In February, at the VS Live! conference in San Francisco, Microsoft announced some anticipated changes to its developer certification program. These changes updated the company's certification offerings for the new .NET development platform and included a new "MCSD Junior" certification, called Microsoft Certified Application Developer (MCAD). In this article, I'll take a look at this new certification and explain the changes in the MCSD program.
New certification offerings
One of the complaints I've heard about Microsoft's developer certification program is that there is no middle ground between the generic MCP certification and the premium MCSD. The new MCAD certification, which Microsoft says is meant for developers who "use Microsoft technologies to develop and maintain department-level applications," bridges that gap and is aimed more for implementers and programmers than for system architects.
Although the intended audiences for the two certification programs seem pretty clear, their respective requirements are a little confusing. MCAD represents a subset of the knowledge needed for MCSD-level certification; therefore, two of the exams required for MCAD are also requirements for MCSD. Earning an MCSD also entitles you to an MCAD, although earning an MCAD is not a prerequisite for earning an MCSD. If you happen to enjoy adding unpronounceable acronyms to the end of your e-mail signature or business cards, then you'll surely like that arrangement.
The road to certification
How do you go about getting one of these new-fangled certifications? You'll need to first decide whether you're more interested in Web applications or Windows-based desktop applications; an exam on one or the other is required. As you'd expect, the MCAD offers multiple language options: You can currently choose either VB.NET or C#, and an option for C++ .NET is coming later this year.
You'll need to pass your chosen exam, one covering XML Web services, and an elective of your choosing. Figure A summarizes your MCAD options.
Unfortunately, you'll also need to learn to wait. The new .NET exams are still being developed and will not be available before April. Look at it this way: You still have two months to study.
MCSD for Microsoft .NET
The changes to Microsoft's development certification program weren't limited to the new kid on the block. The MCSD got a .NET overhaul as well. Like those of its MCAD little brother, MCSD exams are available for C# and VB.NET only, with C++ .NET on the way later this year. The requirements for the new MCSD, shown in Figure B, should be familiar to you.
For an MCSD, you'll need to pass both the Web-based and Windows-based exams for your chosen language. The other required exams are the same XML Web services exam needed for MCAD and the perennial favorite, Analyzing Requirements and Defining Solution Architectures, which is back in a brand-new .NET edition.
As I mentioned before, there's some overlap between the MCAD and MCSD exams, and earning an MCSD earns you an MCAD as well. If you're interested in the MCSD, you're unfortunately in the same boat as the MCAD folks: No tests will be available until April.
Hey, what about my existing certification?
Those of you who already hold MCSDs can breathe easy; Microsoft has no plans to retire the certification, and you don’t need to recertify unless you just want to. Once an MCSD, always an MCSD, it seems.
If, on the other hand, you are currently pursuing the certification, you've got a little time left to complete it, but the future of the exams is rather hazy. Microsoft has not announced plans to retire the current MCSD exams; all they will say at this point is that the exams will be available for two years from their release date, and they will not retire anything before this June.