Published: 27 Nov 2008
By: Pinal Dave

Pinal Dave talks about Microsoft SQL Server Certifications.

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Introduction

In these times of economical slowdown, more and more IT professionals are concerned about their jobs and their qualifications. It is a common trend for developers to start looking for ways to update their skills when jobs are not secure. Pure knowledge and real world work experience are always a good way to help secure your future. One way to demonstrate knowledge is by having a certification in the technology one claims to be expert in.

Microsoft offers a series of certifications for IT professional and developers. In this article we will cover the following topics.

  1. Importance of Certificates
  2. Certification Structure
  3. SQL Server Certifications
  4. Exam Preparation
  5. Registration for Exam
  6. Post Examination Benefits

Microsoft certifications are very reputed and validate developers’ hands-on experience.

Importance of Certificates

First of all, certificates demonstrate a developer’s expertise with technology as well a developer’s desire to go the extra mile to prove that he is deeply interested in technology. Microsoft certifications add value to developers’ existing credentials as it is widely believed that they aid in practical technology problems and they improve professional performance. Whenever a new technology is released, Microsoft introduces new certifications. When achieved, new certificates clearly indicate the advancement in technology as well as the dedication to move ahead in a chosen career path. It is quite common that a candidate achieves certifications but does not care about upgrading them. I strongly suggest developers take advance certifications and keep their knowledge upgraded.

Certification Structure

Microsoft Certifications are structured in four levels.

a) Technology Series - This certification series validates developers’ skills in implementation, building, troubleshooting and debugging of Microsoft Technology. The certificate achieved in this series is Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist.

b) Professional Series - This certification series is focused on a single job role and validates developers’ skill to have necessary knowledge and expertise to complete any particular job. The certificates achieved in this series are Microsoft Certified IT Professional and Microsoft Certified Professional Developer.

c) Master Series - This certification series requires having a deep understanding of a particular product. Developers having this certification should be able to design and implement complex business requirements. The certificate achieved in this series is Microsoft Certified Master.

d) Architect Series - Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) is the most difficult certification to get and developers have to go through rigorous peer review process. Developers must have a minimum of ten years of advanced IT industry experience to be considered for this credentials. The certificate achieved in this series is Microsoft Certified Architect.

SQL Server Certifications

Currently there are certifications for three editions of SQL Server. I recommend everybody go for the SQL Server 2008's certifications. Microsoft certifications for SQL Server 2008 have already been released so we will be discussing them in detail. We will also explore the upgrade path from SQL Server 2005 to SQL Server 2008.

  • MCTS: Technology Specialist Paths - One exam to earn each of the MCTS certifications
  • 70-432: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Implementation and Maintenance
  • 70-433: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Database Development
  • 70-448: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance

MCITP: IT Professional Paths - Two exams to earn an MCITP certification

70-450: PRO: Designing, Optimizing and Maintaining a Database Server Infrastructure using Microsoft SQL Server 2008

Pre-requisite: 70-432: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Implementation and Maintenance

70-451: PRO: Designing Database Solutions and Data Access Using Microsoft SQL Server 2008

70-433: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Database Development

70-452: PRO: SQL Server 2008, Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance

70-448: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance

SQL2K5 to SQL2K8 Upgrade Paths - One exams to earn MCTS and MCITP certificationsIf developer have MCTIP certification for SQL Server 2005 they can take only one exam to upgrade their credentials to SQL Server 2008. Taking only one exam developer can get two certifications.

To get: 70-432 and 70-450

70-453: Upgrade: Transition your MCITP Database Administrator Skills to MCITP Database Administrator 2008

Pre-requisite: MCITP (Database Administrator -SQL Server 2005)

To get: 70-433 and 70-451

70-454: Upgrade: Transition your MCITP Database Developer Skills to MCITP Database Developer 2008

Pre-requisite: MCITP (Database Developer -SQL Server 2005)

To get: 70-448 and 70-452

70-455: Upgrade: Transition your MCITP Business Intelligence Developer Skills to MCITP Business Intelligence Developer 2008

Pre-requisite: MCITP (Business Intelligence Developer -SQL Server 2005)

Microsoft Certified Master: Microsoft SQL Server 2008

There is no separate exam for Master certifications. Developers who already have MCITP (SQL Server 2008) certification can attend a three week training program delivered by recognized experts from Microsoft and their partner organizations. Once the training has been successfully completed, and all the pre-requisites listed on MS site have been met, developer can get this certification.

Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA): Microsoft SQL Server 2008

There is no separate exam for Master certifications. Developers who already have all MCITP (SQL Server 2008) certification can attend four week training program delivered by recognized experts from Microsoft. Once the training has been successfully completed, and all the pre-requisites met, there is program interview process. The interview process is very intense. Visit Microsoft official website to know more details about this program. 

Exam Preparation

The path to get a certification is not difficult at all but it can be confusing at times. Make sure that you do not become "Certificate Happy". It is quite common that developers start dreaming about the many paths of certifications and get nowhere. It is extremely important to decide which is the right certification for you. If your career goal or expertise is in the database field, try to get the database certifications first rather than attempting something unusual. Make sure to select the certification which gives most benefits to your career. One more thing is to make sure those certifications tests developers on hands-on experience and if certifications exams are attempted without having enough hands-on experience it will be difficult to pass examination.

If a developer feels that additional training can enhance the knowledge of a product, it is a good idea to get training from a professional trainer. Here one thing to advise is to attend the training for the product not for passing examination. There are lots of Internet courses and local institutes claiming to make developers get certifications. A course which just helps to learn about certifications does not help much in future career. It is very much important to select the right course. I would trust organization where Microsoft Certified Trainers or Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) are teaching courses. Make sure to know what an exam contains and do the trial run with a practice test. I often find it easier to pass an exam myself when I have practiced the trial exam earlier.

Please refer to following additional resources which can be helpful to prepare for the exam.

Registration for Exam

Prometric, an independent testing organization with more than 3,000 locations worldwide, administers all MCP exams. Each exam typically costs US$125. You can register for your exam online (http://www.register.prometric.com/DirectInput.asp?DirectInput=1&Client=132), through your local testing center, or by telephone. Remember, many employers have training budgets in place for such professional growth.

Post Examination Benefits

There are many benefits once an exam is passed. When the first exam is passed developers earns credential of Microsoft Certified Professional commonly known as MCP. Once credentials are achieved developers have access to an official transcript, logos and certificates, your own landing page on Microsoft.com. Microsoft's official site suggests that real MCPs get real benefits of Reward, Respect and Recognition.

Summary

Please feel free to send me an email about any of the Microsoft program or additional information about any of the certification. I am more than willing to share my personal notes for examination with any of the readers. Visit http://blog.sqlauthority.com/ to contact me. Additional details about certifications are available on MS official site: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/mcp/default.mspx.

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About Pinal Dave

Pinalkumar Dave is Microsoft SQL Server MVP and author of several hundreds SQL Server articles. He has six years experience as Principal Database Administrator in MS SQL Server 2008/2005, .NET (C#) and ColdFusion MX. He has a Masters of Science degree in Computer Networks, along with MCDBA, MCAD(.NE...

This author has published 16 articles on DotNetSlackers. View other articles or the complete profile here.

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