MSCD – A New Certification with an Old Heart of Gold

February 8, 2013 at 9:07 am | Posted in Certification Paths, Microsoft | 31 Comments
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Disclaimer: Exam retirements are subject to change without notice. Please go to the official Microsoft Retired exams list to confirm or deny a specific test’s retirement date, as it may have changed since this post was originally published.

(Editor’s note: This post belongs to our ongoing series about the new generation of Microsoft certifications. See also Customer asks: Is now the time to study for Windows Server 2008 certification, or Server 2012?, Don’t wait to finish your MCTS or MCITP: Microsoft retiring exam tracks, and Everything old is new again: the MCSE and MCSA are dead (long live the MCSE and MCSA).)

Having wandered the wilderness of Java and CIW certification for some years, I didn’t move into Microsoft developer certs until about 2002. At that time, the MCSD (known then as Microsoft Certified SolutioN Developer) was a catch-all certification, requiring a wide array of Visual Basic, DCOM, and ASP knowledge. Its prestige was based on the complexity and intensity of the exam objectives, and not whether these skills were required by a specific job role in the real world. Most Microsoft developers I knew focused on a type of application, whether it was Windows- or Web-based — not the entire gamut of Microsoft developer technology.

For that reason, few developers were surprised when Microsoft announced new developer certifications for .NET  that  focused on skill sets related to actual job roles.  This change occured during Microsoft’s overall revamp of its certifications that resulted in the demise of the Windows NT and Server 2003-era MCSE. The “next generation” developer certifications were branded as the TS (Technology Specialist) level exams and the newly minted MCPD (Microsoft Certified Professional Developer). But in doing away with the old MCSD, Microsoft also lost the recognition the acronym had gained over the years.

So what could Microsoft do but find a way to join those job roles with their former reputation, like some cheesy romantic comedy?

Pretty Woman and the MCSD

Is that a shiny MCSD  for my hard work?

For 2012, enter the Microsoft Certification SolutionS Developer (noticed the new s?).  The acronym is also MCSD, but each certification is focused on an application type.* That way you can have your MCSD and eat it, too.
Continue Reading MSCD – A New Certification with an Old Heart of Gold…

Customer asks: Is now the time to study for Windows Server 2008 certification, or Server 2012?

September 27, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Posted in Certification Paths, Microsoft, Study hints | 40 Comments
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Editor’s note: Exam retirements are subject to change without notice. Please go to the official Microsoft Retired exams list to confirm or deny a specific test’s retirement date.

In response to a recent post, blog reader Zappy asked,

I am new to Windows Server certifications and I currently hold none. I am thinking of getting certified but I am not sure if I should begin with Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2012. I have a fair amount of experience in 2008. What would you suggest?

The knee-jerk response is “Forget 2008; study for the cert that will have the longest shelf life.” However, there are a few factors to consider before writing off a 2008 certification entirely. Those factors are:

  • the number of exams required to earn a certification
  • the desired time frame for earning a certification
  • the user’s level of experience with 2008 versus 2012
  • how soon the user can expect 2012 to be the standard in his or her particular industry

For the sake of demonstration, I’m going to look only at Windows Server certifications, and not specialties such as Lync, .NET, SharePoint, or Exchange. (You can find more information on those certification paths here.) I’m also going to stick with entry-level and mid-level certs, since you’d be earning those anyway as you blaze towards the MCSE or MCM.

(Remember: These recommendations are for someone who, as of late 2012, has not yet taken any Microsoft exam and needs to factor exam retirement dates into a certification strategy.)

Do it now: Be off like a shot

No matter which path you decide to pursue, do it now. The perfect time to buy your first Microsoft exam voucher is during the Second Shot promotion. That means that if you take an exam between now and May 30, 2013 and fail it, you can sit for a free retake. You can buy Second Shot assurance for a single exam or for a multi-exam voucher pack (which typically earns you a bulk discount on exam fees as well).

It only takes one

Remember that passing one certification exam, even if it’s part of a multi-exam certification track, earns you the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) credential. As a member of the Microsoft Certification Program, you have access to MCP Flash emails from Microsoft, and you can share your transcript with others to show your progress towards a specific certification.

Single-exam certs: testing the Microsoft waters

In the “need a cert now” category, you can obtain a Microsoft certification with just one test — and it will count toward a higher-level certification, should you choose to pursue one. However, one-test certs are only offered for Windows Server 2008. The three server specializations are:

Remember that these exams include Windows Server 2008 R2 material, so you absolutely must be familiar with R2 before sitting an exam.

Our recommendation: if you’ve never sat for any Microsoft test and don’t know what to expect, combining Second Shot with a one-test cert might be the perfect low-stress entrance strategy, even if it “only” earns you an MCTS Server 2008 credential. If you go this route, choose either the 70-640 or the 70-642, since these also count toward the newly fledged MCSA in Server 2008 (more on that in the next section).

70-643 alone is not relevant to the MCSA 2008, so look at the exam’s objectives, and only choose it if you need this certification in your current job (and your boss is paying).

Three to five exams: not all middle-tier certs are created equal

Things get a bit murky as you move up the Server 2008 certification ladder. Having divided Generation 2008 certifications into five MCTS (entry level) and three MCITP (mid level) exam tracks, all covering different job roles and skills, Microsoft recently collapsed the varied tracks back into a revised MCSA, and added the upper-tier MCSE options. However, the MCITP tracks are still active. Depending on the track, each MCITP will either be phased out in July 2013 or rolled into the new generation of certifications.

You can obtain an MCITP in a Windows client or in Server 2008 R2 by taking three to five exams. The three server paths are Enterprise, Server Admin, and Virtualization Admin.

Earning the MCITP: Server OR the MCITP: Enterprise automatically snags you an equivalent MCSA: Windows Server 2008. However, Server can be earned in only three exams, while Enterprise takes five. A MCSA: Server 2008 plus the 70-417 upgrade exam can then earn you the MCSA: Server 2012.

The MCITP: Virtualization also allows you to upgrade to MCSA: Server 2012 — but, confusingly, you can’t upgrade it to an MCSA: Server 2008. Microsoft has dropped it from this list of current MCITP tracks; also see this blog post.

Our recommendation: Continue Reading Customer asks: Is now the time to study for Windows Server 2008 certification, or Server 2012?…

Don’t wait to finish your MCTS or MCITP: Microsoft retiring exam tracks

July 19, 2012 at 11:45 am | Posted in Certification Paths, Microsoft | 34 Comments
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Disclaimer: Exam retirements are subject to change without notice. Please go to the official Microsoft Retired exams list to confirm or deny a specific test’s retirement date, as it may have changed since this post was originally published. Click https://transcender.wordpress.com/category/certification-paths/ to find the latest posts by date on this topic.

Microsoft’s 2003, 2007, or 2008 technologies may still be thriving in your workplace, but Microsoft places hard limits on the certification lifecycle. It’s easy to let deadlines get away from you when you feel like there’s no rush. Are you a test or two away from earning an MCTS or MCITP? If so, be sure to go over this list of exam expirations and schedule your test well before the deadline. This will make sure you aren’t caught in a time crunch, and have to fight off a slew of fellow last-minute test-takers to get a seat at your testing center.

ETA: Thanks to a sharp-eyed reader for pointing out that several exams scheduled to expire THIS month, July 31, 2012, are actually listed as Already Retired and so did not appear on our initial list:

  • Upgrade: MCITP SQL Server 2005 to 2008
    • 70-453 Upgrade: Transition Your MCITP SQL Server 2005 DBA to MCITP SQL Server 2008
    • 70-454 Upgrade: Transition Your MCITP SQL Server 2005 DBD to MCITP SQL Server 2008 DBD
    • 70-455 Upgrade: Transition Your MCITP SQL Server 2005 BI Developer to MCITP SQL Server 2008 BI Developer
  • Upgrade MCPD Windows Developer to MCPD Windows Developer 3.5
    • 70-566 UPGRADE: Transition your MCPD Windows Developer Skills to MCPD Windows Developer 3.5
    • 70-567 UPGRADE: Transition your MCPD Web Developer Skills to MCPD ASP.NET Developer 3.5
    • 70-568 UPGRADE: Transition your MCPD Enterprise Application Developer Skills to MCPD Enterprise Application Developer 3.5, Part 1
    • 70-569 UPGRADE: Transition your MCPD Enterprise Application Developer Skills to MCPD Enterprise Application Developer 3.5, Part 2

Exams scheduled to expire September 30, 2012:

  • Office SharePoint and Office Communications 2007
    • 70-630: TS: Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, Configuring
    • 70-638: TS: Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, Configuring
  • Exchange Server 2007
    • 70-236: TS: Exchange Server 2007, Configuring
    • 70-237: Pro: Designing Messaging Solutions with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007
    • 70-238: Pro: Deploying Messaging Solutions with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007

Exams scheduled to expire January 31, 2013:

  • Office SharePoint Server 2007
    • 70-542: TS: Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 – Application Development
  • Office Project 2007 and Project Server 2007
    • 70-632: TS: Microsoft Office Project 2007, Managing Projects
    • 70-633: TS: Microsoft Office Project Server 2007, Managing Projects
    • 70-634: Pro: Microsoft Office Project Server 2007, Managing Projects and Programs
    • 70-639: TS: Microsoft Office Project Server 2007, Configuring

Exams scheduled to expire July 31, 2013:

  • Windows Server 2008 R2
    • 70-659: TS: Windows Server 2008 R2, Server Virtualization
    • 70-669: TS: Windows Server 2008 R2, Desktop Virtualization
    • 70-693: Pro: Windows Server 2008 R2, Virtualization Administrator
  • Windows Server 2008
    • 70-643: TS: Windows Server 2008 Applications Infrastructure, Configuring
    • 70-647: Pro: Windows Server 2008, Enterprise Administrator
    • 70-648: Upgrading your MCSA on Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2008, Technology Specialist
    • 70-649: Upgrading your MCSE on Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2008, Technology Specialist
  • Windows Server 2003
    • 70-290: Managing and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Environment
    • 70-291: Implementing, Managing, and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure
    • 70-293: Planning and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure
    • 70-294: Planning, Implementing, and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Active Directory Infrastructure
    • 70-297: Designing a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Active Directory and Network Infrastructure
    • 70-298: Designing Security for a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Network
    • 70-299: Implementing and Administering Security in a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Network
  • Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0
    • 70-521: Upgrade: Transition your MCPD .NET Framework 3.5 Windows Developer Skills to MCPD .NET 4.0 Windows Applications Developer
    • 70-523: Upgrade: Transition Your MCPD .NET Framework 3.5 Web Developer Skills to MCPD .NET Framework 4 Web Developer
    • 70-536: TS: Microsoft .NET Framework – Application Development Foundation
  • Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5
    • 70-502: TS: Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 – Windows Presentation Foundation
    • 70-503: TS: Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 – Windows Communication Foundation
    • 70-504: TS: Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 – Workflow
    • 70-505: TS: Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5, Windows Forms Application Development
    • 70-561: TS: Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5, ADO.NET Application Development
    • 70-562: TS: Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5, ASP.NET Application Development
    • 70-563: Pro: Designing and Developing Windows Applications Using the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5
    • 70-564: PRO: Designing and Developing ASP.NET Applications Using the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5
    • 70-565: PRO: Designing and Developing Enterprise Applications Using the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5

For a complete list of exam expirations across all certification tracks, and more information on present and future certification tracks, visit Microsoft’s Certification Lifecycle page.

Everything old is new again: the MCSE and MCSA are dead (long live the MCSE and MCSA)

May 14, 2012 at 8:15 am | Posted in Certification Paths, Microsoft, Vendor news | 37 Comments
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(ETA 10/01/12: Microsoft is still rolling out changes to these tracks. Be sure to check Microsoft Learning, Born To Learn, and our blog for the most current information on MCSA and MCSE. Because exam retirements are subject to change without notice, please go to the official Microsoft Retired exams list to confirm or deny a specific test’s retirement date, as it may have changed since this post was originally published.)

We also recommend you review our post on merging your MCITP with the MCSA: Customer asks: Is now the time to study for Windows Server 2008 certification, or Server 2012?

Yesterday a vendor called me on the phone and said that he had a great price on the latest MCSE classes. He went on to explain that these classes taught all the latest, hottest technologies. They were so virtualized, a team of physicists argued over their very existence. They were so far up in the cloud, you needed a telescope to find your exam. Once he’d wound down the hyperbole, I asked him what operating system was covered in the classes, and he proudly told me, “Windows Server 2003.”

I have news for you, buddy: Windows Server 2003 is nine years old. The problem is that MCSE, as a certification, became both the gold standard for HR staff and a synonym for the “brand” of Microsoft certification. When Microsoft retired those certifications in favor of the MCITP and MCPD and MCTS in 2005, they had problems selling the switch to die-hard certification holders. More importantly, it faced uneven adoption in the business realm. No one really jumped on the bandwagon. Human Resource managers and hiring managers still referred to MCSA and MCSE in job listings.  Vendors who called me on the phone only knew “MCSE” and “MCSA.” (Sales people in my own office still do not understand the differences between MCTS and MCITP, but at least they realized the MCSE was gone.) I’ve had students tell me they’ve applied for recent jobs that cited a MCSE as a requirement. I guess Microsoft felt the time was right to reanimate the dead MCSA and MCSE certifications. As I’m sure you’ve heard by now–that clueless vendor had it half-right. The MCSE and MCSA are back!

The new MCSE is not your Dad’s MCSE. First of all, MCSE now stands for Microsoft Certified SOLUTIONS EXPERT, not Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer.  If you attain the new and re-released MCSE, you are an expert in Microsoft solutions, not an engineer. (You are an engineer if you passed a lot of physics and calculus classes.) The new MCSA is now called Microsoft Certified SOLUTIONS ASSOCIATE, instead of  Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator. That also makes more sense. If you attain the MCSA you are certified in various Microsoft solutions, but not necessarily a sysadmin. The old MCSE made you pass several tests based on the Windows operating system plus an elective subject, like Exchange Server or SQL Server. The new MCSE currently offers certifications in MCSE – Private Cloud and MCSE SQL Server 2012. Going forward, Microsoft will offer more MCSE certifications as new versions of products are released. Look for the MCSE Data Platform certification to roll out tests in June 2012. The new MCSA is similar the old MCSA. Microsoft currently offers certifications in MCSA Windows Server 2008 and MCSA SQL Server 2012, but will offer more MCSA certifications as new versions of products are released. To get the MCSA: Windows Server 2008, you would have to pass the following:

  • Exam 70-640 – windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring
  • Exam 70-642 – Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure, Configuring
  • Exam 70-646 – Windows Server 2008, Server Administrator

Hey, wait a minute. Wasn’t there already a certification for someone who passed the above tests? Yeah, it was called the MCITP: Server Administrator on Windows Server 2008. The good news is that if you’ve been studying toward these exams, you haven’t wasted your precious certification time. The Private Cloud certification requires that you pass the following:

  • Exam 70-640 – windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring
  • Exam 70-642 – Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure, Configuring
  • Exam 70-646 – Windows Server 2008, Server Administrator
  • Exam 70-247 – Configuring & Deploying a Private Cloud with System Center 2012  OR  Exam 70-659 Windows Server 2008 R2 Virtualization
  • Exam 70-246 – Configuring Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud with System Center 2012

The 70-246 and 70-247 exams should be released this summer. The SQL Server 2012 MCSE Server certification has two different platforms:  Data Platform or Business Intelligence. To get the MCSE: Data Platform, you have to pass the following:

  • Exam 70-461 – Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012
  • Exam 70-462 – Administering a Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Database
  • Exam 70-463 – Implementing Data Warehouses with Microsoft SQL Server 2012
  • Exam 70-464 – Developing Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases
  • Exam 70-465 – Designing Database Solutions for SQL Server 2012

If you have a MCTIP: Database Developer 2008 certification or MCTIP: Database Administrator 2008 certification on SQL Server 2008, you can upgrade to the MCSE: Data Platform by passing the following:

  • Exam 70-457 – Transition your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA: SQL Server 2012 Part 1
  • Exam 70-458 – Transition your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA: SQL Server 2012 Part 2
  • Exam 70-459 – Transition your MCTIP to MCSE: Data Platform

To get the MCSE: Business Intelligence, you have to pass the following:

  • Exam 70-461 – Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012
  • Exam 70-462 – Administering a Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Database
  • Exam 70-463 – Implementing Data Warehouses with Microsoft SQL Server 2012
  • Exam 70-466 – Implementing Data Models and Reports with Microsoft SQL Server 2012
  • Exam 70-467 – Designing Business Intelligence Solutions with Microsoft SQL Server 2012

If you have a MCTIP: Business Intelligence 2008 certification on SQL Server 2008, you can upgrade to the MCSE: Business Intelligence by passing the following:

  • Exam 70-457 – Transition your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA: SQL Server 2012 Part 1
  • Exam 70-458 – Transition your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA: SQL Server 2012 Part 2
  • Exam 70-460 – Transition your MCTIP: Business Intelligence 2008 to MCSE: Business Intelligence.

These exams should be released later this year. This would be an excellent time to answer some questions I’m sure you have.

What about your MCTS and MCTIP certifications?

Well, you will still have those, but as time goes by they will retire.

If I get a new MCSA or new MCSE certification, will I have to recertify?

You betcha, brothers and sisters. The MCSA and MCSE certification will probably last only about 3 years before you have to recertify.  What constitutes recertifying?  You will have to pass a test or series of tests. The MCTS and MCTIP will become  like a Cisco CCNA certification, the CompTIA A+, and other certifications where you will have to recertify every three years. Microsoft wants to keep the MCSE and MCSA certifications relevant.  You can read more about this policy on Microsoft’s site. If you’re still confused, I recommend these informative videos from the Born To Learn blog:

Microsoft Certified Trainers Explain MCSE

In my next blog post, I’ll go over the new “extended matching” item types being rolled out in Microsoft’s exams. Until then, keep your nose clean and your acronyms straight. –George Monsalvatge

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