SQL MCSE is Dead; Long Live SQL MCSE

By Charles

April 14, 2017

data management, sql mcse, sql server

In 2008 you had the choice of Developer, Administrator or BI—three certifications paths most people liked.

Then they changed it so that you needed to do an exam in each discipline for the first certification level, the new MCSA.

One in T-SQL development, one in DB administration and a BI-style exam focused on SSIS.

I wouldn’t say I liked the latest certifications or many others. Why would a brain surgeon need to do an exam in podiatry when it is not their focus?

Note: You may not have noticed the MCSE: Data Platform and MCSE: Business Intelligence certifications were withdrawn on March 31st 2017.

If you already have them marked as active before September 2016 on your transcript, you can keep them. If you do the exams after, they will not count.

New SQL 2016 Exams

Back to the new SQL 2016 exams. Once again, you can go down one of three paths Developer, Administrator or BI which shows what each SQL role does.

However, once you have completed the MCSA, you can do one more exam to attain the MCSE.

Instead of being called MCSE: Data Platform or MCSE: Business Intelligence, all three tracks end up in the same place MCSE: Data Management and Analytics.

With the 2008 exams, after completing each track, you would have an MCITP: either Developer, DB Administration or Business Intelligence, showing your chosen path and skill set.

So why do I think there is a problem?

It is possible to attain the MCSE: Data Management and Analytics with no business intelligence/analytics skills. No SSRS, No SSIS and certainly not a single mention of SSAS.

So how will this new MCSE affect potential clients or employers?

To MCSE or not to MCSE

If I were employing someone with an MCSE (now the highest level of SQL certification available) with the word analytics in it, I would expect them to have hands-on experience with the BI stack.

I am unsure if the Data Platform MCSE will come back in some new form. I hope it does, but for me, right now, the MCSE is dead.

There is no additional value in doing a single extra exam for the MCSE without showing what you have focused your skills on.

There is no added value in going that extra mile to have a watered-down certification that does not accurately reflect your skills.

Even worse, it might appear to employers that you have skills that you do not. Microsoft could have saved some space on the logo by calling it MCSE: SQL.

Where does that leave employers?

The MCSA is now focused on the three career paths for certification. This is excellent news for everyone.

If I wanted a BI developer, I would search for someone with an MCSA: SQL 2016 BI Development certification.

For a DBA, I would hire someone with an MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Administration certification.

If I wanted to hire a SQL developer, I would look for someone with an MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Development.

This bit is not so great. By grouping all three of these paths into a single MCSE, there is no distinction between these careers. Any difference is now determined from the MCSA level, making taking your certification to the advanced level will not show your career focus.

Employers now need to look at the lower level MCSA certification to see if they are suitable for the role.

By looking at the MCSE, they will no longer be able to tell what advanced skills that person has. They may have some advanced SQL skills, but that is as far as you can tell.

Projects as diverse as setting up a new clustered or Always On the environment, building a Kimball Data Warehouse, implementing ETL processes in SSIS and writing reports could theoretically all come under the same MCSE certification.

Still, you cannot know if they have the skills for one or more of those projects.

In my opinion, Microsoft has made the MCSE certification completely redundant, which I imagine will hurt them with the loss of certification fees. Why do three exams when the skills people seek to stop at the second exam?

Problem with finding the right data skills

There is in the job market a problem with finding people with the right skills to fill a vacancy.

The problem is confusion between what clients seek and what they need. I am unsure if the problem is with the clients being uncertain of what each role entails, what skills each job title is for, if they are requesting the wrong person or if the agency has not interpreted the requirements correctly, but it leads to the same issue.

Speaking from direct experience, I have recently turned down another project.

I do not always talk myself out of roles with potential clients; however, if I do not have the skill set needed for what they are looking for, I will not put my reputation on the line by accepting a role and trying to blag it.

A good reputation takes years to create and seconds to destroy.

The client may think they need a SQL Developer, BI developer or DBA for their role, but they need someone else entirely.

By grouping every person who works with SQL under the same MCSE certification title, Microsoft has made this hiring process even harder. So how would I fix it?

The solution to MCSEs

I believe the MCSE certifications need to correspond with the three MCSA certifications by name to sort this out.

There should be one MCSE for each certification path. The skills tested in the advanced MCSE certification need to be focused on that skill set.

If anything should be changed to say Data Management and Analytics, it should have been the Silver/Gold Partnership competencies (Data Platform and Data Analytics). Reducing the competencies from two to one streamlines the partnership program.

It allows individuals to continue to specialise in their chosen field. It also ensures that MS partners cover the full SQL stack of skills available in a single partnership/agency.

SQL Server is shipped with multiple products, so it makes sense to ensure anyone selling or providing SQL services has the complete skills to support it.

Put – One SQL Silver/Gold Partnership, 3 SQL MCSE, and 3 MCSA paths. The partnership requirements should require at least one of each MCSE for Silver and two of each for Gold.

One final thought and reason to do this is the tab to find the MS competencies for SQL is called ‘Data Mgmt and Analytics’. Perhaps it was all just a copy-and-paste error anyway!


About the author

Microsoft Certified SQL Server DBA with over a decades experience including work for large FTSE 250 companies amongst others. The SQL Server stack has been the focus of almost all of my career in IT. I have experience designing, supporting and troubleshooting large Data Platform deployments.

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