Where should SQL Server novices start if they want to gain mastery of the product? Working towards becoming a Microsoft Certified DBA (MCDBA) is a great place to begin. This advice might seem to contradict comments I made last week, but I want to make a distinction. Passing the test is meaningless unless you want to learn and understand the MCDBA program's content. A dedicated MCDBA candidate will learn a great deal about SQL Server. The MCDBA certification process is a good map for beginners who are trying to take their understanding of SQL Server to the next level. Novices can learn about SQL Server without worrying about certification, but the MCDBA program provides a framework for accomplishing specific knowledge objectives.

I've written a lot about the MCDBA certification process over the last few weeks, and I still believe that the current MCDBA isn't an adequate measure of SQL Server expertise (or even competence). However, I received several reader emails that asked, "I'm new to SQL Server and was planning to get certified. Now I'm confused; should I pursue the certification?" So, I wanted to address the aspects of the MCDBA certification process that are worthwhile.

Getting an MCDBA isn't like passing the bar exam to become a lawyer or spending a good part of your life becoming a doctor. That doesn't mean that the MCDBA certification has no merit. I do think it's a worthwhile process for individuals who are serious about learning the technical content that the exams include and assess.

Going to the gym every day won't make you stronger, faster, or slimmer unless you work hard while you're there. You can buy a fancy set of workout clothes and impress people by going every day, but you won't see much improvement without some sweat and pain. Likewise, just having an MCDBA doesn't prove anything, but you'll learn a lot if you take the MCDBA process seriously and sweat a bit along the way. I congratulate everyone who's passed the MCDBA the right way. You should be proud of the time and energy you've invested in your career!

P.S. I'd still like to hear from you about what Microsoft can do to create a masters-level certification that will do a better job of evaluating an individual's level of SQL Server expertise.