Members of Experts Exchange have asked a hundred times 'Where should I go to get SQL Server Training?' As of March 2016 here's the answer.
Have you ever had an employer where you asked them for paid training and the answer was 'Go buy a book and learn it yourself?' I've had a few truly excellent employers that supported my training, such as Jostens, General Mills, Mystic Lake Casino, and my own consulting company, and a number of lousy employers that I won't name publicly. So if you're looking for SQL Server training and a formal education at a college or university is out of scope, here's a montage of the best training solutions I've seen.
Question & Answer
- Search EE questions - There are millions of questions here, and finding answers should not be that difficult. Recommend filtering the time for the last year to make search results do not reflect older technology.
- Ask EE questions - Most established experts here are suckers for points, and as long as your question is optimized for easy answering then there's usually more than a couple of experts immediately willing to help. Check out Top 10 Ways to Ask Better Questions for ways to increase your odds of success.
- There are Q&A sites out there that specialize in SQL Server such as SQL Server Central (secret message to EE TPTB: They pay for writing articles) and SQL Server Tips, There are also other all technology Q&A sites out there such as Microsoft's MSDN Forums, StackOverflow.com, Database Journal, and Tech Republic. I'm not going to comment here on the merits of each site. Nope. Not gonna do it.
Keep in mind that the scope for these Q&A sites are single questions, so if you have something larger like a large training need or a project these sites can be limited.
- EE articles - I've written seventeen so far, and ones with heavy T-SQL are the three-part SQL Server Calendar Table, SQL Server GROUP BY Solutions, and SQL Server CASE Solutions, and there are many other insanely great SQL Server developers that have written articles here. Many of these articles were written to respond to a question being asked frequently.
- SQL Server Central has Beginners to Advanced tutorials.
- Various other established experts have their own blog, and you can search many of them to find those that most closely resemble your current position. Many of the above Q&A sites also have a blog and article section.
Books aren't as important as they were in years past now that most everything is available online.
Free Live Events
- PASS local chapter events - Big city chapters will meet every two months for someone to present a current topic of interest. Many of these events are sponsored, which means decent rooms and pizza.
- SQL Saturday - Big city chapters will host one-day free training in SQL Server, dependent on how many instructors they can attract. The ones I've been to have been five time periods, each one having a choice from 5-6 different sessions, with special sessions over lunch such as Women In Technology.
This line is the paywall. Anything above other than Experts Exchange is free, and even that is free if you answer a certain number of questions a month or volunteer to help run the site in ways in roles such as zone adviser or article editor. Everything below this line costs money. So take your career seriously and be open to investing money to help it grow.
- Get a subscription to Pluralsight which has some outstanding training videos. Pay service, but you'll avoid getting bombarded with advertising and bad videos if you searched YouTube and other places.
Get your own copy of SQL Server ($60)
- SQL Server Developer editionis the best. It costs only $59.95 but gives you access to all features of SQL Server, including SSIS, SSAS and SSRS. The better training out there will have downloadable code that you can execute against sample databases such as AdventureWorks. The only major limitation that I know of is that you can't install as a stand-alone server or schedule jobs. The express editions lacks these features.
Certifications ($120-150 to take the exam, $25-80 for review books)
- In my opinion pursuing a SQL Server certification is not so much a learning process but a validation of your existing sets. There are exam review books and videos out there, but their focus is to cover the materials on the exam and not necessarily to learn.
- If you do go the exam route, I highly recommend buying used books off of eBay. Chances are the seller is someone that has already taken and passed the exam, so they're not that concerned about making money, they've marked up the books already, and may even supply some helpful advice on passing the test.
Live Events ($1,000 or less)
- Pragmatic Works offers a number of on-site and virtual workshops in Business Intelligence (BI)-related SQL Server activities. Includes class files.
- Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC) courses offered at local training centers - Good, but will stick rigidly to the curriculum book, and instructors can vary wildly from teachers only to experts that are actively working projects in the fields. Tuition can go as high as $600/day.
Live Events ($1,000-3,000)
- Attend PASS Summit 2016 in Seattle, which is probably the best four-day training conference anywhere. Three days, thirteen sessions were you get to pick from up to 15 different classes with almost every one taught by an MVP. Will run you over a thousand dollars in tuition, figure that much for a hotel room unless you find a roommate or walk a lot, and then airfare and some meals. Attendees can also buy a DVD that contains every session recording for a couple of hundred dollars. I attended in 2012 and 2015.
- Attend PASS Business Analytics Conference in San Jose. Same as Summit but two days instead of three, with emphasis on business intelligence areas such as SSIS, SSRS, SSAS, DAX, and MDX. I attended in 2014.
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