Background and Training for an Oracle DBA
There’s no ideal background for a DBA, but it’s highly desirable that a DBA have a real interest in
the hardware side of databases, and also have a decent knowledge of operating systems, UNIX and
NT servers, and disk and memory issues. It also helps tremendously to have a programming or
development background, because you’ll be working with developers frequently. The most common
operating system for the Oracle database is UNIX, with the Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Sun
Microsystems (Sun) versions being the ones commonly adopted. IBM supplies the AIX variant of
the UNIX operating system, but it has its own proprietary database, the DB2 Universal Database.
If you’re taking classes from Oracle or another provider to become a full-fledged Oracle Database
10g DBA, you need to take two classes:
• Oracle Database 10g: Administration Workshop I
• Oracle Database 10g: Administration Workshop II
Certified Associate (OCA). Workshop II will prepare you for the advanced Oracle Certified Professional
(OCP) certification. As of November 15, 2004, all Oracle9i and Oracle Database 10g DBA
certification candidates are required to take one in-class or online class in order to meet the new
hands-on course requirement. If your firm uses Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC) or distributed
databases, you need to take additional, specialized courses. If your firm uses the UNIX
operating system and you don’t have experience using it, you may be better off taking a basic class
in UNIX (or Linux) from HP, Sun, Red Hat, or another vendor. You don’t need to take such a course
for Oracle DBA certification purposes, but it sure will help you if you’re new to the UNIX or Linux
environment. Of course, if your databases are going to use the Windows environment, you may get
away without a long and formal course in managing Windows, assuming you are relatively familiar
with the Windows operating system, unless you also happen to be a Windows System Administrator.
Once you get started as an Oracle Database 10g DBA, you will find that the real world of Oracle
databases is much wider and a lot more complex than that shown to you in the various courses you
attend. As each new facet of the database is revealed, you may find that you are digging more and
more into the heart of the software, why it works, and sometimes why it doesn’t work. It is at that
point that you will learn the most about the database and the software used to manage it. If you
really have read everything that Oracle and other private parties have to offer, do not worry—there
are always new versions coming out, with new features and new approaches, practically guaranteeing
an endless supply of interesting new information.
After the first year or two of your DBA journey, you’ll know enough to competently administrate
the databases and troubleshoot typical problems that occur. If you’ve also worked on your
programming skills during this time (mainly UNIX shell scripting and PL/SQL), you should be able
to write sophisticated scripts to monitor and tune your databases. At this stage, if you dig deeper,
you’ll find out a lot more about your database software that can enhance your knowledge and
thereby your contribution to your organization.
Oracle is constantly coming up with new features that you can adopt to improve the performance
of your production databases. Although the developers, testers, and administrators are also
striving mightily in the organization’s cause, it is you, the Oracle DBA, who will ultimately lead the
way to new and efficient uses of the new features of the database.
In many IT fields, certification by approved authorities is a required credential for advancement
and sometimes even for initial hiring. Oracle has had the Oracle Certification Program (OCP) in
effect for a number of years now. The OCP is divided into three levels: Associate, Professional, and
Master (the Master level requires a lab test in addition to the other requirements). Traditionally, certification
was not a big issue with most organizations, especially in the face of the severe shortages
of certified DBAs in the field for many years. In today’s environment, though, that certification will
help tremendously in underlining your qualifications for the job.
Oracle provides DBA certification at the following levels—Oracle Database 10g Administrator
Certified Associate (OCA), Oracle Database 10g Administrator Certified Professional (OCP), and
Oracle Database 10g Administrator Certified Master (OCM). Oracle provides the following descriptions
of their certification programs:
• OCA: The Oracle Certification Program begins with the Associate level. At this apprentice
skill level, Oracle Associates have a foundation knowledge that will allow them to act as junior
team members working with database administrators or application developers. The
exam ensures knowledge of basic database administration tasks and an understanding of
the Oracle database architecture and how its components work and interact with one
another. The OCA is also a prerequisite to becoming an OCP. You must take the IZ0-042
Oracle Database 10g: Administration exam to get your Oracle Database 10g Administrator Certified Associate (OCA) certificate.
• OCP: The exam ensures that the OCP with the 10g credential can competently address
critical database functions, such as manageability, performance, reliability, security, and
availability using the latest Oracle technology. The OCP is a prerequisite to becoming an
Oracle Certified Master (OCM).
• OCM: The Oracle Database 10g OCM credential is for the Oracle database guru—the senior
database professional with both classroom and on-the-job experience. The prerequisites are
that candidates earn an Oracle Database 10g OCP credential and complete advanced-level
coursework. The final stage requires that candidates prove their skills through an intensive
two-day hands-on practical examination.
My views on certification are really very practical. Preparing for certification will force you to
learn all the little details that you’ve been ignoring for some reason or another, and it will clarify
your thinking regarding many concepts. Also, the need to certify will compel you to learn some
aspects of database administration that you either don’t like for some reason or currently don’t use
in your organization. So if you’re not already certified, by all means start on that path. You can get
all the information you need by going to Oracle’s certification Web site at http://www.oracle.com/
education/certification. Believe me, that certificate does look nice hanging in your cubicle, and it’s
a symbol of the vast amount of knowledge you’ve acquired in the field over time. You can rightfully
take pride in obtaining OCP-certified DBA status!