Starting your SQL Server Career Path

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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:

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:

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 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:

Next Steps
  • 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:

sql server categories

sql server webinars

subscribe to mssqltips

sql server tutorials

sql server white papers

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Jeremy Kadlec Jeremy Kadlec is a Co-Founder, Editor and Author at with more than 300 contributions. He is also the CTO @ Edgewood Solutions and a six-time SQL Server MVP. Jeremy brings 20+ years of SQL Server DBA and Developer experience to the community after earning a bachelor's degree from SSU and master's from UMBC.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

View all my tips

Comments For This Article

Monday, May 23, 2016 - 11:52:17 PM - Mendil Back To Top (41543)

 I went to school and I can say That I  passed the beginners level in regards to sql server 2012(DBA). I practice daily with SSMS , quering and creating function and stored procedures.

My question is now that I m on my quest to find job, I would appreciate if you could list what are the common task of an entry level DBA that I need to focus on?

Plus what other thing that I need to learn besides SQL that will give me leverage as a Junior DBA?In the job postings I ve seen .net, VB, VS, hadoop,java and much more that you need to know besides your sql skills.Which ones is or are  a priority to learn? Thank you very much

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - 8:45:31 AM - Jeremy Kadlec Back To Top (25877)


I am not familiar with a "database MNC".  What is that?

Thank you,
Jeremy Kadlec
Community Co-Leader

Thursday, March 7, 2013 - 8:02:43 AM - VISHNU PRASAD K.V Back To Top (22629)

Hi Sir,


How much years of experience required for me as a DBA to get an entry to a database MNC ?

Monday, March 4, 2013 - 9:12:07 PM - Jeremy Kadlec Back To Top (22560)


I would suggest learning about SSRS and SSAS.  Check out these resources:


Thank you,
Jeremy Kadlec
Community Co-Leader

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 8:08:51 PM - Guddi Kaur Back To Top (22438)


I came across this article and it is very relevant to me at this time as I am thinking of taking some SQL Server training. I have an IT business analyst background and want to move into data analyst kind of roles. I must say I am a bit blurred on what SQL Server path/training would be the best for me for transitioning from generic BA into data analyst/BI analyst/reporting analyst/technical BA sort of roles. My decision to move to data analyst kind of roles is based on market demand for these kind of roles.

Any leads on how I should start with SQL sever in my circumstances would be very much appreciated.


Kind Regards,





Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 4:51:01 AM - VISHNU PRASAD K.V Back To Top (20451)

Hello Sir,

          I am interested in doing research oriented work in databases, rather than the administration. Can i have the oppurtunity for it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - 2:53:12 AM - VISHNU PRASAD K.V Back To Top (20140)

Thank you very much

Monday, October 29, 2012 - 8:58:13 AM - Jeremy Kadlec Back To Top (20125)


That is a good question.  I would check out these tips and I may see if I can provide an additional tip for you:

SQL Server Career Planning

SQL Server DBAs' Value to the Organization


Thank you,
Jeremy Kadlec

Monday, October 29, 2012 - 5:59:29 AM - VISHNU PRASAD K.V Back To Top (20121)


   I'm working as a junior DBA in an IT company. Actually, I'm interested in working as dba . Here, I finds that the db related job limits to schema modifications, backups and restoration of databases only. Can u say the career of a DBA?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012 - 1:40:50 PM - Justin Back To Top (19837)

What a great "article".  Thanks much for taking the time to post it!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - 8:51:34 PM - Jeremy Kadlec Back To Top (10394)


Thank you for sharing your experiences.

Thank you,
Jeremy Kadlec

Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - 7:24:51 PM - FQR Back To Top (10393)

First you need to know the fundamentals: SQL, Relational Database theory at least the how and why of normalization and the difference and fundaments of OLTP and OLAP.

After you have a grasp on these fundamentals you should learn T-SQL which you can do simultaneously while learning and using SQL Server.

Thursday, November 4, 2010 - 1:02:28 PM - Jeremy Kadlec Back To Top (10335)


Thank you for sharing your experience.  It is something to consider when you are starting out.

Thank you,
Jeremy Kadlec

Thursday, November 4, 2010 - 10:53:56 AM - Christian Bahnsen Back To Top (10334)

My advice to someone serious about learning SQL is to spend the $50 to get the Developer Edition.  For the time and effort you'll be spending to learn SQL, the Developer Edition is dirt cheap and gives you the full Enterprise Edition feature set.  I started out with Express Edition and got frustrated because many features aren't included.

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