The value of the new Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) certification is a highly contested topic. Many view the MCSA as a dummied-down version of the MCSE, while others see it as an essential certification that recognizes the real needs of modern businesses.

Our invitation to debate the merits of the MCSA certification in “Microsoft’s MCSA threatens to topple MCSE” was taken up with zeal by members, who seemed to be equally spread out on both sides of the fence.

Saintbingo summed up the best and worst of this new certification by saying, “The MCSA would allow [candidates] to show a higher level cert than MCP faster while they continue to work on their MCSE, except I think a lot of people will then never bother to finish the MCSE.”

On that note, let’s take a look what other members had to say.

An MCSE, it’s not
Those who spurned the MCSA ranged from the genuinely bitter to those who are concerned about the effect the MCSA would have on current Microsoft certifications, both MCP and MCSE.

Michael Schabowski was particularly disturbed with what he sees as a devaluing of his MCSE certifications. “So now that I have an MCSE for NT 4.0 and Windows 2000, Microsoft has come up with a way to lower my market value,” he wrote. “Why should an employer pay for an MCSE when they can get an MCSA for less?”

A proliferation of MCSAs might not be all that bad, according to Norah_techie, who thinks the real value of MCSEs will be highlighted when networks need to be updated and MCSAs won’t have the skills to do the job.

“The MCSE then will be hired to fix all of those nitpicky items on the list that are essential to a network that an MCSA would miss,” Norah_techie wrote.

Mixing a healthy dose of cynicism and criticism, Java noted that money is at the root of a certification with mass appeal. “Personally, I think that the MCSA is a dummied-down version of the MCSE, serving two purposes:

  1. Allowing those who may not be capable of completing an MCSE [to] successfully [complete] an easier alternative for certification.
  2. Providing Big Bill [Gates] and his boys more money from a target market that may not necessarily have bothered in the past to attempt achieving full MCSE certification.

What it comes down to in the end is money. And it’s the knowledge-seekers that lose out in the end,” Java wrote.

For those of you who are fans of subtle admonishment, Wldstng94 offers this observation, “I see it as a stepping stone for the wise but a pinnacle for the average.”

Filling an obvious need
While critics are lambasting the MCSA certification as being the refuge of underachievers, fans of the new certification see it as a classification filled with practical purpose.

“If the MCSA becomes more popular, it is most likely because the MCSE is overkill for a majority of IT jobs,” wrote Dstinson. “So if [the MCSA] is a better fit for the industry, then so be it.”

Some members are looking forward to using the new certification to take advantage of that “better fit for the industry.”

JayArmstrong wrote that he is one design test away from MCSE and one test away from MCSA. “Might as well have both. As a contractor, I never know what the client will want. Having both will get me noticed easier.”

It will be those market forces that determine the fate of both the MCSE and the MCSA, according to Iulian Costache, who wrote that those who pursue an MCSA might have one “serious advantage…less time for learning to become a MCSE means more time to actually get hands-on practice.”

Jpreou agrees with Costache. “I decided that for the sake of one more exam, I may as well get the MCSA on the way [to the MCSE],” Jpreou wrote. “Frankly, I am learning much more useful stuff with the hands-on [experience] that I’m getting at work.”

Working while studying for certifications seems to be the plight of many IT pros who are trying to quantify their experience through the certification process.

“I’m trying to stay certified with both Microsoft (MCSE) and Cisco (CCNP),” IT Wiz wrote. “There just aren’t enough hours in the day to stay current in both. I was considering in the future only going the MCP route, but this MCSA thing may be just what I’m looking for.”

Want to add your thoughts to the discussion?

The MCSA could be the perfect response to the industry’s need—or it could be a money-grubbing scheme on Microsoft’s part. What do you think? Read through the discussion and add your thoughts to a particular thread or add something new. Go ahead and jump right in!