MCSE Certification

Microsoft has several programs for training employees in a wide variety of fields. These programs collectively are referred to as MCP, or Microsoft Certified Professional. Included in this list is the MCSE certification. MCSE stands for Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert; it is, in Microsoft’s own words, “The globally recognized standard for IT professionals.” Those who pass the Microsoft Certificated Solutions Expert Certification test will be extensively knowledgeable about operating and maintaining servers, as well as the operation of databases.

This certification is not to be confused with the former Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, which focused on a specific skill. The latest Microsoft MCSE Certification encompasses a much wider range of skills.

What to expect with the MCSE Certification test

MCSE tests generally take about two hours. They are taken through Prometric, a third party company, which arranges the tests at an onsite location. The Microsoft Certified Solutions Expoert is actually a collection of sets of tests, consisting of the following:

○     Server Infrastructure
○     Business Intelligence
○     Data Platform
○     Desktop Infrastructure
○     Communication
○     SharePoint
○     Windows Server (upgrade to 2012)

Each item in this list, in turn, has five tests to pass. The Data Platform set for example consists of:

○     MCSA: SQL Server 2012 certification
○     Developing Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases
○     Designing Database Solutions for Microsoft SQL Server 2012

Note that this set requires an MCSA certification, which consists of three tests. Microsoft Certified Solutions Expoert is not a certification to be taken lightly. Finally, there may be some confusion as to what exactly one of these certificates entails. The “MCSE” as a certification in its own right no longer exists, but rather one can become an MCSE in any one of the major categories – for example, Data Platform or Server Infrastructure.

Each test costs anywhere from $100 to $150, with some discounts. The format of the tests themselves varies widely and no two tests are the same. Some question types to expect include: building lists of correct answers; multiple choice questions; running through simulations; interactive drag-and-drop lists; case studies; and more. There are many preparation kits and programs as well, which are important considering that if a passing grade is achieved, the test cannot be taken again.


About MCSE Certification paths

Each of the eight paths requires different skillsets and will help in different fields. One can become certified in any number of these paths, provided that the tests are passed. In total each one costs around $550 to $750 and may take up to ten hours spread out over several days – not counting training time, of course. Some of the tests overlap, so getting a second certification is much quicker and more cost effective. Listing each test in detail would take far too much space, so instead only one will go into detail – the Data Platform test and Server 2012 Infrastructure


MCSE: Data Platform

This test set is focused on building, maintaining, and troubleshooting databases, both in physical form and cloud form. Those holding an MCITP for Database Developer 2008 or Database Administrator 2008 may also elect to upgrade to this certification. The Data Platform tests are as follows:

1. Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012, including

•Create, send, receive and modify data
•Standard database troubleshooting

2. Administering Microsoft SQL Databases. This includes:

•installation and configuration of databases;
•maintenance and troubleshooting;
•database security;
•and working with mirroring systems to boost database availability.

3. Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server 2012, testing the student on:

•the implementation and designing of a data warehouse;
•extracting and manipulating data from warehouses;
•loading data;
•working with SSIS (SQL Server Integration Services);
•and working with data quality systems.

4. Developing Microsoft SQL Server Databases. During this test, the following topics will be covered:

•designing, implementing, and maintaining database objects such as tables, security, indexes, and XML data;
•the writing and implementation of programming objects, including automated scripts, partitioned tables and views, and stored procedures;
•creating logical and clear database objects – this includes actually designing tables and indexes, crafting strategies to maintain concurrency and integrity of data, and managing transactions;
•optimization of the system;
•and troubleshooting.

5. Designing Solutions for SQL Server – finally, this is the highest level test which centers around putting skills into practice. It includes:

•working with an imaginary business to design and enhance database structures that are robust, secure, and up to date;
•designing a database model, implementing tables and automation strategies, and functioning T -SQL stored procedures;
•various facets of security including encryption, permissions, authenticating, cross-database chaining, and more;
•and designing a systemic solution for maintenance, high availability through mirroring and other avenues, database monitoring for a variety of issues, and more.

MCSE: Server Infrastructure 2012

This certification set is focused on installing, configuring, administering, designing and implementing Server 2012 and advanced Server 2012 infrastructures. Those holding an MCITP for Server 2008 may also elect to upgrade to this certification. The Server Infrastructure tests are as follows:

1. Installing and Configuring Server 2012 (70-410), including:

•Server 2012 Overview
•Install Server 2012
•Perform post-install tasks
•Describe and use management tools
•Perform administrative tasks /w GUI and powershell

2. Administering Windows Server 2012 (70-411). This includes

•Deploy, Manage and Maintain Servers;
•Configure File and Print Servers;
•Configure Network Services and Access;
•Configure Network Policy Server Infrastructure;
•Configure and Manage Active Directory
•Configure and Manage Group Policy

3. Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services (70-412), testing the student on:

•Configuring and Managing High Availability;
•Configuring File and Storage;
•Implement Business Continuity;
•Configure Network Services;
•Configure Active Directory
•Configure Access Solutions

4. Design and Implement Server Infrastructure( 70-413). During this test, the following topics will be covered:

•Plan and Deploy Infrastructure;
•Design and Implement network infrastructure services;
•Design and implement network access services;
•Design and implement AD infrastructure (logical);
•Design and Implement AD infrastructure (physical)

5. Implementing an Advanced Server Infrastructure (70-414) – finally, this is the highest level test which centers around putting skills into practice. It includes:

•Manage and maintain server infrastructure;
•Plan and implement a high available enterprise infrastructure;
•Plan and implement server virtualization infrastructure;
•and implement identity and access solutions

**It should be noted that all MCSE tests must be retaken every three years in order to maintain one’s status as certified.**

Other paths

Nearly all of the other paths require the student to obtain their MCSA: Windows Server 2012 certification first. For the sake of completion, what follows is a brief list of classes for the remaining two requirements of each path (as taken from Microsoft’s website):

MCSE Structure

  • Desktop Infrastructure

○     Implementing a Desktop Infrastructure
○     Implementing Desktop Application Environments

  • Server Infrastructure

○     Designing and Implementing a Server Infrastructure
○     Implementing an Advanced Server Infrastructure

  • Messaging

○     Core Solutions of Microsoft Exchange Server 2013
○     Advanced Solutions of Microsoft Exchange Server 2013

  • Communication

○     Core Solutions of Microsoft Lync Server 2013
○     Enterprise Voice & Online Services with Microsoft Lync Server 2013

  • Private Cloud

○     Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud with System Center 2012
○     Configuring and Deploying a Private Cloud with System Center 2012

  • SharePoint

○     Core Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013
○     Advanced Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013

The one exception to this is the Business Intelligence path, which requires:

  • – Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012
  • – Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases
  • – Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server 2012 (MCSA complete at this point)
  • – Implementing Data Models and Reports with Microsoft SQL Server
  • – Designing Business Intelligence Solutions with Microsoft SQL Server

Understanding Upgrade Paths and Certification Hierachy