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MongoDB Certification Guide: Overview and Career Paths

Ed Tittel
Ed Tittel

MongoDB is a free, open source cross-platform database management system (DBMS) that qualifies as a NoSQL player. As it gets used more and more frequently for organizing and accessing all kinds of big data stashes, organizations are reaching out to hire qualified MongoDB professionals in droves.

About a decade ago, a startup company named 10gen came together under a staff of former DoubleClick stars, including ex-CTO Dwight Merriman, ex-CEO Kevin Ryan and ex-engineer Eliot Horowitz. With $81M in venture capital funding to work with, 10gen sought to create a platform as a service (PaaS) architecture based on open source components. When the team could find no database platform to match their needs for a cloud-friendly implementation, they developed their own document-oriented database system. They called it MongoDB.

Mongo comes from the word, humongous, which represents the scale of data and documents the system it is intended to accommodate and organize. After understanding the potential of this software in and of itself, 10gen decided to drop its platform aspiration and concentrate on MongoDB instead.

In 2009, 10gen release MongoDB as an open source project. One year later the company opened a west coast office in Palo Alto. By 2012 it had offices in Reston, VA, London, Dublin, Barcelona and Sydney. By 2013, 10gen announced its name change to MongoDB, Incorporated, the name under which it does business to this day.

Given that MongoDB is an open source project, it may seem odd that a company such as MongoDB could make a business out of an open-ended, format-agnostic big data platform. MongoDB offers its platform as a subscription service that includes commercial licensing of its flagship product MongoDB Enterprise, professional support, plus monitoring and security features with an encrypted storage engine, advanced security (LDSP, Kerberos and auditing) and more.

Organizations that use such software in their day-to-day business activities also want access to qualified professional consulting and technical support services. They also expect regular updates and a technician to call when things go wrong. MongoDB’s consulting services have also proved enormously popular. These types of positions require IT pros who are knowledgeable about MongoDB and who have top-notch skills. In fact, certification is a great way to recognize those who possess such qualifications.

MongoDB Certification Program Overview

MongoDB offers certifications and training through MongoDB University. The program currently embraces two tracks, which the company calls roles:

  • Database Administrators (DBAs) are fluent in managing MongoDB, including its run-time configuration, processes, sharding, backup and recovery, monitoring and performance tuning.
  • Database Developers are fluent in one or more programming languages, each with its own associated MongoDB driver. They also understand the minutiae of performing MongoDB CRUD (Create, Read, Update and Delete) operations, indexing, aggregation, replication and basic database scaling.

For each role, there three levels of certification are defined: Associate, Professional and Master. However, presently only the Associate level for each role is available. The others are still in the planning and development stages.

MongoDB exams cost $150 each, and are administered online through the company's proctoring partner, Examity (a company with deep roots and use in the academic world, primarily for online college-level coursework). Taking a MongoDB exam requires an Internet-attached computer running either Windows or Mac OS X with a working webcam. Exams run for 90 minutes, impose no penalties for incorrect answers, and include multiple-choice and check-all-that-apply question types.

MongoDB Certified DBA Associate

The MongoDB Certified DBA Associate credential targets professionals who've worked with MongoDB and who have knowledge of its concepts and mechanics. The target audience aims at operations professionals familiar with the fundamentals of MongoDB, and who have some professional experience in administering this database environment.

Although the exam has no prerequisites, MongoDB recommends that candidates have completed some training before attempting the exam. The C100DBA exam is 90 minutes long and is administered online.

Candidates are required to have knowledge of database concepts, the fundamentals of system programming and basic JavaScript programming skills. MongoDB exam topics include application administration, server administration, CRUD operations, indexing and aggregation, replication and sharding, as well as an understanding of MongoDB philosophy and features.

Detailed exam objectives, requirements and exam information for the MongoDB Certified DBA Associate credential are available on the C100DBA exam page.

MongoDB Certified Developer Associate

As with the DBA certification offerings, MongoDB's developer certification lineup currently only includes an Associate level credential. The MongoDB Certified Developer Associate credential targets professionals who have designed and built business applications using MongoDB. The target audience includes software engineers with a solid understanding of MongoDB fundamentals who have some professional experience developing applications built upon MongoDB.

There are no formal prerequisites for this exam, but it is recommended that candidates complete a training course before sitting in for the exam. The C100DEV exam is 90 minutes long and is administered online.

Developers interested in this certification should have experience with software development, database concepts, system programming and basic JavaScript. Knowledge areas listed for the developer exam include data modeling, indexing and performance, aggregation and replication, sharding, and CRUD operations, along with MongoDB philosophy and features.

Detailed exam objectives and requirements for the MongoDB Certified Developer Associate credential are available on the C100DEV exam page.

Job Opportunities and Training Resources for MongoDB Certified Professionals

According to the job posting sites such as Indeed, Simply Hired, Glassdoor and others, there is strong demand for individuals with developer or administrator skills in MongoDB. Most of the positions listed focus on a variety of administration and server engineering skills on the admin side (such as Database Admin, Database Server Engineer, Database Specialist, Data Analytics and Visualization Engineer) or the development side (such as Senior Developer, Team Lead, Web Developer, Applications Engineer).

In checking the top 10 metro areas in the U.S., all had more than 250 open MongoDB-related positions. Nationwide, more than 7,000 positions seek a MongoDB DBA, developer or similar professional.

When candidates register (and pay for) for a MongoDB exam, they obtain access to the company's MongoDB Certification Study Guide (its cost is included in the exam price).

Free online courses are available from MongoDB university. Private training is also available, by prior arrangement with MongoDB. Training is recommended prior to taking MongoDB exams but is not required. The free online training and study guide materials suffice to prepare candidates to take MongoDB cert exams, according to most online accounts.

Any of the introductory classes in MongoDB University's Online Course Catalog relevant for developers (four in all, with focus on Java, Node.js, .NET, and Python) apply to the MongoDB Certified Developer Associate exam. Course M103: Basic Cluster Administration, M121: The MongoDB Aggregation Framework, M201: MongoDB Performance, M310: MongoDB Security and M312: Diagnostics & Debugging target those interested in the DBA exam. MongoDB University also offers some intermediate and advanced courses that candidates should check out to improve their knowledge and skills.

MongoDB University also recommends additional certification preparation resources for interested IT professionals, including:

Given that MongoDB has released only the initial elements of its certification program at the Associate level, it's still a work in progress. But given the high (and growing) demand for qualified, capable MongoDB professionals in the workforce, this may be something of a golden opportunity for interested IT professionals. If this means you, we urge you to check out and dig into the program and its materials. At $150 per exam, including an official study guide, this is one of the few great bargains out there on the IT certification landscape.

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Ed Tittel
Ed Tittel
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
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 and blogged for numerous publications, including Tom's Hardware, and is the author of over 140 computing books with a special emphasis on information security, Web markup languages and development tools, and Windows operating systems.