Revisiting SQL Server certification

I first touched a SQL Server instance back in 1998 during a SQL Server 6.5 course. I hadn’t planned to take the class except that the small company I worked for had a remaining credit with one of the local training organizations. My manager thought it might be a good fit for me, but I had no idea that SQL Server would eventually become the focus of my career.

Not long after that, SQL Server 7 was released, and I was much more interested in taking a class to learn about it and get the certification called MCDBA. Over the following years, I kept up with the many iterations of the cert to learn about new features or help an employer with their Microsoft partner status. Maybe I am unusual, but I also enjoy taking the exams.

I am back trying to get my certs up to date. It had been six years since I had taken a Microsoft certification exam, so I was pretty surprised to see how much they have changed. Previously, four or five exams were required to get the premier certification, renamed to MCSE at some point. Now there is one exam to get the Azure Data Fundamentals credential and one to get the Azure Database Administrator Associate cert.

These new certs have Azure in the names for a reason. Experience with on-premises SQL Server will not be enough. You will need to understand the Azure database offerings, working in hybrid environments, migrating to Azure, and managing databases once they are in the cloud. Microsoft has also provided free online training courses for each exam to help you learn more listed right on the page. Training for the new certification is a fantastic opportunity for DBAs who have worked strictly with on-premises SQL Servers to upgrade their skills.

I took the fundamentals exam (DP-900) about a month ago. I found it easy, probably because of all the time I spent in Azure when tech reviewing articles and from years of experience working with SQL Server. I brushed up on Cosmos DB, the different Azure storage offerings, and Power BI to prepare. The exam covers much more, but I already knew most of the material well. Of course, your experience may be different, so be sure to review the topics covered.

Right now, I’m working on the associate exam (DP-300). This one is taking some study since I haven’t worked with several features like high availability and security in Azure. Again, there are training materials freely available. I suspect I’ll be ready to sit for the exam by the end of the year.

Microsoft certification is a controversial topic. It can be a great way to learn the latest technology, but good test takers can sometimes pass the exams without touching a server. Certifications look good on a resume, but they don’t necessarily prove expertise at the end of the day.

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