Starting your SQL Server Career Path
How did you learn SQL Server? This is a question that has been asked of me a few times over the last few months. I have also been asked how someone can get up to speed with SQL Server very quickly and become productive. Check out this tip to get some suggestions to learn SQL Server and help benefit your career.
If I was new to SQL Server where would I start? How you learn SQL Server, or anything for that matter, depends a great deal on the person and how they learn. Some folks like to read about the topic to gain a baseline understanding, others like to jump in and be hands on, other people like to take classes. Let me break down some options to see what could make sense for you.
SQL Server Career Choices
Before getting too far into the process, you need to understand the product, industry and professions a little bit. Here are some resources to consider:
- What is SQL Server?
- Learning SQL Server 2008
- SQL Server for Network Administrators
- SQL Server DBA Checklist
- How to find a SQL Server DBA Job
- SQL Server Interview Questions
- Debate - The Value of the MCDBA\MCITP:DBA Certification
On a related note, it would also make some sense to try to determine what sort of career path you may want to pursue. The career paths could include:
- SQL Server Database Administrator (DBA)
- SQL Server Developer
- SQL Server Business Intelligence (BI) Developer
- .NET Developer
- Network Administrator
Learning SQL Server
Once you get past the general questions about SQL Server, I guess one path would be starting off by installing the Express Edition of SQL Server since it is free and has a number of core items to start learning about the technology. Alternatives would be an MSDN download from your company, the Developer edition or an evaluation edition (which will time out).
Once you have SQL Server Express Edition installed, I would then spend time learning how each of the tools worked. I would start off with SQL Server Management Studio. Browse around the tool and check out the menus, interfaces, etc. In many respects, this will probably be the tool you are using 80% of the time when working with SQL Server.
From there I would install the AdventureWorks sample databases. Once I have the databases in place I would review the data models. I would want to understand the tables, columns, data types, NULL, Primary Keys, Foreign Keys.
Then I would want to learn about indexing. I would want to learn the basics about clustered indexes, nonclustered indexes, covering indexes, etc.
Once I had a basic understanding of the data, I would start to query it with the SELECT statement. I would begin to include WHERE, ORDER BY, TOP, etc. clauses and understand what each of them do. The next step would be joining tables.
After the SELECT statement, I would research the INSERT, UPDATE and DELETE statements to understand how you would modify the data.
Once you have these down pat, we can continue to learn more about the database engine and additional products that make-up the SQL Server suite of tools. Here are a few items to consider:
- SQL Server Tutorials
- SQL Server Web Casts
- SQL Server Integration Services
- SQL Server Reporting Services
- SQL Server Analysis Services
SQL Server Books Online
Visit your local book store or maybe even your library to see what they have on the shelf to learn SQL Server. Sitting down with a book might give you a good sense of your path to learn the technology. If you cannot find what you are looking for, visit your favorite online book store to see what books they have.
In terms of free book resources, another option is SQL Server Books online. Some people can read it from cover to cover and other people use it for specific topics, but it is a great free resource. Here are the current versions:
SQL Server Training Options
For some people, spending the time and money going to training is the best way to get started. For those lucky enough to get their employer to pay for training, take advantage of it, ask a million questions and make the most out of it. Even if your employer does not pay for training, do not be afraid to make the investment in yourself. You may take a different path, but it could be the right building block for your career.
Here are some training options to consider from paid to free options:
- Training (classroom and online)
- SQL Server conferences (SQL PASS, SQL Connections, etc.)
- Seminars from local vendors or online
- SQL Server User Groups (SQL Server User Group Meetings and How do I find a local SQL Server user group?)
- SQL Saturday's
- Code Camps
- SQL Server web sites
- Learning SQL Server can be a daunting task, but take one day at a time and focus your learning on a particular aspect of SQL Server. Once you find your niche with the product, begin to deepen your knowledge in that area.
- There are a lot of hyperlinked tips included in the recommendations above, be sure to check them out to help grow your career.
- Let us know how you learned SQL Server in the tip comments (see above). Your insight might be beneficial to other aspiring SQL Server professionals.
- Stay tuned for additional career development tips. Until then, check out these tips:
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Article Last Updated: 2011-10-02