SQL Server Certifications: What to Take and How to Prepare

Whether you’re already a database professional or would like to become one, you’ve probably thought about getting certified in SQL Server. Do you need to be certified? What certifications are available and which should you take first? How should you prepare for the exams? Kendra Little is a Microsoft Certified Master in SQL Server. She’ll explain what certifications are available, what the advantages are of becoming certified, and give practical tips for making the most of your exams.

Want to see the links from the video? Scroll on down– the links are at the bottom of the post.

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SQL Server Certifications: Helpful Links

Certification Exams for Microsoft SQL Server 2008

Database AdministratorExam 70-432Exam 70-450Exam 88-970
Exam 88-971
MCA Board Exam
Database DeveloperExam 70-433Exam 70-451
Business Intelligence DeveloperExam 70-448Exam 70-452N/AN/A

Studying for SQL Server Certifications

Tools to Build Your Own SQL Server Lab

Low Cost (or Free!) Virtualization Products

Using Amazon’s EC2 as Your SQL Server Lab

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41 Comments. Leave new

  • Kendra:

    Thanks for the presentation; some comments are here.

    You mentioned that SQL Server 2012 RC0 can be downloaded – do you know if it’s a 180-day eval? I haven’t seen any limitations on the download page.

  • Ace post Kendra!

    I’ve been working with SQL Server for about 4 years now (not exclusively mind). I got started by administering a CRM + Dialler that sits on a SQL Server database, and I’ve tried to get as much of it into my job ever since. I taught myself and passed the MCTS for SQL 2005 a few years back, but in that time SQL 2008 became the latest and greatest. So I started studying for the SQL 2008 MCTS, but with SQL 2012 on the horizon I’ve decided to park the Certifications for now.

    This turned out to be the best thing ever, because I’ve started reading more and more blogs to satisfy the craving for learning new SQL stuff! I’m free from the constraints of the syllabus, and I can go into more depth if something really interests me without worrying that I should be learning only what I’m going to be tested on (eg the Stairway to SQL Server Indexes was brilliant!)

    I’ve found that blogs are a totally different way of learning. They tell you the practical truth about a new feature (i.e. can you realistically use it now or does Microsoft need to work on it a bit more before you should use it in a production environment).

    I think that doing the MCTS gave me a broad understanding of the main technologies within SQL Server, and I probably wouldn’t be as enthusiastic about (or be able to understand) some of the bloggy goodness that can be found on the internet. So I totally recommend Certifications, but only in addition to all the other learning tools available. Just need to get the illusive DBA job now!

    Thanks again for the post – keep up the good work!

    • Thanks for your feedback– that’s really great to hear. And I agree about the Stairway Series of articles on SQL Server Central: there’s so much great content in those!

      If you’re interested and excited about the technology, and you’re actively learning on your own, a database administrator job can’t be far away if that’s your goal. It’s always hard to get into an industry, but on the other hand it’s really hard for folks to find a good DBA these days as well.

  • As always, valuable things!

  • Hi kendra,

    Iam working as a System Administrator with Atos India Pvt Limited. Its been three years that iam working on current versions SQL Server.

    Just a minute back i went through your video on Server Certification… and i would like to thank and appreciate you for providing all the vital and practical aspects for the certification. its great to know about the pros and cons from a Master!!!

    As good as SQL 2012, my zeal for databases and SQL server related learning is ALWAYS ON!!!

    iam preapring for the 70-432 certification in which i think most of the topics are in my bag… however i will for sure consider your vital advice.

    Iam a beginner and i look upto you as my mentor and guide.
    I hope to hear back from you… thanks once again
    Have a great day ahead.


  • Hi Kendra,

    I am a Software Tester & i want to clear SQL certification, but i have only basic knowledge of Sql Server 2008(don’t know the programing part like SP’s, Triggers etc). so can you please suggest should i attempt for SQL server certification ?

    Many Thanks,

    • Hi Amit,

      Each test has a very detailed list of the skills measured. Click on the links for the test in the post and then read the ‘skills measured’ tab on the Microsoft site– that will give you a very concrete sense of what you need to study for each exam.

  • Hi Kendra,

    I have read about 70-432 exam from john’s site.
    I have “MCTS EXAM 70-433 self paced Training Kit”.
    Can refer this kit to prepare for my 70-432 exam.
    please reply.

    Many thanks,

  • Hello Kendra,

    I have search about topics on respective sites.
    You are right, it won’t be very effective.
    Skill requirements of both the exam are different.
    70-433 is for database development and 70-432 is about implementation and maintenance.

    Thank you very much for guidance,

  • Hi Kendra,
    Thank you for your short, precise and easily understandable presentation.

    I am planning to take certifications on Microsoft SQL server. What is your advice to start my certifications, from SQL server 2008 or SQL server 2012? Are SQL 2012 certifications the same as SQL 2008? I mean like MCTS, MCITP, MCM, MAM…

  • Hi I am MCITP Certified. I have my mcp, net infrastructure, and active directory, I am currently working on a helpdesk. I think i would like to go sql. I kinda want to peak in first and see if its interesting and exaclty whats its about. Any suggestions.

    • Sure– my suggestion would be to play around with the product. This video and the links have some info to get you kick started on setting up your own lab.

  • Thank you for this! This was exactly what I needed 🙂

  • Hi,
    I hav cleared mssql 2005 certification on 2009.now i hav completed my graduation .so my next growth for sql would be which part?plz give some idea

    • Kendra Little
      May 11, 2013 9:49 am

      First step is to evaluate what your career goals are! Decide where you want to go and start mapping out a plan to get there.

  • How to get started with SQL server course? Should I go for 2008 and then go about certification?
    I have an MBA degree and 2 years of black box testing.

    • Sarika – these are some interesting questions, but they’re kind of vague. The details depend on the specifics of your situation, like what you need the courses and certifications for. Think about what you’re trying to achieve (like a job change) and then figure out how to get there from here.

  • HI, M a data analyst since 1 year, want to enhance my career in DB side, I am an engineering graduate. Could you help me from where i can start doing certifications? Will this help my career to excel?

    • SPC – it’s tough for us to give personalized career advice without knowing a lot more about you, your career plan, and your local job market. However, keep in mind that certifications won’t get you jobs.

  • Hi Kendra,

    I am a Software Tester & i want to clear SQL certification, but i have only basic knowledge of Sql Server (don’t know the programing part like SP’s, Triggers etc). so can you please suggest which level is better to Complete Certification. Could plz provide Code which is better for testing.

  • I have 6 years of experience as DBA and am thinking about doing Certification. Just noticed that some of the exams are expiring at the end of January 2014. Do I have to do them in order or I can do 70-432 first and then 70-431 later

  • Victor Barajas
    January 12, 2014 6:09 pm

    I just saw this video, it is great. I’m studying for SQL 2012 upgrade certification. I just notice the link about the best dba books is not working anymore. I think this is the one you should use:

  • Great video!! I am thinking about a career and looking at the possibility of becoming a DBA. You video definitely gave me something to think about. Thank you for sharing!!


  • How long (time) are the certification tests?

    • Kendra Little
      May 2, 2014 9:35 am

      They’re typically a couple of hours. When you schedule the appointment it tells you exactly how long each one is.

  • Hi Kindra,
    I am working with SQL servers 2008 R2 for almost 2 years now. I am an accidental DBA…But would really like to do a certification for growth and future prospects. I noticed that on the MS links that SQL 2008 certification exam 70-432 will expire on 31st July 2015 so could you please advice me if I should jump start with SQL 2012 70-462 ? I am confused now. Plus SQL server 2014 is in demand now which makes it difficult to make the right choice because I don’t want to just keep spending on certification which are going to be expired soon. Please advice.

    • Are you getting any benefits from your certification, or are you taking them to learn? Let that drive your decision.

  • Anubhuti goswami
    June 22, 2015 3:37 am

    I am working as a Trainee Software Engineer . I like to do more on SQL server but I am confused which certification course I should select .

  • Hi Kendra,

    How do I sign up to take the certification? Are the certifications online or do I go to a physical location in order to get certified? Thank you for your video! It was very helpful.

  • I am just curious what does Microsoft MTA Database fundamentals come under?

    • No clue – we don’t keep up to date on the current certs. We’re not big fans of those.

      • Sorry to resurrect this thread…I’m trying to plan my annual growth opportunities/goals. One of mine is to gain more expertise in DBA-specific roles/solutions/activities. So, question, as a database app dev with an MCSA 2012 SQL Server, what type of measurable/quantitative activities can you suggest to help build the DBA skillset?

        • Working on SQL Server 2016, is there any reason i get certified in SQL SEVER 2012/2014 70-461 as there seems to be a discount for it at the moment.


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