MCP Certification Program
Microsoft’s certification program encompasses a broad range of subjects in information technology. Microsoft Certified Professional certificates are proof of one’s level of expertise in a given field. There is no single certificate named simply MCP, but rather various sub-categories such as MTA (Microsoft Technology Associate) or MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert). Completing a single test under any category grants access to Microsoft’s MCP interface and community.
A Certificate can be earned in any one of five major areas: Server, Desktop, Applications, Database, or Developer. Each contains two to four sub-certifications, based on a four level tier system. So far, Microsoft has yet to introduce any certifications in the fourth tier, however many third tier paths exist.
Each sub-certification in turn is broken down into specific paths. There are anywhere from one to six paths, with most containing three or fewer. The MCSE category, for example, contains the following six:
- • MCSE: Server Infrastructure
- • MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure
- • MCSE: Private Cloud
- • MCSE: Messaging
- • MCSE: Communication
- • MCSE: SharePoint
Even further, each of these paths is broken down into a number of exams. The shortest path consists of a mere two exams, with some having five or more. Many of these paths overlap – for example, the first three classes for most MCSE certifications actually fulfill an MCSA certification. Many of them are also end-of-life programs, meaning that they cannot be used to continue on to another, more advanced path. Finally, most of these certificates require the tests to be retaken every two years in order to keep up with advances in technology.
Each test in an Microsoft Certified Professional certification consists of approximately 50 questions, and is estimated to take anywhere between two and four hours, depending on the exam in question. Some common question types include multiple choice, short answer, dragging and dropping text or objects, building lists, and creating trees or other graphical representations. Each exam costs around $150, making some of the longer paths quite expensive.
Each exam must be registered for individually. They are processed and conducted by third parties – Certiport and Prometric. This ensures fairness and efficiency. Exams are held in test centers around the world, typically in larger cities, meaning that regardless of where the applicant resides a test is likely to be available. Exam dates may vary in availability, so scheduling ahead of time is a wise choice. Missing an exam without withdrawing beforehand is unacceptable and will result in the loss of the amount paid, so be sure to either show up or call ahead.
Becoming MCP certified is a hugely significant step in any IT professional’s career. In a world where the entire global workforce is connected via the internet, competition can be quite fierce, and applying for a job is as much about strategy as it is about credentials. Having solid proof of one’s skills that an employer can see and verify in an instant places applicants at an incredibly advantageous position compared to the majority of the workforce.