In Search of Training for Microsoft Certs

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I am Microsoft-certified in Windows XP. I want to pursue other Microsoft certifications such as the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) or even the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE). What type of training do you recommend?

–Librado G.

Wayne Anderson:

Librado, it is really interesting that you are considering some of these credentials right now. Before we look at training providers, make sure you are targeting the credentials that will provide the most value. It sounds like you have focused primarily on the desktop space and are looking to both grow your technical capacity and certify what you already know. There are two things you need to consider: How long will it be until you are working with Windows Vista, and do you want to work with the server and infrastructure components of a Microsoft infrastructure?

There are several career paths to consider. The first is to expand your skills in the desktop space to include Vista as a next-generation platform at your work. Along those lines, Microsoft has introduced a couple new credentials for the desktop space: Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist: Windows Vista, Configuring (sometimes referred to as the MCTS Vista) and Microsoft Certified Information Technology Professional: Enterprise Support Technician (MCITP).

Another career path to look at is the server space. The MCSA and MCSE credentials are geared toward those who specialize in administering existing servers in certain situations, as well as those who will be responsible for infrastructure and architecture components of those networks, respectively. Keep in mind that these credentials are more server-focused and that Windows Server 2008 (formerly known as Longhorn) is right around the corner.

Once you have identified the credentials you are interested in, I recommend New Horizons Computer Learning Centers (www.newhorizons.com), a series of training centers nationwide that provide a wide variety of Microsoft courses from basic introductions to network architecture through advanced infrastructure design. To review for your exams, I recommend MeasureUp (www.measureup.com) or Transcender (www.transcender.com). Be prepared — all these training options require a significant investment.

Ken Wagner:

I agree with Wayne — target the credentials that will assist you the most in your career and not just because they’re popular. If you’re going to work in an environment that runs Linux or OS X Server, obtaining the MCSA or MCSE would not be very useful or relevant. Also remember that the professional IT certs from Microsoft and Cisco should reflect the skills and responsibilities on the job. For example, according to Microsoft, MCSA candidates should have six to 12 months of experience administering client and network operating systems.

As a starting point, I would recommend doing CompTIA’s Server+. This will provide you with basic knowledge and ease you into server administration.

In addition to instructor or class-based training in your area, consider an alternative: self-study. It can be cheaper and just as effective, but self-study isn’t for everyone — it requires dedication, persistence and the ability to learn by yourself. It is harder than classroom-based learning, as there is no instructor to ask questions, no fellow students with whom to interact and no weekly/daily incentive to learn.

But help is at hand. There are various IT forums that you can join with people on them 24 hours a day who have done or are studying every type of IT certification. This includes www.certmag.com/forums, www.certforums.co.uk, www.mcmcse.com and www.techexams.net. Additionally, there are various vendors that provide excellent course material for each exam such as www.learnkey.com, www.preplogic.com and www.transcender.com.

Whichever route you take, knowledge is what you’re after. You only get what you put in — if you study hard, you will reach your goal.

Wayne Anderson is a highly certified system engineer course developer for Avanade, a global Microsoft consultancy. Ken Wagner is an IT network manager and part-time IT lecturer in the United Kingdom. He has lived in the United States, Asia and Europe. To pose a question to Ken and Wayne, send an e-mail to DearTechie@certmag.com.

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Wayne Anderson

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Wayne Anderson (@NoCo_Architect) is a Service Management Architect with Avanade, a company that helps customers realize results in a digital world through business technology solutions and managed services that combine insight, innovation and expertise focused on Microsoft® technologies. He holds the Certified IT Architect – Professional credential from IASA and has completed more than 30 Microsoft certifications in his career alongside credentials from CompTIA and other industry vendors.

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