Microsoft certifications are a way for IT professionals and students to verify their knowledge and understanding in the IT world, specifically with Microsoft products. Microsoft certifications allow you to prove your value as an expert in the following categories: Servers, Desktops, Applications, Databases and Developer.

MS certifications are a part of a hierarchy structure that allow you to work towards a high tier credential. For instance, a single exam will give you an MCP status (Microsoft certified Professional). You can combine multiple certifications to upgrade your status to MCSA or Expert (office). Once this mid tier is completed, you can further your education to the highest Microsoft status by completing additional exams and becoming an MCSE, MCITP (2008 certs), MCSD (developer) or Master (office)

A Brief History

Microsoft has been certifying IT professionals as far back as Windows 2000. The need for certified professionals became much more dire when Microsoft released their 2003 products, introducing their first flavor of Active Directory.

Microsoft cert popularity increased 10 fold with the 2003 certification release for MCSA and MCSE. With this increased popularity came an increase in controversy over the title “Microsoft Certified Server Engineer.” Multiple engineering associations were disgruntled at Microsoft calling their program graduates engineers. For those of you lucky buggers who had one of these, damn you. I would have loved to be called a “Microsoft Engineer.”Microsoft has since renamed their MCSE certification.

Now, not to take anything away from those of you who completed these exams, but it is generally agreed that the exams of this era were slightly easier to achieve. Don’t get me wrong, you needed to know your stuff, but every release of Window’s platforms have been building blocks for the next generation. As time goes on, each new release becomes more complex and offers exponentially more features for you to master.

The 2008 line of certifications changed the entire cert naming structure and format. This was likely due to the large amount of flack the “Engineer” title received and also because Microsoft loves to confuse us! The MCSA letters stayed the same, but the title was reworked into “Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate” rather than a “Microsoft Certified Server Administrator”. From there, you could build towards an MCITP (Microsoft Certified IT Professional), which is essentially the same idea as the MCSE. The 2008 era of certifications spawned entire new directions for professionals to following including: Sharepoint and SQL.

Whats new in 2012?

Microsoft decided it was best to move back to MCSE from MCTIP. Too bad, the MCTIP credential looked very impressive on business cards. This time around, MCSE is “Microsoft Cerified Solutions Expert.” Third times a charm! Microsoft has added additional certification paths for private cloud, Lync and Office 365.

MS still has an exclusive partnership with Prometric for 2012 examinations. While many exams are moving towards online proctoring, it doesn’t look like Microsoft will be taking this route any time soon. Online exams tend to lose their integrity and weight with employers. Neither us nor Microsoft want that.

You will once again be offered an upgrade path for your MCTIP certifications. Instead of having to sit through all of the required exams, you may choose to take a single exam to validate your skills.

Microsoft is sticking to their guns and forcing IT professionals to re-certify their MCSE credentials after 3 years. As much as people hate this, I have always been a supporter of the idea. Not only does it keep your skills fresh, it makes MCSE’s less common, making your credentials all that more valuable!