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Talking Shop: Details on Windows Server 2003 track for MCSA and MCSE

Find out what you need to know about the important changes to Microsofts MCSA and MCSE certification programs.


At the end of April, Microsoft is scheduled to launch Windows Server 2003. For IT professionals, that means more than a new network operating system to consider—it will also bring some important changes to Microsoft's MCSA and MCSE certification programs. Microsoft has recently provided details on the new certification track for Windows Server 2003, which will begin this fall, and on how IT pros can upgrade from the Windows 2000 track.

MCSA—Windows Server 2003
Like the MCSA for Windows 2000, the Windows Server 2003 track requires a candidate to pass four exams. This includes two networking exams, one client operating system exam, and one elective.

The networking exams are:
  • 70-290: Managing and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Environment
  • 70-291: Implementing, Managing, and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure

Essentially, the first exam covers server administration tasks and the second exam covers network administration tasks.

For the client operating system exam, a candidate can choose one of these two selections:
  • 70-270: Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Windows XP Professional
  • 70-210: Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional

As far as the MCSA elective exam is concerned, the choices for the Windows Server 2003 track will be limited, at least in the beginning. Although the Windows 2000 MCSA has 10 Microsoft exams that can count toward the elective, the Windows Server 2003 track will start with only three exams that can satisfy the elective requirement. The options are:
  • 70-086: Implementing and Supporting Microsoft Systems Management Server 2.0
  • 70-227: Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2000, Enterprise Edition
  • 70-228: Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition

However, like the Windows 2000 MCSA, the Windows Server 2003 track also provides the opportunity to combine a couple of CompTIA certifications to satisfy the MCSA elective requirement. The combinations that will work are:
  • CompTIA A+ and Network+
  • CompTIA A+ and Server+

MCSAs who plan to eventually graduate to the MCSE should be aware that the CompTIA elective does not count toward the MCSE elective. Therefore, if a candidate plans to get the MCSA as a stepping stone to the MCSE, it's better to take a Microsoft exam as the MCSA elective than to choose the CompTIA option.

MCSE—Windows Server 2003
The MCSE track on Windows Server 2003 requires that a candidate pass six core exams and one elective. That's a change from the Windows 2000 MCSE, which requires five core exams and two electives. The added core exam on the Windows Server 2003 track is a client operating system test, which goes along with four core networking tests and a core design test.

The four core networking exams are:
  • 70-290: Managing and maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Environment
  • 70-291: Implementing, Managing, and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure
  • 70-293: Planning and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure
  • 70-294: Planning, Implementing, and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Active Directory Infrastructure

The first two core exams are the same ones from the Windows Server 2003 MCSA track. The additions are the 70-293 exam, which deals with higher level enterprise networking, and the 70-294 exam, which covers the complicated task of setting up and managing an Active Directory domain.

For the client operating system exam, a candidate can choose between 70-270 (Windows XP Pro) and 70-210 (Windows 2000 Pro)—the same choices from the MCSA track.

The core design exam requirement can be fulfilled with one of the two following exams:
  • 70-297: Designing a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Active Directory and Network
  • 70-298: Designing Security for a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Network

The MSCE elective can currently be fulfilled by taking one of seven Microsoft exams. For a list of the tests that can meet this requirement, click here.

Upgrading from Windows 2000 certification
Microsoft has also provided an upgrade path from Windows 2000 certifications to Windows Server 2003 certifications. MCSAs who have certified on Windows 2000 simply need to take the following exam to upgrade their certification to Windows Server 2003:
  • 70-292: Managing and Maintaining a Windows Server 2003 Environment for an MCSA Certified on Windows 2000

  • MCSEs certified on Windows 2000 will need to pass two exams to upgrade to the Windows Server 2003 track. The first is the 70-292 exam (the one for MCSAs) and the second is:
  • 70-296: Planning, Implementing, and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Environment for an MCSE Certified on Windows 2000

  • Microsoft's 70-240 accelerated exam for upgrading from NT4 to Win2K was available to test takers for only one year, but Microsoft has stated that these Windows Server 2003 upgrade exams will last as long as the Win2K3 track itself lasts.

    Who should certify?
    For MCSEs who have already certified on Windows 2000, the upgrade path to Windows Server 2003 is a fairly easy one, although it probably won't be necessary in the near future for most IT professionals, unless they are consultants or work for companies that are early adopters. For NT4 MCSEs, it's probably a better idea to upgrade to the Windows 2000 track because many of the NT4 electives still count on that track, while they would have to start from scratch with the Windows Server 2003 track.

    Microsoft has continued to offer the MCSA as an attractive mid-level certification that can stand on its own or function as a stepping stone to the MCSE. For those Windows administrators who do not currently have any Microsoft certifications but want to pursue a certification in the near future, it would make sense to get the MCSA on Windows 2000 (which is currently the most prevalent Windows server platform) and then take the Windows Server 2003 upgrade exam. That would allow an administrator to be certified on two platforms by taking only five exams and still have the option of upgrading to the MCSE by taking three more exams.

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