Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician

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These days, it’s rare for Microsoft to present the world with a new certification credential. That’s what made it news when the company did just that in October 2003, when it announced its Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician (MCDST) program, along with a vision of what kinds of job roles the various Microsoft certifications are designed to fulfill.

The MCDST is an entry-level technical-support certification that seeks to identify individuals with the skills and knowledge necessary to support end-users who run desktop environments on the Windows operating system. The program is pretty simple and straightforward, and requires passing two unique Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) exams, one aimed at the Windows operating system itself, the other at applications running in a Windows environment:



  • Exam #70–271: Supporting Users and Troubleshooting Microsoft Windows Desktop Operating Systems
  • Exam #70–272: Supporting Users and Troubleshooting Applications on a Microsoft Windows Desktop Operating System Platform


Please note that these exams do not count toward other Microsoft certifications per se, but that an MCDST may be counted in lieu of a single elective for the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) on either Windows 2000 or Windows Server 2003.

Alas, not much detail is available on the precise content or coverage for these exams, though the MCDST FAQ ( does provide some interesting hints. Consider these selected quotes from the FAQ as reasonably illustrative of its coverage:



  • “The MCDST credential is for professionals who use excellent customer service skills to educate users, as well as solve hardware or software operation and application problems on the desktop or client side based on the Microsoft Windows desktop operating system.”
  • “The MCDST certification covers the skills of help desk technician, customer support representative, PC support specialist, technical support representative, and technical support specialists as defined by the National Workforce Center for Emerging Technologies Skill Standards for Information Technology and other research worldwide.
    The MCDST credential is for IT professionals working in the typically complex computing environment of small, medium, or large organizations. An MCDST candidate should have 6–12 months of experience supporting end users of a desktop operating system.”


According to the FAQ, the exams won’t be released until the second half of 2003. (Since it’s October as I write this, I have to wonder if this isn’t a typo, and Microsoft means the second half of 2004, but as it currently stands this may translate into “any day now.”) Stay tuned to the MCDST Web page ( for breaking info!

Microsoft views the MCDST as occupying the first tier of a four-tiered pyramid:



  • Tier 1: Help Desk – Support
  • Tier 2: Administrator – Operational
  • Tier 3: Engineer – Tactical
  • Tier 4: Architect – Strategic


MCSA resides at the second tier, the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) at the third tier, and Microsoft doesn’t yet offer any credentials at the fourth tier. As with other pyramidal views of population, numbers are significantly bigger at lower tiers than in upper ones. It will be interesting to see if the marketplace endorses Microsoft’s concept, which would seem to predict that MCDSTs will soon outnumber both MCSAs and MCSEs. Only time will tell if this pans out or not.

Ed Tittel is president of LANwrights Inc. and is contributing editor for Certification Magazine. You can reach Ed with your questions and comments at


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