5 SQL Certifications for Your Data Career in 2021

A SQL or database certification may help you reach your goals in the world of data science. Here are five to consider.
SQL certification test taker

SQL (pronounced either s-q-l or sequel) is a programming language often used by professionals who work with large amounts of data. SQL helps these data professionals communicate with relational database systems to clean, sort, extract, and process the data. SQL remains highly relevant to the IT world—SQL was the most-requested skill among tech employers, according to February 2020 data from Burning Glass Technologies [1].

There are several certifications that show your competency in SQL, most of which are vendor or platform specific. Knowing what database technology your field of interest will require you to work with can help you decide which certification to get, if any.

Are SQL certifications worth it?

A certification isn’t required for many jobs that ask for knowledge of SQL, and employers can often prioritize experience over certifications. But some hiring managers may look for applicants who have related certifications. SQL or database certification requirements may be more common for positions that entail lots of time spent with technology from particular vendors or platforms. For example, if a job requires experience in Microsoft platforms, employers may request that applicants have a Microsoft SQL Server certification.

A data-related certification may position you to compete in what is projected to be a heavily in-demand industry. The field of data science is expected to be one of the fastest growing in coming years. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics listed data scientists and other mathematical science professions among the twenty occupations projected to increase the most over 2019 to 2029, at a rate of 31 percent [2]. 

SQL-related certifications can prepare you for roles like database administrator, database engineer, SQL developer, and data analyst.

SQL Certifications

SQL is the language used to communicate with relational database management systems. Many certifications that show a deep understanding of SQL also test your understanding of these database systems at large. The following certifications show a fundamental understanding of SQL in five commonly used relational database management systems.

Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA): Database Fundamentals

The MTA Database Fundamentals certification is an entry-level certification for data professionals. The certification requires one exam that tests your knowledge of databases, including relational databases like Microsoft SQL Server.

  • Cost: $127

  • What’s being tested: Core database concepts like data definition language and data manipulation language; creating tables and views; updating, inserting, and selecting data; normalization and database keys; security and backups

Are there any more Microsoft SQL certifications?

Several certifications and SQL-related exams offered by Microsoft were retired on January 31, 2021, like the MCSE: Data Management and Analytics certification. Make sure any certification you’re interested in is still available before committing to taking it. If you’re looking for similar options, the Azure Database Administrator Associate certification tests your knowledge of T-SQL and Azure SQL fundamentals.

Oracle Database SQL Certified Associate Certification

The Oracle Database SQL Certified Associate Certification demonstrates your knowledge of basic SQL concepts, especially using it to work with the Oracle Database server. The certification will prove your competency in the SQL language, data modeling, and using tables, among other tasks. It requires passing one exam.

  • Cost: $245

  • What’s being tested: Essential database concepts; retrieving, restricting, and sorting data; using conversion functions and conditional expressions; managing multiple tables; controlling access, and other topics

IBM Certified Database Associate - DB2 11 Fundamentals for z/OS

The IBM Certified Database Associate Certification is an entry-level certification for those who want to demonstrate their understanding of the relational database management system DB2 11 for z/OS. Basic knowledge of SQL, database creation, database security, and transaction isolation will earn you the certification. It requires one exam.

  • Cost: $200

  • What’s being tested: Working with SQL and XML, data security, connecting to DB2 servers and other data planning concepts, writing database definition language SQL statements, knowledge of tables and other application design concepts

Oracle Certified Professional, MySQL 5.7 Database Administrator Certification

The MySQL 5.7 Database Administrator Certification requires one exam, which will test your understanding of MySQL, a relational database management system developed by Oracle. The certification will display essential knowledge of working with MySQL, such as installing, configuring, and monitoring the database management system.

  • Cost: $245

  • What’s being tested: Installing, starting and stopping MySQL; understanding MySQL architecture; managing users; identifying security risks and other security aspects of MySQL

EDB PostgreSQL 12 Associate Certification

EDB’s PostgreSQL 12 Associate Certification shows your understanding of the fundamentals necessary to work with PostgreSQL servers. PostgreSQL is a relational database that is scalable across large organizations. The current version is PostgreSQL 12. 

  • Cost: $200

  • What’s being tested: Maintaining and managing a PostgreSQL server and related applications

SQL Courses: Getting started

The first step towards certification, if you have sparse experience, is building up your expertise. SQL knowledge is easily accessible online. Here are a few courses on Coursera to get you started.

Want a more holistic introduction to data analysis? Consider the Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate. You'll learn to use SQL, data visualization tools, and more.

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Article sources

1. Burning Glass Technologies. "G2: In-Demand IT Skills + 6 Tips for Hiring the Best Tech Talent, https://www.burning-glass.com/g2-sql-javascript/." Accessed March 25, 2021.

2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/fastest-growing.htm." Accessed March 25, 2021.

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