Find out what you need to know to get started on the road to a rewarding career as a SQL Server DBA.

“I want this area of the blog to be your one stop resource for information about being a SQL DBA. No question goes unanswered here and if you can’t find the answer to what you’re looking for I want to know about it!

How Most Junior DBA’s Earn Their Stripes

Acquiring your very first role as a Junior SQL Server DBA is not an easy task. Just browse any one of the many job sites advertising SQL Server DBA job vacancies and you will quickly come to realise that almost all Junior positions list a number of years of SQL Server experience as a necessary requirement.

The truth is that a significant proportion of SQL Server Database Administrators (DBA’s) start out in an alternative discipline, that is to say they are Accidental DBA’s. For example, a Windows Server Administrator may also be tasked with looking after the businesses SQL Server infrastructure, perhaps as the result of a DBA having left the company or through cross training opportunities within the organisation. These individuals acquire the necessary experience on the job within their existing role in order to make the transition to a Junior DBA position.

If you are seriously interested in either starting out on the path to becoming a SQL Server Database Administrator or perhaps wish to make a lateral move from an alternative IT discipline, this revelation can be quite disheartening. You may feel that it is somewhat of a no win scenario, as right now you have limited experience working with SQL Server, hence why you are considering junior opportunities in the first place.

How To Become an Outstanding SQL Server DBA

Well fear not my friend, for all is not lost. It may surprise you to hear that I am of the opinion that SQL Server experience alone is NOT the most desirable quality of a Junior SQL Server DBA!

You see the Accidental DBA will often be self taught and so although more experienced than perhaps you are currently, they have acquired their knowledge of SQL Server the hard way. The very same knowledge can be passed on to a newly hired Junior DBA by an experienced mentor in a fraction of the time. For this reason there are a number of very desirable qualities other than SQL Server experience alone, that can provide you with a serious edge over the competition. See Top 10 Junior DBA Interview Tips for examples of what I am talking about.

Over the years I have interviewed many aspiring data professionals and I want to share with you what I believe you need to know to become a SQL Server DBA. Below you will find a variety of posts that look at what it means to be a SQL Server DBA and how you can take charge of your professional development.

Thinking about becoming a SQL Server DBA? I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below or send me a message.

What’s It Really Like To Be A SQL Server DBA?

I get a lot of questions and emails from you asking:

What it’s really like to be a SQL Server DBA and how do I know if it is the right career for me?

These are great questions and they are not easily answered in a few short sentences. I wanted to find a way to provide you with some really good insight and so I came up with the idea of inviting members of the SQL Server community to share their experiences with you, here on the blog and created the What’s it Like To Be a SQL Server DBA guest post series. Each author tells their own personal story of how they became a SQL Server DBA and share advice for those interested in this career path.

How To Learn About SQL Server

  • Essential Reading - There are so many books available about SQL Server that it be hard to choose what’s right for you. Here are some of the books that I recommend.
  • Jump Start Your SQL Server Learning Today – Find out how to get your SQL Server learning on the right track.
  • Blog your way to becoming a better DBA – Blogging is one of the most powerful and rewarding ways that you can learn the DBA art.
  • Top 5 SQL Forums – Forums are one of the best places to learn about SQL Server because they enable you to not only find answers to your own questions but to also see what others are asking. UPDATE: We now have a  Forum here for you to enjoy.

3 Essential Steps Toward Becoming a SQL Server DBA

I get  a lot of questions from you about how exactly should you go about getting started towards becoming a SQL Server DBA. I wanted to provide you with something sufficiently detailed and easy to follow, so in reply to one reader email in particular, I created the following blog post series. I hope you find it useful. Your Road To Becoming a DBA:

Interview Tips and Advice

SQL Server Certifications

What you need to Know About Being a DBA

Essential Technical Stuff

There’s More To Being a DBA Than Just Technical Knowledge

Your Questions, Answered!

I love answering your questions, so much so that sometimes I write entire posts about them. Here are some of my posts in reply to readers just like you.

Do you have a question about being a SQL Server DBA that you can’t find the answer to? Let me know about it in the comments below! You can also contact me privately.

Thanks for visiting and good luck on your own journey to becoming an outstanding DBA.

Comments

  1. Hi John,
    its a beautifully made website with tremendous support and knowledgeable people.
    I am not even a beginner in this field as i have no idea what SQL or DB or relevant technical jargon mean.
    I am type of person who needs lot of motivation from others to do something. Before reading your blog , (no offense) i didn’t even knew you existed because i never read about DB or SQL before. but after all the replies above, i realized this is one of the best website/community i have come across where you actually get reply to your questions.

    basically i am not in this field at all. i am inside sales rep with technical bend of mind and desire to learn something new. my strength lies in troubleshooting .

    to make things short, I am working in a company and they had purchased a custom made software based on SQL DB from an IT company . well for some reason or other, so far we haven’t implemented that software, since it was put on back burner, to take care of daily activities. Now my company has finally decided to make use of this custom made software for internal use. Now the problematic part:

    the original source code is outdated and with lot of errors and many of the files might be missing, not sure. The IT company from which we purchased this software , now they are charging ridiculous amount of money just to get rid of some functional errors from the source code and install that software on our server.

    I am personally unofficial tech “guy” for my company. solving minor issues here and there. I want to tackle this problem myself of removing errors from source code and installation. But i have absolutely no knowledge of SQL or DB for that matter.

    Can you suggest how i can go about it? do you recommend making a call to my IT co and pay fees or call some SQL tech guy that can resolve it. but my personal preference is to learn everything about this myself and resolve this issue, being a “tech guy”, although i am women,lol

    Sorry for such a big write up. but after reading your reply to every question, i have become hopeful that i will get guidance here.

    • Hi Tejal,

      Thanks for your comments.

      May I suggest you submit your comment as a post on the Community Forum. It’s a much better platform to support a conversation of this nature.

      You’ve raised some great points for discussion and I’ll certainly do what I can to answer them there. I’m sure the rest of the community will offer their insights too.

      Talk to you soon…..

  2. Hie

    I am a learner sql server student and I have done the course. however whats left is for to write the exam. i am really afraid. I am good at the practical side but I seed not to understand the exam, each time i write a practice test I fail.

  3. kishore kumar G says:

    Hello john,

    I’m really very happy abt getting this oppurtunity to txt you. On your experience i need a feedback about swithching from a ‘system admin role’ to a ‘sql DBA/server mgmt’ after holding a 2.5yrs of experience as a system administrator will it be possible to stabilize us in this DBA field. If so, what kind of certification do you prefer.

    thanks & regards

    kishore kumar G

    • Hi Kishore,

      Absolutely! You can indeed switch from a similar technology role to a junior DBA position.

      I would suggest however that you avoid thinking of certification as a direct ticket to a SQL Server DBA role because in my experience the majority of employers do not view them is this manner. As is often the case, experience is the key and is something that I discuss on my post series, Your Road To Becoming a DBA. I think you may find this to be a helpful read because I try to address some of the challenges with creating your own unique career path as a data professional.

      Best of luck! It’s a great time to be starting a career in I.T because the market is flexible to professionals wanting to make their own unique career paths and to build the ideal role they desire.

      • kishore kumar G says:

        Hi John,

        Now I got an idea about what i’ve to look for. The Link “your road to becoming DBA” has really inspired me like you. It’s being a pleasure to discuss about my career with you. If I need any further Clarifications about this DBA career, You Have to support me.

        Thanks & Regards

        Kishore kumar G

  4. Anuj Choudhary says:

    Hi John,

    i am working in IT Support from last 3 years.now i want to learn database and become DBA.
    for this i have some questions for you,

    1.only the programmer or developer can become DBA,i do not have any knowledge of either programming and development,so please suggest if i can become DBA
    2.how much time it takes to become DBA?
    3.how will be the future in DBA for me.

    i woulb be grateful if you will reply my queries.

    thank you for yuor attention.
    Best Regards,
    Anuj

    • Hi Anuj,

      1. Can you become a DBA? Absolutely!
      2. How long will it take? That depends on a great many things and naturally there is no precise answer I can give you.
      3. What will the future be like for you as a DBA? Whatever you decide you want it to be.

      Your questions are quite open ended and are ripe for further discussion. A lot of our community members are already having similar conversations in the community forum and I’m sure you could find more answers there too.

      Thanks for your comments.

  5. santosh pohar says:

    Hi John,
    I am a started of SQL server. Could you please guide me how to start with basics of SQL?

    Regards,
    Santosh

  6. sudarshan says:

    hi m sud
    i am doing b.c.a (bachelor of computer application) and i want to become DBA so i want to know what courses i have to do for becoming a DBA .

    • Hi Sud,

      What are the modules/course options that are available to you? Focusing on data related subject areas could be advantageous however at this level, all knowledge is valuable.

  7. Anuj Choudhary says:

    Hi John,

    please do revert back for my below query,i will be very thankful for this.

    i want DBA which able to look up the server part but not develping and programming.
    regarding 1 ques., I want to know that person from Support Team can become DBA and secondly after becoming DBA my Support my experience will count or not.

    your resopnse is much awaited.

    Thank you for yuor attention.

    • Hi Anuj,

      What you are describing is the more traditional DBA role, that of pure administrative tasks and responsibilities only. For the most part these roles no longer exist. It’s one of the reasons why people choose to use the term Data Professional to more accurately describe the responsibilities of the modern DBA. The role of the modern DBA can be quite different from one organisation to another.

      I would advise you against avoiding learning to program. In my opinion programming is an incredibly valuable skill to posses, particularly when it comes to task and process automation.

      With regard to technical support skills being transferable, absolutely they are. All previous experience can be considered as potentially valuable. There’s a lot more to being a Data Professional than technical skills alone.

      Thanks for your comments.

  8. Surbhi Arora says:

    Hey..m pursuing B.Tech in CSE field and m having RDBMS as a subject in my course. It seems to be interesting in studying further about DBMS. I have completed my 3 years of course and wants to pursue career in DBMS field. What type of courses will you suggest to me and what certification i will need to become skillfull DBA?

  9. Dear John,

    Your site is so practical, direct, and inspirational, I can’t thank you enough for all your time in sharing your experience and info for all those currently in various IT/tech positions, or for those planning a dramatic and daunting switch–

    Either way, this can be a scary but rewarding path without direct signs along the way (despite the binary nature of the work!) and your words of encouragement, knowledge, and emphasis on self-motivation and perseverance are like manna on that road.

    Am I overstating it?

    Not from where I sit today… I can’t wait to better process and dig into your other suggested posts and, despite a lifelong curiosity with computers, to finally stop the excuses I’ve indulged myself in for far too long. Which end here.

    I hope these words speak for others, but in my case you should know that I am an (older) woman grateful for the peek behind the Wizard’s curtain… Thanks again for the can-do spirit and humble advice. Best in your endeavors!

    • Hi Kafalva, thank you for your kind and generous comments.

      Hearing that posts are motivational and have ignited passions is absolutely wonderful. I’m delighted that you have chosen to take charge of your professional development and invest in yourself.

      Thanks for sharing you story and experiences.

  10. I am from Life Sciences background. I don’t have any experience in the IT industry. Can i still become a certified DBA?

  11. Hi..can you let me know the professional cetification exams for becoming a sql server dba.

  12. Hello John,

    I come from a completely different background that is Finance background. Now I want to change my field and get into IT by doing SQL DBA. Could you please suggest me if its right thing to do. I’m 31 now. I’m really interested in doing this course.

    Please advice.

    Regards,
    Deepa

  13. Hello dear John
    I used to work as a software support team, at that time I felt excellent when I was working with mssql server. After that i work a little on programing, c#, java. Then I work as an IT supervisor in a commercial company, to manage and support network, software and also hardware.
    As u can see I’ve worked in different fields. But i’d like to work as a DBA. Do you think that I can start over to study and learn to be DBA? And how?
    I’ve got bachelor dgree on software and i’m 32.
    Sincerely,
    Kourosh A.

    • Kourosh – It sounds to me like you’ve got some excellent experience of the I.T. landscape. This will really make your transition and learning of the DBA art easier. You’re not starting over that’s for sure but are instead just taking a different road forward in your career.

      Take a look at my post What’s the Age Limit to Becoming a DBA. There’s some fantastic discussions in the comments which I think you will find both helpful and interesting. Thanks for your comments.

  14. Hi i am a MS server administrator. I m jus one round away from getting selected for a MS sql admin role in another company. Since i ve no experience with SQL. Only thing i know is about installing SQL server. And the company i m talking about is a new company and i feel like it would be a right place to start my career as a DB professional. I need to know what kind of skills should i develop. What should i start learning to achieve a long and prosperous career as a DB professional.

    • Vash – Congratulations on your want to become a technology professional! It really is a wonderful time to be working in technology.

      Knowing how best to begin your journey toward becoming a DBA can be tricky as you’re discovering. I’ve created an entire blog post series about it called Your Road To Becoming a DBA. I think you will find it helpful.

      A must read book for people looking to start out on the road to becoming a DBA is DBA Survivor by Thomas LaRock. It provides excellent in-depth guidance on what it is really like to be a DBA and what you should do in your first days on the job. I cannot say enough good things about this book.

      One excellent away to develop DBA skills is by studying toward SQL Server Certification. There are a number of progressive levels and tracks that can be undertaken. With regard to study, I’ve written about how I like to approach certification here.

      I would also encourage you to join our free community forum. It’s a super friendly place for Data Professionals, experienced and new, who are all passionate about technology. We’d be delighted and privileged to share your journey with you, providing support and guidance should you wish.

      Good luck.

      • Hi John

        Thanks a lot for the quick reply. U r doin a good job. I wud definetly read the book. I was thinkin abt the certifications too. . i wud definetly join the comunity. I happy tat there are so many to help me out.

        Thanks again ..

  15. Gaurav More says:

    Hi john ,
    I hv jus cmpltd my B.E (IT) nd started working as an Implementation Speciatlist in an organisation b4 2 months. I work on server setup such as settng tomcat,ftp,MSSQL nd Mysql servers. Bt my goal is to become a DBA .
    i am also going through a few queries and database concepts . so what should i do further to become a junior DBA.

  16. I can’t believe some of these comments – Nate thinking he’s too old at 30 to change careers – when I was 30 I was a secretary, became a DBA at age 36, that was many years ago and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Age 30 is much too early to think you’re stuck in your career. Medical science is allowing our life expectancy to increase with every generation and people can no longer depend on retiring at 65. Don’t ever feel that you are too old to learn and develop in your career!

  17. Namit mohan says:

    Hi John

    I was working as a Assistant Manager Operations in a BPO, Now I have got a chance to move into IT and got a role of Capacity and availability analyst, I am looking forward to build my career in DBA and project managment please advice how to start and what all certifications I have to take, please keep in mind I do not have deep technical knowledge.

    Looking forward to your reply egarly regards Namit Mohan

    • Namit – That’s a BIG question and one that we can’t really do justice in the comments. I suggest you post your question in Forum(Linked from the Menu at the top of the blog), where you’ll get the benefit of the input from the entire community.

      Update: Link to Forum thread

  18. Joe Schuttler says:

    Hi John,

    I just obtained a degree in Information Systems with a focus on database administration. I wish I can say I learned a ton, but honestly most of what I know has come through self-teaching and the degree is more of just a piece of paper to help me get into the field. I currently work a tech support job and now that I graduated I would like to push my career forwards. So I guess my question would be is there a particular field you would recommend over anything else to get started? For instance, would I be better served focusing my efforts on extending my knowledge on MS SQL or Oracle? Do you think the best route would be to strongly focus on learning SQL or TSQL and attempting to get a job as a developer to gain experience, or dive right into learning the fundamentals of being a DBA? There are so many different paths I can think of I just can’t decide which would be the best for my future. I have a million questions in my head, but I’ll stick with these for now. I look forward to going through the information here as well, hopefully it can answer some of my questions.

    Thanks so much for all of the information here, although I have only scratched the surface it. Overall my biggest question is which direction I should begin moving towards in order to have the best chance of success. Again, I greatly appreciate all of the work you have done here!

    Joe

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