Help me get a Microsoft DB certification
July 15, 2014 11:32 AM   Subscribe

I want to get a Microsoft Database certification so I can become a database developer (I know some basic SQL using Postgres but I'd like to know more and get a certification). What's the best way to do this using a book instead of taking a class?

Here are my specific questions:

1) What specific book or package should I use to get this certification? The classes are bonkers expensive and I learn really well from books.

2) What's the best way to sign up for this test?

Bonus questions:

3) How do I get a job once I have this? Will someone hire me? If not, what else should I be doing to supplement this? I live in Washington, DC if that's relevant.

4) Anything else should I know? I really like databases and would like to move into this area but if this is the wrong way to do it or it will be unremunerative I'd rather know now.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl to Computers & Internet (3 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I got a MySQL cert from just book study. Typically there's an official testing guide you can get. The certificate authority (Microsoft in your case) should have links to test registration.

Once you have the cert, you get a job the same way you get other jobs, by talking to friends, networking, or responding to jobs postings.

I think the most important thing for you will be experience. Certification is *not* the same thing as experience. If this would be your first tech job, you're probably looking at an entry level gig at a larger company, or the cert gets you into a position at a much smaller company where you're in over your head and need to learn a lot very fast.

Both those options are tried and true.
posted by colin_l at 12:15 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Anything else should I know? I really like databases and would like to move into this area but if this is the wrong way to do it or it will be unremunerative I'd rather know now.
What is it about databases that you really like? There are a lot of different job roles around databases. If you really enjoy maintenance and performance tuning, then you should focus your efforts on becoming a DBA - DataBase Administrator. If you want to write software that is backed by a database, I would strongly urge you to pick up a few books on data modeling, and build some projects. I would further urge you to stay as brand-agnostic as possible.

As a DBA, you are expected to know a particular database system, and know it well. Pick Oracle or SQL Server or MySQL and learn the hell out of it. As a developer, you are better off learning something like MySQL and then picking up Oracle or Microsoft specific stuff when you work on those kind of projects. It is also helpful to become familiar with at least one ORM, the ones that come with Django and Ruby on Rails are typical. Some teams insist on pure SQL calls, others insist on running through an ORM, and still others are a messy hybrid of the two.

If you want the really cool jobs, you should dive into NoSQL too, and develop an understanding of when SQL is the right solution and when NoSQL is the right solution for the problem.

Databases are fun (except when they aren't), and they are central to any non-trivial software project. Even if you pick the wrong technology or job description now, it isn't really all that hard to switch to a more interesting or more popular path. I would avoid anything that costs more than $100 unless an employer is footing the bill.

As a hiring manger of software developers, I look for people who are at least aware of current technology and have demonstrated that they are motivated and able to learn new stuff as needed. If I was interviewing you for a database-focused dev role, I would ask you to design a database for a reasonably complicated real-world system. Then I would ask some technical questions about joins and indexing. Along the way, I would secretly hope that you would find an opportunity to rant about how stored procedures are the worst thing ever and should really be nuked from orbit whenever possible. (in addition to the usual "do you know how to write good code" dev questions)

I put very little value on certifications, but the Microsoft and Oracle certs are generally well-respected among conservative businesses and can be very nice meal tickets.
posted by b1tr0t at 2:08 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am but a fledgling ordinary developer myself, but what is this "database developer" role you speak of? As an ordinary developer on a product that has nothing to do with relational databases, I use SQL queries all the time, even if it's just looking at query logs that our service has uploaded.

That said, I did take a databases course, and the most useful project I had was one called ETL (extract, transform, load) -- we took some fictional flight data, put it into a database, and had to write queries to answer specific questions. Maybe you could do this yourself? e.g. download NYC's taxi cab data (, figure out how to stuff it into a DB, and answer some questions?

This would also allow you to learn web dev / data visualization skills, which are pretty hot right now. When you interview for the job, just let someone know that you're passionate about the backend and want to be as far away from pushing pixels as possible.
posted by batter_my_heart at 11:12 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

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