Windows Server

What happened to the good old-fashioned MCSE?


Windows Server 2008 will be released early next year. That's right...I said it, another major server OS will be released with undoubtedly more to learn! However, with this release, Microsoft is also rolling out major changes to its certification program. All of us old MCSEs are in for some big changes.

For example, the MCSE we're all familiar with is going away. Yep, you heard it, completely going away! Instead, new certification titles, like MCTS, or Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist: Active Directory Configuration or Application Platform Configuration, will be the certification de jour.

Here's an overview of the new Windows Server 2008 certification program. Specifically, it will address:

  • New changes in the Windows Server 2008 certification program
  • What you need to do to transition your Windows Server 2003 MCSE skills to 2008
  • What you need to do to go from Windows 2000 MCSE to 2008
  • Learn practical tips on what you can do now to start planning

The world's most popular certification is going through a major remodel-are you ready?

[Note: The MCP and MCSA have been excluded from this article with the focus being only on the MCSE.]

First look: What's changed?

After years of complaints about the MCSE being far too ordinary and too generic, Microsoft is taking a new approach to its certifications. Instead of offering a more generically themed program (like the traditional MCSE), Microsoft is creating certifications that are more tightly focused on specific roles and skill sets. These changes are part of a larger effort to revamp the entire certification program (which includes more than Windows Server 2008). However, for traditional MCSEs, Windows Server 2008 is where we'll see the most changes.

These new tracks are referred to as the Technology Series and the Professional Series.

Technology Series--Microsoft wants to provide a means for cert holders to demonstrate proficiency in a specific technology area, like configuring the Active Directory or Vista. These certifications are known as Microsoft Certified Technical Specialist (MCTS) and are very technologically focused. Professional Series-Here, there are two focus areas: IT Professional and Professional Developer. I've excluded the Developer series from this article, as most traditional MCSEs will likely not be on the Developer track. Professional certifications allow a person to demonstrate they can perform a job like Server Administrator. A person who earns a Professional certification will be known as a Microsoft Certified IT Professional, or MCITP.

They also require earning the equivalent technology certification (MCTS) in the corresponding Microsoft product. Each focus area has generally one to three exams. For most MCSEs, there are two Professional Certifications that will likely be right in your wheelhouse. I list them below, and include the necessary exams. The "TS" next to each exam number denotes an MCTS exam, while the "Pro" denotes an MCITP exam.

Server Administrator

  • 70-642: TS: Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure Configuring
  • 70-640: TS: Windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring
  • 70-646: Pro: Windows Server 2008 Administrator

Enterprise Administrator

  • 70-620: TS: Configuring Microsoft Windows Vista Client or 70-624: TS: Deploying and Maintaining Windows Vista Client and 2007 Microsoft Office System Desktops
  • 70-643: TS: Windows Server 2008 Applications Platform, Configuring
  • 70-642: TS: Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure Configuring
  • 70-640: TS: Windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring
  • 70-647: Pro: Windows Server 2008 Enterprise Administrator

The theory with these new programs is that they allow for more specificity by creating very tightly focused certifications and emphasizing actual real world job roles, thus making it easier for prospective employers to judge abilities and talents. I'm already having nightmares about the alphabet soup that the already lengthy signature blocks will become. We may be seeing something like this:

John Smith, Network Engineer, MCSE (NT 4.0), MCSE+I (Windows Server 2000 and Windows Server 2003), MCSA (Windows Server 2000 and Windows Server 2003), MCTS: Windows Server 2008 - Active Directory Configuration, MCTS: Windows Server 2008 - Network Infrastructure Configuration, MCTS: Windows Server 2008 - Application Platform Configuration, MCITP: Enterprise Administrator...and so on...

Good Grief!

And finally, in a move that not only keeps technologists current, but, coincidentally, also generates consistent revenue for Microsoft, the new MCTS certifications expire. In fact, they expire when the specific technology expires. The MCITP also requires re-certification-every three years! However, in most cases, MCITP re-up will be a single exam, and it will probably be the latest MCTS exam.

Transition your Windows Server 2003 MCSE to 2008

If you're a Windows Server 2003 MCSE (W2k3MCSE), the path to achieve certification depends on what your goals are. Because the MCSE doesn't exist in Windows Server 2008 you have to "transfer" your certification skills, as a Microsoft calls it, to the new MCTS track (and then if you'd like, tack on the applicable MCITP certification).

Microsoft has created a new exam entitled "70-649: TS: Upgrading your MCSE on Windows Server 2003 to MCTS on Windows Server 2008." When you pass it, you will earn three MCTS qualifications in one swoop:

  • MCTS: Windows Server 2008 - Active Directory Configuration
  • MCTS: Windows Server 2008 - Network Infrastructure Configuration
  • MCTS: Windows Server 2008 - Application Platform Configuration

A W2k3MCSE who isn't interested in such a large exam could take individual MCTS exams in each of the aforementioned technology areas. However, if you're looking for a less circuitous route and you don't mind taking the daunting single exam, the 70-649 is probably the better approach.

It's important to note that Microsoft is transitioning folks to the TS level, but there's no transition plan to move people directly to the Professional level. You can still get there, but you have to transition to the TS level first, and then take the remaining exams at whatever professional level you are seeking, just like any other MCITP seeker.

For example, if you're a W2k3MCSE and you want to be a MCITP Enterprise Administrator you'd have to:

  1. Take 70-649 to transition your skills to the new MCTS
  2. Select a desktop MCTS (70-620 or 70-624)
  3. Take the 70-647 Enterprise Administrator Professional Exam

If you only wanted to obtain the MCITP Server Administrator, you'd have to:

  1. Take 70-649 to transition your skills to the new MCTS certifications
  2. Take the 70-646 Server Administrator Professional Exam

As I mentioned before, I've left the MCSA out of the discussion here, but you will find a similar, if slightly less difficult, path to upgrade a Windows Server 2003 MCSA to Windows Server 2008. Check out the following link for more information on MCSAs: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/mcp/mcsa/windowsserver2008/default.mspx.

Going from Windows 2000 MCSE to 2008?

If you're a Windows 2000 MCSE or, for that matter, any non-W2k3MCSE (NT 4.0), you're out of luck. There's no transition path from Windows 2000 (or anything earlier) to Windows Server 2008. Instead, depending on how far along you are with your Windows Server 2003 MCSE, you have two choices:

  1. Complete your upgrade to Windows Server 2003 (thus making your transition to Windows Server 2008 a bit shorter), or
  2. Start fresh with Windows Server 2008

It actually may be easier to upgrade to Windows Server 2003 MCSE in order to make for an easier transition to Windows Server 2008.

[REMINDER: The two exams a Windows 2000 MCSE needs to take to upgrade to Windows Server 2003 (without taking the long route), 70-292 and 70-296 are currently scheduled for discontinuation on March 31, 2008.]

Start planning now!

The time to get your plans in order is now, what with the W2k3MCSE upgrade exams set to expire in March 2008. If you're a Windows 2000 MCSE, consider the upgrade path to W2k3MCSE first-it may make your Windows Server 2008 transition much easier.

If you're already a W2k3MCSE, start looking at the new Windows Server 2008 technology. There are already some beta examinations available. Microsoft has also indicated that final versions of the exams will be released shortly after the technology's Release-To-Market date:

  • TS Exam Goals Release Date: 30 days post RTM
  • Pro Exam Goals Release Date: 60 days post RTM
61 comments
jgemberling7
jgemberling7

To me the constant upgrading to a new classification for the new OS is like going to a chiropractor. You never reach a point where the good doctor says "You've been healed. No need to come back to me". If your employer is footing the bill for the books, tests, etc, fine. But if you pay for the new classifications out of your pocket like I did only to have your certification become obsolete in a year, then I recommend doing as I did...let the other fools continue wasting their money. I did it once, am not gullible enough to continue that nonsense. I am a software consultant and a system analyst, yet currently my certification did not get me this job. Past experience is what the employer looked for, not a certificate.

Daywalker44
Daywalker44

Anyone know a more exact date on when the MCSE is going away and the new 2008 cert jargon is going into effect?? I'm looking to get my MCSE very soon....should I even bother??? WHY is it every time I go to get a major cert it has to change!!!!!!! UGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Virtual1
Virtual1

We started our own consulting firm and hired all you young punks to pull cable!

JCitizen
JCitizen

Everyone here knows that. Maybe if they would have left the exclamation mark off and hadn't been pointing out what was new about MS plans it wouldn't have caught my attention. Most employers will pay for certs if they really want them; your college degree and how well you survive the interview are more important.

Gt89
Gt89

I'm just an MCP in XP and I didn't even reached the 3rd MCSE exam, and you know why? Because the entire certification process is way too expensive that's why !! There's a lot of good people out there very smart and very capable of doing mcp and mcse-type jobs, but they just dont have the money to get there... that's very frustrating :-(

CG IT
CG IT

Still here haven't died yet. But having a MCSE as gold was for the .com boom. After the bust, an MCSE doesn't mean much because everyone including the pet dog had one. Networks were and are complicated and there's no one network that an MCSE can jump into without spending some time learning about it. This fact was present during the .com boom days but hey, as long as a startup had MCSEs onboard, venture capital flowed!! The real challenge today, much like the medical industry is to much specialization. Security experts know security but chances are they don't know Active Directory and Group Policy. The web guys don't know security or Active Directory specially not Group Policy. The Cisco guys know routers and switches and maybe security but they don't know Active Directory either. Desktop support guys don't know servers, security, Active Directory, Group Policy or Cisco equipment. The General Practitioner MCSE ought to be in demand. The IT guy that knows enough about the whole shebang, that when the all the specialists say they want to change stuff, but doing so will really screw up the network, they can say "ya know, you can but" Like General Practitioner medical doctors, there's not a lot of $$ in it so no one wants to do it. The users like patients, want someone they know and trust and can see on a regular basis rather than some specialist they will only see once or twice.

ionut.stanescu
ionut.stanescu

So, What will happened with the old MCSE Certif ?...after the release of the 2008, this one could not be archived any more.. I'm forced to take a look over the new certif's ? I'm very confused...please advice. :(

thinkz1
thinkz1

Hmmmm... When I was in the girl scouts... remember them?... We got badges for matering knots or starting a fire and I don't know what... Sounds a bit like that. We gonna see people sporting shoulder patches of what they can do? hehehe. Lisa

Photogenic Memory
Photogenic Memory

Maybe this is a better route to go down if the Windows Certifications or too expensive! For the most part they're very focused on working technical ability, right? Also Linux is verstile and can be made to do what windows services do without all the licensing headaches. Maybe this will give people more incentive to adopt it at work and perhaps a trend will get started. Who knows?

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

The MCSE is quickly becoming obsolete. The basic MCSE was very busy in small to medium business, whilst larger enterprises seemed to build teams of computer science majors, Cisco specialists and other mro especialized members. With the SMB market now becoming more self sufficiet, as most younger employers already know how to keep a basic server/print/file system running themselves. The general MCSE and MCSA is becomign an unneeded skill. There was a huge boom for MCSE's, everyone and their dog has an MCSE (those thank see MS as the futur eanyway). It's just not a worthy cert anymore, the bosses kid know as much as many MCSE's and he's FREE. TIm to up the certs if that's how you look for work, employment based solely on certs. MS screwed thousands of people into seeing the MCSE as an imperative certification, people looking for a change in lfe took it, people with sincere interest took it and people who saw it as a career stepping stone took it...and so did everyone else. MCSE is about the equivalent to grade 12 these days, some require the cert/diploma, others just require the ability and experience, which so many have now.

wlportwashington
wlportwashington

We all agree that certification shows that you know the basics and maybe a little more about the product. In this case Microsoft. With each new O/S release, we all know how expensive it can be to upgrade, we are now faced with another insult by having to dish out more hard earned money to prove that we now something, in therory, about the product. Yet when it comes to real world practice, how much is that certification worth? I would rather have someone who has been in the field for several years than someone who spent a fortune lining Microsofts coffers with certifications. Microsoft should just leave the MCSE as it is and if they want to add for a new O/S release, have a simple single exam upgrading to that particular product at the same price we now pay per exam.

xmanwolfy
xmanwolfy

I JUST STARTING OUT SHOULD I START SCHOOL TO GET THE CERTS AFTER THEN NEW SYSTEM IS OUT IN 2008 OR START NOW? WITH THE OLD SERVER SYSTEM

michael
michael

Personally, I think the title "MCSE" will have the same value to employers for a long time (and yes, I know that there are different opinions as to its value). Employers aren't going to understand the new titles and acronyms anytime soon. In addition, since businesses are very slow to change server operating systems, for good reasons, I don't see demand for these new acronyms until after Windows 2008 has been out for about 2 years. I'm in the process of getting my Win2003 certification, and I will continue, knowing that there is an upgrade path available. By the way, I looked quickly at the M$ Learning site, the details mentioned here are not listed on the site just yet, there is only a link to a recorded live meeting where this is presumably discussed (didn't watch it). So perhaps there is still time to convince M$ to keep the MCSE and make life easier for IT pros & employers alike. Anybody want to start a protest movement?

gksmith2002
gksmith2002

Even if the MCSE was too "general," we the workers made it specific. Microsoft is following suit by further specializing the certifications. Anyone who has worked in a large company knows, there is NO ONE who knows EVERYTHING. As for the renewal of the certifications, I am not that surprised. Anyone remember in 2000 when Microsoft initially told all the newly minted (w/in 3 years) MCSEs for NT4 that their cert was no longer valid? I do. I remember the near riot. So Microsoft worked it in as part of the new certification. Fair warning for MCSEs on 7-10 year old technology out there. This "Alphabet Soup" is still for people (like me) still trying to make a name for themselves. I know a few System/Network Admins who's last certification was NT4 and had 10-20 years admin/network experience at the time. They keep up with the technology but do not worry about getting the certification. What company will turn down 20 years experience, a proven track record as an administrator or network engineer because they only have an NT4 certification?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Most responsible businesses won't be upgrading simply because there is a new version available so you may continue to see MCSE job postings. What you can be sure of is that eventually, those postings will be showing the 2008 certs instead of the MCSE but your likely a year away from that. Now, back to my CompTIA reading

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

and I'm not shy about letting others know. It's nice when one can actually setup the physical network wiring as well as the servers and network hardware to go along with it.

JCitizen
JCitizen

Probably didn't pay'em squat either! HAHAHAHAHAH!

JCitizen
JCitizen

Like I said elsewhere in this discussion, the return on the investment to the certifications have to payoff first. And in most parts of the US/World it really doesn't pay to get certified. Where it does, the employer will pay for it, if they like your interview and they are worth working for in the first place. Keeping up with the technology on your own is more important as far as I'm concerned. If you have the MCSE books it can help later if you test. The language is extremely non-intuitive and ridiculously arcane. This will get you in more trouble on the cert test than anything. Also you may already be aware of free sites that give away free test exams that help bone up on how the newer tests are going. Wouldn't hurt to keep up with those either. Besides if you keep your credit good you could always get a loan to take the test; US bank loan officers see this as a business opportunity just like any other business loan. You probably already know all this. You have already been taking one test at a time? Don't try it until you are absolutely sure you can pass it. The knowledge that you could be doing it all over again in three years doesn't help either :p

ben@channells
ben@channells

before MCSE NT 4 came out there was around 40,000 MCSE globaly, NO exam cram, very very few books and no brain dumps. I believe I was one of the first 19,000 MSCE 3.1 and 3.5. Microsoft wanted more MSCE's than Novel CNE's (around 2.5 million. Because so many passed the exams within minuets or never touched windows or installed it had passed the MCSE. As the certification was no longer a sing of a good engineer, HR and IT department produced there own MCSE style tests. As Microsoft systems become more complex the MCSE is less relervant and 8 years of experience is requested with 5 years of refferences. We recently the windows team build DC which had not been DCpromed DNS servers with the DNS service disabled or not instralled. many of the team are apparently MSCE2003 yet cannot do basic builds or advanced DNS or AD support. Many very large companies are starting to focus on IT as a Business service not as a Technology preferring ISC, CISSP, ITIL PRINCE or COMPITA ahead of MCSE's So microsoft are changing the name just to confuse the HR and IT agencies and regain lost ground "moving forward"

JCitizen
JCitizen

anyway here in America. If your well established in your job, I wouldn't worry. But then I always have a lab where I test new software and operating systems; with a little mini domain, exchange server, and everything - so I don't get a nasty surprise down the road.

TheGooch1
TheGooch1

Nope, it will not happen. There will be a rush on Mac certs before there will be one for Linux certs.

JCitizen
JCitizen

for the certifications tacked my wall. Your observations are closer to reality than this article in my estimation. Mine date to 2003(expired) and like Ol'Jack I'm still here.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

Although I won't be in any rush to shell out more money simply because MS screwed the pooch with Vista sales and now needs a new and inventive way to screw their existing customers and certified professionals.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

I really don't see any other reason for this.

richy.mitchell
richy.mitchell

As previous posts have pointed out, most businesses won't be too eager to jump right on the 2008 bandwagon. 2003 will be around for quite some time. Get your certs on currently used systems and then go for the upgrade path later.

memman
memman

Spend your money where it will make a real difference. Get a real degree (in IT). You don't loose a degree. You obviously loose credibility with certs. In the long run, a degree will last longer, mean more to an employer, and actually COST LESS than M$ certs! Can't get into a real college? Got to a local tech college first. Start with a two year degree if necessary. Go for something that will last a lifetime and not just three years!!!

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

I recall how MS pissed off a whole bunch of NT4 MCSE candidates, me being one of them, when they suddenly announced they were retiring it because they wanted to push Windows 2000 MCSE curriculum in an attempt to screw more money out of us IT pros.

memman
memman

I'm not interested in keeping up with the cash cow of M$. Certs I like. M$'$ method I do not. I've never been hired for a cert. I've been hired for experience and being able to answer the questions correctly. Knowing what & how to do is more important than answering some stupid fictitious M$ test question that barely resembles anything in the real world. I'd be more inclined to go with a 3rd party cert than M$'$ cert any day now. I'm tired of paying through the nose for a cert on a 1/2 baked OS that M$ expect's it's own customers to fix for them. Sure it's pretty. It always has bugs. ALWAYS!!! MAJOR ones at that. WE (the MCSE's of the world) have to send them what the problems are and even the fixes sometimes. I'm just tired of it all. I'm done with getting M$ certs!!!

helpdeskdude
helpdeskdude

I agree with you Greg, I think companies that are looking to hire will look at the track record. A 20 year old kid fresh out of school with a couple certs vs. an old dog with 20 years of REAL WORLD experience. Give me the old dog any day. Most old timers have seen it all at least once or twice and know instantally what is wrong and how to fix it. I have learned so much from old tech guys. Learning to shut up and listen, pays off in the long run.

Virtual1
Virtual1

I pay $75 per hour for excellent wiring installations. but MCSE's get

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

for certifications. Most hiring managers don't give a rat's behind as to how many certifications one has. There have been cases where teenagers were certified up the wazoo, but would you hire some kid who has no experience, only theoretical knowledge of the product?

HumZ
HumZ

Hear Hear! Spot on! Tech Certs are like the ornaments on a tree, the tree being a degree. Sorry for the lame analogy.

truthiness
truthiness

don't screw around, get a CS degree. I got an "Information Systems" degree because I thought CS would be "too abstract" and I really regret it. I took some classes in CS and they made the IS classes look like a joke. Computer Science challenges you more, and is more respected. Learning general theory/principles is GOOD, because the knowledge remains valuable across the frequent changes in a fickle market.

dennis.fisher
dennis.fisher

I can't stress how much this is true and all from personal experience. I had the opportunity to choose between going back to school for a CS degree or working on certs. I choose the degree. After I finished, I worked some low level jobs for experience but now I'm doing well as a systems administrator, all without certs. And after successfully getting the position, I was told that I won out over 14 other applicants, all because I stuck it out and finished my degree.

ke_gordon
ke_gordon

Get a degree first. Experience next even if it means doing low level jobs to start. Or if you cannot afford college get a low level IT job and have the employer pay for your degree. Employers will look at education and experience with higher regard than the certs. The advantage to a degree is that you get other experience than just the tunnel vision that is supplied by a cert assuming the degree is a BS or better. I have a BS degree and have had a couple of certs. My certs have lapsed but my degree is still there. My opinion is that a cert shows only that you have a minimum skill set. The reason why I do not hold certs in high regard is that I have seen too many people that are paper certified. This includes MCSE's, CCIE's, and CISSP's. They can take tests but when it comes to real world experience they are severely lacking. Unfortunately, this problem usually does not surface until after they are hired. I do however get certs if I want to change jobs. But I have 25 years of IT experience to back the cert up. So it is more "playing the game" at that point then actual necessity. The point I am trying to make here is that employers look for people with a good track records. It will mean much more if you show a solid progression toward your goals than a quick fix with a cert and no experience. Also, if you think you can get through a technical interview with just a cert it is not going to happen.

bcgreaves
bcgreaves

If I had a Computer Sciences degree, I would probably be making muuuuch more money by now and would have gotten to where I am income wise, about 10 years ago! Get a degree of some sort because that is what gets you in the door to most companies, and certs are considered by many as "wish lists" or "would be good to have".

ronmorgan
ronmorgan

Do not waste your time on Certs, spend your money wisly and get a Degree. Certs have always changed, or lost credibility, you can always get another cert manual and pick it up as you go with a Degree but don't count on that Cert to help you in the long run.

drrnserious
drrnserious

Your last paragraph sums it up.. I also am tired of having to resit exams that are based on how well you can read an exam question not on how well you understand the actual problem.

JCitizen
JCitizen

Although I think the reorganization makes some sense, I won't worry about it until an employer insists on new certification,and most will pay for it anyway if it is that important to them. The return on costs have to be met before I will go down that road; and how much I really want to work for the organization.

tom_housden2k8
tom_housden2k8

I have clients who would prefer to have something installed or set up correctly through experience rather someone with certs who may not do it properly. Case in point: I asked for a job at AMS Computers (a local firm to me). I went in, we had a chat about my experience, and then I produced my CV, to which he said 'Why are you showing me that?!' I started working for him the following week!

shortonjr
shortonjr

I am in the same boat as jack. As a BICSI certified installer I can pull, punch, install and maintain a full voice and data network. Certs really don't help because my customers don't know what they are. All they want is a fully functional network when I'm done.

TheVirtualOne
TheVirtualOne

Too bad I don't ever get jobs in White Plains!

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

and the SMBs' I support love me for it. They're thankful that they don't have to shell out close to $50K to wire their small office network using some arrogant union electrician (I'm referring to the arrogant slobs from local 3 electrical) when I do it for much less and offer them a full network package included in the cost. Not only do they get certified wiring, but servers, network equipment, and a fully functional LAN with remote VPN access when I'm done.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I had no love of math in highschool so at the end of it when the choice to try for Computer Science or what seemd like Comp Sci with the math curses exchanged for business courses I jumped for the latter. When I got into Uni, the courses I really enjoyed and could apply myself too where the Comp Sci derivatives. Business; I passed them. Liberals; passed mostly. network design, systems administration, programming; blew the courses away. Actually, programming was taugh a little slow for me due to not all the students having a programming background; proff explains the function, I'm ready to start making use of it but by the time he's re-explained it five times for everyone else, I'm nearly asleep with overkill boredom. Comp Sci, probably more than Comp Eng, would have been a better fit for me I think but here I am with 98% of a computer business degree instead. Now on to collecting certs to fill in the wholes in my resume.

JCitizen
JCitizen

But if someone feels they just GOT to get certified at least the A+ cert lasts for life. For the life of how many really give a **** and care about what it means; anyways :)

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

the back of my hand and don't really need a piece of paper on my wall to show for it. I can run circles around any technician that HP or IBM sends in to repair servers, because they usually end up sending idiots who have never touched a server or replaced a motherboard in their lives.

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