SQL Server 2012 Certification Path

House of Brick Principal Architect

Microsoft has revamped the certification path for the SQL Server product with the release of the 2012 version certifications. For a while some Microsoft certifications tended to be less meaningful than other industry certifications. With the launch of the 2012 certs, Microsoft is attempting to make them harder and more full-featured in an attempt to boost the relevance of the certifications.

I believe in (some) certifications. I believe that certifications, in conjunction with the right background and mindset, help establish a baseline of a person’s skill-set in a given area. I push hard with the certifications that I have earned. I feel that these certifications give me the confidence to approach a topic and have the knowledge to tackle an appropriately scoped project successfully. It gives me a solid base where I can teach myself additional topics and new features on that product base. Certifications are good if you are a consultant or want to force yourself to stay on top of new product releases.

The 2012 mainstay certifications have been renamed – again. In 2000, Microsoft had the MCDBA (Microsoft Certified Database Administrator). From 2005 to 2008 the MCTS (Microsoft Certified Technical Specialist) and MCITP (Microsoft Certified IT Professional) were the distinctions. Now, for the 2012 release, these levels are the MCSA (Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate) and MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert, not to be confused with the old Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer distinction with the same acronym). Microsoft is doing away with version numbers attached to the certification name. Certifications might cover multiple product versions, but periodic re-certification is required to maintain the certification.


(Image from http://www.mcitpguide.com/new-mcse-and-mcsa-certifications/)

Now, for those of you with existing SQL Server 2008 certifications, your upgrade path can be a bit confusing. For those who are new to SQL Server certifications, or those who did not upgrade to the 2008 versions, the path is a bit clearer.



New Certifications

We’ll start with those who are new to the certification process.

First comes the MCSA series of exams. You must pass all three to earn the MCSA SQL Server certification.

70-461: Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012
70-462: Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases
70-463: Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server 2012

Next, determine your path from here. Are you more interested in Business Intelligence (BI) or Database Administration (DBA)?

MCSE: Data Platform (DBA Track)
70-464: Developing Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases
70-465: Designing Database Solutions for Microsoft SQL Server 2012

MCSE: Business Intelligence (BI Track)
70-466: Implementing Data Models and Reports with Microsoft SQL Server 2012
70-467: Designing Business Intelligence Solutions with Microsoft SQL Server 2012

For those who strive for the top, the Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM): Data Platform is the peak of SQL Server certification. (OK – technically, the Microsoft Certified Architect designation existed for the 2008 version, but details about current and future revisions of this certification are limited at this time). The MCSM:Data Platform certification is for those who are at the very top of their game. Two exams are required to complete this certification:

88-986: Data Platform Knowledge Exam (not yet available)
88-987: Data Platform Lab Exam (not yet available)

I have good news for those in the Business Intelligence arena! The folks at Microsoft have released a MCSM: Intelligence certification just for you! Details have not been released about this certification yet. Stay tuned to this blog for updates.

Upgrade Your Existing Certifications

For those of you who have existing SQL Server 2008 certifications, upgrade paths exist to make the re-certification process simpler. Let’s go by the certification(s) that you already hold.

If you stopped at the MCTS 2008 certification, two upgrade exams exist:

70-457: Transition your MCTS on SQL Server to MCSA: SQL Server 2012 – Part 1
70-458: Transition your MCTS on SQL Server to MCSA: SQL Server 2012 – Part 2

Once you complete these two exams, you have now upgraded to the MCSA SQL Server 2012 certification. If you chose to continue the certification path, select a track and push forth to the MCSE exams as listed above.

For those who already have one of the MCITP 2008 certifications, just one exam exists to upgrade your MCITP to MCSE after you complete the MCSA certification.

MCITP Business Intelligence 2008 -> MCSE Business Intelligence
70-460: Transition Your MCITP: Business Intelligence Developer 2008 to MCSE: Business Intelligence
MCITP: Database Administrator 2008 or MCITP: Database Developer 2008 -> MCSE: Data Platform
70-459: Transition Your MCITP on SQL Server 2008 to MCSE: Data Platform

For those with MCM 2008, the upgrade path is not yet released. Existing MCMs get a one year automatic grant of the MCSM: Data Platform certification until the upgrade process is released.


What tricks are you thinking of, you might ask?

Currently, if you wish to earn the MCSE: Data Platform certification with no prior certifications, to push through the 2012 certification track will take you five exams to complete.

But… SQL Server 2008 exams are still available until July 31, 2013.

You can take the same number of exams with splitting the SQL Server 2008 exams and then getting the appropriate upgrade. To earn the MCSE: Data Platform certification for SQL Server 2012, try this:

70-432: (MCTS SQL Server 2008) Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Installation and Maintenance
70-450: (MCITP SQL Server 2008) Designing, Optimizing and Maintaining a Database Server Infrastructure Using Microsoft SQL Server 2008
70-457: (MCTS) Transition your MCTS on SQL Server to MCSA: SQL Server 2012 – Part 1
70-458: (MCTS) Transition your MCTS on SQL Server to MCSA: SQL Server 2012 – Part 2
70-459: (MCSE: Data Platform) Transition Your MCITP on SQL Server 2008 to MCSE: Data Platform

Boom! You now have your SQL Server 2008 MCITP certification as well as your SQL Server MCSE: Data Platform at the same time. You’ll need to hustle to complete this, as the SQL Server 2008 certification exams get retired in seven months, but this could be an option to consider as you pursue your certification path.

Also, you can get a free attempt at a SQL Server 2012 exam through Microsoft’s SecondShot program. More details are available at http://aka.ms/secondshot.

So, now that you are armed with this knowledge, go forth and learn!

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