Carving out the .NET Certification Path

August 19, 2008 at 8:47 am | Posted in Certification Paths, Microsoft | Leave a comment
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I know it’s a bit early, but in North America we have an autumn holiday tenderly called “Turkey Day.” This is a time where friends and family put aside differences and distances to share a large feast together in the pretense of harmony. The event usually revolves around the traditional meat of turkey, and the carving ceremony in my family has always been a moment of great anticipation and even greater contention.

So, sitting down at the .NET certification table, you might be wondering what happened to the big MCSD/MCAD turkey. Back in the day, the MCSD/MCAD certification represented a master developer, a jack-of-all-trades. So if you wanted a developer certification beyond the MCP, you had to eat the whole MCSD/MCAD turkey, even if you were just a Windows developer or only developed ASP Web sites; you had to eat both dark and white meat, leg and drumstick – everything.

With the introduction of the .NET Framework, the situation became even more complicated. Developing a Windows application became very similar to harnessing Web power, but you had to know everything about both to get the MCSD. The MCAD certification attempted to alleviate the pressure, but it was never as successful a certification as the MCSD.

So for the last few years Microsoft Learning has been busy carving the certification turkey, trying to spread the slices across a much wider spectrum of Microsoft technologies. We’ve entered a new age of smaller, more technology-specific certifications, so that there’s a little bit of certification for everyone to share. Rather than the MCSD and MCAD designation, there are now the TS (Technology Specialist) and PD (Professional Developer) designations.

So how is the certification table currently laid out? Something like this (click the image for a larger version):

NETCertification

The TS exams represent a basic proficiency in specific technology domains. Each exam comes in at least two flavors: VB.NET or C#. Before you go too far over to the dark meat, all candidates for Microsoft .NET certification must pass the 070-536 exam. If you use ASP.NET 2.0, you would also take the 070-528 exam (.NET Framework 2.0 Web applications). If you use ASP.NET 3.5, you would also take the 070-562 exam (.NET Framework 3.5 ASP.NET Applications). There are also TS exams for BizTalk, Windows SharePoint Services, and most other Microsoft products.

Once you clear the preliminaries, then you can put it all together by taking PD exams. These certifications focus on applying the technologies to real-world scenarios. You might know code, but do you understand the team environment and the phases of software development? There are only three exams in this category: Windows Developer, Web Developer, and Enterprise Application Developer, each for .NET 2.0 and Visual Studio 2005.

The exams themselves contain a lot more code, more best practices from the Microsoft Solution and Agile Frameworks, and have a lot less configuration and property trivia. So, the exam you take will be honed in on the technology you use with the language you know. Seems a lot more digestible, doesn’t it?

So, seriously, no MCSD anymore? Well… not by name, per se. The MCPD: Enterprise Application Developer is now the jack-of-all-trades certification, much like the old MCSD. To get this certification, you need to get through all the .NET 2.0 TS certifications and then pass the 070-549 exams.

Of course, if you have your MCSD/MCAD certification, then you could take an upgrade path, but that may be a longer meal than most can handle. And I think the tryptophan is kicking in, so I may need to sleep before posting on that topic anytime soon. (But if you want an appetizer, here’s an hors d’oeuvre from the horse’s mouth.)

But before I doze off, remember this: The new .NET certification isn’t for marathon competitive eaters anymore. Take your time and savor the certification in each bite.

-Josh (MCP, MCSA, MCDBA, MCSD)

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