Thursday, 5 February 2015

Frequently Asked Questions about MCSA: SQL Server


By Sarah Morgan


Microsoft’s SQL Server is one of the top database management systems in the world – even surpassing IBM’s second place market share in 2013.

With the MCSA: SQL Server cert you’ll get the skills needed to maintain a SQL Server database. You’ll learn how to use a broad range of tools and add-ons for business intelligence, data-driven applications and data warehousing.

It’s a pervasive technology, commonplace in organisations that use Microsoft’s Visual Studio environment for software development.

And to demonstrate Microsoft’s commitment to SQL Server, you’ll also find database-related certifications at each level of Microsoft’s certification program – from MTA (Microsoft Technology Associate) to MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert).




There’s a lot to know about this popular MCSA cert, and a lot of frequently asked questions - let’s take a look at some of the most popular ones…


Q. Why should you get the MCSA: SQL Server certification?

A. SQL Server training gives you an edge in a career as a database administrator, developer or analyst. You’ll not only have a broad range of SQL Server knowledge, you’ll also be able to prove it with a recognised certification.

If you’re aiming for positions like database developer or database analyst (or the previously mentioned careers) this certification is ideal.


Q. Am I ready for the MCSA: SQL Server?

A. Whilst there aren’t any solid prerequisites for this MCSA cert, you will be expected to have a basic knowledge of Microsoft’s Windows operating system and a working knowledge of relational databases is preferred.

However, it can still be rewarding to take an MCSA: SQL Server course without previous experience with SQL Server. You’ll still get a wealth of useful SQL knowledge as well as the tools to start using SQL Server for yourself. Ultimately, you’ll get the information to make gaining the certification more achievable.

If you’re new to technology we recommend you start with Microsoft’s entry level MTA: Database Fundamentals course. You’ll learn the basics of relational databases, data security concepts and database administration. With this solid base of knowledge, you’ll then be able to move on to the more advanced MCSA.



You'll need to pass these three exams





Q. What options are available for me to study MCSA: SQL Server?

A. When it comes to taking on your certification exams, there are two primary paths to follow: self-study & instructor-led / classroom training.

Self-study consists of research, reading and independent practice before arranging and taking the related exam(s). This approach will often save you money in the short term – training materials will cost less than time in the classroom but it can take you much longer to source and learn the right material.

You can also self-study through the use of virtual classrooms and virtual courses. These hybrid products provide a flexible way to learn – you’ll be able to learn when you want and get guided through a set curriculum of revision resources. Some good providers will even allow you to speak one-on-one to instructors online.

Classroom study provides you with the material you need to know and a good environment to learn it. Plus, with good training providers you’ll also get access to hands-on labs where you’ll be able to practice your SQL as soon as you’re taught it. You can set-up your own labs, but it will take an investment of time and effort.

Plus, it’s hard to put a value on the ‘instructor’ of instructor-led training. Nothing beats speaking to somebody in person about a tricky SQL Server query or learning first-hand from a master of the technology.

Whichever path you choose you’ll find brilliant support for both. Your choice should depend on how you prefer to learn, how quickly you need to get certified, how much time you can commit to studying and your/your organisations budget.


Q. I want to prepare myself for MCSA: SQL Server – where’s a good place to start revising?

A. If you want to build your knowledge before taking on a course, or are ready to dive into self-study, you should first take a look at the Microsoft Virtual Academy.

Here you’ll find some great, free e-learning resources. Our Firebrand SQL Server instructor has singled out these MVA resources as particularly useful:

1. Database Fundamentals – a great introduction to database terminology, concepts and skills for beginners

2. Administering SQL Server 2012 Jump Start – This Jump Start video will help you prepare for exam 70-462, one of the three you’ll need to pass for the MCSA: SQL Server cert.

3. Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Jump Start – If you’re already familiar with database fundamentals and working with SQL server, this is a great advanced resource for you. An equally useful resource if you’re preparing for exam 70-461.


Microsoft also offer paid revision materials. ‘Training Kits’ include lessons, practical exercises and online practice tests for each exam (70-461, 70-462 and 70-463)


Q. What about the new SQL Server 2014 product, does this affect my MCSA SQL Server certification?

A. In April 2014, Microsoft updated the MCSE SQL Server exams to include SQL Server 2014 topics.

However, the three MCSA exams are still focused on SQL Server 2012 and as a result haven’t been changed. The new SQL Server 2014 features (performance tuning and high availability) are best suited for the advanced MCSE level certs and can only be found in the relevant MCSE exams.

For a more detailed description of the new changes, take a look at this blog post.


Q. I’ve finished my MCSA, but I still want to expand my skills – what else can I do?

This MCSA is your first step toward the advanced MCSE: Data Platform and MCSE: Business Intelligence certifications.

Achieve these certs and you’ll gain specialised knowledge of Microsoft SQL Server, singling you out as a proven expert in this popular technology.

Take a look at these pages for more information on the MCSE: Data Platform and the MCSE: Business Intelligence certs.


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About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry.