Over the years, the topic of whether or not to take the Oracle Certified Professional (OCP) exams has been discussed many times. A large number of clients and agencies now regularly ask for candidates who are OCP qualified.
The main arguments against the exams seem to be along the following lines:
The exams only deal with theoretical situations. You can’t beat real-life experience.
This is true, but the exams do demonstrate that you are able to understand technical issues. In order to resolve problems, you need to know how the software works. You also need real-life experience of using your theoretical knowledge in a practical manner, before you can become an effective DBA.
Outside of a test laboratory or classroom, you have real users, applications and software from multiple vendors. Once exposed to these environments you become a much better DBA.
The exam is just a memory test.
That’s true to some extent - but you have to understand the question and which of the possible answers is the correct one. You still have to understand what you’ve remembered. Even though you may forget the exam topics over time, at least you have positive proof that at the time you took the exam, you knew that area of Oracle in detail.
I don’t need to take the exams to show that I keep up to date.
Whilst you can just read the documentation, at least the exams prove that you’ve made the effort to keep your skills current. Otherwise everyone else just has your word for it that you have.
The other issue is that you can read the documentation but not understand it properly. Passing the exam is proof that you understood the concepts in sufficient depth to pass the exam.
Taking the exams also provides a more focused way of keeping up to date.
Why bother learning about lots of features that you’re never going to use?
There are lots of features that you may never use, but if a new problem arises - if you’ve kept up to date - then you’re are aware of all the possible solutions. You don’t always have several days or hours to go away and research all the available options. Even having a high-level overview of a solution can mean that you not only resolve issues more quickly, but that you’re more likely to come up with the most effective solution. If you aren’t aware of other solutions then you never will use them. You’ll just end up doing things the same way that they’ve been done for years.
Another reason for learning about many features is that unless you can predict the future, how do you know what features you will never use?
Knowledge of lots of functionality is useful when resolving issues because more options that were once separate from the main database installation are now integrated into it. Sometimes these options can cause errors even though your application isn’t actually using them.
The exams also demonstrate that you’re interested enough in the technology to want to keep up to date. Nobody forces you to take them.
Whether or not you decide to take the exams is a personal choice, but I would say that they can be useful as a starting point to differentiate between two DBA’s who have a similar level of experience. There is still no substitute for real-world experience and just because someone passes the exam doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be a better DBA.
(In case you’re wondering, I have taken the exams!)