Become a DBA

Applied SQL

I’ve mentored several newbie DBAs over the years, and decided to put lessons and exercises into a more formal, permanent format: Applied SQL.

You can find all of my Applied SQL articles using the Applied SQL category. Remember that this is growing all the time…I will keep on adding articles as I think of them.

Here is the order in which I assign viewings, readings, and homework to new DBAs:

  1. Beginning T-SQL course
  2. Applied SQL introduction
  3. Backup and Restore
  4. System tables:
    1. sys.objects
    2. sys.schemas
    3. sys.databases
    4. sys.sql_modules
  5. Find and replace using regular expressions in SSMS
  6. (many other basics)
  7. Server Side Traces

Additional reading:

  • DBA Jumpstart, a free ebook of advice for DBAs, by 20 industry professionals (me included)


One of the questions we get most often is how to get into databases / SQL Server. For your convenience, here are my current responses to some of the most common “how do I…” and “what do you recommend for…” questions.

For a very comprehensive guide to becoming a SQL Server DBA, check out our DBA Roadmap Seminar, available for sampling and purchase at


 How do I get started in SQL Server?

We actually address the “soft side” (non-technical aspects) of becoming a database professional in our new online seminar DBA Roadmap, which is out in April 2012. Clearly, I highly recommend getting the DBA Roadmap: first, because it’s everything I would tell you if you and I sat down together for 6 hours to talk it over; and second, because it puts a little cash in our coffers. (DBA Roadmap is the first monetized project we’ve done under the MidnightDBA banner.)

If the Roadmap is too rich for your blood for now, you could do worse than to take a look at the book “DBA Survivor” by Thomas LaRock (blog, Twitter). It covers a different set of info than our seminar – including some technical material – but it’s a decent start.

 Okay, how about the actual technical knowledge?

I always start people off with my favorite basics course: the recording of my introductory class for T-SQL (T-SQL is the SQL Server programming language).

Sean and I publish tons of free tutorials on our website,…much of it is beginner and intermediate material. If you’re looking for a rough beginner path on our site, the do something like this:

Your NUMBER ONE reference for SQL Server itself should be SQL Server Books Online. It should have installed on your computer along with SQL , and you can also access it online. A really great way to get yourself going is to work through a few of the provided Tutorials (like Getting Started with the Database Engine, SQL Server Management Studio, and Writing Transact-SQL Statements).

There is also a ton of good free content elsewhere on the web. Here are some of our favorite SQL resources:

 What about tech books?

I have a review of Inside MS SQL Server 2008: T-SQL Querying on Also see T-SQL Fundamentals (truly excellent), and anything else that we rate highly (that looks appropriate).

Good admin books:

  • Beginning SQL Server 2008 Administration
  • Administrator’s Guide to SQL Server 2005 (probably a bit outdated by now, but the core concepts are solid)

 Oh, and Jen? What resources do you recommend for getting started in SSIS?

Free online resources? Of course us first! Sean has an intro series called Ground Zero SSIS: Here is Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 (for your reference, this DBARant blog references his other series). I also have introductory articles on Petri:

As far as beginning SSIS books, Sean and I recommend Knight’s 24-Hour Trainer: Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Integration Servicesby Brian Knight et al. (Link goes to a placeholder review page with links on

 And Powershell?

Check out Sean’s Beginning Powershell for DBAs 1: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. Also be sure to catch his Powershell blogs and tutorials.

And definitely check out Don Jones’ book Learn Windows PowerShell in a Month of Lunches! It’s outstanding.

 What else can I do?

Online: You can follow us on Twitter (and ask questions using the #sqlhelp hashtag), read through SQL University archives, attend a SQL Lunch, join SQLPASS and attend free sessions at the occasional 24 Hours of PASS online, join a virtual PASS chapter.  If you’ve got $100 to spare and you’re really fired up about becoming a DBA, definitely check out our  DBA Roadmap Seminar.

In real life: Join your local PASS user group, Attend a free SQL Saturday event in your area, or attend one of the big annual conferences:

Please feel free to write at any time with more questions. We usually know where to look for good resources.


One thought on “Become a DBA”

  1. Hi Jen- this is really great content! It’s very helpful to me (I’m a dev intern still in college). However, I noticed that some of the links appear to be broken on this how-do-i article. Just wanted to give you a heads up!

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