Roadmap to Success: MCSA SQL Server 2012/2014

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Roadmap to Success is a series of posts designed to help learners better understand certification pathways, career opportunities associated with those certifications, and next steps beyond certification.

UPDATED: We updated this article June 6, 2017, to reflect relevant changes to the Microsoft SQL Server 2012 certification curriculum.

The Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) SQL Server 2012/2014 certification is the foundation for many learners to become a database master. Generally, this certification will equip learners to demonstrate essential skills in developing and maintaining SQL Server, including querying and administering SQL Server 2012/2014 and SQL Server 2012/2014 databases, as well as implementing data warehouses.

Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) SQL Server 2012/2014
The Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) SQL Server 2012 is designed to affirm learners’ knowledge and skills surrounding SQL Server 2012. An associate-level certification, MCSA SQL Server 2012 is made up of three exams, all of which are covered by CBT Nuggets training:

In addition to these courses, CBT Nuggets also developed virtual labs designed to help reinforce course content and provide hands-on experience. Typically, learners pursuing this certification should have two (2) or more years of experience writing queries.

Exam Details
Pearson, the testing center that usually provides Microsoft exams, offers a great “Exam Profile” series that addresses nearly all the MCSA: SQL Server 2012/2014 exams.

However, the following exam details are applicable for each exam that makes up the MCSA: SQL Server 2012/2014 certification.

Time allotted for exam: 2 hours (120 minutes) per exam
Number of questions: 45-55* per exam
Passing score: 700** per exam
Question types: Multiple choice/single answer; multiple choice/multiple answer; scenario
Exam registration: Pearson Vue or Microsoft Learning
Exam cost: $165 (USD) per exam
Skills Measured: Each exam registration page on the Microsoft website provides a list of Skills Measured (free resource) to guide your study and preparation.

*Microsoft does not publish the exact number of questions associated with its exams. Therefore, the number of questions a learner will see varies on a case-by-case basis.
**Because the number of questions varies, it is not necessarily true that learners must earn a simple 70 percent to pass the exam.

Microsoft exams have a reputation for being challenging. Many learners find they have to take an exam more than once to achieve a successful outcome. Fortunately, Microsoft is aware of the level of challenge associated with their exams and often provides an Exam Replay, allowing learners to retake exams at a fraction of the cost. Please note that the Exam Replay may not always be available. As of this post’s publication date, each of the exams associated with the MCSA: SQL Server 2012/2014 certification offers the option to include Exam Replay, but that may change. Learners should research Exam Replay availability to avoid missing out on the opportunity.

Recertification

The MCSA is not subject to recertification. Microsoft’s MCSA certifications do not expire, meaning no recertification or continuing education is necessary to keep your MCSA certification valid. MCSA certifications are, effectively, lifetime certifications that are valid as long as the technology exists. However, it’s important to note that under Microsoft’s new certification structure, earning an expert-level certification (MCSE) can be accomplished by taking just one additional exam, of your choosing, from a pool of exam options. Learn more about Microsoft certifications from our post, What to Expect from the New Microsoft Certification Paths.

The Next Step
Many learners who earn MCSA SQL Server 2012/2014 certification choose to continue down the Microsoft path. Therefore, learners often choose to pursue the MCSE as a next step. Following the MCSA SQL Server 2012/2014, learners typically choose a certification related to database technology, the MCSE Data Management and Analytics (made up of one exam of your choice: (70-473, 70-475, 70-464, 70-465, 70-466, or 70-467).

Learners should also consider diversifying their certification resume with other, related Microsoft certs:

Related certification options outside the Microsoft realm include:

As Microsoft continues to embrace open source, learners should consider adding Linux skills to their resume in order to more deeply understand the evolution of Microsoft technologies and functionalities. With this in mind, consider earning these Linux certifications:

*Please note that LPI recently released v4.5 of the LPIC-2 certification. The updated certification is made up of the 201-405 and 202-405 exams, but v4.0 exams (201-400 and 202-400) will be available until August 1, 2017.

Career Considerations
Payscale.com provides information that can help learners determine appropriate pay scales for job opportunities associated with an MCSA certification. Depending on experience, an employee who holds any MCSA certification can earn anywhere between $43,088 and $137,560 annually. Common roles or titles for those who hold an MCSA SQL Server 2012/2014 certification include database designer, database developer, database administrator, IT manager, IT director, systems administrator, and senior systems engineer.

Microsoft Certifications
Microsoft certifications are laid out as a pyramid, with each level of certification leading learners to higher, more specialized, complex certifications. At the base of the Microsoft pyramid, IT professionals develop the foundation of knowledge with the MTA (Microsoft Technology Associate). The next level is the MCSA (Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate) and MCSD (Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer), which include many of the most popular certifications among IT professionals that are offered by Microsoft, including Server 2012, Office 365, and Azure. Finally, the MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solution Expert) represents the highest level of certification offered by Microsoft and provides learners the opportunity to develop specializations related to MCSA-level content.

As Microsoft describes it, the new MCSE and MCSD certifications (MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure, MCSE: Mobility, MCSE: Data Management and Analytics, MCSE: Productivity, and MCSD: AppBuilder) are aligned to Centers of Excellence, used by the Microsoft Partner Network to identify technical competencies that are widely recognizable by both Microsoft partners and customers. These credentials do not have a recertification requirement. Instead, the achievement date signifies how you keep up with changes to the technology.

Each year, you have the opportunity to renew the certification by passing an exam from the list of electives, demonstrating your investment in broadening or deepening your skills in a given Center of Excellence. Each time you earn the certification, a new certification entry is added to your transcript. This process replaces the existing recertification requirement of taking a specific recertification exam every two years (MCSD) or every three years (MCSE) to prevent your certification from going inactive. Learn more about the new Microsoft certification structure.

Begin exploring other Microsoft training and certification options to open up even more professional development opportunities.

Concluding Thoughts
The MCSA SQL Server 2012/2014 certification is an excellent entry point for learners looking to advance their careers and skills in developing and maintaining SQL Server and databases. This certification will likely open up new professional opportunities.

Take the first step toward your MCSA SQL Server 2012/2014 certification today!

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