Microsoft Launches Next Generation of Certifications

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Microsoft Learning has formally announced the release of its new three-level certification program, which is comprised of (from bottom to top) the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist, Microsoft Certified IT Professional or Professional Developer, and Microsoft Certified Architect. This reorganization will start with Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 certifications, which will be available next month.


“Microsoft is making the change to the certification program to better meet the needs of our customers, with literally thousands of customers and businesses providing feedback on the design,” said Al Valvano, business and product strategy group manager for Microsoft Learning’s certification and assessment operations. “We have heard from IT managers that the proliferation of credentials is making it more difficult for them to understand which credentials best meet the needs of their business. To address this, we have created a framework that keeps the number of credentials to the minimum while still allowing individuals to show their specialization.”


This focus will come from a structure that covers separate technologies horizontally and deals with different occupations and levels of expertise vertically. This is intended to make certification paths more condensed and inexpensive, as well as ensure that every certification is more relevant and clear-cut vis-a-vis the products and services it covers. Additionally, because of this more modular approach, certificants will have the option to either demonstrate their command of multiple technologies or illustrate their expertise within a particular profession.


“The new program is designed to emphasize both the primary technology skill set and the job role of the individual,” Valvano said. “By focusing on either core technical or professional skills, individuals can work toward a certification that meets their needs. This speeds up the acquisition of relevant credentials for individuals looking to prove their expertise and for organizations looking to ensure the right skills for their projects.”


The more flexible program also is designed to simplify the certification suite for employers, Valvano said. “The new framework makes it simpler for managers to distinguish candidates that meet specific job criteria. Fewer credentials and logos make it easier to understand qualifications while still offering the level of distinction needed to use certification as a recruiting tool.”


Under the new configuration, the standard certification process will commence with a free online assessment that determines a potential participant’s strengths and weaknesses, then recommends specific learning resources out of an assortment of training and study materials, including assessments, books, courses and e-learning that will be delivered in online, self-paced and instructor-led formats, Valvano said.


Microsoft will continue to recognize all of the current certifications, so popular credentials such as the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) will not expire, remaining valid even after the overall program changes. Candidates currently working toward these certifications are encouraged to complete them. “It’s still the most relevant credential in the market for the products you are certifying in, and an upgrade option toward the next credential will be available when new software versions ship,” Valvano said. “When Microsoft releases the next version of the Windows client and server products, the new credentials will follow the new family structure, with a Technology and Professional series. At that moment, up-to-date MCSEs, MCSAs and MCDSTs (Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technicians) will be offered an upgrade path to the new credentials, just as we do today.”


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