SQL Server 2012 Certification Path

Regardless of your opinion on Microsoft certifications, when you work for a Microsoft partner company, you are typically encouraged to get certified in your area of expertise and stay current.  So now that SQL 2012 has been out for a few months, implementations are picking up speed, official exams have been released from beta, and the project I’m currently focusing on has me fully involved in the land of ColumnStore indexing…it’s time to map out my SQL Server 2012 certification path and start that journey.

For those unaware, a few changes have been made to the SQL Server certifications structure from the old 2008 version.  Instead of 3 distinct tracks (developer, administrator, and BI), there’s now a single base certification (MCSA) from which to specialize. The base certification requires one to possess a foundation of knowledge in the 3 cores: administration, development, and business intelligence.  I think this is an important and beneficial change to the program and will help those of use working in the SQL Server field in a number of ways.  For example, having this foundation of knowledge will equip you to communicate intelligently with the other players on a large projects and it will enable you to wear multiple hats (often a requirement) on smaller projects (where resources/budgets are smaller).

Now, as for the specialization (MCSE), there are 2 tracks: Data Platforms (administration and development) and Business Intelligence.  As a BI person, I was really happy to see this an added emphasis on the BI path. There’s a lot of new material to cover (ex. DQS, MDS, etc) and BI/EIM (enterprise information management) really does warrant this additional attention.

So my plan is to start with the MCSA which consists of the following 3 tests…

70-461 – Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012

Just passed this one today, hence the extra energy to stay up late and rattle off this post.  It was pretty much exactly what I was expecting.  As with most Microsoft exams there were a few questions where the wording was infuriatingly ambiguous…but aside from that minor annoyance, I was really happy to see a new type of question where the test-taker is expected to code something (ex. create table statement, create stored proc, etc) based on the requirements interpreted from the problem statement.  This had much more of a “real-world” feel to it.

My preparation for this exam was minor.  I simply ran down the skills measured list posted by Microsoft and used Books Online to review anything I wasn’t completely comfortable with…such as the new analytic functions 😉

70-463 – Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server 2012

I plan on banging this one out in the next few weeks.  It’s just the excuse I’ve been looking for to knock the dust off an old classic: The Data Warehouse Toolkit by Ralph Kimball.  Then, I’ll reacquaint myself with MDS/DQS, which I spent a bit of time with earlier this year for some proof of concept work.  Finally, I’ll revisit SSIS to ramp up on the new features and design patterns available in 2012.

70-462 – Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases

This one will require a bit of effort because I’m not, nor have I ever worked as, a DBA.  For the past 4 years, my focus has been almost entirely BI-related with some database development here and there.  I’ve never implemented a backup strategy and can only provide the briefest of explanations when asked the difference between simple and full recovery modes.  Mirroring, Clustering, Replication…nope, nope, and nope.  Like I said, I’m not a DBA.  However, I’m really looking forward to this one…because I think it will help me the most.

Once these are complete, I’ll start ramping up for the Business Intelligence MCSE cert.

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