SQL Server 2008 Certifications Make My Head Hurt

Well, at least trying to decide the certification story.  I haven't taken the exams for 2005 yet, let alone 2008.

SO, early thoughts on where the SQL story might go are causing some churn, concern and heartburn.  Be that as it may, I am considering, note I didn't say creating, the following story.  Tell me what you think.

For MCTS on SQL;

1 - TS on DBA (Database Adminstrator)

1 - TS on DBD (Database Developer)

1 - TS on SQL BI


For Pro;

1 - Pro DBA

1 - Pro DBD

1 - Pro BI


My question is, in your organizations, is there a true, clear distinction between a database administrator and database developer?  Are they the same person or seperate roles?

Orgs I have worked in before Microsoft had both.  For example, just before I came to MS, I was a DBA/DBD for a consulting company.  I was also a developer pimarily but, when it came to our SQL installs, I did the installation, backup, security etc., all the admin stuff.  Plus I also wrote stored procs, views, triggers, dealt with indexes, file groups, partioning, DTS etc.  The main reason was because I was the only SQL guy there.

Now, larger orgs have more than one SQL person on staff and I have been told by numerous SQL people already that there is a clear distinction between the two roles.

As always, your opinions and comments are welcome.

Have a great weekend!  I'm off to go skiing.



Comments (27)
  1. Well, at least trying to decide the certification story. I haven't taken the exams for 2005 yet,

  2. rob_cert says:

    Personally, I think the Pro DBA is an obvious role – I mean any company with any kind of IT footprint employs at least one DBA. At the place I work (a very large global company) the DBAs handle all the stuff you said; upkeep, security, backups, db alterations, indexes etc.

    What we don’t have is anyone in a specific DBD role. I mean we have people developing components for the data tier, and this is probably as close to a DBD as we’ll get, but the role is still more geared towards professional developer as opposed to professional database developer. For smaller companies I’ve worked for, the role of DBD is even more blurred.

    I think the DBD certification is quite a niche role. Saying that, I fully intend to become a MCITP DBD, but it will be along side my MCPDs.

    But hey, I’ve only worked at a few places so in the rest of the world, having a DBA and a DBD might be the norm! Just thought I’d let you know what the deal is for me.

  3. Shawn says:

    Clear distinction.

    I took the 2005 Pro DBD cert and it fit very well with my .NET developer role.  The DBA cert would not be useful to my role within my org.  There are dedicated DBAs that do no development.

  4. Jeff Key says:

    I have taught developers from many organizations and I have worked for several organizations in a management role.  My experience with small and medium size organizations has been that administration was done by the server administrator (MCSE) types and development was done by the programmer types.  There are many times that the senior devleopers will set up their own maintenance plans for their databases but that the regular monitoring will be by the server admins.  

  5. Thanks for the comments and the clarifications.  At least I can see I’m not too far off in my thoughts.

  6. Amit Bansal says:

    Yes. Clear distinction 🙂

  7. Andy Mackie says:

    DBD would be an ideal fit for me (developer who develops database applications, including table design, stored-procs, views, indexes, etc.), but not DBA. Client sites have full time DBA’s who are much more concerned with high availability, backup plans, etc. I think there is a clear distinction between DBD and DBA, although a fair bit of overlap.

  8. Wayne Anderson says:

    Gerry, they ar separate roles at the services company I work for.  They are often working hand in hand on a project and a developer may serve some administration function in a dev environment or the smallest of projects.  

    Any time we get into a production environment, we bring in people whose job it is to administer the environment.  At that point, we are usually discussing a scale where the skills and specialized knowledge of clustering, NLB, associated redundancy metrics, an understanding of the underlying performance charachteristics of various hardware, and methods of infrastructure construction all come into play.

    I dont go to a developer fully expecting that developer to completely understand the nuts and bolts of building the infrastructure on which a distributed SQL infrastructure will service a multi-tiered application.

    Similarly, I, as an engineer by training, would probably not be the person to come to if you want some help on optimizing something you wrote in T-SQL.

  9. Renato Martins says:


    even though I do not work administering databases on a daily basis, I’ve asked around for the guys that take care of customer databases in my company (global service provider, handling outsourced operations for global companies, with more than 10 thousand employees at my site only). The answers came really close to what I felt from my developer’s experience. Here’s what I’ve found:

    – DBAs are involved with daily maintenance tasks, such as backing up the server, tuning non-responsive queries, analyzing index stats

    – There would be a step higher than the DBAs (some called it the Data Architect, or Data Analyst), that would plan the scenario for the database (where does replication fit, for example), check how good the data in the db represents the real world problem, create the logical model, and so forth

    – Finally, what you’re calling the DBD would be, in most companies, the developer’s (Visual Studio, Eclipse, Rational expert) role. He’d define stored procs, triggers, and database objects, which would be checked and put into production by the DBA.

    Some mentioned that there can also be another role, more on the DBA side, but good programmer, they’ve called it (funny enough) a Hybrid DBA. It’s someone who wears both hats (developer and DBA).

    But regarding SQL2k8 certs, I really think they should be (but in this case, they’ll be as they are for 2005)

    – DBA -> maintenance, admin of everything (reporting, integration, replication), tuning, optimization. This guy needs to know some stuff about the operating system also, maybe having a TS: AD, or TS: Network config, as with the old MCDBA.

    – DBD -> code creation, creating stored procs, functions, complex queries, using the integration, and reporting tools

    – BI expert -> knows everything about Analysis services

    I know this haven’t changed much from what you were figuring, but hope this helps anyway.

  10. Thanks again everyone for the comments and reassurances that these two roles do exist but differ sometimes in the implementation, based on organization’s needs.


  11. What I like about the MCTS to MCITP path is that it is more of an issue for the individual to demonstrate capability, whether in a DBA, DEV, or BI role. In past lives, I worked in a number of SQL Server roles–in most cases requiring breadth across all three areas. In some of the larger client sites I visited, I encountered people working in dedicated DBA, DBD or BI roles. Ultimately, I imagine the argument for the validity of any of the tracks (in lieu of alignment to job roles in industry) is a pretty sterile one. In most cases (and all other things being equal, like personality traits, behavious, performance, etc.), the most valued individual is generally the one with the greatest command of the entire feature set for a given product.

    I believe that it is the value placed on versatility, that justifies a measurable baseline of knowledge in SQL Server 2008. This is something that was somewhat well-conceived in the SQL Server 2005 timeframe with exam 70-431, and, I believe should have remained consistent as a base requirement across all three tracks at the time (this was removed from the BI track). To my mind, what MS Learning has done so well with the MCTS for .NET 2.0 (and now .NET 3.5) is the inclusion of a ‘foundation’ exam (70-536). While I agree that segmenting SQL Server 2008 certifications into the three tracks (DBA, DB-DEV and BI-DEV) are important at the MCTS level, I believe a similar ‘foundation’ exam should be included that covers the key skill areas all SQL Server 2008 pros should be familiar with (T-SQL obviously, but there certainly are other common skills/tasks each role would perform with the product). The major difference in what I propose below, is that the foundation exam should serve its purpose completely, with little to no coverage of track-specific content. Again, I suspect command of T-SQL querying, performance, data types, tables, views, etc. would factor heavily here.

    To illustrate, all candidates would first have to sit a foundation exam:

    (70-XXX) MCTS: SQL Server 2008 Database Foundation

    Then, one (or more) of the dedicated MCTS tracks:

    (70-44X) MCTS: SQL Server 2008 Administration

    (70-44Y) MCTS: SQL Server 2008 Development

    (70-44Z) MCTS: SQL Server 2008 Business Intelligence

    Finally, one or more dedicated MCITP tracks:

    (70-444) MCITP: Database Administrator

    (70-442) MCITP: Database Developer

    (70-446) MCITP: Business Intelligence Developer

    The MCITPs exams would be consistent with the PRO-level case study approach used in the SQL Server 2005 series, and, should also include a single upgrade exam for those already carrying said designation.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents. Aim for a ‘foundation’ exam common to all three tracks, limit the max number of exams for each track to three (including the foundation), and stick with the plan for a single exam upgrade for current MCITPs (on SQL Server 2005). Most of all, please keep up the good work.



  12. Titus says:

    I have worked with organizations in which Dev and DBA roles are separate and also with organizations that have both roles combined.

    Even in organizations that have these roles separate, the Devs need to understand the implications of their code (SQL) on performance, scalability, etc. and almost always it becomes the responsibility of the DBA’s to troubleshoot/fix the dev’s code.

    It would be nice for the Dev track to have at least 20% DBA content (like performance, trouble shooting, etc.) (I haven’t taken the SQL 2005 exams so I am not sure whether this is already the case).

    On a side note, when do you expect the beta exams for SQL 2008 may be available?


  13. Thanks for the feedback Titus.

    The betas for the DBA and BI exams should be somewhere around the April/May timeframe.  It depends on how the development process goes.

    More information on that later though as it becomes available.


  14. Bart says:

    Hi Gerry, just having tauch 2780B to a group of medior system admins or helpdesk personal, I felt that both 2780B and it’s exam are far to difficult for most people without an university degree. That means that more than 80% of the ITpro are not capable of doing the 2780B excercises without a print-out of the detailed step-by-step provided on the CD. IOW MS is shooting for a too difficult course/exam. 50% of the topics covered in 2780B the attendees of my course will never be allowed to do complex installations in their job, also they do not want to do them because they don’t understand it.

    I suggest that Microsoft revamps the SQL (and W2k8/Ex2k7) courses and exams allong the following lines

    – TA (Administration) SQL 2008: basic support and monitoring

    -MSITP ITPro exam/course(s) 1: similar to current TS exam/courses, with less SQL queries/SP/etc

    -MSITP ITPro exam/course(s) 2: troubleshooting and designing a SQL 2008 environment with single exam similar to combination of both ITP exams.

    Courseware should be much more focused on technology and hardcore troubleshooting (like Oracle does in it’s courses, as I understand)


    – first exam: Admin level,

    – 3rd exam: much more difficult conceptual,

    – revamp of ITpro MSITP courseware.

    my 2 cents, Bart

    PS Small quiz: if you lower the requirements for TS SQL, you’ll get lower average exam results. Why?

    Answer: less students will pass with 1000 points because to pass they needed the exam questions from internet.

  15. This is a very tall order Bart.

    First off, the 2008 exams are aligning more to the DBA, DBD and BI types individually.  That means an exam for DBA, one for DBD and one for BI at the TS level and mirrored for the Pro level.

    Testing troubleshooting and monitoring skills is a very difficult undertaking.

    Revamping the courseware for 2005 will not likely take place to address the issues you mention above but may have some changes due to sustained engineering.

    Courses for 2008 are supposed to map closer to the exam content so you will see changes in the way those courses are structured.

    I also wonder if the students you taught actually met the pre-requisites for that course.  You mention help desk personnel and that is certainly not in the intended audience for that course.  This is one of the biggest issues with students having trouble with the MOC courseware.

    Also, I think that a university degree is a bit much for the content of that course.  But that is my opinion.


  16. rob_cert says:

    Bart said:

    "Small quiz: if you lower the requirements for TS SQL, you’ll get lower average exam results. Why?

    Answer: less students will pass with 1000 points because to pass they needed the exam questions from internet."

    You’re suggesting that by making the exams easier, less people will cheat? Ummm…

  17. My suggestion is to not spread into too much exams. The distinction between TS on DBA, TS on DBD and TS on BI is a great idea because roles are different nowadays. TS should be 1 exam.

  18. Sam Loud says:

    I pretty much agree with what Adrian Downes says:

    To illustrate, all candidates would first have to sit a foundation exam:

    (70-XXX) MCTS: SQL Server 2008 Database Foundation

    Then, one (or more) of the dedicated MCTS tracks:

    (70-44X) MCTS: SQL Server 2008 Administration

    (70-44Y) MCTS: SQL Server 2008 Development

    (70-44Z) MCTS: SQL Server 2008 Business Intelligence

    Finally, one or more dedicated MCITP tracks:

    (70-444) MCITP: Database Administrator

    (70-442) MCITP: Database Developer

    (70-446) MCITP: Business Intelligence Developer

    My only caveat would be: If the foundation was broadly equivalent to the current 70-431, what on earth would pepole study in the Administrator MCTS track? You’d already have done it all.

  19. Thanks Stefano.

    That is inline with our plans as well.

    Also, TS is only one exam for each MCTS credential.


  20. Sam,

    This is not the first time I have heard mention of a SQL Foundation exam.  We currently have one for Visual Studio and I believe it is well received.  I can tell you that for SQL 2008, such an exam will not make it on the plan because we are pretty much locked on that now and it would cause too much churn in the current exam designs.

    However, now that my planning for 2008 is almost at an end, I can start to focus on SQL Server "Next" and what that story will be.

    A foundation exam is certainly not out of scope but there needs to be a lot of discussion, research and planning behind not just the certification exam but supporting materials such as training and communication, not to mention buyoff from the SQL community.

    Stay tuned for more thoughts on that.

    It would be greatly appreciated too for anyone who thinks this is a good idea to through some serious support behind it by replying to this blog with your thoughts and ideas.


  21. Peter says:

    For people who have not taken the SQL Server 2005 exams yet, should they wait until the SQL Server 2008 exams are available?  If they take the 2005 exams now, do they need to take all the SQL Server 2008 exams and pay for all of them again?

  22. Hi Peter,

    That is a question with many possible answers.

    My recommendation at this time is for you to wait.  The MCTS SQL Server 2008 certifications will be available late summer or early fall with the Pro exams following that.

    To start from scratch now on SQL 2005 and then take an upgrade exam in a few months might not be worth it.  Although there are upgrade exams for the MCITP, there are none for the MCTS credentials because they are only one exam anyway.


  23. soul says:


    please i’m a young programmer ,a newbe and interested in ms sql 2008 certification …From the 3 tracks i would like you to give me advices… I want to take to take 02 exams in the future but i’m confused now…giving i have other certs to take .Time is short…

    Among them i don’t know if there’s one that cover others…

    Which one is the most wanted in companies today…

    Please help me …


  24. Oliver says:

    Can you tell me when the SQL 2005 exams are expected to become retired / unavailable?

    I’ve started taking the intro 2008 exams, but I still plan to take the MCITP in 2005 with the upgrade to 2008 soon after. I’ve been in interviews where I’m asked my skill level in 2000 (still *a lot* of those around, with no end in sight honestly), 2005 AND 2008. While there is a difference between 2005 and 2008, it’s far less dramatic than the one between 2000 & 2005. Those of us taking these certifications know that, but hiring managers or recruiters might not and I’d rather not get passed up because I’m certified "only" in 2008 and not 2005 (hence the question 😉

    Btw, a bit late in the game to mention this, but having different "specializations" (dba, dbdev, bi) is excellent; I’m sure larger organizations have roles for all, but even in smaller shops, a server/net admin could benefit from a DBA and a programmer from a DB dev without either of them exceeding their comfort zone too much.

  25. Hi Oliver.

    The exams for SQL Server 2005 will be retired when mainstream support for SQL Server 2005 is retired by Microsoft.  Unfortunately, I don’t control those dates and I don’t have insight into them at this stage.

    We will announce the retirements of the exams one year prior to them retiring.

    SO, it’s not too late to take the SQL 2005 exams as they will still be valid for some time yet.


  26. Smiley says:

    Hi Gerry,

    I am planning to give exam on SQL Server 2005.

    To start with I have to give first MCTS 70-431? and if yes what is the next level of Exam?


  27. Smiley,

    Start here, http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/exam.aspx?ID=70-431&locale=en-us

    Look at the bottom of the page where it tells you that this is a credit towards specific certifications.

    Make your next choice based on that information.


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