Microsoft Learning has put up a new Microsoft Student Career Portal that gives advice and links to resources on how students can prepare themselves for careers as Database Administrators, Server Administrators, Consumer Support Technicians, Web Developers and Windows Developers. Each job role has a Student Learning Plan for the Job Role.
For example, here is the one for Database Administrator. It includes links to three E-Learning collections (that cost roughly $200-300 each), along with links to sign up for three certification exams. It is interesting that it has two collections for SQL Server 2005 and one collection for SQL Server 2008. Microsoft is offering very hefty discounts to students (up to 55%) on many of their certification exams.
I have always been a strong proponent of getting Microsoft Certified if you are working with Microsoft technologies and tools. Getting certified helps prove that you have some initiative and care about your career. It also forces you to learn some things that you might not use on a daily basis. Having certification(s) on your resume will often help you get interviews and can serve as a passive form of self defense during technical screening interviews, since your interviewer may assume that you are well-versed in whatever you are certified in.
On the other hand, certification is no substitute for real world, hands on experience with a product or technology, but rather a complement to that experience. It is definitely more difficult to get an entry level job as a DBA, since most companies are loathe to trust their data to a novice DBA. Many developers tend to scoff at getting certified, with a common attitude being that “You can either code or not” and you don’t need to pass a test to prove it…
I often get questions from students on how they should go about becoming a database administrator. Of course, there are different flavors of DBAs, some being more development oriented, while some are more admin oriented. Many people start out as desktop support technicians or working on a help desk to begin in an I.T. career. Then, once you are established, you should try to befriend your local DBA, and see what you can learn, as you get some actual experience working with real databases and servers. Working on getting certified while you are doing this is an excellent idea.