. While job roles still play a major part in its certification program, today SAP classifies its certifications by solution category. This allows SAP professionals the ability to easily locate training and certifications related to their areas of interest and expertise within an organization. Currently, there are 14 solution categories:

  • SAP Ariba Procure-to-Pay (P2P)
  • SAP Business One
  • SAP Business Objects
  • SAP Customer Relationship Management
  • SAP Enterprise Resource Planning
  • SAP HANA
  • SAP NetWeaver
  • SAP Product Lifecycle Management
  • SAP Solution Manager
  • SAP Supplier Relationship Management
  • SAP Supply Chain Management
  • SAP Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise (SAP Sybase ASE)
  • SAP Enterprise Mobility Solutions
  • SAP Industry Solutions

In these categories, most certifications fall within the associate level, but you'll also find many professional and specialist certs all over the SAP certification portfolio. SAP lists all current certification exams on its Training and Certification Shop page under the List of Valid Exams link (PDF available here). Because we can't cover all categories and certifications in this article, let's take a look at some of the most popular SAP certification solution categories to give you the gist of what SAP offers.

SAP NetWeaver is a popular platform; you'll find SAP NetWeaver certifications focused on administering SAP applications such as ERP, CRM, Java and ABAP, as well as business warehouse, portal, integration technologies and development. Available certifications vary depending on the category, but here are some examples of these current certifications:

Administration

Technology Associate - SAP NetWeaver 7.4, Technology Consultant OS/DB Migration for SAP NetWeaver 7.4

Business Warehouse

Application Associate - Business intelligence with SAP NetWeaver 7.0

Portal

Technology Associate - SAP Enterprise Portal 7.4.0

Process integration technologies

Development Associate/Technology Associate - Process Integration with SAP NetWeaver 7.31

Programming ABAP

Development Associate - ABAP with SAP NetWeaver 7.40 or 7.50

SAP provides numerous NetWeaver training opportunities too, including project team training.

When you think of distributed systems and technical support, think SAP Solution Manager. SAP Solution Manager enables professionals to manage complete SAP-based solution environments, including selection and implementation, daily operations, and ensuring system reliability.

SAP offers many training opportunities and certs to prepare professionals to work with SAP Solution Manager. Training is classified into several subcategories, including general solution overviews, project management, end-to-end solutions, how to configure and how to use.

SAP offers various certs to those professionals responsible for implementing and maintaining systems with Solution Manager, including several Certified Technology Associate credentials with concentrations in change control management, business process monitoring and business process interface monitoring. Each cert comes with its own road map of recommended training.

One of the interesting SAP Solution Manager certs is the SAP Certified Associate Project Manager. This cert goes beyond traditional project management skills and specifically focuses on validating skills necessary to manage SAP projects. Exam topics include data management, key deliverables within the work stream, business process management, managing technical solutions including ASAP methodology, implementing SAP projects, enabling tools, key ASAP concepts, training within the SAP methodology, change management, SAP NetWeaver capabilities, test and cutover management, and "running SAP like a factory" with enabling tools.

SAP maintains a full Database and Technologies training and certification portfolio for those interested in DB administration, integration, security, development or performance. In addition to SAP ASE, other concentration areas include SAP IQ, SAP Replication Server, SAP Power Builder and SAP Power Designer.

The SAP ASE portfolio includes two subcategories: ASE Administration and ASE Development. Each offers a single Technology Associate cert.

In the ASE Administration track, you'll find the Technology Associate – Database Administrator for SAP Sybase ASE 15.7. Exam topics include database backup, server configuration, tuning with Logical Process Management, transactions using Transact-SQL functions, architecture and installation, maintenance, security, table management, database administration and data analysis. Training focuses on SAP Adaptive Server Enterprise and includes a fast-track course for those looking to jump-start their careers. Other courses include System and Database Administration, Performance and Tuning: Configuring Adaptive Server Enterprise, and Powering Up with Sybase Adaptive Server.

In the ASE Development track, SAP offers the SAP Certified Technology Associate – Development Consultant for SAP Sybase ASE 15.7. This exam validates a candidate's knowledge of data analysis, query optimization and statistics, query access methods, join processing, table and index structure, transaction concepts, stored procedures and optimization, and ASE performance tuning and basics. Recommended training courses include Fast Track to SAP Adaptive Server Enterprise, and Performance and Tuning: Adaptive Server Enterprise 16.0 Query Optimization.

SAP certifications touch on nearly every business process across every major industry. A quick search of online job sites offers a glimpse of the breadth of jobs available for SAP-certified individuals. A sugar manufacturer in Minnesota is seeking a SAP developer to design, build, monitor, test and tune SAP ERP applications. A leading technical services provider is seeking a SAP administrator to "own" all aspects of the customer's SAP application infrastructure, focusing on management of SAP incident, problem, risk and change management. A global SAP Business One value-added reseller is seeking a technical SAP sales associate to provide consulting and support services for SAP ERP solutions to customers.

Whether you're a business analyst, business process owner, developer, IT administrator, team lead, trainer, power user or executive and work with SAP products, you'll find a wide breadth of career opportunities available. SAP offers instructor-led classroom training at its SAP Training Centers around the world. Virtual live classroom training is also available, which is taught by SAP experts and includes access to live SAP systems for immersive learning. You can also take interactive e-learning courses that complement classroom training by signing up for a single course or subscribing to multiple courses.

The SAP E-Academy offers training to help you learn about specific SAP solution areas and to prepare you for certification exams. You receive one to five months of access to self-paced courses. SAP e-Learning offers single course access for those interested in pursuing a single training course at a time. Candidates seeking to sharpen their skills can sign up for Live Access, which allows candidates to practice existing skills in a supported SAP environment. If none of those learning options works for you, check out the SAP Learning Hub. Here you'll find round-the-clock access to all the training you want.

Finally, SAP provides sample questions, formerly actual questions on previous live exams, for most cert exams. You can view sample questions by clicking the sample question PDF link on an exam's webpage.

Learn more about SAP training delivery options at training.sap.com.

MORE: IT Career Paths and Certification Guides
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Ed Tittel

Ed is a 30-year-plus veteran of the computing industry, who has worked as a programmer, a technical manager, a classroom instructor, a network consultant and a technical evangelist for companies that include Burroughs, Schlumberger, Novell, IBM/Tivoli and NetQoS. He has written for numerous publications, including Tom's IT Pro, and is the author of more than 140 computing books on information security, web markup languages and development tools, and Windows operating systems.

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