This morning at PASS our good friend Joseph Sack, who runs the SQL Server Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) program, announced some sweeping changes to the SQL MCM program and how it look going forward. We at SQLskills have been deeply involved with all aspects of these changes and now I'm free to blog about them.

Borrowing a few paragraphs from Brent's blog post this morning:

The Original Microsoft Certified Master Program:

  • $18,500 entry fee for 3 weeks of training (and possibly certification)
  • MCITP: Database Developer 2008 and MCITP: Database Administrator 2008 required first
  • You had to show up onsite in Seattle for 3 weeks straight
  • Three written multiple-choice exams onsite during the training
  • One six-hour final lab

Problems: that's a lot of money to stump up in one go, many people simply cannot take 3 weeks away from work, and it only happened in Redmond.

The New Microsoft Certified Master Program:

  • MCITP: Database Developer 2008 and MCITP: Database Administrator 2008 still required
  • Certification and training is totally separate
  • Initial written multiple-choice exam – $500, and can be taken at Prometric testing centers around the world
  • 6-hour lab exam – $2,000, and can be taken at select secure Prometric testing centers around the world

Microsoft will no longer provide training for the SQL MCM. Training will provided by approved third-party expert vendors, such as

Free training

Over the last few months Microsoft has partnered exclusively with SQLskills to produce 40 hours of introductory training for the MCM program, which you can download completely free. There are twenty hours there live now, with a further twenty hours being released before the end of 2010. These videos are not designed to give you all the training you need. They're designed to show you the breadth of material you need to know for each area, and an idea of the depth to which you should know it. There's also an extensive pre-reading list that we've put together at

Why should you come to us?

And why did Microsoft come to us for the training videos, and for help building the new certification?

  • We're the only company that has multiple instructors from the original MCM program (myself and Kimberly, who taught all of week 1)
  • We're renowned as having the best instructors and consultants in the business (including MCM Brent Ozar)
  • We're the *only* company who has been teaching the MCM certification since it's very first rotation as the internal "Ranger" program at Microsoft (that was me)

No other company has had such a long or close association with the MCM program. You'll get the best ROI for your training budget by coming to us.

Moving forward

As many of you know, Kimberly and I teach our renowned SQL Immersion events (next one is in December!), a 5-day deep course that essentially covers week one of the old MCM training materials. Starting in 2011 we will be offering three 5-day courses that map to the three weeks of MCM training. Through our instructors Bob, Brent, Kimberly and myself, we can cover everything you need to know for the MCM qualification, but it's important to realize that training alone will not get you the certification. You *must* have extensive practical experience as well – and some of you may not need the training.

We will be offering these courses at least 2 times each in 2011 in various cities throughout the US starting in the February/March timeframe (so at least 6 weeks of SQLskills MCM-level training next year!). We will provide international classes depending on demand, but I expect that each of the three 5-day classes will be offered at least once internationally (most likely in the UK) in 2011, taught by the same instructors as the US classes. The cost for each week will be in line with our current SQL Immersion class fees.


I welcome these changes to the SQL MCM. I think that by decoupling the training and the exams it will open the certification to those who deserve to pass but have been prevented by the cost and time expense involved in the past. I don't think that opening the program will dilute the meaning and prestige attached to the certification, and stringent measures are being taken to protect the contents of the exams and labs.

You know you have it in you to get this certification, and SQLskills can help you do it.

All the details of the new certification are on Microsoft's site here and you can read this morning's press release here.

Watch our website and the blogs over the next few weeks where we'll announce the first round of classes for 2011.

Please feel free to send me questions about our involvement with the program, but refer to Microsoft's site for all questions about the certification, lab, exams etc.

Paul, Kimberly, Brent, and Bob