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An insider's guide to Oracle certification, part 2

To maximize the number of certification options, Oracle Corporation currently offers four types of Oracle certifications. They are designed to encompass all job areas using Oracle, including DBA, developer, and operator.


In this installment, we examine the Oracle certification series and take a closer look at the Oracle exams. In an effort to maximize the number of options in Oracle certification, Oracle Corporation currently offers four separate and distinct types of Oracle certifications. They are designed to encompass all job areas with Oracle including DBA, developer, and operator.
  • Oracle Certified Professional DBA certification—This is the traditional four-exam certification for Oracle database administration.
  • Oracle Internet Application Developer certification—This is a four-exam certification covering SQL, PL/SQL, and Internet development.
  • Oracle Java Developer certification—This is a joint effort with Sun Microsystems to certify Java developers for Oracle. It consists of six exams and joint certification from Sun and Oracle.
  • Internet Database Operator certification—The iDBO is a single exam design to test the knowledge required to support Oracle database administrators in management of the database and Internet applications.

I'll begin by looking at the most popular Oracle certification: the Oracle OCP for Oracle DBAs.

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Oracle DBA certification
The Oracle OCP DBA certifications are the most popular of all Oracle certifications. Originally, the Oracle certification exams were designed for working professionals. Candidates were required to supply written proof that they had been a working DBA for at least four years. However, with the explosive demand for Oracle professionals, Oracle has expanded the program.

In Oracle9i, Oracle offers three levels of certification:
  1. Oracle9i Certified Professional (OCP)—The Oracle certified professional is required to pass four challenging exams and demonstrate proficiency in all technical areas of Oracle database administration.
  2. Oracle Certified Associate (OCA)—This lower-level certification is offered by Oracle for those candidates who successfully passed only two of the four OCP exams.
  3. Oracle Certified Master (OCM)—This new Oracle certification requires the candidate to attend Oracle training at Oracle University. This program is an offshoot of the former Oracle Masters program of the 1990s. The OCM requirescandidates to complete the following tasks:
  • Earn an OCP certificate
  • Take two advanced-level Oracle University classes
  • Pass a preadmission exam
  • Pass a practicum exam in an Oracle lab environment

Training for certification
In the Oracle Masters certification (now obsolete), the student was required to spend approximately $20,000 attending classes at Oracle University. Students received their Oracle Masters certificates simply for attending the classes; there was no testing of the students prior to issuing the certificates.
The problem with the new OCM is the requirement the students go to Oracle University for their Oracle education. The dramatic explosion of competitors in the Oracle training market is testament to the fact that Oracle University is not the only excellent source for Oracle classes. Outstanding Oracle training is available from numerous non-Oracle sources including on-site Oracle OCP training, Web-based OCP training, and Oracle video training.


Oracle8i OCP certification track
The Oracle8i certification track requires a series of five exams (Figure A). These exams test knowledge of SQL and PL.SQL, Oracle database administration, Oracle networking, backup and recovery, and Oracle performance tuning. With the vast majority of Oracle users running Oracle8i and earlier versions, this is still a popular certification track.

Figure A
Oracle8i track (from Oracle Web site)


The exams are as follows:
  • Introduction to Oracle: SQL and PL/SQL—This exam tests general knowledge of SQL and PL/SQL programming techniques.
  • Oracle8i: Architecture and Administration—This is a basic exam covering the architecture of the Oracle database and general DBA concepts.
  • Oracle8i: Backup and Recovery—This exam tests knowledge of Oracle backup and recovery tools, such as rman, and how to perform the various types of Oracle recovery.
  • Oracle8i: Performance and Tuning—This exam tests knowledge of tools and concepts for improving the performance of Oracle databases.
  • Oracle8i: Network Administration—This exam covers Oracle networking, including the Transparent Network Substrate (TNS) and Oracle client-server communications.

Oracle9i OCP certification track
This track is tailored to professional database administrators who want to pursue a full-time occupation as an Oracle administrator. The OCP certification track for Oracle9i DBAs has been streamlined, eliminating the backup and recovery and networking exams. Also, PL/SQL and SQL have been divided into separate exams. Oracle9i OCP certification involves passing the following exams:
  • Introduction to Oracle9i: SQL—This exam tests knowledge of SQL programming concepts, including outer joins, subqueries, and Oracle-centric extensions to ANSI SQL.
  • Oracle9iDatabase: Fundamentals I—The basic database administration exam tests specific knowledge about the creation of databases, schema objects, and network architectures.
  • Oracle9iDatabase: Fundamentals II—The advanced Oracle DBA exam tests knowledge of advanced Oracle database structures, Oracle security, and Oracle interfaces.
  • Oracle9iDatabase: Performance Tuning—This exam tests the ability of the candidate to demonstrate the concepts for schema tuning, object tuning, and SQL tuning in the Oracle environment.

Oracle Internet Application Developer 6/6i certification
The Oracle Certified Internet Application Developer track is designed for Oracle application developers. The track consists of four tests and two alternative paths that lead to Internet Application Developer 6/6i Certification (Figure B).

Figure B
The Oracle developer exam track


This track has not been a very popular Oracle certification to date, but Oracle Corporation continues to promote it, and it may continue to grow. This certification targets developers who create Web-based Oracle systems using Oracle9i AS and Oracle Web tools.

Oracle Java Developer certification
The Oracle certified Java Developer program is a multivendor initiative formed to establish and promote industry standards for the certification of enterprise developers using Java technology. This initiative gives Java professionals the ability to test both their generic Java skills and their vendor-specific expertise. According to Oracle Corporation, the Oracle Java Developer certification track consists of five tests that cover three progressive skill levels (Figure C):
  1. Sun Certified Programmer for the Java Platform (1 exam)—Fundamental skills in the Java programming language
  2. Oracle Certified Solution Developer—JDeveloper (2 exams)—Application development for the Java platform
  3. Oracle Certified Enterprise Developer—Oracle iPlatform (2 exams)—Enterprise development with an application server

This certification is popular among Java developers who want acknowledgement of their skill with Oracle-centric Java tools such as JDeveloper.

Figure C
The Oracle Java developer certification track


Internet Database Operator certification (iDBO)
The iDBO track consists of a single exam designed for members of the Oracle database support team. This certification is popular with computer operations staff charged with the ongoing monitoring of their Oracle databases. It is a popular certification for machine room operators who want to be certified in the operational aspects of monitoring and reporting Oracle Web database operations.

Ongoing Oracle certification
A common question among Oracle professionals is whether to continue to renew their OCP with each new Oracle release. The Oracle exams change with every new release of Oracle, and it can cost up to $750 per year to keep current with each new release. Hence, the decision to upgrade OCP certifications is a function of the width of your wallet and the perceived value of the upgraded OCP.

Many Oracle professionals do not renew their certification with each new Oracle release. In order to keep its revenue flow stable, Oracle Corporation has addressed this issue by providing specialized bridge exams covering only the new features for each Oracle release. These exams allow earlier OCP DBAs to get the latest OCP certification (Figure D).

Figure D
The upgrade path for earlier OCP certifications


Summing up
Oracle certification has evolved into a complex array of exams and certifications, and the exams continue to evolve with new Oracle releases. Both Oracle professionals and hiring managers can use the certifications as a gauge of competence, but real-world experience must never be discounted.

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