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Should you pursue the new MCSE?

Microsoft's new MCSE program is the third incarnation of its certification series in then years. Is it worth getting?

All of the major IT vendors offer certification programs these days, and with the speed that they develop their technologies, more certifications become available or are replaced by upgraded versions. Microsoft's new MCSE program is the third incarnation of its certification series in ten years. Although it's still only in the early stages, it's very clear it will focus on cloud technologies, and supporting the hosted environment. However, with the current economic climate, and with technologies such as virtualization and advanced networking all high on an employer's wish lists, is the new MCSE a worthwhile qualification to gain?

Cloud credibility

The term cloud is so over-used in IT now that even non-technical employers are aware of what it is. But for IT pros, having the new MCSE on your resume shows that you have an expert knowledge of both on-premise and hosted solutions. The MCSE Cloud Services Exchange exam track includes a mixture of those:

70-662 - Exchange server 2010, Configuring

70-663 - Exchange server 2010, Designing and Deploying

70-321 - Deploying Office 365

70-323 - Administering Office 365

Being Microsoft-accredited can help you stand out. However, the higher levels of Microsoft certifications have always lacked the weight that, say, a CCNP or VCP receives. This may change with the new MCSE since it includes all of the IT skills relevant for today's IT market: Virtualization, VDI, hosted services (such as Exchange), and large-scale management tools like System Center, for example. As long as Microsoft keeps up with the technology companies demand, then its qualifications will stay credible to employers.

Return on Investment (ROI)

Like any certification, the MCSE is both an investment of time and money. You may be fortunate enough that your MCSE exams are funded by your employer, with an added financial incentive if you pass the exams. This is a great position to be in--when the certs are relevant, and someone else is making the investment, then you know it's paying off.

However, you may be in the other camp-you're paying for your own exams, studying for them in your own time, and may even have to take leave from work to take the exam. You're taking on this extra workload in the hopes that you're improving your skills, which will eventually get you that better paid job.

But will the MCSE bring you the big bucks? Unfortunately Microsoft's wide variety of applications and operating systems is also its downfall. A variety of different IT vendor skills on your CV is a given these days, but Microsoft is still seen by many as the base level, the knowledge of which is a given in comparison to more complex technologies such as Cisco, Citrix and VMWARE--which do offer the bigger salaries.

Relevancy

Although Microsoft has to contend with a lot more competition these days, up against vendors that are often better than Microsoft at what they do in their specialist areas, the familiarity of Microsoft products for many IT Admins makes it a mainstay in many networks. Pursuing the new MCSE will prove to be a wise investment as Microsoft releases its 2012 product set and continues to push cloud computing over the next few years.

Outside of business demands, it boils down to whether your situation calls for the MCSE. If you work with Cisco equipment all day, the new MCSE may not be a lot of use to you. If you work in a primarily Microsoft house and you need to keep on top of the latest technologies, then you need to consider the new MCSE as your next certification goal. Even the smallest of businesses are turning to hosted solutions as the alternative to owning a room full of IT equipment.

Overall

With the continued growth in the cloud and the skills needed to manage it, the MCSE may gain the recognition and financial benefits that other vendor certifications have to offer.

6 comments
sbl416
sbl416

My apologies for the poor spelling in my first post. The brain was working faster than my fingers. My love hate relationship with Microsoft does that to me sometimes. I think some college or university continuing education certifications might be a better investment than a vendor specific certification. They don’t expire over time and are often cheaper than doing something through a private school. Some will also give you the option of writing the vendor exam at the end of the course, so you get the best of both worlds. George Brown College in Toronto does this. They offer CCNA and A+ certifications along with their college credits.

Fahim@sickkids
Fahim@sickkids

Sometime i feel that we the tech-ppl are in a race with vendor like Microsoft. At the pace they release new products is insane. Taking course and certs that are bit related to more than one business industry and not specific to one certain version of a certain product is useful (Guilty as charged, i have done it) but am hoping to be active on other non-microsoft related training.

bill.bathgate
bill.bathgate

Look at your first sentence please. "Microsoft’s new MCSE program is the third incarnation of its certification series in then years. Is it worth getting?" Did you intend to use the word "ten" or the word "then"? Beside certifications, spelling is also very important.

sbl416
sbl416

I'm begining to think that some certifications have more value to the vendor as a way of promoting their product than to helping the techie. If you have developed a solid IT background in various platforms and have the abiltiy to learn the next big technology through self-study and hands on experience, I'd focus on the business side of things. Look at certifications and courses that have staying power and arn't linked to the vendor's production cycle.

Gemmz
Gemmz

My feelings about the re-branding are negative. The MCITP to my mind was just getting itself a foot-hold when Microsoft tip their baby out with the bathwater. All it does is confuse the people who were just getting used to not needing MCSEs ... However, remember that Microsoft invest hugely in their exams. The quality of examination is not going to change just because there is another name attached.

n.gurr
n.gurr

Did you have in mind when you suggested " certifications and courses that have staying power and arn't linked to the vendor's production cycle?" I would be interested - the two year life of Ms exams has reduced their desirability considerably in my eyes, I would appreciate some suggestions.

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