Oracle Ace or Oracle Master: Which is right for you?

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Should you aspire to become and Ace or a Master?Recently on the Oracle Technology Network certification forum, someone posted a question asking what steps they could take to “earn the Ace certification.” John Watson, a well-known author of Oracle certification books responded in the thread and suggested that they pursue an Oracle Master credential instead. Ultimately, the original poster decided that the Oracle Master was a better goal for his needs. What I decided is that an article comparing and contrasting the two designations would be valuable to a number of Oracle professionals.

The lure of rarity

While the Oracle Ace and Oracle Master designations are extremely different animals, they share one key trait: People who have either one tend to stand out from their peers. A recent post on the Oracle Certification blog indicated that there are 2 million people who have earned Oracle certifications. By comparison, there are currently less than 700 individuals who are recognized as an Oracle Ace.

The number of Oracle Certified Professionals who have earned the Oracle Administrator Master designation is murkier — for one thing, Oracle does not publicly disclose any relevant data. Based on the number of individuals who have chosen to post their achievement on the OTN Oracle Master profiles page, however, the total number is probably well under 1,000. The Oracle Ace and Oracle Master designations therefore have a comparable degree of rarity.

Requirements and results

Other than the statistical likelihood of Oracle professionals being able to lay claim to one of these titles, there is almost nothing else the two have in common. Notably, the “Oracle Ace” designation is not a certification. In fact, it is a stretch to call it a credential at all. Rather it is a means for Oracle (specifically the Oracle Ace Program) to recognize people who act as Oracle evangelists and share their knowledge of Oracle products with the community.

There is no specific set of requirements that must be met in order to be recognized as an Ace. The Oracle Ace main page indicates that Aces are people who ” … contribute knowledge with articles, technical advice, blog posts, and tweets.” The Oracle Ace Program FAQ has a more extensive list of contribution types that includes:

Oracle Discussion Forums

Content submissions such as technical papers, articles, code samples, utilities

Oracle book authorship

Oracle-related blogs

Oracle event speaker

Participation in Oracle programs such as the Customer Reference Program or User Groups

Active participation in the Java Community Process (JCP) Program

A critical stipulation of the Ace program is that contributing knowledge via the above methods is no guarantee that an individual will become an Oracle Ace. In order to even be considered, individuals must be nominated by someone in the Oracle community.

There is no defined contribution level that automatically guarantees that someone will be nominated as an Oracle Ace — or that ensures they would be accepted if someone does nominate them. Oracle Ace program managers review the submissions each month and make their decisions based on the volume and type of knowledge contributions made by the nominee.

By contrast, the requirements for earning the Oracle Master certification are both simple (which is not the same thing as easy) and specifically defined. Individuals who take the required training and pass the lab-based exam will earn the certification. There are no exceptions. Earning the credential is a level playing field for everyone who attempts it.

Reason for existence

Another significant difference between the two is the goals of the programs they exist under. The Ace program was not created in order to produce credentials for Oracle professionals to demonstrate their knowledge. It was created as a way for Oracle to officially recognize people who invest significant amounts of their free time working to help others learn more about Oracle products.

Beyond recognition, the program encourages these people to speak at conferences, write articles and white papers, and spread their knowledge of Oracle products. It was only after a number of prominent people in the Oracle community were recognized with the Oracle Ace designation that people started asking, “How can I become one myself?”

The Oracle certification program exists primarily for the purpose of improving the career prospects of Oracle professionals. The certifications exist as a means for professionals to indicate that they have some knowledge of a particular Oracle product. The Oracle Master is simply the highest and hardest of the available credentials offered by this program.

The lab-based nature of the exam makes the credential extremely reputable and effectively immune to the sort of cheating that is all too common among the multiple choice exams that are the norm for most professional certifications.

The upshot

Should you aspire to become and Ace or a Master?If you are looking to advance your career — especially if you want to do so in a timeframe that is measureable in months rather than years, chasing the Oracle Ace designation is not a defensible option. It is aimed primarily at people who really enjoy digging into new or complex features of Oracle products and then documenting their results for others.

If you create new and useful content and make it available on the Web, people will gravitate to it. If enough people find your work to be helpful, you may be nominated and potentially could be accepted into the Ace program.

There is no cost to earning the Oracle Ace designation (other than a considerable investment of time). This is certainly not the case for the Oracle Master credential. When the required training is included, earning a Master-level credential can cost close to $10,000 for candidates who take the training and exams in the United States.

I discussed this in an earlier article: Counting the cost: Why are certifications so expensive? The credential is valuable because it maps to a documented set of skills and provides employers with insight into the knowledge of people who earn it. Being granted the “Oracle Ace” does not mean that Oracle certifies that an individual has any given level (or type) of knowledge.

I believe that for the vast majority of individuals who consider pursuing the Ace designation, their goals would be better served by pursuing an Oracle certification. Depending on their goals and experience, the certification might be the Oracle Master, or one of the lower-level credentials. As always, people need to select the option which makes the most sense for their own situation.

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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.

Posted in Opinion|

Comment:

5 thoughts on “Oracle Ace or Oracle Master: Which is right for you?”

  1. Matthew – I welcome your comments regarding Oracle certification versus Oracle ACE. Oracle certification being an objective and quantifiable assessment of skills and knowledge. Oracle ACE being the public recognition of a predisposition for blatantly ingratiating oneself to Oracle Corporation. Fact is, Oracle Corporation is known for being unbelievably arrogant and almost completely lacking in any kind of objective assessment of its products and services.

    Obtaining Oracle ACE status merely demonstrates the inhalation of copious amounts of Oracle Kool-Aid. Oracle ACE Director being a massive overdose of the same. People who advertise such accolades are often quite nauseating being as they are motivated by self aggrandizement. That said, while I respect the time, effort and finance it takes to achieve OCM, it is still a vehicle through which individuals give large amounts of their hard earned cash to a corporation which is already super rich. In return for a credential which is extremely unlikely to mean anything in the marketplace. Yes, it sets one apart due to its relative scarcity, but I don’t believe nor have I seen that translate into faster promotions, bigger raises or inflated salaries. It is of course the highest Oracle certification level available and anyone pursuing it because of that should be applauded.

    I certainly respect anyone who has OCP or OCE status. Oracle ACE not so much. Just don’t get me started on the elitist ‘none-holier-than-thou’ Oak Table crowd.

    • Steve,

      C’mon man, don’t hold back. Let us know how you really feel about oracle.

      Alas, your complaint about Oracle doling out the “Kool-Aid” to devoted followers is one that can oftentimes be applied to any number of large and faceless entities. Still your words of warning are valuable. When one is expending money and time to earn certifications they should be careful to pursue only those that are needed for their career path.

      Thanks for reading and for taking time to respond.

    • Steve:

      The purpose of the article was to compare and contrast the two titles. As I indicated in the first paragraph, I had encountered people who were under the misunderstanding that ‘Oracle Ace’ was a certification that could be directly pursued.

      That said — I’m not going to bash anyone for being recognized as an Oracle Ace. Case in point — Tim Hall. I have never counted all of his articles on Oracle-Base, but they probably number in the hundreds. He spends enormous amounts of his time making step-by-step “How To” articles about multiple technologies surrounding the Oracle database. I’ve used his articles on dozens of occasions when installing various pieces of software like Tomcat, ORDS, etc. I greatly respect his knowledge, skills, and willingness to spend time helping others. The fact that he is an Oracle Ace Director does not cause me to respect him *more*, but neither do I think that he’s some Oracle suck-up *because* he holds that title.

      I will note that I have a LinkedIn connections to a handful of Oracle Aces. One or more of them like to post congratulations messages to newly-announced Aces. At this time I have not recognized *any* of the names that have come up in my LI feed in this fashion. On two occasions when I had time to burn, I researched the new Aces to see what earned them the nod. In both cases, the only thing I turned up were fairly sparse blogs about Oracle. They certainly could have made other contributions that don’t show up in Google results (such as lectures at Oracle user-group events), but what I *could* locate was pretty thin.

      The short answer (too late) is that I do not respect — or disrespect — someone simply because they hold the title of Oracle Ace. If someone gets it because they have worked their tail off trying to help other people, I think they deserve the recognition for their efforts.

      • Matthew,

        You did your job with this article. This site is called certification magazine and we discuss all certification topics. I don’t think you have to defend yourself. Steve is experienced and can read between the lines but new or inexperienced people need some commentary to navigate the Oracle certification maze. Thanks for the article. Look forward to hearing more comments about Oracle. Would love to see one on the Java SE vs. Java EE Developer Certifications.

    • Hi Steve,

      Thanks for your comments. I had a good laugh. I’m in the Microsoft world considering moving to the Oracle one because of the Java Platform and we have the Microsoft “MVPs” over here. Personally, I think this is really a response to that. Microsoft used to call it something else years ago but it’s basically a community engagement tool as you clearly understand.

      I find several types of people in the tech world and I think Microsoft rewards according to their skill levels.

      MVPs -> A new reward that makes you loyal and gives you special privileges in the Microsoft Community. Microsoft values this so much they even bring them together annual to solicit information for product development. I think that’s value and saves them tons of money.

      Certifications -> I wish Microsoft would bring back the Masters certification but I don’t think SQL Server ever had Oracle’s credibility so it was not subscribed to like Oracle’s but Oracle’s certs do reward “hard” technical skills. I don’t know personally which ones though. You comments above about OCP and OCE helped me greatly and I wanted to thank you for the comment because understanding Oracle certs has taken me almost a whole weekend to read, price and assess. I read you article and learned information in less than 5 minutes.

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