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, 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. Although there is some natural overlap, for the most part, we cover those types of certifications in our annually updated Best Big Data Certifications article.
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.