In its latest certification shuffle, Microsoft is putting forth an effort to streamline their expert-level technical certifications: the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) and Developer (MCSD) specialties. The intention is to align the certs to their industry-recognized areas of competence while at the same time providing enough flexibility to showcase a broad range of learners’ varied skills.
To earn any of these new expert-level credentials, you must first earn a valid Associate-level (MCSA) certification, and then pass one of the corresponding elective exams for the specific Expert or Developer credential. These new credentials don’t expire or require recertification.
Instead, the date of certification establishes your investment in furthering your education on the technology. To maintain the certification, you must take additional elective exams — or the next generation of the exam — in the following year to renew the new MCSE or MCSD. Each time you renew your certification, a new entry will be added to your certification transcript. Each credential will include the year it was earned so it’s visible on the transcripts.
Before this shuffle, you were required to take a recertification exam every 2 or 3 years to keep the credentials in the Active section of your transcript. But for the new MCSE and MCSD certifications, you don’t need to recertify — the earned credentials will remain in the Active section of your transcript. You instead have the option to renew the MCSE or MCSD certification every year, to help you demonstrate growth in Microsoft product knowledge.
This new process for renewing certifications also brings on five new, streamlined certification paths: Mobility, Cloud Platform & Infrastructure, Productivity, Data Management & Analytics, and App Builder. These paths align end-user certifications with those for Microsoft solution partner professionals.
Out with the Old, In with the New
With this new release, your Microsoft transcript is also being reevaluated. Some MCSE and MCSD certification exams are going to be retired on March 31, 2017. After that date, they will be moved over to the Legacy section of your Microsoft transcript.
If you have already earned these soon-to-be-retired certifications, you will automatically earn the corresponding new MCSE or MCSD for 2017 without having to take any additional exams:
- MCSE: Private Cloud
- MCSE: Server Infrastructure
- MCSE: Data Platform
- MCSE: Business Intelligence
- MCSE: Enterprise Devices and Apps
- MCSE: SharePoint
- MCSE: Communication
- MCSE: Messaging
- MCSD: Universal Windows Platform
- MCSD: Web Applications
- MCSD: SharePoint Applications
All individuals whose transcripts list these certifications as active on or after September 26, 2016, will retain active status. However, you’ll need to take a replacement exam from the new electives list:
If you want to earn these certifications before they retire, you don’t have much time. You can jump into some of our training playlists for MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect, MCSE: Communication, MCSE: Messaging, MCSE: SharePoint, or MCSE: Data Platform right now.
The New Paths
The five new paths created to streamline the certification process are going to help learners to focus on specifics that they want to learn, and will help them to specialize their scopes of knowledge when listing certifications for resumes and interviews.
We gathered the specifics on these five new expert tracks that Microsoft is releasing, including details on the skills that you’ll be verified in knowing, along with potential career opportunities that the certification could bring:
- MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure – This path focuses on skills needed to use Windows Server and Microsoft Azure. It will validate that you have the skills needed to run a highly efficient and modern data center, with expertise in cloud technologies, identity management, systems management, virtualization, storage, and networking.
Earning an MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification qualifies you for such jobs as cloud administrator, cloud architect, computer support specialist, and information security analyst.
- MCSE: Mobility – This path focuses on the knowledge needed to use Windows Client and Enterprise Mobility Suite. This path validates that you have the skills needed to manage devices in today’s bring-your-own-device (BYOD) enterprise.
It qualifies you for a career path which can range from traditional desktop support technician to enterprise management of BYOD devices and apps.
- MCSE: Data Management and Analytics – This path focuses on skills validation for both on-premises and cloud-based Microsoft data products and services. With this certification, you can demonstrate your broad skill sets in administering SQL, building enterprise-scale data solutions, and leveraging business intelligence data.
Earning an MCSE: Data Management and Analytics certification qualifies you for such jobs as database analyst, database designer, and business intelligence analyst.
- MCSE: Productivity – This path focuses on the technologies behind Office 365, SharePoint, Exchange, and Skype for Business. Adding this certification to your toolbox shows that you have the skills needed to move your company to the cloud, increase user productivity and flexibility, reduce data loss, and improve data security for your organization.
Earning an MCSE: Productivity certification qualifies you for a position in network and computer systems administration.
- MCSD: App Builder – This path recognizes the developers who know the latest technologies to build web and cloud applications. This path showcases your knowledge around creating and deploying web services, web applications and mobile apps.
Earning an MCSD: App Builder certification qualifies you for a position as an application developer.
An exciting aspect of these new paths is a new ability to craft your own approach to completion. Each MCSE or MCSD path has its own pool of connected exams. You can select and take any of the elective exams each year to renew your certification. This method allows you to stay current and learn something new to help your career while renewing your certification.
Previously, Microsoft dictated that you had to pass a certain exam in order to achieve a specific certification. In this realignment, learners have a variety of options to achieve any of these paths. This gives learners the ability to customize their certifications to meet their own unique needs.
The restructuring of the Microsoft expert certifications is providing an effective opportunity to consistently learn the latest about Microsoft technologies. It emphasizes a change in certification structure toward ongoing education and encourages current MCSD and MCSE holders to take electives and remain up-to-date on their certification transcripts.
A few classic certifications, such as the MCSA Windows 8 and the MCSA Windows Server 2008, will not survive this reorganization in order to make way for the newer Windows 10 and Server 2016. If you aren’t up to snuff on this big switch, we have a lot of content to get you started, including trainer Garth Schulte’s course on What’s New in Server 2016.
You should also keep in mind that not all of the exams for the revised MCSD and MCSE certifications are available yet. Some are in development, while others are still in beta. The complete exam roster might not solidify until later this year.
Just as Microsoft and its learners are adjusting to this change, employers are making the same leap, and are likely going to be keeping track of how current your certifications are. We encourage you to keep up with earning and renewing the latest and greatest certifications that Microsoft has to offer.
So, what are you waiting for? Now is as good a time as ever to start verifying your knowledge in these new tracks. And we have an excellent starting point for your learning.
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