Information technology reinvents itself daily. It seems like every time you learn how to use the newest technology, the next newest version is released. Corporations realize the benefits of having a successful IT department, and many are requiring certain credentials and certifications from job candidates and current employees. With the demand for qualified IT professionals on the rise, receiving training and getting certified in this ever-growing field is becoming more important than ever before. A certification can distinguish you from the crowd, and get you into a position to kick off or advance your career. Microsoft is a corporation who realizes the relevance of IT certifications, and felt it necessary to develop a certification program that would distinguish IT professionals that have acquired the specific knowledge and understanding to successfully utilize the various technologies offered. As of April 2012, Microsoft has reinvented their certification process, and made changes in order to keep up with all the recent technological advances.
Why the change in Microsoft certifications?
Microsoft has been branded a leader in technology, and developed a certification program to allow qualified individuals to affirm their knowledge of various Microsoft programs. Microsoft holds their certification program at a high level, and understands that it too has to keep up with the dynamic world of IT. It’s for that reason that Microsoft reinvented their certification program. It was necessary in order for them to maintain their market relevance as the industry shifts to the cloud. Microsoft Certifications now validate broader and deeper skills required to build solutions on-premises or within the cloud. As with other professionals who receive certifications and licenses, such as doctors and engineers, those receiving Microsoft Certifications will have to dedicate time to continuing their education and will have to get re-certified every few years, depending on the type of certification.
Small names bring big change
The acronyms associated with the various certifications offered by Microsoft have changed slightly, but one shouldn’t imply that the actual certification changes are so minor. The two most notable changes are: 1) there are fewer certifications covering more topic areas, and 2) certifications are no longer product/versioned-based.
There are four main categories in which you can receive a Microsoft Certification. Those are:
- Server – Windows Server, Exchange Server, Lync, SharePoint, Directory Services
- Desktop – Office, Windows, Microsoft Dynamics
- Database – SQL Server
- Developer – Visual Studio, Windows Phone
Within these four main categories there are four different levels, in which you can get certified. Those include:
- MCSA (Microsoft Certified Solutions Association) – The Foundation
- MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert)– The Globally Recognized Standard
- MCSD (Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer) – The Globally recognized Standard for Developers
- MCSM (Microsoft Certified Solutions Master) – The Pinnacle of Professional Distinction
The previous certifications included:
- MCTS (Microsoft Certified technical Specialist) – This certification is being replaced by the MCSA.
- MCITP (Microsoft Certified IT Professionals) – This certification is being replaced by the MCSE. The MCITP level is being combined. In order to get an MCSE in SQL Server, you need to pass exams for developing & designing database solutions.
- MCPD (Microsoft Certified Professional Developer) – This is being replaced by the MCSD
- MCM (Microsoft Certified Master) – This certification will eventually be replaced by the MCSM
- MCDBA (Microsoft Certified Database Administrator) – The MCSE in the Database category has replaced this certification.
It’s important to note that these certifications remain current and still valuable in the market, and therefore are still being offered. They do have expiration dates, so you need to be aware of those and look into upgrading to the new certification. That being said, many companies are still utilizing the older technologies, so the old certification is still valuable. As new technologies are released, they will be released in the new solutions structure. Over time, the MCTS, MCITP, and MCPD certifications will retire and will transition to a legacy status. Legacy Microsoft Certifications (retired certifications) will still appear on your transcript and will be designated as such.
The Microsoft Certification Hierarchy
- New to IT – MTA is a recommended entry point into IT certification and job preparation. Pass just one exam and you’ll earn a certification, taking your first step toward a career in technology. If you are just starting your IT career path or are looking to enhance your understanding of IT fundamentals, MTA will validate your core knowledge. MTA is an optional industry-recognized certification for those pursuing a career path in IT infrastructure, database design, or software development using Microsoft technologies. Currently there are three MTA certification tracks: Infrastructure; Database; and Development.
- The first level – MCSA is a pre-requisite to the MCSE Certification. It is also serves as the foundation for a career path. Currently, there are five MSCA certifications: Windows Server 2012; Windows Server 2008; Windows 8; Windows 7; and SQL Server 2012. This certification will get any candidate on the right path in building a sustainable career in IT, and focuses on the ability to design and build technological solutions rather than a specific job role, like the previous MCTS certification.
- The second level – MSCE is the globally recognized standard for IT Professionals. To earn this certification you must be able to demonstrate your ability to build innovative solutions across multiple technologies, both on-premises and in the cloud. Currently, there are eight MSCE certifications: Server Infrastructure, Desktop Infrastructure, Private Cloud, Data Platform, Business Intelligence, Messaging, Communication, and SharePoint. To ensure the certifications remain meaningful and valuable indicators of candidates’ skills, MCSE certifications will require recertification every three years.
- The third level – MCSM, the “pinnacle of professional distinction” is where you will validate your ability to successfully design and implement innovative technical solutions for complex on-premise or off-premise hybrid enterprise environments. Currently, there are five certifications within MCSM: Data Platform; Messaging; Communication; SharePoint; and Directory Services. The MCSM will require recertification every 3 years.
- For the Developer – MCSD is the globally recognized standard for developers and is replacing MCPD. To earn this certification you must be able to demonstrate your ability to build innovative solutions across multiple technologies, both on-premises and in the cloud. Currently, there are three MCSD certifications: Window Store Apps; Web Applications; and Application Lifestyle Management. To ensure the certifications remain meaningful and valuable indicators of candidates’ skills, MCSD certifications will require recertification every two years.
Certifications for a better future
If you were already familiar with the Microsoft Certification program, you’ll notice that the new requirements are more stringent and recertification is now required for many of the certifications. This is just another sign that IT credentials are important and are being perceived as such. There is some opposition to the new certification program as it may be more difficult for some more than others to keep up with the re-certifications. The reality is companies implement and utilize the latest technology upgrades at different rates. That being the case it still may be beneficial, even essential, to receive certifications from the older program, depending on the technology being utilized by your firm. This is something you need be aware of when choosing what certification to get, but either way, IT professionals need to be able to demonstrate their capabilities, knowledge, and understanding in order to obtain a job in IT and continue to build their IT career. According to a recent study completed by CompTIA, 86% of hiring managers indicate IT certifications are a high or medium priority during the candidate evaluation process. Right now there is 40% gap in supply and demand for qualified IT professionals. It’s time to capitalize on that gap! Don’t be left behind! Get training! Get certified! We offer Microsoft certifications from both the older and newer certification programs, so which ever path you choose, TechSherpas can guide you to the top.