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The Self-Taught DBA

By: Brad McGehee
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You canít go to college to become a DBA. Sure, you can take some basic classes on database theory and design, and maybe even a couple classes on specific databases, but there is no comprehensive college program you can take to become a DBA.

Of course, there are the one-week classes many training centers offer on SQL Server, but as probably already know, they just cover the basics and donít really teach you everything you need to know. Besides, these can cost a fortune to attend, and if you have to foot the bill yourself, or if you don't have a training center in your city, they are probably not a practical option.

So what options does an intelligent individual, such as yourself, have if you want to become a DBA (or to become a master DBA, if you are already a newbie DBA)? If you canít get the training you really need from classes, where do you turn?

If you are like most DBAs I know, you go the self-taught route. This is not an easy path, but if you are serious about becoming a DBA and making it your career, I think you will find that doing it yourself is the best possible route.

What You Need to Learn
You may not be aware of this if you are new to databases, but there are actually many different sub-specialties of database work. The major ones include:
* DBA (Database Administrator): Generally, responsible for the day-to-day administration of SQL Server and its databases.
* Database Modeler/Designer: Models and designs databases.
* Database (Transact-SQL) Developer: Writes Transact-SQL applications, generally writing scripts and stored procedures.
* Data Warehouse Specialist: Administers, and perhaps develops, data warehousing-based applications.

The focus of this article is on becoming a DBA. In many ways, the DBA has to be the best-rounded person (as compared to the other sub-specialties) in regards to knowledge of SQL Server. To be a successful DBA, not must you only know how to administer SQL Server, you need to be familiar with all aspects of SQL Server, including database design, development, and data warehousing. No, you donít have to know everything about each sub-specialty, but the more you know, the better you can perform your job. You really need to become a SQL Server jack-of-all-trades. As you can imagine, this can become a large undertaking.

So Where Do I Begin?
Fortunately, there are many good books on SQL Server, so the best place to start in your journey to becoming a master DBA is to begin building a library of top-notch books, and of course, reading them from cover to cover. In some cases, I find myself rereading some books over and over again, picking up more information each time I read them.

Here are the books I recommend, and in the order I suggest you read them. Of course, you can read them in any order you want, and you can skip subjects of little interest to you.

Books Recommended for all Up and Coming DBAs
* Microsoft SQL Server 2000 DBA Survival Guide: One of the best books for the beginning DBA. It as been around since SQL Server 6.5, and has gotten better with each new version.
* Beginning SQL Server 2000 Programming: A great book for mastering the basics of Transact-SQL development.
* Professional SQL Server 2000 Database Design: Probably the best book ever written on SQL Server database design.
* Admin 911: SQL Server 2000: Consider this book a compilation of real-world tricks and tips that you probably will not find in other books.
* Inside Microsoft SQL Server 2000: The definitive source on how SQL Server really works. Consider it like your SQL Server graduate school.
* Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Performance Tuning Technical Reference: Performance tuning is an on-going job for the DBA, and this book is a must read.
* Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services Step by Step: Even if you may not be ready for data warehousing yet, you should still learn the basics, and this book covers them well.

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