MCSA: What’s in it for You?

The Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) credential is the latest addition to Microsoft’s list of certification options. It’s also the most controversial and has caused quite a bit of confusion among individuals who are already certified, as well as those seeking certification. For those of you who are new to the certification game, let me explain.

Microsoft has offered the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) credential for several years. That credential is largely about networking with Microsoft products. It’s a grueling course of study, and candidates must pass seven rigorous exams to achieve certification. MCSA is also about networking with Microsoft products. However, candidates need only pass four (or perhaps fewer) equally rigorous exams to become certified.

Many existing MCSEs are concerned that candidates with the MCSA credential will be competing for their jobs and will be willing to accept less pay. However, it’s important to bear in mind that the two credentials actually reflect two different types of jobs within an IT organization. Whereas the MCSE qualifies its holder to design new networks from the ground up, the MCSA is all about managing existing Windows 2000 and .NET server networks.

According to Microsoft, recent research has shown that there’s a “demand gap” in organizations between the number of Microsoft Windows 2000 systems administrators needed and the number of skilled individuals available to do the job. The MCSA certification covers the job skills defined by the National Workforce Center for Emerging Technologies (NWCET) for the positions of…


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