From System Admin to SQL Admin?

I received the following reader question today and want to reply via a blog post:

Hi, Nice website, the interviews are pretty cool. I am a system admins, I want to transition to the database world, it seems that based on what I’ve been reading AWS and Microsoft SQL developer certifications are the way to go. Could you guide me in terms on putting a list together of which certifications I should own along with what skills/knowledge I should obtain in order to be able to secure a job for now and well into the future? Best Regard

Dear SA,

Thank you for the kind words! Your question is a pretty interesting one. Usually when someone asks me about “getting into databases” they are already a SQL Developer and want to transition into a DBA role. I haven’t had a System Admin ask me before. But, my answer would be similar. I’d like to start by asking you a few questions:

  1. What got you interested in the “database world”?
  2. What specific arena within databases are you interested in? (i.e. development, administration, BI, etc.)

I was a SQL Developer when I started but quickly transitioned to a DBA. Coming from a system admin world, I assume you have worked with some scripting, (powershell, etc), and other features that link closely with database development/administration. For example, setting up a Windows Server Failover Cluster.

Depending on what route you want to go into initially, is what I’d recommend you to pursue. If you prefer to get into SQL development, then definitely pursue the MS SQL Developer certifications. If you want to pursue the SQL DBA route, then I’d say start practicing DBA concepts before pursuing any certification.

Choose Your Own Adventure

(Hey, Netflix isn’t the only one that can do a “Choose Your Own Adventure” :)

SQL DBA – If you are interested in becoming a SQL DBA, I’d highly recommend starting with SQL database engine basics/concepts. Check out the MCM videos here and here. This will get you started in a very deep dive of how SQL Server engine works behind the scenes.

After understanding these concepts, then I’d recommend picking a specific area within SQL DBA world and learning it, (Performance Tuning, HA/DR, Backup/Restore/Maintenance, etc.)

And do NOT worry about certifications at this point. Once you are ready, then you can pursue certifications. I blogged about it here.

SQL Developer – If you are interested in becoming a SQL Developer, then I’d highly recommend diving deep into material by Itzik Ben-Gan. His books are pretty much the “bible” when it comes to T-SQL.

Once you’re familiar with T-SQL (and all topics in his books), you can pursue SQL Developer certifications like this one.

Good Luck

I hope this answers your questions. I wish you the best of luck! Feel free to reach out with any other questions!

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