Navigating Microsoft’s offerings with respect to certifications can be a daunting task. Microsoft has a multitude of certifications available in general, for their various technologies and platforms, and at different levels.
I hope to simplify this navigation for professionals who wish to attain Microsoft certifications, and explain the new certifications available. These new certifications override their previous counterparts and I’d like to elaborate what that actually means to you as a professional who is new to the certification process as well as for those professionals who have previously obtained Microsoft certification.
It’s also good to know beforehand that you aren’t necessarily required to complete these levels of mastery in order, but rather, that they should be attempted based on your own level of experience. In addition, they are not prerequisites (but can be viewed as iterative steps) in order to attain the next level of mastery. Achieving a higher level (such as an MCSM) will also subsequently grant you any lower level certifications should the exams you take group together to form any other certificate (in the case of acquiring an MCSM, you will achieve an MCSE as well as an MCSA).
All of this information has been sourced directly from Microsoft’s certification website (linked above). The purpose is to condense and summarize all of the available information in a clear and concise manner, allowing for you to review only the data you personally need as a professional.
To start off with, let’s explore the different levels and types of certification, in ascending order of mastery, that Microsoft has made available for 2012 and onward.
Levels and Types of Microsoft Certification
As mentioned earlier, it’s worth repeating that some (actually, most) of these certifications are iterative. You don’t, for instance, need any MTAs to get any MCSAs, or MCSDs.
If you want to achieve a specific MCSE, however, you will be taking exams that fulfill the qualifications of one of two different MCSAs. If you want a specific MCSM, you will in effect, be taking all of the exams for its respective MCSE.
For the sake of brevity, we’ll list the exams only once under their qualifying certificate, except in the case of singular exceptions. In this manner, when you view the higher level certifications’ exam qualifications, you’ll see what is needed only for that additional level of mastery, knowing that you can achieve the lower level certifications by completing the exams listed in their respective section.
Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA)
MTA certifications are to provide an entry point for people new to the Microsoft stack of technologies and are intended to provide foundational knowledge necessary to pursue the higher level certifications and to help people jumpstart their careers. The MTA certifications are not mandatory or prerequisites to the higher level certifications. MTA certifications follow three distinct tracks:
The MTA IT infrastructure track, including exams for Windows Operating System Fundamentals (Exam 98-349), Windows Server Administration Fundamentals (Exam 98-365), Networking Fundamentals (Exam 98-366), and Security Fundamentals (Exam 98-367).
The MTA database track, which includes a single exam for Database Fundamentals (Exam 98-364).
The MTA development track, which includes exams for Software Development Fundamentals (Exam 98-361), Windows Development Fundamentals (Exam 98-362), Web Development Fundamentals (Exam 98-363), .NET Fundamentals (Exam 98-372), Mobile Development Fundamentals (Exam 98-373), Gaming Development Fundamentals (Exam 98-374), and HTML5 App Development Fundamentals (Exam 98-375).
Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA)
Within the branch of MCSA certifications, there lie the following platforms:
- Windows Server 2012
- Windows Server 2008
- Windows 8
- Windows 7
- SQL Server 2012
MCSA Windows Server 2012 has the following exam qualifications:
Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012 (Exam 70-410), Administering Windows Server 2012 (Exam 70-411), and Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services (Exam 70-412).
MCSA Windows Server 2008 has the following exam qualifications:
Windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring (Exam 70-640), Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure, Configuring (Exam 70-642), and Windows Server 2008, Server Administrator (Exam 70-646).
MCSA SQL Server 2012 has the following exam qualifications:
Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012 (Exam 70-461), Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases (Exam 70-462), and Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server 2012 (Exam 70-643).
Within the branch of MCSE certifications, there lie the following areas of expertise:
- Server Infrastructure
- Desktop Infrastructure
- Private Cloud
- Data Platform
- Business Intelligence
Each of the MCSE certification require exams that group to qualify for MCSA Server Infrastructure, except for Data Platform and Business Intelligence, which both qualify for MCSA SQL Server 2012.
MCSE Server Infrastructure has the following exam qualifications once you’ve achieved MCSA Server Infrastructure:
Designing and Implementing a Server Infrastructure (Exam 70-413), and Implementing an Advanced Server Infrastructure (Exam 70-414)
MCSE Desktop Infrastructure has the following exam qualifications once you’ve achieved MCSA Server Infrastructure:
Implementing a Desktop Infrastructure (Exam 70-415), and Implementing Desktop Application Environments (Exam 70-416).
MCSE Private Cloud has the following exam qualification once you’ve achieved MCSA Server Infrastructure:
Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud with System Center 2012 (Exam 70-246), and Configuring and Deploying a Private Cloud with System Center 2012 (Exam 70-247).
MCSE Messaging has the following exam qualifications once you’ve achieved MCSA Server Infrastructure:
Core Solutions of Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 (Exam 70-341), and Advanced Solutions of Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 (Exam 70-342).
MCSE Communication has the following exam qualifications once you’ve achieved MCSA Server Infrastructure:
Core Solutions of Microsoft Lync Server 2013 (Exam 70-336), and Enterprise Voice & Online Services with Microsoft Lync Server 2013 (Exam 70-337).
MCSE SharePoint has the following exam qualifications once you’ve achieved MCSA Server Infrastructure:
Core Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013 (Exam 70-331), and Advanced Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013 (Exam 70-332).
MCSE Data Platform has the following exam qualifications once you’ve achieved MCSA SQL Server 2012:
Developing Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases (Exam 70-464), and Designing Database Solutions for SQL Server 2012 (Exam 70-465).
MCSE Business Intelligence has the following exam qualifications once you’ve achieved MCSA SQL Server 2012:
Implementing Data Models and Report with with Microsoft SQL Server 2012 (Exam 70-466) and Designing Business Intelligence Solutions with Microsoft SQL Server 2012 (Exam 70-467).
Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD)
Within the branch of MCSD certification, there lie the following development paths:
- Windows Store Apps
- Web Applications
- Application Lifecycle Management
To obtain your MCSD in Windows Store Apps, you can actually follow two separate paths. In the first path, you can obtain your MCSD using HTML5, for which you must have the following exam qualifications:
In the second path, you can obtain your MCSD using C#, for which you must have the following exam qualifications:
Programming in C# (Exam 70-483), Essentials of Developing Windows Store Apps Using C# (Exam 70-484), and Advanced Windows Store App Development Using C# (Exam 70-485).
MCSD Web Applications has the following exam qualifications:
MCSD Application Lifecycle Management has the following exam qualifications:
Administering Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2012 (Exam 70-496), Software Testing with Visual Studio 2012 (Exam 70-497), and Delivering Continuous Value with Visual Studio 2012 Application Lifecycle Management (Exam 70-498).
Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM)
Within the branch of MCSM certification, there lie the following levels of mastery, for which you must have the prerequisite MCSE certification:
- Data Platform
- Directory Services
The MCSM certifications all require an MCSE in their specific domain. See above for the exam qualifications for each respective MCSE certification. It is important to note that with the MCSM certifications, you must take a specific MCSM knowledge exam as well as an MCSM lab exam (for which the knowledge exam is a prerequisite).
MSCM Data Platform needs you to have MCSE Data Platform. Beyond that you need MCSM: Data Platform Knowledge exam (Exam 88-986), and MCSM: Data Platform Lab exam (Exam 88-987, published on April 30th, 2013, after the time of this writing).
MCSM SharePoint needs you to have MCSE SharePoint. Beyond that you need the Exams for MCSD SharePoint Applications (not yet available), as well as the MCSM: SharePoint Knowledge Exam (no specific Exam number, but you can register on Microsoft’s site), and the MCSM: SharePoint Lab Exam (same as above).
MCSM Communication needs you to have MCSE Communication. Beyond that you need the MCSM Communication Knowledge Exam (Exam 88-945, no information yet available), MCSM Communication Lab Exam (Exam 88-946, no information yet available).
MSCM Messaging needs you to have MCSE Messaging. Beyond that you need the MCSM Messaging Knowledge Exam (Exam 88-941, no information yet available), and MCSM Messaging Lab Exam (Exam 88-942, no information yet available).
MCSM Directory Services needs you to have MCSE Server Infrastructure. Beyond that you need the MCSM: Directory Services Knowledge Exam (Exam 88-948, no information yet available), and MCSM: Directory Services Lab Exam (Exam 88-928, no information yet available).
What This Means For You
Developers and general IT people can achieve level 0 certification (MTA) along a specific track, as outlined in the MTA section earlier. This certification is a good primer and introduction to the world of technology along that track.
A platform can have a level 1 certification (MCSA) and that indicates that you are fully capable and competent with respect to that platform, such as SQL Server 2012 or Windows 8. It grows to a level 2 certification (MCSE), and a level 3 certification (MCSM) for more general areas and higher competency.
There are no level 1 certifications specific to development paths. Developers can achieve a level 2 certification (MCSD) which indicates they are fully capable and competent with respect to either a deployment medium or to the development tools themselves. This means that you are capable of using multiple technologies, such as Silverlight, C#/VB.NET, and HTML5/CSS3, to deliver and deploy applications, specific to a deployment medium: Windows Store Apps or Web apps. The 3rd development path, that of Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) indicates you are capable of managing the entire lifespan of application development rather than (or in addition to, if you have the other certifications) specifically developing to a deployment medium. It essentially focuses the professional to the tools of the trade.
You as a professional cannot achieve level 3 mastery for any particular development path (in the case of MCSDs). You can also not obtain level 2 certification for any single specific topic within a platform, but must have a broader sense of knowledge using the platform to achieve certification for that entire general level of infrastructure (excepting SharePoint, which seems to be a realm of infrastructure in and of itself, as opposed to Messaging, Communication, Directory Services and Data Platform).
For previously certified professionals, the new 2012 Microsoft certifications will replace the current credential stack, and your previous certifications will be marked “Legacy” in July of 2013. From the Microsoft certification website:
“The existing MCTS, MCITP, and MCPD certifications are currently valuable in the market and will remain valuable as long as companies are using the technology covered in your certification. 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 will still appear on your transcript and will be designated as such.”
The Purpose of Certification
The entirety of the Microsoft Certification program is simply a manner in which to prove credentials for having a specific level of knowledge. For instance, if you’ve been working on cars for years and are good at it with a proven track record, you are more than likely a reliable source for working on cars, but you may not have any specific credentials outside of your past work experience. The aim of the certification program for professionals working with Microsoft technologies is simply to provide a transcript and “additional proof” that you are capable of what you say you are capable of. The certifications are highly recognized within the industry, and provide more marketability for a professional. In addition, they can serve as a mark of distinction in helping potential clients or employers differentiate you from other candidates with a similar background and set of skills.
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