When Oracle initially created their certification program, there was a single designation and abbreviation: Oracle Certified Professional (abbreviated OCP). However, several years back, the company broke out the program into four different levels of certification, each with its own title and abbreviation. This article discusses each of the levels and some of the differences between what they mean and what is required to attain them.
OCA — Oracle Certified Associate
The Oracle Certified Associate is an entry-level certification. Oracle Education targets these certifications for individuals just becoming familiar with Oracle or with one to two years of experience in the tested area. For candidates that have achieved this certification without any work experience, the expectation is that they have demonstrated knowledge of the fundamentals and can be expected to perform satisfactorily under supervision.
Generally OCA certifications require only that a candidate pass two exams and have no additional requirements. The tests for the OCA-level certifications tend to cover a broad range of topics to a shallow depth. The goal of the exams is to ensure that the candidates have a basic understanding of the features in the tested area and how to apply them.
OCP — Oracle Certified Professional
The Oracle Certified Professional designation is the next step up for candidates that have achieved the OCA certification. Oracle Education targets these certifications for individuals that have three to five years of experience working with Oracle in the tested area who can perform most activities unsupervised. The certification is not really intended for candidates that have no Oracle work experience. Candidates that have done so will have demonstrated a deeper knowledge of the fundamentals in the area being certified and may be able to work without supervision.
OCP certifications build on the Oracle Certified Associate level and require that a candidate pass one or two exams beyond the OCA requirement. Some of the OCP-level certifications also have a hands-on training requirement. The tests for the OCP-level certifications tend to narrow the range of topics slightly and require more in-depth knowledge to answer. The goal of the exams is to ensure that the candidates have a thorough understanding of the tested topics and can make use of them successfully.
OCE — Oracle Certified Expert
The Oracle Certified Expert designation is the odd man out. In one sense it is the next step up from the OCP-level, but it is outside the hierarchy of certifications entirely. OCE exams target niche expertise areas. They are intended to show a high degree of proficiency in a very narrow subject area. These certifications help to define a candidate’s area of specialization. It is not a step in the OCA-OCP-OCM tier, but it helps to expand upon an OCA or OCP certification.
OCE certifications require a single test and have no pre-requisites or hands-on training requirements. The tests of expert certifications cover a very narrow area to a significant depth. The intent of the tests is to demonstrate that the candidate has significant expertise in that area.
OCM — Oracle Certified Master
The Oracle Certified Master Designation is the highest level certification offered by Oracle. It builds on the OCP designation, requiring that a candidate be an OCP, attend two advanced hands-on training courses, and pass a two-day performance-based practical exam. Oracle Education targets this certification for candidates with an absolute minimum of six years of experience administering Oracle databases. Candidates that pass the OCM certification will have demonstrated the ability to administer enterprise-class databases.
The difficulty and cost of the exam plus the cost of the required training makes this a very rare certification for individuals to have. The holders of this certification are sought after by consulting firms and corporations with critical Oracle installations.
Any of the Oracle certifications are a valuable addition to your resume. None of them in isolation, however (possibly with the exception of the OCM), will have recruiters tracking you down. Work experience, education, and other factors play a role in attracting the notice of people recruiting for Oracle positions. Getting a certification and sitting back to wait for the job offers to roll in is not a winning strategy.
Matthew is an experienced DBA and developer. He holds Oracle DBA Certifications for releases 7, 8i, 9i, 10G and 11G; Oracle Expert Certifications for SQL and Application Express; and is an Oracle Advanced PL/SQL Developer Certified Professional. He is the author of several Oracle certification guides. His Web site, www.oraclecertificationprep.com, is dedicated to providing links to resources for Oracle certification preparation.