Word is beginning to get out about Microsoft’s new certification, Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA). While Microsoft touts this cert to be a worthy addition to its current lineup, the majority of IT pros haven’t jumped on the bandwagon just yet, according to our recent survey results.

The demand for network and systems administrators grew significantly in 2001, and the new MCSA certification is a response to this need, according to Microsoft. Because of this, MCSAs should find a ready market as human resources managers attempt to fill the increased number of positions that require system and network administration skills.

MCSAs do not need the design and deployment skills associated with the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE). However, the tests that are required for the MCSA can be used if the candidate decides to continue on the certification fast track with an MCSE. Of course, Microsoft insists that the MCSA is a complete certification on its own. Our own IT Certification Corner columnist, Erik Eckel, seems to agree. In his article “Microsoft’s MCSA will be the next big cert,” he says, “It doesn’t make sense…to continue grinding away toward an MCSE when you can prove essential and critical skills with an MCSA.”

Survey results show a mixed reception
When we recently asked TechRepublic members if they thought the MCSA was the right certification for them, more than a third of those who took the poll thought it was.

Nearly half of those who took the poll hadn’t even heard of the MCSA or hadn’t yet decided if it was something they would pursue (see Figure A).

Figure A
Only 15 percent of respondents said that the MCSA was not a certification they would consider.

The middle child
The MCSA sits in the middle of the Microsoft certification track, between the minimal Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) and a full-blown MCSE.

While an MCP can be earned by passing a single operating system certification test, Microsoft requires you to pass seven tests to earn an MCSE.

For the MCSA, the candidate must pass a client operating system test, two networking exams that focus on servers and management, and an elective from a long list of Microsoft electives. For the MCSA, Microsoft is allowing two different combinations of CompTIA certifications to substitute for the elective requirement.

Someone who intends to get his or her MCSE anyway could structure his or her testing strategy to attain an MCSA along the way. But whether IT pros will be interested in specifically working for an MCSA without the intention of going further remains to be seen.

Erik Eckel’s prediction is clear: “The MCSA accreditation’s popularity will surpass the MCSE’s…. So much so that I won’t be surprised when MCSAs surpass MCSEs within two years.” What do you think?

Let’s debate!

Do you think the MCSA will replace the MCSE in popularity? What does that mean for MCSEs? Will MCSAs make MCSEs more valuable or less relevant? Let your voice be heard by adding to the discussion below.