IBM DB2 Certification – A Comprehensive Guide as of Today

Edited on 6/25/2014 to reflect the formerly missing tutorials on the IBM sites

Nearly every DB2 conference I go to has me thinking about DB2 certification. That is probably because most conferences include free or reduced cost certification testing. I have covered this topic before, so feel free to check out the blog entries on it:
IBM DB2 Certification – Why it is Worth it
Why DB2 Certification is Cool

I thought this time, I would talk specifically about the various certifications and some of the ins and outs of getting certified. This is “as of today” because IBM certification changes over time and if you’re reading this in say 2016, it may be very different. I learned in the process of researching this article that Susan Weaver, who used to head the certification program for Information Management for IBM, has left IBM. This is sad – if you’ve done a certification at a DB2 related conference in the last few years, she has been the one sitting at the table outside the room. Probably more than just the last few years.

I have also learned that Roger Sanders has written his last certification prep book. This is sad because Roger really is a certification guru. He helped write the tests, so had real inside knowledge. Mohan, who won DB2’s Got Talent in 2013, is taking over the books, but I do not know if he’s going to have direct involvement in developing the certification tests.

My Experiences with DB2 Certification

I earned my first DB2 certification in January of 2004. I had been a DB2 DBA for about two and a half years, and I studied my rear off for it. It was the V8.1 family fundamentals exam, and at the time I hardly ever did SQL more complicated than select * from syscat.bufferpools. I was working for IBM as a physical/systems dba, so SQL was mostly just outside of my little box. I had not yet learned enough to stretch the size of my box. In March of the same year, I took and passed the v8.1 DBA exam, and found it so much easier than the first one, largely because it covered what I did every day. I still spent a significant amount of time studying.

In May of 2005, I took the 8.1 advanced DBA exam, and passed it when the IDUG North American technical conference was in Denver. It was a bit of a stretch because it covered topics I did not work with daily like DPF (EEE then) and Federated databases. It also covered performance, which I was really beginning to focus on learning about. In fact, at that same conference, I paid my own way to Scott Hayes’ performance workshop, and that was more valuable than the same money spent on certifications. He still gives such a seminar. I took it again last year, and hope to take it every few years.

I’ve continued to upgrade my certifications in these three core DBA areas, taking free or low-cost exams at conferences through the years. V9, 9.7, 10.1 and 10.5. I don’t have the advanced DBA certification for 10.5 yet, because the test is not out yet. Also last year at IOD, I took 9.7 SQL Proceedure Developer (cold, no studying), and passed it. It didn’t seem too hard to me, but I never would have passed it without the work I’ve done writing stored procedures and table functions to collect my own performance data – I learned an amazing amount from that.

It’s not an IBM certification, But I also obtained my OCA certification. That one was different, and I will talk later in this article about the differences that I noticed.

IBM DB2 Certification in General

IBM DB2 certification is achieved solely through passing multiple-choice tests. No labs or classroom courses are required. The tests must be taken at a testing center. This is in contrast to some technical certifications. When I earned my OCA, I had to have a classroom course, take one online test and one testing-center test. For me it was almost purely based on that one week class and studying since I don’t work directly with Oracle a lot. And it was a hard test because of that. I think that’s the only professional certification test I have ever taken that I passed by only one question. My husband works with VM Ware, and has their base level certification, but for the mid-level certification, it’s a 4-hour session that includes labs. In comparison, IBM’s tests seem less rigorous. One of the nice things about IBM’s certification program is that you generally get some title for each and every test, assuming you take them in order.

All certifications are listed on IBM’s certification website along with preparation suggestions, objectives, and links to sample tests. There are generally only enough questions for one sample test, and sample tests are available online for a small fee. Certification tests must be taken at a testing center or conference. Both IBM Insight and the International DB2 Users Group (IDUG) conference usually offer free or drastically reduced price certification testing.

I find that after having attended sessions at a conference for the better part of a week, I have absorbed a lot of the information I need to take upgrade exams for certifications I already hold. At IOD last year, I flew in early and took advantage of the testing that opened a day before most of the conference. I got a lot done without missing conference content, but I had to study harder to remember 10.5 details than I would have had to if I had simply taken the tests after sitting in sessions all week.

Certifications

There are three basic tracks for DB2 certification the way I think of it:

  1. Linux, Unix, and Windows Database Administration
  2. Z/OS Database Administration
  3. Database Development

I won’t be talking about the Z/OS track, because I don’t have experience with it.

IBM CERTIFIED DATABASE ASSOCIATE – DB2 10.1 FUNDAMENTALS

This certification is the starting point for all of the three tracks listed above. The test is required for all of the other certifications. Generally it must be renewed at least every two full-number versions. That is – having the v8 Family Fundamentals test will serve the requirement for all of the higher level certifications for v8 and DB2 9, but for a DB2 10 certification, the V8 Family Fundamentals will not fill the requirement.

The DB2 10.1 Fundamentals certification focuses heavily on heavily on knowledge of DB2 packaging, SQL, objects, concepts of security and locking.

Study Resources

There are some really good self-study options for this test.
IBM’s online certification preparation books are new. They are basically just snippets from the IBM DB2 documentation that meet the stated objectives. They are not written by test writers, nor do they include any test questions. And they are really long as a result. But they are free. http://public.dhe.ibm.com/ps/products/db2/info/vr101/pdf/en_US/db2cgf.pdf

The online tutorials on developerWorks are my favorite study method at this level. They are comprehensive, and I frequently point those who are newer to DB2 for them for general learning on DB2:
DB2 10.1 fundamentals certification exam 610 prep, Part 1: Planning

DB2 10.1 fundamentals certification exam 610 prep, Part 2: DB2 security

DB2 10.1 fundamentals certification exam 610prep, Part 3: Working with databases and database objects

DB2 10.1 fundamentals certification exam 610 prep, Part 4: Working with DB2 Data using SQL

DB2 10.1 Fundamentals certification exam 610 prep: Part 5: Working with tables, views, and indexes

DB2 10.1 fundamentals certification exam 610 prep, Part 6: Data concurrency

And if you notice, Section 2 is missing above. I asked IBM, and they’re not quite sure where it went, but confirm that they cannot find it either.

There is a tech talk on this certification too, that may be worthwhile: https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/community/blogs/SQLTips4DB2LUW/entry/techtalk120726_db210cert?lang=en_us

I have always been a fan of Roger Sanders’ certification preparation books, and he has one for this test. I have not personally used this one, but am sure it’s good. Roger is one of the test writers. He has real insight on the tests. You can find his book at http://www.amazon.com/DB2-10-1-Fundamentals-Certification-Study/dp/1583473491/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395365592&sr=8-1&keywords=roger+sanders+10.1+db2+certification. IBM’s new online books are no competition for Roger’s detailed books filled with test insight and sample questions.

There is an official IBM Family Fundamentals course but I heard years ago from friends that it was as much sales and learning the spiel on the DB2 family of products as anything. Which I suppose is useful if you don’t work with DB2 in that manner, but I think the information is better picked up elsewhere. An SQL Workshop course would be far more useful, and cover a significant portion of the exam. This is the course I’m talking about, in it’s US English version: http://www-304.ibm.com/services/learning/ites.wss/us/en?pageType=course_description&courseCode=CE121

Test 610

Details on the test can be found here: http://www-03.ibm.com/certify/tests/ovrC2090-610.shtml
I am not going to copy and paste details like the # of questions, time, passing percentages, where to go for sample tests and the full list of objectives for the test – go to that site, and all those details are available.

LUW ADMINISTRATION TRACK – IBM CERTIFIED DATABASE ADMINISTRATOR – DB2 10.1 DBA FOR LINUX, UNIX, AND WINDOWS

This is the mid-level certification on the LUW administration track. You must have passed the Family Fundamentals test (610) to obtain this certification. In this section of this blog entry, the test referred to is 611 only. This certification is heavily focused on database administration. It focuses on a common set of tasks that many DBAs perform as part as their daily routine. It does not often include much on special features. I find it the easiest to take cold as a result.

Study Resources

Test 611 also has an awesome amount of study resources available. Much like the 610 test, developerWorks has a similarly awesome series of tutorials: http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/views/data/libraryview.jsp?sort_by=&show_abstract=true&show_all=&search_flag=&contentarea_by=Information+Management&search_by=certification+exam+611+prep&product_by=-1&topic_by=-1&industry_by=-1&type_by=All+Types&ibm-search=Search

Again there is a section missing in the tutorials – section 6 – but developerWorks is aware of this and working on it. They hope to have it posted by mid May of 2014. Again, these tutorials are good not just for DB2 certification, but also for generally developing DB2 skills and knowledge.

IBM again offers a free online certification book. IBM’s certification preparation books are new. They are basically just snippets from the documentation that meet the stated objectives. They are not written by test writers, nor do they include any test questions. And they are really long as a result. But they are free. http://public.dhe.ibm.com/ps/products/db2/info/vr101/pdf/en_US/DB2PrepGuide-db2cgae1011.pdf

Before IDUG conferences, Roger Sanders offers what I have heard is an excellent one-day certification preparation course. He’s offering one at IDUG North America this year in Phoenix: http://www.idug.org/e/in/eid=33&req=info&s=1971&all=1

The IBM classes for LUW administration are really helpful for this certification, but when I took them I was lucky enough to have some choice in instructors. I have heard that they are less helpful with a random or inexperienced instructor. I don’t know enough to vouch for any of the instructors currently teaching. This is the class I am talking about (in it’s LINUX format for the US): http://www-304.ibm.com/services/learning/ites.wss/us/en?pageType=course_description&courseCode=2L203

Test 611

Details on the test can be found here: http://www-03.ibm.com/certify/tests/ovrC2090-611.shtml
I am not going to copy and paste details like the # of questions, time, passing percentages, where to go for sample tests and the full list of objectives for the test – go to that site, and all those details are available.

LUW ADMINISTRATION TRACK – IBM CERTIFIED DATABASE ADMINISTRATOR – DB2 10.5 DBA FOR LUW UPGRADE FROM DB2 10.1

Oddly enough this test is only available as an upgrade from 10.1, so you must have the 10.1 DBA certification to achieve 10.5 DBA. That means that even though this is a mid-level certification, three tests are required to achieve it – the last two I talked about (610 and 611), plus 311. Since it’s an upgrade test, it focuses heavily on the differences from 10.1 – particularly on BLU and PureScale. I find it interesting that they’re covering PureScale on the DBA tests – I would have placed it more in the Advanced DBA territory in my own head. This section of this blog entry refers to test 311.

Study Resources

The study resources for this test are particularly abysmal. My favorite resource for it is actually a Flash Book that is sometimes offered for free at some conferences. I think you can get it at this link: https://www14.software.ibm.com/webapp/iwm/web/signup.do?source=sw-infomgt&S_PKG=ov18724

There are no tutorials or online books for this one. The certification page actually lists the IBM DB2 Information Center as a study resource. Sure, I’ll just read the whole Info Center to prepare. Where’s that sarcasm font when I need it?

Test 311

Details on the test can be found here: http://www-03.ibm.com/certify/tests/ovrC2090-311.shtml
I am not going to copy and paste details like the # of questions, time, passing percentages, where to go for sample tests and the full list of objectives for the test – go to that site, and all those details are available.

LUW ADMINISTRATION TRACK – IBM CERTIFIED ADVANCED DATABASE ADMINISTRATOR – DB2 10.1 FOR LINUX UNIX AND WINDOWS

This is the crown jewel of the LUW Administration certification track. To achieve this certification, you must be a certified 10.1 DBA (tests 610 and 611) and pass test 614. This section of this blog entry refers to test 614. This certification addresses what I think of as “special advanced topics”. If you are a DBA with 3 or more years of experience, it is likely you have experience in at least one of these special advanced topics. But even if you are a veteran of more than 10 years, you may not have experience with all of them. For me there are some areas like performance or high availability on this exam that are just easy because I do them every day. There are others that I have to cram for because I just don’t do things like federation or replication much. Don’t get me wrong, I find it to be a very valuable test for exactly that reason – it makes me stretch.

Study Resources

The study resources are pretty slim on the self-study side. I do not see any books – online or in paper form. There are no tutorials I have seen. My study generally involves looking at the objectives and then reading up on them via Google or developerWorks or the Knowledge Center. Going to conferences and the educational sessions there can give you some great info for certain areas.

Several official IBM classes can be quite useful.
DB2 for LUW Performance Tuning and Monitoring Workshop – DB2 10.1: http://www-304.ibm.com/services/learning/ites.wss/us/en?pageType=course_description&courseCode=CL413
DB2 10.5 for LUW Advanced Database Administration with DB2 BLU Acceleration: http://www-304.ibm.com/services/learning/ites.wss/ca/en?pageType=course_description&courseCode=CL463CE – note I could not find the 10.1 version of this course. I think this one would do if it is not too focused on BLU
DB2 9 for LUW Advanced Database Recovery: http://www-304.ibm.com/services/learning/ites.wss/us/en?pageType=course_description&courseCode=CL492 – again, no 10.1 version found, but it has not changed drastically.

Test 614

Details on the test can be found here: http://www-03.ibm.com/certify/tests/ovrC2090-614.shtml
I am not going to copy and paste details like the # of questions, time, passing percentages, where to go for sample tests and the full list of objectives for the test – go to that site, and all those details are available.

LUW DEVELOPER TRACK – IBM CERTIFIED SOLUTION DEVELOPER – DB2 9.7 SQL PROCEDURE

This is the one test in the developer track that I have taken. It is directed at people who write SQL, including table functions, stored procedures, etc on a regular basis. If you have never written your own table function or MERGE statement, then it will take a lot of studying. I also took it cold, so don’t have a lot to say about the preparation materials. This certification requires the Family Fundamentals test (610 or one for the earlier versions) and test 545.

I actually wonder how used the developer tests are. I mentioned this one to a well established DB2 SQL expert and he had never even heard of it.

I do hear an updated version of this for DB2 10.1 is in the works for this year.

Study Materials

The IBM site does not offer self-study materials. It requires intimate knowledge of SQL. If you struggle with the SQL sections on the Family Fundamentals test, you will need more study or experience for taking this one. The study I actually pulled on most during the test was one of my entry level college courses in programming – the methodology it taught me for walking through code and tracking changes to various variables at each step along the way. I would highly recommend the sample test.

Test 545

Details on the test can be found here: http://www-03.ibm.com/certify/tests/ovrC2090-545.shtml
I’m not going to copy and paste details like the # of questions, time, passing percentages, where to go for sample tests and the full list of objectives for the test – go to that site, and all those details are available. Ensure you take the offered scratch paper or sheet for this, because I sure needed it.

LUW DEVELOPER TRACK – IBM CERTIFIED APPLICATION DEVELOPER – DB2 9.7 FOR LINUX, UNIX AND WINDOWS

My guidance is less for this one since I have not taken it. I plan to at some point, but feel on shakier ground with it because it’s further from what I do every day. I took and failed the practice test once several years ago, and just haven’t put time into studying for it.

This certification requires the Family Fundamentals test (610) and test 543.

Study Resources

The IBM site does not list any free resources for this test. It used to be covered by certification books in previous versions, but I’m not seeing any of the those at the moment. If any readers have resources to offer, please share!

Test 543

Details on the test can be found here: http://www-03.ibm.com/certify/tests/ovrC2090-543.shtml
I’m not going to copy and paste details like the # of questions, time, passing percentages, where to go for sample tests and the full list of objectives for the test – go to that site, and all those details are available.

I do hear an updated version of this for DB2 10.1 is in the works for this year.

Summary

DB2 certifications are worth the work, both to prove to potential employers your expertise, and also to make you stretch yourself to become a better DBA. For many of them, there are great resources available for study. It will be interesting to see the direction IBM takes with DB2 certifications in the future.

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  1. Hi,
    I would like to know the difference in course structure of Db2 V9 and DB2 V10.1.
    What sort of items/techniques/concepts/objects added or deleted?

    Regards,
    Saurabh Kesarwani

    • Well, it depends on if you’re talking about 9.1, 9.5, or 9.7, and if you’re using any special features like partitioning.
      Generally speaking, the high points are:
      from 9.1 to 9.5 and above architecture on linux/unix systems changed from multiple processes to multiple threads for a significant performance improvement.
      from 9.5 to 9.7 and above – new monitoring methodology with mon_get functions
      from 9.5 to 9.7 and above – db2haicu and easier integration of TSAMP for automating HADR failover
      Every one of these releases has improvements in the data available in system views and mon_get/monreport functions
      10.5 introduced BLU and additional compression methodolgy – good for data warehouses/decision support systems.
      10.1 introduced multiple standbys for HADR
      Performance improvements across the board in many versions – particularly in 10.1
      9.1 out of service – no additional updates, even for security
      9.5 goes out of service on April 30, 2015

      Those are the big ones that stick out. There are more things – I can’t list them all.

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