MCSA Microsoft SQL Server 2008

This page provides a brief guide to the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certification path for SQL Server 2012. Becoming a solutions associate will help you to stand out in the job market by demonstrating you possess the vital skills in maintaining essential data environments. While this certification is for the older version of SQL server you will be able to upgrade to MCSA: SQL Server 2012 at an appropriate time. Note that this certification will be the only SQL Server 2008 certification available after the 31st January 2014

The Certification Process

In order to obtain MCSA: SQL Server 2008 certification you will need to pass two separate exams. These exams are arranged separately from any training courses offered, further information on any individual exam can be seen by clicking on the corresponding title.

Preparing for the Exams

MCSA exams comprise of between 40 and 60 questions, drawn approximately equally from each section of examinable material. These exams are between 2 and 3 hours long. It is recommended that you should err on the side of over preparation to prevent any weaker areas resulting in a mark that is not high enough to provide a pass. For those taking the upgrade exams we would recommend that you inspect the exam content carefully before making decisions as to taking training courses as the syllabi consist of a mix of the three normal exams. It is equally possible that with sufficient practical experience on the more recent product little further training would be required to pass the exams.

For further information on Microsoft exams in general, take a look at the Microsoft Certification exams page.

Training Courses

GBdirect offer the full range of Microsoft approved courses aimed to provide the skills and knowledge required to earn this certification. The courses offered are:

For exam 70-432 the following courses are recommended:

For exam 70-448 the following courses are recommended:

These courses will help prepare you for the exams but may not provide you with everything you need to pass them. To ensure a pass we would recommend as much hands-on experience with the product as possible, in addition to further reading from either Microsoft instructional material or reference texts. Performing practice labs detailed either in Microsoft Press books or following the procedures on the TechNet can also be greatly beneficial, practice tests are also available from some companies, notably Transcender, MeasureUp and Kaplan SelfTest. We welcome any reviews of your Microsoft Certification experience, if you feel that you know of an improved learning method then please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Official Microsoft Materials

Microsoft provides some online materials on each exam page itself, notably the TechNet entries relevant to each individual segment of the exam, these links can be found in the "Skills measured" section of each exam page on Microsoft's site.

Microsoft also offers Collection 6233: Implementing and Maintaining Business Intelligence in Microsoft SQL Server 2008: Integration Services, Reporting Services and Analysis Services a 24 hour training collection that should provide the skills and knowledge required to implement business intelligence solutions on SQL Server 2008.


Microsoft Press provides a number of books aimed at those taking the exams required for obtaining this certification; unfortunately some of these books reportedly suffer from large numbers of errors.

MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-432): Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Implementation And Maintenance Book/CD Package This text receives very mixed reviews, on the one hand a large numbers of reviews cite a large number of errors and an over-elaborate introduction to each chapter as serious problems. However the book does still appear to give a fairly good overview of the content that you can expect in the exam, as well as a very good set of practice exams. These exams are configurable and come with detailed solutions and therefore are a good study aid.

MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-448): Microsoft SQL Server 2008 - Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance Book/CD Package This book again reportedly contains some errors, although not to the extent of the other training kit. Praise however has been given to its neat chapter structure, as well as a fair number of step-by-step exercises which are a good way of getting some additional practical experience. Again this comes with an excellent test suite that will greatly aid in spotting gaps in knowledge and generally preparing for the exam.

Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Step by Step While this book is not specifically designed for exam preparation it is undeniably an excellent tool for those who may be new to SQL Server. Despite assuming little prior knowledge the book covers virtually all aspects of SQL Server at some level and as a result could be an excellent reference or preparation tool for either exam.

Non-Microsoft Press books

Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Unleashed Most reviewers regard this book as a definitive reference guide to SQL Server 2008 in its entirety. This wide coverage also includes step-by-step instructions for those who are new to the product, whilst still providing enough detail for anyone preparing for this certification. This book is also laden with examples, screenshots and sample code that allow this reference text to be used by anyone, as well as being a good resource for exam preparation.

Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Bible This weighty tome is another good reference guide that covers the entirety of SQL server both in overview and highly detailed form. Regardless of previous experience with SQL Server this book should provide the background knowledge required to pass the exam, as well as being useful for troubleshooting and looking up specific solutions.

Professional SQL Server 2008 Internals and Troubleshooting This book is regarded by man reviews as the "must have" guide to SQL Server 2008. This is a highly detailed, yet easily laid out text that imparts both technical and practical knowledge on SQL Server. In addition to this some practical examples are also included, with an explanation of how they can be solved. In terms of exam preparation this book is perfect for looking up any details that are lacking or more detailed study on some areas that may be glossed over by the training kits.

Additional Resources

The forum is one of the most active and helpful for those taking exams leading to either the MCSA or MCSE certification, although there may be slightly less information available on certification for this older platform.

CBT Nuggets offer a set of highly recommended, if expensive, set of instructional videos for the exams in this certification.Exam 70-432 features 17 hours of instruction over 23 videos, while Exam 70-488 features 7 hours of instruction over 15 videos.

Pluralsight (formerly Trainsignal) also offer an 11 hour course that covers Exam 70-432, again this comes highly recommended and also costs less than the CBT Nuggets offering.

There are also a few useful blog posts that could be used to pass the exam, however this list is by no means exhaustive but should help in finding additional resources.

A number of practice tests are also available for these exams.

A practice test for exam 70-432 can be bought from:

A practice test for exam 70-488 can be bought from:

What if I fail?

Don't panic. You will be able to see and your test result and the areas you felt weakest in, focus on content areas where your performance was weakest and areas with a high percentage of questions. Once you feel ready you can reschedule your exam. The following text is taken from Microsoft's exam security policy and details their exam retake policy.

Exam retake policy

Excellent, you've passed

When you pass your first certification exam, you become a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), with access to the MCP community and MCP member site. On this site you gain access to copies of each exam transcript to share with potential employers, as well as a tool to create and download certification logos and certificates themselves upon completing a certification programme.

Next Steps

Completing the MCSA certification is the gateway to a host of more specialised further certifications offered by Microsoft through their Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) path. Full details of this certification path can be found here.

It is also possible to upgrade this MCSA: SQL Server 2008 certification to MCSA: SQL Server 2012, take a look at our guide for further information on this upgrade process.

For information on MCSE paths take a look at our brief guide to MCSE: Data Platform or MCSE: Business Intelligence.

MCSA, Salary and Contract Rates

A recent survey of IT jobs offered across the UK reported the following statistics on the average earning of salaried and contract workers holding MCSA certification. The UK average salary for an MCSA is 37,500, with the average salary for the City of London being 41,250. A breakdown of this shows 90% are offered a salary of more than 22,950 while 10% are offered more than 50,150.

Contractor daily rates were also surveyed and the UK average was found to be 275 per day and 363 per day for London. The further breakdown of these figures shows that 90% are offered a daily rate in excess of 176 while 10% are offered more than 400. Further details can be found on the IT Jobs Watch site.

Back to SQL Server courses