The biggest trend in IT careers is certification. You see it everywhere you look... certification books dominate the bookstores, classroom training now guarantees a "pass," and IT professionals even sign their emails with a list of their "certs."

Certification has arrived, no question. But as a DB2® professional, should you certify? Will it increase your abilities or help your career? How can you do it quickly and inexpensively? That last thought is key -- knowing the inside story on DB2 certification before you proceed will save you a ton of time, stress and money. This article tells you what you need to know to decide if DB2 certification is for you, and if so, the secrets to doing it successfully, quickly and inexpensively.

Is certification "worth it"?
First, understand that an entire industry profits from certification. Trainers sell certification-oriented courseware, consultants push training, publishers market books, and vendors sell all the above. The upshot is that you can't take most articles on certification at face value. Let's take a different tack. We'll try to look at the issue objectively, strictly from the IT professional's standpoint.

Why certify? Some do it for the challenge of demonstrating their knowledge, or for the inner satisfaction that comes from mastery of the material. Whether a "certified DB2 developer" is better than one that is not certified is, to say the least, highly debatable. What we can say for sure is that if you certify you'll end up knowing more about DB2 than you did when you started.

Many certify for career benefits. If you view it this way, you need to:

Certify with a product that has major marketshare (and is on the upswing)
Investigate the marketability of the specific cert in which you're interested
On the first point, DB2 is the right choice. Most analysts agree that IBM has taken the lead in the database market away from Oracle. For example, Figure 1 shows recent figures from Gartner Dataquest .

DB2 marketshare continues to expand. How did IBM pull off such a feat in a "mature" market? The company bought Informix® for one billion dollars and shrewdly invested another billion in the Linux marketplace, positioning DB2 as the leading database on this exploding platform . But the real reason may be what I learned while doing an informal survey of the database market last year. One manager after another told me: "DB2's features and technology are second to none, yet it costs way less than Oracle."

Since database marketshare varies by platform, which platform you work on should factor into your decision. DB2 completely dominates on mainframes and the IBM e-server® iSeriesTM (AS/400), with over 90% of the database marketshare for each. IBM comes in a strong second in UNIX® database marketshare, and a distant but growing third on Windows® Server. Data for Linux is sketchy, but DB2 appears dominant among the commercial databases .

The most practical way to verify the marketability of a certification is simply to check out job ads on the Web. Do they mention it? And when they do, is it considered preferable or a job requirement? Few ads today specifically mention DB2 certification. This likely reflects of the newness of the DB2 certification program more than anything else. Given the investment IBM is making in the database market and the statistical trends cited above, the most likely scenario is that DB2 certification becomes increasingly valuable as a career credential.

Whether you can enhance your career through certification depends on how you approach it. Here are examples from my own experience where IT pros have leveraged certification to their benefit:

A DB2 programmer wanted to shift into database administration. Getting her DBA cert bagged her the transfer.
A DB2 developer was great with JavaTM but felt too narrow because he didn't know about other approaches to DB2 application development. Getting the "developer" cert gave him the breadth he needed.
A stay-at-home mom wanted to reenter the workforce after a 10-year absence. She got certified and successfully leveraged this as "proof of currency" for her skills.
A new college grad desperately wanted to be a DBA but only received programming job offers. He proved his devotion to his goal by certifying as a DB2 DBA, which led to an entry-level DBA position.
A mature database veteran realized he needed to update his skills. Certifying both did this for him and supplied the proof. Age discrimination? His certification is as current as anyone else's.