Microsoft has introduced a new batch of .NET certifications, which will become active at the end of 2003. The new certification titles include Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD.NET) and Microsoft Certified Application Developer (MCAD). This article introduces these new certification titles. With the coming together of standardized Web services technologies like J2EE and .NET, the old certifications will apply only to the old technologies.

The importance of certification
Certification is important for proving proficiency in working with these complex technologies. After completing the MCAD and/or MCSD process, a candidate has demonstrated competence in working with the .NET tools and technologies. Organizations that hire certified employees are assured that their staff has a strong foundation in .NET technologies.

Certification path
The MCAD title is an optional junior-level title, obtained on the way to MCSD. The core exam requirements have you choose between two language tracks: VB.NET or C#. Although Visual Studio still has FoxPro as a language choice, there are no plans to add a certification test for it. As long as you can program with VB or C#, you can program with any language for which support is available in VS.NET.

Certification requirements
MCAD requires three exams, and MCSD requires five. You don’t have to get an MCAD in order to reach MCSD status, but most candidates will find that they’ve picked up the junior certification along the way.

Certification recommendations
Proficiency with Microsoft Visual Studio .NET is the most important recommendation. Without exception, all skills covered in the various exams can be used from within Visual Studio. It is used to build and debug C#, ADO.NET, and VB.NET applications and to deploy them to remote servers.

For the MCSD title, Microsoft also recommends (but does not require) that you have two years of experience designing and maintaining Microsoft software.

According to Microsoft’s FAQ, this title is for individuals developing applications for use on a department level. This may be a small business, a corporate department, or any other organizational unit with fewer than 500 seats.

The first step toward the MCAD, after selecting a language track, is to pass the language-specific test for XML Web services (70-310/320). This test demonstrates your ability to manipulate data programmatically.

XML is the language for Web services. Because .NET is, among other things, a Web services architecture, everything in the certification processes involves an understanding of XML. At the same time as the XML exam, either of the user interface exams (Web applications [70-305/315] or Windows applications [70-306/316]) for the chosen language track is required. These tests demonstrate your ability to build user interfaces as desktop applications or Web pages.

Finally, one elective (discussed later) completes the MCAD certification process. It is best to select as your elective the user interface exam you didn’t take in the previous step, because it is required later for the MCSD certification.

According to Microsoft, this title is geared toward folks who will be developing applications for use on an enterprise level. This means the applications will be used in a large corporate or governmental office with several, geographically removed locations—each with 200 to 500 seats.

In addition to the requirements for MCAD, the MCSD candidate must take the language-specific exam not already taken (Web applications or Windows applications).

An elective exam is also required. Unlike on the MCAD track, this exam must come from the list of electives. A candidate on the VB.NET track cannot use a C# exam as an elective.

Finally, the solution architectures (70-300) exam is required. After you’ve demonstrated proficiency with all the language syntaxes and program features, the solution architectures test requires a high degree of understanding how all the parts and pieces combine to solve specific business requirements.

At the moment, Microsoft is performing task and skills analysis of real-world .NET development efforts to determine what will be included in the solution architectures exam.

One elective is required for either certification title. For MCAD, the elective can be the other language-specific core exam (Windows or Web). For either title, the elective can be the designing and implementing exam for one of the .NET servers (currently SQL Server [70-229], BizTalk Server [70-230], or Commerce Server [70-234]).

Time line
Unfortunately, the .NET solution architectures exam won’t be in beta testing until mid to late 2003. The Windows and Web language-specific exams are currently in beta and should be released in the next couple of months. This means there won’t be any MCSD.NETs running around until the end of 2003. The good news is that Visual Studio 6 MCSDs will retain their titles indefinitely.

This article introduced the new certification titles from Microsoft. These programs are geared toward working within a .NET architecture. The new certification titles are MCAD and MCSD.NET, and they will become active at the end of 2003.