I've had a number of people asking me lately about what's happening with SQL Server certifications. There are a number of clients that I deal with, where they require their staff to regularly update their certifications. It's been part of their ongoing commitment to training.
In particular, I'm asked When will the new SQL Server certifications be available?
And the (perhaps surprising for some) answer is: They won't be.
The way that Microsoft certifies people has gone through a seismic shift. The entire focus is now on certifying people's ability to perform roles, rather than their ability to use a particular product.
And of course in the past, it wasn't just a particular product, it was a particular version of a particular product.
Role Based Levels
The new role-based certifications have three basic levels:
Fundamentals – these certifications demonstrate a basic knowledge of an area and do not expire.
Associate – these certifications are more in depth and are targeted at typical professionals.
Expert – as the name says, these are targeted a highly-competent individuals.
There are other questions that I've been hearing:
Q: All the data certifications say "Azure" in the name. Will there be any "on-premises" versions?
A: It's a great question but the answer seems to be "no". The Azure-named exams are intended to cover that knowledge as well. Mind you, most clients that I deal with now, have part of their systems in Azure anyway. Most have some type of hybrid environment now happening.
An obvious disappointment is the sun-setting of the existing MCSA, MCSD, MCSE style certifications, particularly for people who were part way through acquiring them.
Q: For data, where are the expert certifications ?
A: They don't exist yet. I do hope they will as it gives people more to strive for.
You can find details of the new role-based certifications here.
How tough are Expert exams?
It's important to understand that the expert-level exams really are targeted at expert-level candidates. The AZ-400 exam is the DevOps Expert level. What seems to surprise many candidates is that the exam is broader than they imagined. They were expecting an exam that just covered what was included in Azure DevOps as delivered by Microsoft.
To pass, you really need to know your way around other common tools. For example how to integrate Maven, Gradle, SonarCloud, Whitesource Bolt, etc., how to implement OWASP testing, and understand not just how to integrate GitHub but concepts like GitFlow. The contention is that an expert won't just know the Azure DevOps parts; they'll be experienced with integrating other commonly used tools.