In-Depth

7 Things You Should Know About Microsoft Certifications Today

What's so big about the MCSE? And what about this recertification thingie if I'm already certified? Answers here.

Microsoft is retooling its certification program, so there's likely some questions from readers out there who are just getting into the certification game (and for you who are getting back into it after a testing hiatus, this could also be useful). With that, here's a handful of facts you should know before you get wrapped up in Microsoft certification chaos.

1. Microsoft Learning is bringing back the MCSA and MCSE.
Okay, it's not like you remember them, but those initials are back. Indeed, MCSA is now Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate and MCSE is now the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert. For more news about the retooled certification program, go here for our piece on the changes and go here to read it from Microsoft Learning directly.

2. You must recertify your MCSA and MCSE in the next few years.
There was a time when, once you earned your MCP, MCDST or old-school MCSE, you kept it and you knew it was now a part of your permanent record (and, apologies to the Violent Femmes).

When the program went through a revamp to the new-generation (MCTS, MCITP, MCPD, etc.), Microsoft Learning assured those with the older titles that they'd retain those credentials. Microsoft also introduced a modified recertification rule, which meant that you still retain the older certifications on your record, but they'd be "versioned" on your transcript.

With the revamped program, it's still the case -- if you have an older MCSE, it'll still be reflected on your transcript. What's new this time out is that Microsoft Learning is making it mandatory that MCPs recertify, and as one goes through the certification and recertification process, each version of the exams will be reflected on the transcript. We're not sure how this will be different, but maybe we'll get to see this in action once transcripts get updated in the coming year.

In any event, you can tell employers that you're an MCSE, but your transcript will show how recent your latest certification is. At some point, your old MCSE won't matter and you might want to show that you're familiar with more recent technology by recertifying anyhow.

For more on Microsoft Learning's recertification rules, go here.

3. If you currently have an MCITP, Microsoft Learning will make it easy to upgrade to MCSE titles.
Microsoft Learning has posted an FAQ on upgrading from MCITP to the new MCSE: Data Platform or MCSE: Business Intelligence titles here. For those moving from MCITP to the MCSE: Private Cloud, go here.

Microsoft Learning is also providing some incentive in the way of a two-for-one exam offer. It's valid now through June 30 for selected exams. Check out this page for details.

4. The E in MCSE was at one time fairly controversial. It's not now.
Now that Microsoft Learning is reviving the MCSE, it's not reviving the older name, Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. There was a time when licensed and certified engineers were miffed that Microsoft would use the term in its program. That's because engineer in some states and even in other countries was a regulated term. MCPmag.com as far back as 2001 surveyed readers at the time to vote on a replacement for the controversial E. Expert was the overwhelming choice, which, coincidentally, means our readers were prescient and half right a decade ago. You're welcome, Microsoft Learning!

5. You can take your exams at only one exam provider: Prometric.
Prometric exam centers are available worldwide. To find your local Prometric testing center for Microsoft exams, go here.

6. Exams are a bargain at $150 in the U.S.
Even better is if you can take exams during the beta period -- beta exams are free and just as valid as the live exams that you have to pay for.

As well, Microsoft often offers second shots at failed exams. It's kind of like getting half off an exam, especially if you end up having to take it again.

Always be on the lookout for announcements on this site and on the Special Offers page at the Microsoft Learning site for offers that can make paying for exams less stressful. (Right now, it's offering Exam 70-659 for free until May 31 at select Learning Partners, so hurry! BTW, that exam is part of the new MCSE: Private Cloud requirements.)

7. Good luck if you're trying to get your company to pay for your certification efforts.
According to last year's salary survey on this site, 41 percent of respondents said their employers paid for technical training, and only 32 percent had employers pay for their exams.

Based on direct feedback we got from readers, employers are reluctant to pay for employee training or certification if that employee can use those newfound and documented skills to find better paying work elsewhere.

About the Author

Michael Domingo has held several positions at 1105 Media, and is currently the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.

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