Certifications / Microsoft

Is the MS-203 Worth It?

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Published on April 21, 2021

If there is one universal truth in IT it is this: Microsoft is here to stay. It's ubiquitous in nearly every industry — from big time corporations to mom-and-pop stores. With the prevalence of Exchange servers and Microsoft's longevity, it is only natural to do research into the MS-203: Microsoft 365 Messaging certification.

The MS-203 covers everything that a messaging administrator needs to know, greatly increasing their marketability. However, there are many Exchange admins who do not have an MS-203. So, you may be asking yourself whether it is even worth the effort. Let's discuss the MS-203's objective, the exam itself, who should take it, and whether the exam is worth taking.

What is the MS-203?

The MS-203-Microsoft 365 Messaging certification measures a candidate's ability to perform the duties and responsibilities of a messaging administrator. These duties include skills such as:

  • Configuring Exchange servers with security protocols

  • Managing servers

  • Troubleshooting

In addition to these skills, a candidate is expected to know how to execute the aforementioned duties for on-premise servers, cloud servers, or hybrid. Now, let's look at MS-203 the exam format, its price tags, and then we'll break it down by subject.

How Much Does the MS-203 Cost?

The MS-203 exam costs $165 USD. Compared to the price of other cert exams, that isn't too bad. The format of the test is multiple choice, multiple select, case studies, and fill-in-the-blank. The exam is about sixty questions, so that means a candidate should spend about two minutes on each question.

Another thing to note is the MS-203 has a retake policy. You can retake it once within the first 24 hours. If you do not pass again, then you are required to wait 14 days.

What Does the MS-203 Test?

It's time to discuss the meat and potatoes of the exam. The MS-203 is broken down into four domains. Here is a list of them, and how they are weighted:

  • Manage Organization Settings and Resources (30-35%)

  • Plan and Manage the Mail Architecture (20-25%)

  • Plan and Implement a Hybrid Configuration and Migration (20-25%)

  • Secure the Message Environment (20-25%)

The exam clearly focuses on creating, maintaining, troubleshooting, and securing the mail architecture of your organization. It's helpful to be familiar with concepts such as configuring email policies, analyzing transport logs, and using Microsoft 365's Advanced Threat Protection.

Candidates also will need a deep understanding of configuring and managing Outlook on a mobile device, Azure Identity Access and Management, and implementing public folder top-level hierarchies.

Who Should Take the MS-203?

The MS-203 is meant for those who already have experience as a messaging administrator — or at least Microsoft 365 in general. If you are brand new to administering this system, then you may want to pass on this exam until you have more experience. The MS-203 is excellent for those who need to validate their skills. Let's hone in on who would benefit from taking this exam.

MS-203 for IT Helpdesk Associates

IT helpdesk associates are the invaluable grease that keeps the gears of any corporation turning. They need to have working knowledge on vast amounts of software, hardware, and procedures. With that being said, they have plenty of room to grow into whatever long-term IT profession they desire. One of those professions could easily be a messaging administrator. That's because they already have experience configuring security protocols, resetting passwords, and troubleshooting user issues.

For instance, many companies in this day and age provide a smartphone to new employees. Generally a member of the IT helpdesk will set up ActiveSync between the phone and the new employee's desktop. Luckily, ActiveSync technology and configuring Outlook on a mobile phone will likely be on the MS-203 exam.

MS-203 for Messaging Administrators

Messaging administrators are going to be the primary candidate of the MS-203 certification. If you are just starting out in the position, the MS-203 would be perfect to learn more nuanced areas of administration and become a true expert.

For instance, you may be perfectly used to administering an existing system, but have you ever built one from the ground up? The MS-203 will give you the required knowledge to do that and more. Even if messaging administration is familiar for you, it may be worth looking into the certification. It will validate your skills and build fences around your expertise. This will make your skills more marketable. In addition to performing your job more effectively, a certification can put any messaging administrator on a manager's shortlist.

Is the MS-203 Worth It?

Coming full circle, yes, the MS-203 is generally worth earning. It is especially worth it for messaging administrators. Considering the exam is only $165 and message administrators can command as much as $91,000 annually, it's a strong investment.

If you work exclusively in a Microsoft 365 environment, you should strongly consider taking the MS-203 to validate your knowledge and keep your skills current. It sets you up well to take the MS-700: Managing Microsoft Teams certification exam as well.


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