Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How to become a Microsoft Certified Professional

If you have been in the IT industry for while, you have noticed how confusing it can get with the constant changes. And it can be especially difficult for someone just entering  the industry. The certification names have gone from MCSA to MSTS and back to MCSA but with a different word...? So we hope this blog gives you the answers and advice you need in order to know which exam to take next, whatever path you choose.

Where to start your certification path?

Microsoft Certification pathMicrosoft has made their certification paths into a pyramid of three sections. First you start from Associate, then you move up to Expert and finally to Master. As the pyramid suggests, the higher up the ranks you go, the fewer of you there are.

The first level; Associate, has three certification paths. It has the old MCTS, the MCSA 2008 and the latest MCSA 2012.

Before we continue, it is important to note that it is worth checking the Microsoft web-site to see if there have been any changes to the requirements, and to see whether the exam is still available. The Exam usually expires when mainstream support for the product ends. 


This is the most common starting point on the certification path but this is slowly being removed. This is in order to make way for the new MCSA certifications which we talk about lower down. The Exam usually expires when mainstream support for the product ends. Depending on the certification, you will need to take one to three exams in order to pass. Currently there are 20 different technologies.


The MCSA 2008 (Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate) looks at configuring and supporting an Active Directory environment using Windows Server 2008. To gain this cert, you’ll need to pass the following three exams:
70-640 - Active Directory
70-642 - Network Infrastructure
70-646 - Server Administrator

If you already have an MCSA 2008, you are able to update your cert to the new MCSA 2012 in just four days by sitting the 70-417 exam which is available until the 31st of July 2014. This is twice as fast as taking the full MCSA 2012 course and saves the need to start again from the beginning.


MCSA logoMicrosoft Certified Solutions Associate 2012 is aimed at supporting Windows Server 2012 and SQL Server. Like MCSA 2008, you will need to complete three exams in order to gain the certification.

For MCSA Windows Server 2012, you’ll need:
70-410 - Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012
70-411 - Administering Windows Server 2012
70-412 - Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services

For MCSA SQL Server, you’ll need:
70-461 - Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012
70-462 - Administering Windows Server 2012
70-463 - Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services


The MCITP certification is a level up on the pyramid; this is now in the expert level. But just like the MCTS, it is due to be removed to make way for the new MCSE certification. It is aimed at IT professionals who are responsible for administering the network at a server level. Currently almost all MCITP certifications except Exchange, Sharepoint and Lync have expiry dates of July 31 2013. It currently has 15 different certifications. In order to get one of these certifications, you’ll need to pass anywhere from two to five exams. If you have any of the certifications below, you will be able to upgrade them to the new MSCA Server 2012 by taking the 70-417 exam. This is the same exam needed to upgrade your MCSA 2008 to MCSA 2012.

MCITP: Virtualization Administrator
MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator
MCITP: Lync Server Administrator
MCITP: Sharepoint Administrator
MCITP: Enterprise Messaging Administrator

It is important to try and move to the Associate level MCSA 2012 certification as it is the most up to date Microsoft certification and will provide a foundation for your IT career with a stepping stone to the next level: Expert.


MCSE logoThis certification retired a long time ago, and some of you might remember it. But it has been brought back… kind of. It used to be called Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, but is now called Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert, just like what happened to the MCITP and MCSA. Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert looks at solutions based on the current technology at the time. In order for someone to keep an MCSE certification, they will need to recertify as new technology it released.

There are four certification paths for MCSE and in order to gain them, you’ll need to pass the following exams:

70-415 – Implementing a Desktop Infrastructure
70-416 – Implementing Desktop Application Environments

70-413 – Designing and Implementing a Server Infrastructure
70-414 – Implementing an Advanced Server Infrastructure

70-246 – Configuring and Deploying a Private Cloud with System Center 2012
70-247 – Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud with System Center 2012

70-461 – Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012
70-462 – Administering a Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Database
70-463 – Implementing Data Warehouses with Microsoft SQL Server 2012

Not including SQL, the other three certs have one thing in common; they require the MCSA Windows Server 2012 certification. If you wish to follow the MCSE SQL Server path, you’ll first need the MCSA SQL Server certification.

MCSM (Microsoft Certified Solutions Master)

The next level is Master. This is the hardest level to achieve. Professionals at this level have an MCSM– Microsoft Certified Solutions Master. In order to get this certification, you’ll need to complete the relevant certification for that area. But even when that is complete, you’ll need to submit an application to Microsoft for them to approve it. It must show that you have relevant experience and expertise to be awarded this certification. It’s not easy…

Good luck on your chosen certification path.