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Microsoft’s Changes in Certifications

11 Jun, 2008 By: Carla Nasse imageSource

Microsoft’s Changes in Certifications

When I was in grammar school learning to write COBOL 60 programs, just
getting the yellow tape punched with the completed program and having it work
was a truly monumental achievement. Few of us could have imagined what levels
would be reached by 2008. Now there are networks and they have nodes. Subnets
have masks, and a ping isn’t necessarily a golf club.

Why, oh why, do we have to know this stuff? Life was so much simpler when we
just sold copiers, repaired them, and then got paid.  It was a short sales cycle
and we made a nice living. Now, unless we’re out there selling solutions and not
just hardware, the margins aren’t any good. We have to understand workflow and
records management,  APIPA and POP3, and the difference between protocols and
formats.  Talking to IT is a requirement on closing most sales these days. For
selling SMBs, utilizing the IT people may be the best way to close the deal. 

Over the past few months, we’ve covered many of CompTIA’s certifications,
including the new PDI+ (Print and Document Imaging) and how those certifications
can help differentiate your dealership. While CompTIA certifications provide a
great solid foundation for any IT career, many people want/need to continue
their training and certification path. Microsoft’s MCSE certification is
probably the most  sought.

The IT industry has grown to such portions that it is absolutely impossible
to know everything there is to know about the IT world. Of course with all that
growth in IT, there came career specializations. Database or  network
administration, IT security, network configuration and implementation,
applications and solutions development  were just some of the areas an IT person
could focus his/her career on.  Often, it’s time to pick a technology or
specialty and concentrate the efforts there.  Some of the choices for more
specialized certifications are Microsoft, Cisco, security and wireless.  In
fact, let’s tackle Microsoft’s certification program.  Be prepared.  There are
more acronyms in IT than there are in the government!

The Next Generation

Microsoft has recently introduced the next generation of Microsoft
certifications that are in line with those specializations.  First, let’s get it
out on the table.  The MCSA and MCSE certification exams for Windows 2003 Server
are not going away anytime soon.The earned certifications never expire. Once an
MCSE, always an MCSE.

However, the  MCSA and MCSE exams supporting Windows 2000 were retired in
March ‘08.  These certifications are still valid for the people who hold them,
but there won’t be any additional certifications granted. Most Windows 2000
servers have been replaced with more current equipment.   The MCSA and MCSE
exams supporting Windows Server 2003 have not been scheduled for retirement
yet.  It may be a number of years before that will happen.

New certifications for Microsoft’s new products are being added but in a
different structure.  That makes them a little harder to recognize, at least
until we get used to them.  Unlike CompTIA certifications (except A+ which
requires passing two exams), Microsoft certifications require multiple exams to
earn the designation. Most certs have been around since ‘92,  with  3 million
people getting certified; about 300,000 in the last 12 months.

  • MCP – Microsoft Certified Professional

This cert is earned by passing any Microsoft exam that is not part of the
Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc., which is a whole other set of
non-technical designations).  MCP is where a person whole other set of
non-technical designations).  MCP is where a person starts on the Microsoft
certification path.  There is 1 exam.

  • MCDST – Microsoft Certified Desktop

Support Technician

This designation demonstrates technical expertise supporting end-users and
troubleshooting desktop environments that are running the Microsoft Windows XP
operating system.  There are two exams.

  • MCSA – Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator

With this certification, a tech has validated the skills and knowledge
necessary to troubleshoot, fix and maintain existing system environments running
on Windows 2000 or 2003 operating systems.  There are security and messaging
specialties within the MCSA certification.  To earn an MCSA, a candidate has to
pass two exams on networking, one exam on operating systems and an elective
exam.  The elective exam can be waived if the candidate holds CompTIA’s A+ and
Network+ or Server+ certifications.

  • MCSE – Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer

This is probably the most recognized certification from Microsoft.  Not only
can an MCSE do all the things an MCSA can do, an MCSE can also design and
implement business solutions based on the Windows platform and Windows operating
systems.  To earn an MCSE certification, a candidate must pass 4 core exams on
networking, one core exam on operating systems, one core exam on design, and one
elective exam.  The elective exams are where the specialties come into play. 
Like the MCSA certification, there are two specialties for the MCSE; Messaging
and Security. 

Although the exams may retire, once a credential is earned it’s always
valid.  Even if it doesn’t expire, it can become obsolete as the equipment
becomes obsolete.  An MCSE/A 2000 will eventually become obsolete, but Microsoft
has “upgrade exams” available to keep the credential current.  One exam is
required to upgrade from an MCSE/A 2000 to an MCSE/A 2003.  Another exam is
required to upgrade an MCSE/A 2003 to an MCIPT (more on this one next month when
we look at the new structure).  An MCSE/A that has not taken the upgrade exam to
go from 2000 to 2003, must start over to earn the new MCITP.

In a nutshell, an MCSE can design and build a network, and the MCSA can take
care of it once it’s built.  These certifications cover the skills and knowledge
for Microsoft 2000 and 2003 servers.  There are no CEU (continuing education
units) required to keep a Microsoft certification valid.  These four
certifications certainly are not a complete list of the certifications available
from Microsoft.  The list could go on for pages if we started to look at MCADs,
MCDBAs and all the others that go with them.  These four certifications are the
most common and the basis for our understanding of the traditional Microsoft
certifications.  Next month, we’ll take a look at the new certification
structure that Microsoft has developed for Vista, and the Windows Server 2008
products.  The new exams for validating the skill sets required to service the
new products are being released before the products themselves.  Can the service
packs be far behind?

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