MCSA Microsoft SQL Server 2012
This page provides a brief guide to the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certification path for SQL Server 2012. As you obtain your Microsoft Certified Solution Associate (MCSA) certification you demonstrate that you have the skills required to start a professional career dealing with SQL Server 2012. Your certified ability to develop and maintain the newest data environments will lend you a competitive advantage over others applying for positions such as database developer or analyst.
Note that as Microsoft does not offer a MCSA SQL Server 2014, the exams in this certification path remain unchanged. It is possible to undertake training that is updated for SQL Server 2014, however some material may not be examined.
The Certification Process
In order to obtain MCSA: SQL Server 2012 certification you will need to pass three 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.
- Exam 70-461 Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012
- Exam 70-462 Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases
- Exam 70-463 Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server 2012
If you hold any MCTS on SQL Server 2008 then you can upgrade to the MCSA: SQL Server 2012 certification by passing two exams only.
- Exam 70-457 Transition Your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA SQL Server 2012, Part 1
- Exam 70-458 Transition Your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA SQL Server 2012, Part 2
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.
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:
- Microsoft Course 10774 - Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012
- Microsoft Course 10775 - Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases
- Microsoft Course 10777 - Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server 2012
It is also possible to take Microsoft's new courses, updated for SQL Server 2014:
- M20461 - Querying Microsoft SQL Server
- M20462 - Administering Microsoft SQL Server Databases
- M20463 - Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server
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. Some of the information can also be found on the Microsoft Developer Network, with more detailed information found within the Books Online section within the Product Documentation heading.
In addition to this Microsoft offers a variety teaching materials through the Microsoft Virtual Academy, these are ideal for either introducing yourself to a new area, or ensuring that your knowledge is not lacking in any particular area. While there are a large number of courses covering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 some of these are aimed at lower level certifications however even these hold significant values if embarking on this certification path for the first time. The "90 Days to MCSA" program is also available.
Microsoft also hosts a wiki and small forum for each individual exam, while the wiki helpfully organises the links to TechNet articles and other Microsoft blogs etc. the forums tend to be slightly underused.
Microsoft's YouTube channel also features over 3 hours of instructional video on exams 461 through to 463. These can be found on the Microsoft Certification Prep | MCSA: SQL Server 2012 playlist on the linked page.
Microsoft Press provides a number of books aimed at those taking the exams required for this certification path, these books garner fairly positive reviews and while just using these books is not sufficient to pass the exams they are certainly regarded as valuable study aids.
Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Training Kit Exam 70-461 This book comes highly recommended for those who have some existing SQL knowledge and are looking to develop it to a stage where taking the certification exam is more realistic. The book covers a great deal of material, in addition to going into the background of SQL Server where required. This books also comes with a useful set of practice tests, however it should be noted that these are significantly easier than the actual certification exams and as such should not be seen as representative of what genuine assessment will be like.
Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Training Kit Exam 70-462 This book comes with less glowing reviews than the previous text, with complaints being about the heavy writing style and the reported prevalence of errors in the chapter detailing how to set up a practice lab. This being said the book still provides detailed step-by-step instruction on the majority of features that will be present in this particular exam. Practice test are again included, it should be noted that many are of the opinion that this text is unlikely to be enough to pass the exam by using it alone.
Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Training Kit Exam 70-463 This text receives positive reviews, with its clear examples and logical layout bing key selling points. In addition to this the book comes with a large number of practice exercises designed to further develop practical skill in SQL products. Some report that the solutions to these exercises however may not be completely correct, with some containing minor errors. Otherwise this book seems to be an easy to read text that is potentially highly useful in certification learning.
Non-Microsoft Press books
Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Administration: Real-World Skills for MCSA Certification and Beyond While reviews tend to agree that this text covers virtually all features contained within SQL Server 2012 some claim that the book contains insufficient detail for those planning on taking any exams within this certification path. This having been said the general consensus is that this book is a very good starting point for those who are relative newcomers to SQL Server. This is primarily due to the attractive writing style and excellent presentation.
Professional Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Administration This book can potentially prove most useful for those taking the 2012 upgrade exams due to its overview of the features new to the 2012 version of SQL Server. Most reviewers also agree that this is a clear and concise guide to the whole of SQL Server 2012, thus making this an excellent reference text, potentially proving useful when working on practice labs or looking up a particular issue. Earlier editions reportedly contain a not insignificant number of errors.
Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Bible This book is another that while covering a very large number of features appears to lack detail in particular areas such as encryption. Despite this the book is seen as being highly user friendly with detailed explanations in addition to sample code being included in the main text. Therefore this can serve as a good reference guide for beginners and mid-level users who are seeking to qualify for this certification.
Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Step by Step Most reviews appear to agree that this book servers very well as a guide to using SQL Server 2012, with clear instructions in a logical order, thus it can greatly aid in providing practical experience when used as an aid to assist in performing labs. Some reviewers indicate that this text may not be the best choice if you are already highly familiar with using SQL Server 2012; however it is a very good guide for those with less experience, or experience from previous product iterations.
We welcome reviews and views of any text you have personal experience with, likewise if you feel we have missed off a more valuable study aid please do get in touch.
The Techexams.net forum is one of the most active and helpful for those taking exams leading to either the MCSA or MCSE certification.
CBT Nuggets come very highly recommended as a source of very high quality, if somewhat expensive, instructional videos. The MCSA: SQL Server 2012 programme contains 34 hours of instruction split across 62 videos. This package also includes Transcender practice exams.
Pluralsight (formerly Trainsignal) also offer instructional videos for Exam 70-461 with 9 hours of teaching spread across 23 lessons.
A wide variety of blogs are available detailing both exam specific tips and general advice on SQL Server 2012, while this is by no means an exhaustive list the following blogs could prove useful in obtaining your certification.
- The ACE team Blog Used by Microsoft as their general certification tips outlet this blog can potentially be useful although some of their videos can prove rather irritating.
- The TrainSignal Microsoft Certifications Blog While this blog is not necessarily filled with revision material it certainly imparts a great deal of information about the MCSA and MCSE exams themselves.
- MCSA Exam Success Coming from CBT nuggets this blog details a wider variety of updates to their learning materials and in this particular case exam specific tips about the SQL Server exams that comprise this certification path.
- Geekswithblogs One entry here provides a fairly detailed guide to passing the certification as a whole, with this covering all three exams within the path. Unfortunately it seems that the writer is unlikely to finish posting his collection of notes, but the material there is still valid.
- MSSQLTips This page provides a highly detailed framework for earning virtually any certification involving SQL server, with further links leading to more detailed information on the topics that will be examined in these exams.
- Funky Business Intelligence While this blog is perhaps unsurprising focused upon Business Intelligence there is still more general SQL Server advice available, while the BI content itself would be useful for those who are looking to move onto higher certification in that area.
- Lab Setup Guide Forming part of the "90 days to MCSA" programme this blog contains a detailed article on readying an exam preparation lab in addition to other articles aimed at those working towards their MCSA on either SQL or Windows Server.
- Some Random Thoughts This blog is another that is primarily focused upon BI, therefore it may be of some value if you are aiming to develop your SQL skills beyond that required for this certification or are planning to go on to complete an MCSE in BI.
A large number of practice tests are also available for these exams.
A practice test for exam 70-461 can be bought from:
A practice test for exam 70-462 can be bought from:
A practice test for exam 70-463 can be bought from:
A practice test for those upgrading from SQL Server 2008 can also be found here:
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
- If a candidate does not achieve a passing score on an exam the first time, the candidate must wait at least a 24-hour period before retaking the exam.
- If a candidate does not achieve a passing score the second time, the candidate must wait at least a 14-day period before retaking the exam a third time.
- A 14-day waiting period will also be imposed for the fourth and fifth subsequent exam retakes. A candidate may not take a given exam any more than five times per year (12 months). This 12-month period would start the day of the fifth unsuccessful exam retake. The candidate would then be eligible to retake the exam 12 months from that date. In order to take a given exam more than five times per year, a candidate must submit a request and obtain prior permission from Microsoft.
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.
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.
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.