Microsoft’s MCSE designation has a lot in common with IBM’s “THINK” signs of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Remember those?

While MCSE accreditation has been awarded to some 231,000 IT professionals, the certification is going to become harder to find and obtain in the future. Why? Because the track is being made much more difficult.

Seven exams, not six, will be required to earn the accreditation from scratch. While a migration exam will be offered for current NT 4 MCSEs, the word on the street is exam 70-240 will be a mammoth undertaking. And, you’ll only get a single shot to pass it.

Consider also the fact that the Microsoft Official Curriculum team said the first four core Windows 2000 exams equal the entire six-test Windows NT 4.0 MCSE track. What’s the purpose of the extra three exams?

Everybody must be +I
The +I skills, earned by only 8,800 IT professionals, will be so important as the computer and IT industries move forward that Redmond’s team built them into each and every Windows 2000 exam. Whereas it had been possible to become a certified systems engineer and trainer without TCP/IP and IIS expertise, among other Internet skills, this will no longer be the case.

Instead, candidates will find it necessary to possess these skills when sitting for Windows 2000 exams. Whether it’s simple NOS knowledge or proficiency with network or directory services infrastructure design being tested, new MCSE hopefuls will find it essential to understand all aspects of subnetting, TCP/IP packet structures, IP trafficking issues, and addressing problems. Candidates must also prove familiarity with DNS usage and more.

Uh, what if I didn’t earn +I before?
If you’re one of the 223,000 IT professionals that earned MCSE status but not +I, ensure you do two things.

First, study for and pass Exam 70-059: Internetworking with Microsoft TCP/IP on Microsoft Windows NT 4.0, if you haven’t already. And, make sure you pass it with style, as doing so will help you gauge whether you really have a grasp of TCP/IP internetworking on Microsoft networks. If you passed the TCP/IP exam a long time ago, it wouldn’t hurt to dust off one of your TCP/IP texts and review it.

Second, get certified on IIS if you already haven’t. Whether you like it or not, IIS is being built into Windows 2000, so you’re going to need familiarity with it. There’s no sense in waiting. Read up on IIS 4, test it if you normally use a Sun or other OS platform on your Web servers, and then take the test (Exam 70-087: Implementing and Supporting Microsoft Internet Information Server 4.0). Again, you’ll get an idea of how well you understand what Redmond wants you to know.

If you’ve already earned the TCP/IP and/or IIS certs, consider building your expertise further by sitting for the Proxy Server 2.0 (Exam 70-088: Implementing and Supporting Microsoft Proxy Server 2.0) or Internet Explorer 5 exams (Exam 70-080: Implementing and Supporting Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 by Using the Microsoft Internet Explorer Administration Kit).

The time for getting ahead is now. Once the chips are down, and your organization prepares to deploy the new OS, you’ll be glad you brushed up on your skills.

Erik Eckel MCP+I, MCSE earned his MCSE by attending an Authorized Academic Training Partner Program.

If you’d like to share your opinion, please post a comment at the bottom of this page or send the editor an e-mail.