Is it always best to certify in the latest release of Oracle?

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Recently I participated in a discussion about which release certification candidates just starting the Oracle DBA track should pursue. Robert Freeman, author of Oracle Database 12c New Features from Oracle Press and OCP: Oracle Database 12c Administrator Certified Professional Study Guide: Exam 1Z0-063 from Sybex had started the thread with the assertion that, barring a very specific requirement, there was no reason for Oracle professionals to pursue any DBA track except 12c. I hold an opposing viewpoint, so I joined the discussion. I am confident my arguments did not change Robert’s stance, and I am positive that his arguments did not change mine. This is a question faced by a large number of Oracle professionals, however, and the points brought up deserved a broader audience.

Oracle 12cThere are only three Oracle DBA tracks currently available: 10g, 11g and 12c. One point everyone agreed on was that starting with the 10g DBA track makes sense only if you have a pressing need for knowledge of that release. The only rationale that I can come up with for starting that track now is if you work for a company using 10g and the company refuses to consider upgrading in the near future. That said, if I were a DBA for that organization, then my own course of action would be to earn the 11g Oracle Certified Professional designation. I could then make use of my newly-earned credential to locate an employer using a more current version of Oracle.

With the 10g track dismissed, the debate revolved around whether candidates should pursue an OCP in Oracle 11g or 12c. During the discussion, Robert presented a number of arguments why 12c was the only reasonable choice for the vast majority of certification candidates. I had to paraphrase a bit to make them into bullet points, but his arguments could be summarized as follows:

 Certifying in the latest release saves time and money since it bypasses any need to upgrade to 12c later.
  Even if a given company is running an older release, being certified in 12c is sufficient to indicate knowledge of the Oracle database.
  Employers who value OCP certifications will not quibble between 11g or 12c.
  Topics in the 12c OCP exam are more relevant than those in the 11g exam for the future.
  11g is going off Premium support at the end of 2014 and will become much less important in the coming years.
  Many of the 12c features will become very important in the next few years.

My own recommendation to Oracle certification candidates is that, as a general rule, becoming certified in 11g makes more sense right now. In making my case, it should be noted that I agree with all of the above statements. I would say that each of them is either ‘True’ or ‘Probably True’ (whether employers will quibble about the specific release or not depends on the employer). What I disagree with are the conclusions drawn from the statements. The last three of the points above are referring to 12c being more important than 11g in the future. I fully agree that, at some point in the future, this will be the case. I could use those same statements, however, to argue that it makes sense to certify in 11g now and take the 12c upgrade exam at a future date.

As to the other points, while I agree that certifying in 12c can save the cost of an upgrade exam, there is value in holding the OCP credential in two releases of the Oracle database. To my mind, that justifies the additional cost. The second and third statements are not really indicating that a 12c OCP certification is more valuable than 11g, but rather that employers with an 11g database will (hopefully) not consider it to be less valuable.

My own points from the discussion centered around three basic elements. The foremost reason in my mind to become an 11g Oracle Certified Professional is because that is the version that is currently the most common. People pursuing Oracle certification fall into two broad classes:

  People who are already working with Oracle in some capacity
  People who are not working with Oracle but want to be

Because 11g is currently the single largest segment of Oracle production databases, the first class is statistically more likely to be working with an 11g database. Certifying in the version their employer uses makes sense. The second class wants a company to hire them. It is reasonable to become certified in the version currently used by the most potential employers.

My second point was that if 12c is the first version that an Oracle professional learns, it will become their model of “how things work.” If they are later employed for an organization using 11g, much of what they “know” to be true about Oracle … will not be. Features introduced in 12c will not work in 11g. The reverse is not true because Oracle goes to great pains to make the database backwards-compatible. Commands and code that work in 11g will also work in 12c.

My final point was that the 12c OCP exam, 1Z0-063, had not yet been released to beta at the time of the discussion (it may be by the date this is published). The complete beta process takes about six months, so the production version will not be out until early 2015. I cannot imagine 12c being the preferred choice for professionals starting the OCP track until it becomes available.

My recommendation will become less emphatic over time, as 12c market share grows. Around the second quarter of 2015, I would call 11g vs 12c a toss-up choice. Sometime in late 2015 I would agree that 12c will have edged ahead and be the version of choice for most new professionals.

In any event, professionals considering pursuing the Oracle DBA OCP track need to consider their own goals, the pros and cons of the various releases, and then make the decision that is right for them.

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Matthew Morris

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matthew Morris is an experienced DBA and developer. He holds Oracle DBA Certifications for every Oracle release from 7 through 12c; Expert certifications for SQL, SQL Tuning, and Application Express; and is an Oracle PL/SQL Developer Certified Professional. He is the author of more than 20 study guides for Oracle certification exams, as well as a suite of Oracle practice tests that are available at ocpexam.com.

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