Microsoft Revamps Certification Structure
Compare the IT job you have today with the one you had 10 years ago. Having trouble? That’s probably because most of the technology you’re dealing with today didn’t exist then.
Now, imagine you’re an IT manager filling some desperately needed positions. How can you determine which candidate is the most technologically qualified, and also adept at understanding the business case for the technology he or she will be managing?Business case? When did understanding the business case become an IT requirement? Welcome to the brave new world of IT management.
Through the past decade, the nature of the technology landscape has changed dramatically. Systems are more complex and interdependent, requiring more advanced and specialized skill sets in the people who manage and develop them. For the individual, there’s a greater need not only to improve your skills, but also to differentiate yourself from your peers. For the hiring manager, there’s a need for objective metrics by which you can judge job candidates—proven measurements that allow a deeper understanding of a candidate than any whiteboard exercise provides during the interview process.
The answer for both the individual and the hiring manager is advanced certification programs that provide independent verification of the skill sets developers possess. And just as the IT landscape has changed, so has the world of professional certification. Today’s certification programs must not only reflect the new, specialized technical skills needed, but also allow busy IT professionals flexibility in how and when they learn.
Microsoft Learning has created a new generation of certifications that measure the true ability of developers to apply their knowledge and skills. Microsoft’s certification program provides a valuable yardstick by which individuals can prove their value and hiring managers can better assess a candidate’s qualifications.
Tangible Business Benefits
Beyond training and verification, certification programs deliver tangible benefits to companies. According to a study conducted by Burlington Consultants, “Value of Microsoft Training and Certification,” companies with more than 25 percent of their IT staff certified by Microsoft have seen a 15 percent increase in projects being deployed on time and on budget. They also have realized an 18 percent decrease in downtime and a 17 percent decrease in spending on ad hoc external IT support. In addition, they’ve seen overall productivity increase by 28 percent.
So, it’s easy to make a compelling business case for achieving certification on an individual level and for encouraging it on the corporate level.
After extensive research into the evolving nature of IT training and credentials, Microsoft Learning created a new program with three tiers of certifications to meet the needs of every experience level. The program provides an extremely flexible learning environment and a simpler, more meaningful certification nomenclature.
- Tier 1—Technology Series: The Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist is designed for candidates who are new to IT, as well as experienced individuals. It requires candidates to demonstrate their skill sets on specific Microsoft technologies by passing one to three exams. The certification is valid as long as the product is current. IT professionals can earn multiple Technology Specialist certifications to highlight as many skills as possible. (The new Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist logo that technicians may use once certified includes space to list all the certifications earned.) For those new to IT, this is a great first step toward securing a first job in the field. For experienced IT professionals, the Technology Series helps to distinguish areas of specialization and achievement.
- Tier 2—Professional Series: The Microsoft Certified IT Professional or Microsoft Certified Professional Developer certification is designed for experienced professionals. Candidates interested in achieving this level must have one or more designated Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist certifications. Candidates are required to take one to three exams based on the requirements for a particular path. This level is tied to a particular job role at an organization, such as database developer or business intelligence, and tests a candidate’s professional skills using the technology. Recertification is required to maintain status at this level.
- Tier 3—Architect Series: The Microsoft Certified Architect, a rigorous, board-level certification, helps IT professionals with more than 10 years of experience advance their skills beyond those of a technical expert to the level of IT architects, strategists and business managers. Unlike previous certifications, the program certifies skills in technologies beyond Microsoft’s. The centerpiece is a peer-review process in which candidates present their work to a panel of respected IT architects in a forum similar to that in which doctoral candidates defend their dissertations. The Microsoft Certified Architect credential requires regular recertification.
Visual Studio 2005
One of the first Microsoft products to use this new generation of certifications is Visual Studio 2005. Developers can be certified at both the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist and Microsoft Certified Professional Developer levels in Web, Windows or distributed development specialties. The Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist will include certification in .NET Framework 2.0 Windows Applications, .NET Framework 2.0 Web Applications and .NET Framework 2.0 Distributed Applications. The Microsoft Certified Professional Developer will include certification tracks in Windows developer, Web developer and enterprise application developer.
While similar to the Microsoft Certified Application Developer (MCAD) certification, the exams for the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist certification are much more rigorous because they require more specific skills than the previous certification tests.
The new Visual Studio 2005 certifications also recognize that busy IT professionals need a variety of methods for learning. The new curriculum includes assessments, books and courses that are available on demand, in printed form and as instructor-led classroom curriculum. Microsoft’s learning partners offer a wealth of resources so individuals can learn at their own pace. Information is also available on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) and TechNet Web sites.
An easy way to start the certification process is with an individual assessment, a quick online test that helps determine the candidates’ areas of strength and weakness, which results in a customized learning plan. From there, candidates can choose the resources that best reflect their needs and learning style. And whether you’re a new or experienced developer, you have access to the most relevant training and skills with coursework created by Microsoft product teams.
Upgrade Current Credentials
The new Microsoft certification does not replace the current programs. If you hold a Microsoft certification, such as the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) or Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA), or are working toward one, those will remain valid as long as the technologies are current.
If you hold a MCAD in Visual Studio, there’s an easy upgrade path to a Microsoft Certified Professional Developer for Visual Studio 2005. Current MCAD-certified developers can upgrade with one exam. The exam reflects the new focus of the certification program and includes areas focused on professional skills and technology not covered