Microsoft just announced major changes to the Microsoft Certified Master of SQL Server program. I’m excited about the new direction of the program, although I’m a little biased – I helped with the program’s changes to reach the right audience.
The Original Microsoft Certified Master Program:
- $18,500 entry fee for 3 weeks of training (and possibly certification)
- MCITP: Database Developer 2008 and MCITP: Database Administrator 2008 required first
- You had to show up onsite in Seattle for 3 weeks straight
- Three written multiple-choice exams onsite during the training
- One six-hour final lab
This setup had a few problems. It was tremendously expensive – both in terms of the entry fee and the 3 weeks of downtime. It was hard to schedule 3 weeks off in a row even if you had the vacation or your company was willing to eat that expense. You might not have needed all 3 weeks of training, and you might not have been able to travel around the world to get it.
Bottom line – having the training and the certification as an all-in-one package just didn’t scale, and that’s evidenced by the fact that only a handful of us outside of Microsoft were able to pull it off. I know a lot of people who are more technically qualified than I am, but they couldn’t justify the Master program. So how could we get more qualified people to be Masters?
The New Microsoft Certified Master Program:
- MCITP: Database Developer 2008 and MCITP: Database Administrator 2008 still required
- Certification and training is totally separate
- Initial written multiple-choice exam – $500, and can be taken at Prometric testing centers around the world
- 6-hour lab exam – $2,000, and can be taken at select secure Prometric testing centers around the world
The two biggest barriers to entry – a huge initial price tag and 3 weeks of lost work time in Seattle – are now gone! It’s now easier to prove that you’re a Microsoft Certified Master of SQL Server. (Note that I did not say it’s easier to be one, because it’s still very, very, very tough.)
Since the training is now separate, it’s up to you how much training you want to get, and who you want to get it from. If you’re already an expert on some subject areas, maybe you’ll only get training on the areas where you’re weak. Perhaps you’ll choose to get the training in chunks – one week’s worth this year, one week’s worth the next year, and then make a run at the exam. I would advise trying not to pass the lab exam cold, because this is most definitely not the MCITP.
To help you get up to speed, Microsoft partnered with SQLskills to provide dozens of hours of video training online completely free. Bob Beauchamin, Kimberly Tripp, Paul Randal, and I recorded some of our best presentations on internals, CLR, storage, performance tuning, and more. You can watch our free Microsoft Certified Master online courses all in the comfort of your cubicle. (That link may not be live yet – check again later in the day.)
If you want more personal, interactive training, you’ll be able to get it from more places. I’d argue that you still want to get it from the most qualified, highest rated trainers around. You want to get it from people who aren’t just experts at training – you want your instructors to be hands-on consultants who live this work every single week. When we’re not training or helping the community, we’re consulting in some of the toughest environments around. Yes, of course I mean SQLskills – we’re offering a series of events around the United States in 2011 to give you Microsoft Certified Master approved training. We’re the only trainers that have been involved with the MCM program from the very first rotation, and we’re the best people to help you achieve the highest level of technical certification on SQL Server. You can check out our upcoming SQLskills Immersion Events here.
I really passionately believe in where the MCM program is going. There’s going to be more people recognized as Masters, and that’s a good thing, because there’s a lot of really qualified people out there. I’m not worried about the MCM becoming the next MCITP – a certification seen as having too low of value due to the braindump factor – because I was a contributor to the new MCM program. It’s a seriously high bar to pass, but I believe a lot of you can do it.