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Top 5 SQL Server Certifications: A Complete Guide

Unlock SQL Server certification success with our guide on paths, preparation with DataCamp, and the top certifications to enhance your career.
Feb 2024  · 8 min read

Proficiency in SQL Server can be a critical skill for data professionals and IT specialists alike. SQL Server certifications offer a structured way to validate this expertise, catering to various roles, including database administration, development, and business intelligence. Earning a certification in SQL Server not only demonstrates a commitment to professional development but also provides a tangible credential that can enhance career prospects, salary potential, and professional recognition.

This guide aims to demystify the process of obtaining SQL Server certification, providing a clear pathway for those looking to certify their skills in managing, developing, and analyzing data with SQL Server.

What is SQL Server Certification?

SQL Server certifications are structured to cater to different levels of expertise and specializations within the database management and data analysis fields. They serve as a formal recognition of your abilities, showing employers and peers that you possess the necessary skills to handle SQL Server environments effectively.

Why Pursue SQL Server Certification?

There are several reasons why getting certified in SQL can benefit your career:

  • Career Advancement: Achieving a certification can open up new career opportunities, including roles with greater responsibility and leadership positions within IT departments.
  • Increased Salary Potential: Certified professionals often enjoy a competitive edge in salary negotiations, as certifications demonstrate a proven level of expertise. SQL Server developers can make $96k-113k per year according to Glassdoor data.
  • Professional Recognition: Holding a SQL Server certification can enhance your professional credibility and recognition within the IT community.
  • Keeps Skills Current: Preparing for certification exams helps professionals stay up-to-date with the latest SQL Server technologies and best practices.

Choosing to pursue SQL Server certification is a strategic decision that can significantly impact your career trajectory in the IT and data fields. Whether you're looking to solidify your current position or aiming for a more advanced role, these certifications can provide the leverage you need to achieve your professional goals.

SQL Server Certification

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Exploring SQL Server Certification Paths

Microsoft offers a variety of SQL Server certification paths, each designed to cater to the unique needs and goals of IT professionals. These paths are divided into categories based on role and specialization, such as Database Administration, Database Development, and Business Intelligence Development. Understanding these paths will help you choose the one that aligns with your career aspirations and professional development goals.

The Various Paths to Certification

  • Database Administration: This path is ideal for professionals responsible for installing, maintaining, configuring, and securing database systems. Certifications in this category validate skills necessary for ensuring database systems are efficient, secure, and available.
  • Database Development: Focused on individuals who design and build database solutions, this path tests abilities in creating database files, data types, and tables, and in implementing stored procedures, functions, and views.
  • Business Intelligence Development: This certification path is designed for professionals who specialize in analyzing data to help inform business decisions. It covers skills in implementing data models, reports, and dashboards.

Each path requires passing specific exams that assess your knowledge and skills in that area. The certification process involves a combination of practical experience, study, and understanding of the SQL Server technologies relevant to your chosen path.

Choosing the right certification path requires an understanding of your career goals and the role you envision for yourself in the IT ecosystem. Whether you're drawn to the technical aspects of database administration, the creative challenges of database development, or the strategic importance of business intelligence, there's a SQL Server certification path that fits your ambitions.

SQL Server Certifications Available

Below, we’ve highlighted some of the available certifications that utilize SQL server:


1. Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Fundamentals

  • Who it's for: Individuals new to the cloud or starting out with Azure, particularly those interested in working with data in the cloud. Familiarity with relational and nonrelational data concepts, as well as different types of data workloads, is recommended.
  • Skills covered: Core data concepts, considerations for relational and non-relational data on Azure, and analytics workloads on Azure.
  • Prerequisites: No prerequisites are required, but familiarity with data concepts and Azure services is beneficial.
  • Cost: $99


2. Microsoft Certified: Azure Database Administrator Associate

  • Who it's for: Database administrators focused on managing cloud and on-premises databases, particularly SQL Server and Azure SQL.
  • Skills covered: Planning and implementing data platform resources, securing data environments, optimizing resource performance, managing task automation, and configuring high availability and disaster recovery solutions.
  • Prerequisites: General knowledge of IT operations, including networking, backup, and disaster recovery
  • Cost: $165


3. Oracle Database SQL Certified Associate Certification

  • Who it's for: Individuals aiming to showcase their understanding of SQL for database projects, particularly with Oracle Database.
  • Skills covered: Fundamental SQL concepts, queries, insert/update/delete statements, Data Definition Language, Data Control Language, optimizer, tables, indexes, data modeling, and normalization.
  • Prerequisites: General computing knowledge, familiarity with command line interfaces, and experience in command line environments.
  • Cost: $245


4. IBM Associate Certified DBA - Db2 12 for z/OS Fundamentals

  • Who it's for: Entry-level for users with hands-on experience or education in fundamental DB2 concepts, including database creation, basic SQL, security, and transaction isolation.
  • Skills covered: Database planning, SQL and XML, security, operations, data concurrency, application design, and database objects management.
  • Prerequisites: In-depth knowledge of day-to-day administration and basic to intermediate DB2 tasks.
  • Cost: $200 USD for the exam C1000-122: DB2 12 for z/OS DBA Fundamentals.


5. EDB PostgreSQL 13 Associate Certification

  • Who it's for: Beginners in database management, including new learners and professionals aiming to gain foundational PostgreSQL skills.
  • Skills covered: Fundamentals necessary for working with PostgreSQL servers, a scalable relational database.
  • Prerequisites: Basic understanding of database concepts and SQL
  • Cost: $200 for one attempt at the certification exam.

DataCamp’s SQL Certification

DataCamp also offers SQL certification via our SQL Associate certification, enabling you to demonstrate that your SQL skills are ready for professional use.

The SQL Associate Certification is for anyone working in a job involving SQL or individuals who want to advance their career by verifying vital SQL skills in a data-driven world.

Designed in partnership with industry experts with experience in hiring SQL professionals across various industries, this new Certification represents a crucial step for aspiring SQL practitioners looking to build a career around a vital skill.

Target Audience

The DataCamp SQL Associate Certification is crafted for individuals engaged in or aspiring towards roles that utilize SQL, including those who wish to affirm their PostgreSQL capabilities for professional contexts. It is ideal for persons eager to showcase their SQL expertise in a data-centric environment.

Certification Access and Evaluation Process

You can access the SQL Associate Certification examinations through DataCamp's online platform. This certification comprises a time-limited theoretical test and a practical assessment, designed to verify your ability to employ SQL skills in actual, applicable scenarios.

Both parts of the certification are conducted online to maximize convenience and accessibility. You are expected to possess the ability to calculate metrics to effectively communicate data characteristics and the interrelations between data features using PostgreSQL.

Eligibility Criteria

You must have a robust understanding of SQL and PostgreSQL, including the ability to craft queries, comprehend table interconnections, and manipulate data structures.

For the practical examination, candidates should be proficient in:

  • Extracting data, executing join operations, and aggregating data.
  • Preparing data for analysis through cleaning processes.
  • Evaluating data integrity and conducting validation operations.

It’s recommended you complete the SQL Fundamentals skill track to thoroughly address these prerequisites and ensure exam readiness.


Access to the SQL Associate Certification is provided for free with a DataCamp Premium subscription, which begins at $12.42 monthly.

Preparing for SQL Server Certification with DataCamp

Achieving certification in SQL Server requires a blend of practical experience, theoretical knowledge, and a deep understanding of the specific technologies covered by the exams. DataCamp offers a comprehensive suite of resources tailored to meet the needs of those preparing for SQL Server certification, providing a structured and efficient learning path without overtly selling its services.

SQL Server Certification Cheat Sheet

Our SQL Cheat Sheet can help you prepare for certification

Essential Study Materials and Resources

DataCamp has an array of SQL server resources that can help you prepare for certification exams. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Interactive Courses: DataCamp's strength lies in its interactive courses that cover SQL, database management, and data analysis fundamentals. These courses offer hands-on practice with real SQL databases, allowing learners to apply concepts immediately. Get started with the Introduction to SQL Server course.
  • Skill Tracks and Career Tracks: For a more focused approach, DataCamp's Skill and Career Tracks guide learners through a series of courses designed to build competency in specific areas such as SQL Server administration, development, or business intelligence. A good place to start is with the SQL Server Fundamentals skill track or SQL Server Developer career track.
  • Practice Exercises and Projects: Reinforcing learning with practice is key to mastering SQL Server. DataCamp provides practice exercises that simulate real-world problems and projects that challenge learners to apply their skills in practical scenarios. You can also check out our SQL projects for all levels to get some inspiration.

Tips for Successful Exam Preparation

If you’re getting ready for SQL Server certification, the below action points can help you prepare for the exam:

  • Start with the Basics: Even experienced professionals can benefit from a refresher on the basics. DataCamp's introductory courses on SQL and database management lay a solid foundation.
  • Customize Your Learning Path: Depending on your chosen certification path, select courses and tracks on DataCamp that align with the exam objectives. This targeted approach ensures your study time is efficient and effective.
  • Apply What You Learn: Utilize DataCamp's projects and practice exercises to apply your knowledge. These practical experiences are invaluable for solidifying your understanding and preparing for the types of scenarios you may encounter on the exam.
  • Engage with the Community: DataCamp's community offers a platform to ask questions, share insights, and receive support from fellow learners and professionals. Engaging with others can provide new perspectives and tips that enhance your learning experience.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for SQL Server certification is a journey that demands dedication and the right resources. DataCamp offers a comprehensive suite of learning materials that can help you navigate this path successfully. By integrating theoretical learning with practical application, we ensure that you're not just prepared to pass your certification exams but also to excel in your professional role.

Get started on your journey to certification today with our SQL Server Fundamentals skill track.

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Matt Crabtree

A writer and content editor in the edtech space. Committed to exploring data trends and enthusiastic about learning data science.


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