How to study for MCSA SQL Server 2012

  • Hey guys, I just decided upon a career change at the end of last year and want to become a SQL developer. I've been learning SQL for almost 3 months now (Head First book) and am planning on taking 2 classes at the local college in May and August. My goal is to take all 3 exams by the end of this year or January of 2014 at the latest and become MCSA certified so I could get my first Entry level/Junior level position next February. Is this a realistic goal?

    Also, how much experience do I need to have to begin studying for these exams? How much time should I give myself to study for each exam? Any help would be appreciated guys, this career change was abrupt and I am putting the work into it, I just hope I'm doing it right.

  • If you concentrating to gain only on the theoretical knowledge of SQL Server, I would say 12 month is good enough. But, becoming an MCSA is not only about memorizing the concepts, its about implementing the right concept at the right place.SQL Server is like a platter, its serves you with all variety of dishes, but the onus to bring out the uniqueness depends on individual.Having said that, I would re-iterate, what I have read and have understood from the past few years into SQL Server,even if you do not have a job, try to do things voluntarily, these along with your studies would provide you with much wider landscape, which I think any future employeer would not like to miss.

    All the very best and God speed.

  • Well, I am concentrating on only gaining the theoretical knowledge as far as a Certificate is concerned because I'm trying to get that first job as soon as possible. Certainly I want to gain as much knowledge as I possibly can but I'd think that would be done on the job no? I want to better my skills with this as much as possible, not only for myself but for the potential benefits of jr/mid level/sr level SQL developers. Also, I really appreciate such a prompt response.

  • The exams assume a certain amount of practical experience, a year or two I think. Simply memorising books will probably not be enough, you need to get your hands on a SQL instance and try out everything that you study.

    Gail Shaw
    Microsoft Certified Master: SQL Server, MVP, M.Sc (Comp Sci)
    SQL In The Wild: Discussions on DB performance with occasional diversions into recoverability

    We walk in the dark places no others will enter
    We stand on the bridge and no one may pass
  • That's what I've been doing the past 2-3 months with the head first sql book. I've been playing with mysql all that time. Creating tables, using commands, search queries, etc. I would never go into learning with books but not practicing at the same time.

  • dob111283 (3/27/2013)

    I've been playing with mysql all that time. Creating tables, using commands, search queries, etc. I would never go into learning with books but not practicing at the same time.

    Practising with MySQL is not going to help you pass a SQL Server certification exam, they're different in all areas, query language, administration, behaviours, everything. That's like speaking French in preparation for a Latin exam

    You need to get hold of a SQL Server instance and practice on that.

    btw, if you mean this book, that's also not going to help you much in passing the certs. In learning to think and write SQL for the MySQL database, yes, to pass a SQL Server 2012 cert exam, not so much.

    It's a fine book for learning databases, just please don't think it's a study guide for the cert exams.

    Gail Shaw
    Microsoft Certified Master: SQL Server, MVP, M.Sc (Comp Sci)
    SQL In The Wild: Discussions on DB performance with occasional diversions into recoverability

    We walk in the dark places no others will enter
    We stand on the bridge and no one may pass
  • Oh no, I'm not using headfirst OR mysql to study for the exams. But when I DID start with sql this was recommended to me and I spend 90% of the time doing random tables and queries and 10% reading that book because I wanted to get familiarized with mysql. I know it's not the same as MS SQL but get acquainted with commands and how everything operates will help me with MS SQL. I have SQL server 2012 on my computer and I'd love to delve right into it hardcore so if you have any books or supplementary material or any kind of work that will help me use it as much as possible for the next 8 months I'd appreciate it. As far as the exams go, I have all the study material from microsoft for each exam.

  • I recently purchased some Microsoft Exam prep books for SQL 2012, and I find them to be better written than the ones for SQL 2008. But you still need practical experience that comes from resolving issues that affect real database users, so I'll repeat what others have said and volunteer, get an internship or an entry-level IT job that allows you at least some exposure to SQL Server support.

    Also, with the increased emphasis on High Availability, you should have either a high-end computer capable of running several virtual machines simultaniously, or pick up several second hand computers on which to install separate SQL instances for practicing mirroring, failover clusters, always-on, etc.

  • Yea, I have a gaming monster that I am planning to use to run multiple virtual machines. As far as entry level/internship jobs, I've searched for months here in south florida to no avail. I would kill to get an entry level/internship/learn on the job for SQL development but I just haven't had any success finding one.

  • Also guys, if anybody has suggestions for books to start with for SQL 2012 I will get them asap. Preferably ones that allow lots of interaction and exercises.

  • I've been in your shoes. Consider leveraging your previous career to gain a position that will allow you to interact with and use SQL Server in an employment setting. There are more than a few DBAs and developers who began as the guy or girl who just was really good at pulling data together from databases and wound up as the de facto administrator for SQL Server. Way back when I had a job in a human services field and computers were a hobby. Then the company I worked for hired a full-time system admin who had never worked in our field. I had enough computer savvy to be the "translator" between him and our management. Eventually it led to me becoming his assistant. Later on I got into desktop/field support full-time. Along the way I created a number of databases using MS Access (don't laugh, guys) and learned the basics of databases and relational theory.

    In my current job, I was hired for my desktop experience but my boss was particularly interested in the fact I had some database and VBA experience as well. To make a long story short, today I have a PC at my desk with a developer copy of Visual Studio, which includes SQL Server 2005. I'm entirely self-taught. mostly by devouring Sql Server Books Online, which is included with SQL Server and is also available via MSDN (the MSDN version allows you to select which version of SQL Server you're interested in, which is important because there are still older versions of SQL Server in production use out there). Books Online (or BOL as it is affectionately known in cyberspace) contains a great deal of tutorials and how-tos which will at bare minimum give you a solid, well-rounded knowledge of SQL Server as well as SS Integration Services, Analysis Services and Reporting Services.

    At any rate, the point I am belaboring is that the IT world in general is more interested in what you can do rather than what you know. Certifications are fine and I do not in any way wish to dissuade you from your goals, but as others have pointed out finding a way right now to get some practical experience under your belt will not only help you with the exams, but also down the road when you try to land your dream position.

    Good luck and go for it.

    Just my $0.02 from over here in the cheap seats of the peanut gallery - please adjust for inflation and/or your local currency.

  • Great post and I totally agree with you larry. The point of the certification was JUST to get the first job and as fast as possible (I'd like a home and a family with my wife in the next few years). It's just getting my foot through the door. After that I could care less about certifications, I'll absorb knowledge like a hawk.

  • There is a lot of debate over the value of certification and I'd like to add my 2 cents.

    Like many in this field, I became a defacto-dba via support for end-user applications with SQL (and FoxPro) back ends. I found that with a good set of instructions and minimal knowledge, one can install SQL Server, a third party application that connects to a database, and the whole system might run for years in manner that does allow users to get their jobs done. The problem is that performance issues might occur, or the system may crash for one reason or another, and the defacto DBA need to be able to do something other than reboot the server.

    And even then, once you get a good backup routine in place and you're learned the difference between inner & outer joins, your site probably STILL doesn't utilize all the features of SQL Server. If many SQL Server features are a mystery, your users may not be getting all the benefit they can get, may be suffering unnecessary performance issues, and may be at risk for security breeches. And if you find yourself job hunting, the company you want to work for may be looking for knowledge & experience in functions you know little about.

    In my case, I've found that studying for certification has exposed me to many more features of SQL, some of which I've started using to my employer's benefit without them asking me to do it (unless your bosses are DBAs, they wouldn't know to ask you to do them). And as for other features I've experimented with on my VM at home but have no need for in my work environment, these may be among the skills being sought at my next job interview.

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