BREAKING NEWS: MCP Program Takes New Road in September
Framework for "new generation" certifications to debut in September, beginning with SQL Server, Visual Studio.
Changes are afoot in the Microsoft Certification Program that can be
labeled as "evolutionary"; that is, changes to the certification process
will be implemented over time, as newer technologies become generally
The first of those changes will occur among the SQL Server and Visual
Studio products, which are planned for a major launch event in San
Francisco on Nov. 7. Certification details for those programs will
be posted around September on the Microsoft Certification Program Web
site, according to Al Valvano, Microsoft Learning Group Program Manager.
Valvano provided details of the revamped certification program plans during
a Learning Solutions Workshop at the Worldwide Partner Conference in Minneapolis
over the weekend.
According to Valvano, Microsoft will follow tradition, releasing exams
for SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 about 45 days after
the release of the products to the general public. Those exams, however,
won't fit into the traditional MCP schema that one might be familiar with.
Instead, Microsoft will introduce a new framework for certification that
will pair up a credential with a skill-identifying certification based
on a tiered approach consisting of the following credentials:
- Tier 1: Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist will
require simply passing one to three exams based on a Microsoft technology.
As products meet the end of the support lifecycle, its related exam
will be retired.
- Tier 2: Microsoft Certified IT Professional or Professional
Developer require a Technology Specialist certification, plus one
to three more exams, based on the requirement for a particular path.
This tier is tied to job role at an organization, such as Database Developer
or Business Intelligence. Recertification will be required to maintain
status at this level.
- Tier 3: Microsoft Certified Architect is a rigorous,
board-level certification that requires recertification. Achieving Technology
Specialist or IT Professional or Professional Developer certification
not a prerequisite to attaining this level of certification.
Details for the third tier, Microsoft Certified Architect, were released
back in April this year. (For more on the architect program, see "Microsoft
Previews Board-Level Certification at TechMentor " at http://mcpmag.com/news/article.asp?EditorialsID=789.)
Microsoft is still hammering away at the details for the first two tiers,
but Valvano provided a generous amount of what the group has developed
thus far, via a presentation that diagrammed the new framework. It's obvious
that the new program differs significantly from the current program.
How changes in the SQL Server and Visual Studio versions of the program
will trickle down to the rest of the program, particularly in the MCSA
and MCSE credentials, can only be a guess and Valvano didn't offer up
any clues through the presentation, only showing that most of the information
is 'to be decided.'
"We're prepared only to provide details on the SQL Server and Visual
Studio programs," he reiterated.
Valvano explains that the "new generation" program is aimed at making
it easier to identify the specific skills that an individual is capable
of deploying (highlighted by the Technology Specialist) and the type of
job role that individual can fulfill (IT Professional or Professional
Developer). The new-gen certification will be composed of a credential
and skill-identifying certification (see Figure 1). So, at the first tier
in the new plan, a cert candidate might achieve several versions of Microsoft
Certified Technology Specialist to highlight as many skills as possible.
The skills will be listed to the right of the Technology Specialist logo.
|Figure 1. To the right side of the new Microsoft
Certified Technology Specialist logo, each skill will be listed as
required exams are completed for each specialty. (Click image to
view larger version. Source: Microsoft Corp.)
Some time in December, Microsoft hopes to be able to offer the initial
Technology Specialist titles for SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005.
Other technologies, such as BizTalk Server 2006 (next in line) and Longhorn
(much further away, in late 2006) will go
online when those products are eventually released.
At the next tier is the Professional Series, either the IT Professional
and Professional Developer. These titles will also require an extra set
of one to three exams. The Microsoft Certified IT Professional is the
likely title to make a comparison to the current MCSE program, but the
difference is apples to oranges. The goal here is to provide a title that
defines the individual's job role within an organization. Valvano provided
an example for SQL Server 2005, which showed certifications for three
specific job roles that a SQL Server expert might perform: Database Administrator,
Database Developer, or Business Intelligence Developer. Even with the
roles being distinct ones, a candidate can conceivably opt to attain all
Microsoft currently has plans to provide an upgrade path for current
MCDBAs on SQL Server 2003 to Microsoft Certified IT Professional: Database
Administrator. Valvano says the path will consist of passage of two exams
(see Figure 2).
|Figure 2. Microsoft will provide a two-exam upgrade
path for MCDBAs on SQL Server 2000 who want to prove SQL 2005 proficiency
via the Microsoft Certified IT Professional title. Two exams also
will be required for MCSDs upgrading to the Microsoft Certified Professional
Developer: Enterprise Application Developer title. Only one exam will
be required for MCADs upgrading to the newer Windows and Web versions
of the Microsoft Certified Professional Developer titles. (Click
image to view larger version. Source: Microsoft Corp.)
|Figure 3. Roadmap from current credentials to
new generation credentials. The path upward from MCSA and MCSE is
still TBD for another year. (Click image to view larger
version. Source: Microsoft Corp.)
The Professional Developer credential is similar in some ways to its
predecessor MCSD title, except that candidates can distinguish between Web-enabled
or Windows-enabled development paths. And the Professional Developer Series
does one better than the MCSD, by offering an additional Enterprise
Application Developer job role.
So, What Happens with My MCSE?
Candidates working toward an MCSE or MCSA title might be wondering if
their current certification efforts will become useless. Will the current
title retire? Should candidates drop everything and wait for Microsoft
to introduce the Longhorn version of the certification under the new program
"[The MCSE/MCSA/MCDBA titles] are not going away and those continue
to remain valid, just like there are people who continue to certify on
Windows 2000," says Valvano. He does acknowledge that there will be an
upgrade path to the new certification program from the current ones (see Figure 3),
but says that development on the preliminary framework hasn't even begun, as much depends on what's in Longhorn. And Longhorn is still more than a year from delivery.
Michael Domingo has held several positions at 1105 Media, and is currently the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.