Leadership

What's the new MCSE certification all about?

Dave Leaver talks about how the new MCSE certification differs from the old one.

When Microsoft announced the return of its MCSE program, many IT admins accepted it with open arms. The original MCSE had been the benchmark of Microsoft certification skills over the last twenty years, and the MCITP had left many IT administrators frustrated and disillusioned with its new format.  However the new MCSE promises something different from its namesake, but is it going to live up to the original MCSE's success?

It's all in the name

The new MCSE certification now stands for Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert, as opposed to the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer it used to be. The main reason for the change is due to legal requirements: the term "engineer" holds different meanings in different countries, and to hold the title of engineer requires a certain set of skills. So Microsoft has taken a leaf out of Cisco's book and used the Associate and Expert names instead. The original MCSE was widely recognized by employers as the highest level certification you could achieve in Microsoft operating systems, even if most of those employers didn't know what it stood for. The fact that it now stands for something else isn't going to be much of a stumbling block on its return to IT admin's CVs.

Exam series structure

The original MCSE was made up of seven exams, with the option to specialize with an elective subject, such as messaging or security, once you had completed the five core examinations. The new MCSE has a different approach, with the first few MCSE tracks now available choosing to focus on a particular skill area rather than trying to cover Microsoft operating exams from the desktop to the server.

For example the MCSE exam for Windows 2012 Server Infrastructure is now made up of five exams:

71-410 - Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012

71-411 - Administering Windows Server 2012

71-412 - Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services (MCSA attained here)

71-413 - Designing and Implementing a Server Infrastructure

71-414 - Implementing an Advanced Server Infrastructure (MCSE attained here)

There's not a client operating system exam in sight, and that's not because they don't exist -- they just have an MCSE all their own.

This does make the new MCSE feel more tuned in for large organizations, with all the current exams available based around large-scale networks with SQL farms, large desktop deployments, and private clouds. The original MCSE was more of an everyman, including a client operating system exam that meant your MCSE could handle minor desktop issues, maintain your server, and design you a new network if your company required it. There has to be a question mark as to what appeal the new MCSE is going to have to your SME IT administrator looking to refresh his or her Microsoft skills.

Exam life span

One of the more confusing additions to the new MCSE is that it now has a life span of two to three years. Taking another leaf out of the Cisco track, this certification is confusing because the previous MCSE lasted in line with the life cycle of the operating system you attained it in. In three years' time Microsoft will have released a new operating system, or be very near to, and therefore upgrading your MCSE will be obligatory if you want to be recognized as an "expert" in that Microsoft product. It is understandable from a Cisco perspective to require a three-year refresh as the core CLI changes very little, so refreshing your skills ensures you iron out any bad habits and refamiliarize yourself with the command set. It is unclear on the exact reasoning why the three-year lifetime has been added to the new MCSE, outside of keeping the exam revenue up in years to come.

In conclusion

The new MCSE has moved in line with the changes in IT over the years, especially with Microsoft's change in focus in recent years to cloud-based technologies. Fundamentally the exam format has changed very little, the examination track is shorter and more focused, and more importantly the qualification is recognized again. The new MCSE won't be any less confusing with exam options than the MCITP, but that was never the issue with the MCITP -- it was all in the name. If Microsoft had adopted this approach with the Windows server 2008 examination series, then the MCSE would be even more established than it is today. Long live the MCSE.

Dave Leaver has worked in the IT industry for over ten years in a variety of technical roles. He currently works for a well-established IT Services provider in the UK as a Technical Consultant.

23 comments
SanjivN
SanjivN

I kind of understand the whole MCSE and MCITP problem, but as someone who intends to do MCTs and the MCITP-EA and maybe upgrade to the MCSE 2012 if necessary, in order to hold a position as a Network/System Admin. and to be working with MS Server 2008 or 2012, does it make any sense going for the CCNA,CCNP, Cisco VoIP and the CCIE. I might not want to do all of them, but in a Microsoft environment would it be useful. Also, what about the Apple certs and VMware certs.-they are becoming poular. Would these additional qualifications be acutually useful as a Network admin. or would they allow me to be more marketable and maybe gain more higher jobs after gaining experience in all those fields.

SanjivN
SanjivN

Was the old MSCE better than the MCITP in terms of prestige or advancement and is the new MCSE better than the MCITP, because I was planning to do the MCITP-EA since I thought that it was more advanced and replaced the MCSA/SE.

wtmillerjr
wtmillerjr

Not much is different; When the NT cert holders were told the NT MCSE would be cancelled, unless we upgraded to the Win 2000 MCSE....they showed their true nature. It hasn't changed.

BilboRT
BilboRT

Come on gang. Do we all make so much money that we can afford to pay Microsoft every two to three years for the privilege of wearing a new cheap pin? Wise up! Certification is about the money stream, for the same reason Microsoft pushes out a new OS every three years whether it is ready or not. Let us stop kidding ourselves. Please.

cybershooters
cybershooters

Speaking as someone who is an MCITP Enterprise Administrator, I think basically Microsoft is trying to enforce the "cloud" on people like me when the success of it is still very much up in the air. The only upgrade track I've seen publicized so far is all about "private cloud" support. So far my clients have no interest in the thing, because they don't want their stuff in the cloud, they have internet connectivity issues, they don't really want employees using OTA connections because of the cost, they're worried the FBI could turn the thing off if someone starts sending/receiving kiddie porn, they're dissatisfied with the support they're getting because they're the lowest priority (whereas before someone either came in or remoted in to their network) and so on. I have no doubt there will be penetration of cloud services but I'm not convinced it will be the standard way of doing things in the future. Already seen all the large cellphone providers in the US stop their unlimited data plans, which has put a chill on cloud storage because now you have to pay to access your files. I think it's all a bit premature. The three-year thing isn't about making money either, it's about forcing us all to subscribe to their view or lose our qualifications.

info
info

With the amount of exams and certs increased, from the look of it, they do seem to be aiming for the Enterprise IT Admin with two to three fellows, and everything paid for (and time given for study) by the company. I just looked at this yesterday. My last certs were MCP for Windows 98 and Networking Essentials and an A+. A fact driven home when I went for a job interview a few months back when I realized just HOW long ago they were. Despite my 20+ years experience, the last few years as a Systems Administrator (my 'official' title, although I'm more of a 'do everything' person for our entire company. It's more a 'Network Administrator', but it would be 'IT Manager' if I had someone other than myself to manage!) the hiring board just sort of 'turned off' after that. I just looked at this yesterday, and was confused as anything. Like the article says, where does someone like ME fit into all of this? Their 'Cloud' offerings? You can bet they're biased heavily towards Office 365 and their other offerings. I'll also need to pay for these, and find the time, myself. The last time I brought training up with the management, the response was, "Why? You can do anything we give to you to do!" Guess, I'll start looking at CompTIA and elsewhere. Microsoft has lost the greater part of my interest...

colinofski
colinofski

Who on earth has time to firstly study and then take all the exams for each new version of Microsoft's software?? Let alone afford the cost of it... I think people tend to do the exams in order to find a job and then don't do it again...

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Which flavour of cert do you have? Oh we don't like that flavour, you'll have to get a different one! How much? Well he responds rubbing hands with glee....

jonrosen
jonrosen

Must Consult Someone Experienced.. Changing the name of the overall cert-series twice in just a few years is fairly stupid to begin with. But unless they've improved the test questions and tests themselves. Other than that, I agree fully with Gemmz above

Gemmz
Gemmz

I must admit to being very much against the new names. Just when everyone had gotten used to the MCITP - Microsoft go and change it again! But please remember that much of the success of the MCSE was due to the success of XP - and as importantly, the failure of Vista. I do agree with the author that this approach should have been established for Server 2008 certifications. Nobody was really looking a few years ago, as XP was still the dominant system. Now nobody knows what to do!! The one thing that has not been addressed in this interesting article is the actual quality of the Microsoft professional exams. The amount of attention and care they take on these will not be affected by the name they give them. Anyone who passes their exam will still be proud of having achieved something.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

is this bridge. One careful owner and going cheap... See what the recruiter types are saying, theirs is the only opinion that matters...

zynn
zynn

I had just enrolled in my MCSE NT4.0 and 2 weeks into the $10,000 class they told us we were the last NT4.0 class. We asked for our money back but instead they offered us a 'free upgrade' test at the end. Coming into this fresh off the street with no user experience it was impossible to earn your MCSE and then upgrade to Win2000 with no classrooom support. Heck our instructors who had been in the field for 20-30 years were all struggling to get their certs in time to teach. The school should have let us drop out until the next semester to start with the newer cert. Most in my class were paid for by their company, I had taken out loans.

tony
tony

There is an upgrade path for mcitp:ea to mcse 2012. You need the 70-413 + 70-414 and 70-417 Exams. Upgrade from MCSE 2003 to MCITP EA was also 3 Exams. As you are an MCITP EA you are also automatically an MCSA 2008 Private Cloud. If you do the 70-246 and 70-247 Exams you also have the MCSE 2008 Private Cloud. Hope to of helped

cybershooters
cybershooters

Microsoft assumes you will be out of a job because everything is going to data centers in the cloud. They want. Ballmer is on record saying that developers are more important than system people because they won't be around in a few years time unless they're in a data center. But he's wrong, Microsoft has a world view for IT which is wholly unrealistic, because they're trying to leverage something (the internet) which isn't capable of doing what they want it to. I wonder sometimes whether he has ever been to a hotel or an airport with an unreliable internet connection, let alone in parts of Europe or elsewhere where the internet is truly shaky.

lars
lars

It all comes down to where your priorities lie. Are your priorities to learn new skills or improve the ones you have? Or are they playing World of Warcraft, drinking beer with your mates in the pub or watching TV every night until you go to bed? If you make the conscious decision to improve yourself, whether that is by taking exams and gaining new certs or whatever else you feel enhances and improves your life, then you will find the time. And the exams aren't particularly expensive as long as you aren't unemployed. And even then, in the UK at least, you can get help with funding for the exams.

meaglin
meaglin

I have done my MCSA 2003 and MCITP EA certification. All paid for by my boss. And i will also do the MCSE for the server and client at least. I will cost me some time but it is worth it.

cybershooters
cybershooters

The exams don't cost much to take, I wouldn't have thought Prometric make much money. It's more about Microsoft forcing their world view on us, and hoping that we then are stupid enough to regurgitate it out to other people, thereby making them money. Not this time. Metro UI on Windows Server 2012 is stupid beyond words and the cloud is overrated. There aren't that many people who are MCITP qualified last time I checked, it was only in the low tens of thousands. If we give them the finger they're stuffed.

ed
ed

Some [large number of] years ago, I was a department head at a four-year university and got "invited" to a meeting with a vice president, a few deans, some other department heads, and some faculty members. The topic was whether we should create a program for the MCSE--and I was "invited" to form a team to implement it. Our team worked quite a while and had outlines for the courses to be submitted to add to the curriculum, along with a proposal for lab space and equipment. Then one member read his morning Microsoft news and told us this certification was going to be toast before we would teach our first course, with no "grandfathering" or other accommodation--and no good information how or whether our current efforts would fit into the replacement. We stared at each other for a few moments and I called to get us an appointment with our dean. After we explained, he agreed that this would be such a moving target that it wouldn't be productive to pursue it and he'd take the news to the vice president. Yes, the academic process takes a lot of time and certainly has difficulty with fast-moving topics. We know that. But sometimes it's a blessing--we taxpayers (I'm one, too) are glad we hadn't equipped a lab or two, maybe hired new faculty for the program, and gotten into a semester when the bottom fell out. I certainly wouldn't have wanted to be in front of the class Zynn was taking and have to make the announcement he heard. A little more notice about the change would have been nice...

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Certs R Us, Microsoft, reduced false positives for wordsearch numpties?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

There are other ways to learn you know. Some of us make the decision to keep improving ourselves everyday. Not once per MS rebranding exercise...

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

can become an expert in passing the exam... Then you can definitely get a job. :(

tony
tony

If you read the entry before mine, cybershooters said they hadn't seen an upgrade path yet. All I did was explain the upgrade path. What you are implying with Certs R Us, I have no idea. Should you not wish for people to try and help others, keep carrying on with those kind of comments. Sooner or later, people won't feel like helping as they always keep having to explain themselves to others.

nwallette
nwallette

I learn what I need to know to make sure I'm doing right by my employer. If we're using 2003 Server, there's not much need to "focus" on 2012. When we start moving services to 2008, there's an incentive to consider what changes will affect us, but no real reason to re-certify. How much *really* changes? So much that I need to dump thousands of dollars into classes, study time, and tests? Not in my experience, no. Learning for the sake of learning is a whole other matter. For that, I don't need a certification. I learn because I have a hunger for knowledge, and an insatiable curiosity about how things work, or what's out there that could make my / our life easier or better. There's no exam for that.