Microsoft Exam Retirements: A Closer Look
When pursuing an IT certification, there are many questions to ask to determine which one is right for you. What technology and products does it cover? How will it benefit my career?
But there's another variable element to IT certifications that should be added to the mix: how long does that certification last? Not just how long you'll be certified — some only cover you for a certain period of time — but also how long the certification itself will be active. As technologies and products evolve, certification retirements can result.
Microsoft's Upcoming Retirements 2017-2018
In 2016, Microsoft announced changes to some of its certification tracks, including MCSE and MCSA Windows 7.
MSCE certifications released prior to September 2016 will be retired on March 31, 2017 and replaced with four new certifications:
MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure
MCSE: Data Management and Analytics
If you've passed a qualifying MCSE exam since January 1, 2016, you will be granted the corresponding MCSE certification for 2016, with no additional exams required.
While the Windows 7 MCSA certification was retired in the fall of 2015, certain exams were kept available in order to allow IT pros to continue to earn Specialist certifications. Exams 70-680, 70-686, and 70-694 will be retired on July 31, 2018.
One of the most significant changes in Microsoft's new streamlined certification structure is the evolution of its certifications related to Azure. The MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect certification, previously made up of the 70-532, 70-533, and 70-534 exams, is about to be retired. However, the exams from the MCSD are being recycled to create the new MCSA: Cloud Platform certification.
For the new MCSA: Cloud Platform certification, learners can choose any two exams from a pool of options that includes updated versions of the 70-532, 70-533, and 70-534, in addition to the 70-473 and 70-475.
But Why Do Certifications Retire?
Certifications are usually retired to align with the issuing vendor's business goals. In Microsoft's case, as products and services have evolved — for example, the move to a cloud-first and mobile-first strategy — the certifications associated with older technologies are no longer maintained. Not only do some certifications become out-of-sync with Microsoft's overall business goals, they're also costly to maintain.
Microsoft also takes into account the popularity of its certifications as well as customer feedback on the value of certification paths.
What happens when a certification is retired? If you've passed an exam for a certification that ends up being retired, it doesn't mean that your certification is invalid. You're actually certified for life! While the certification will no longer be able to be earned, it still remains in the Legacy section of your transcript.
How to Stay Informed of Certification Retirements
Microsoft's goal is to provide at least six months notice prior to retirement so you can plan to either finish your certification or pick a different path. After all, there's no reason to begin preparing to take an exam if the certification will be phased out before you can complete it. But where should you go to stay informed of those changes?
First and foremost, Microsoft's own retired exams page and retired certifications page are the best places to look to stay informed. There, you'll find exams scheduled to retire as well as historically retired exams and certifications, grouped by product. These pages are updated regularly, so bookmark it and consult it as you plan your certification journey.
Microsoft's Born to Learn blog, dedicated to their training and certification community, is another good resource. Not only will you get updates on exam retirements, you'll also find tips and tricks and the latest news about certifications, right from Microsoft employees.
Paying attention to news around Microsoft's technology development is another strategy for staying informed. If an exam is associated with a product or service that's being phased out, it's a good idea to keep a close eye on the exam's status. For example, the Windows Phone Developer MCPD was announced in 2011, but as Windows Phone lost market share and widespread usage declined over the next few years, the retirement of the certification followed.
So what should you make of these changing certification paths, from MSCE to Windows 7 and beyond? Change, like everything in life, is inevitable. Thankfully, Microsoft provides resources and information about exams and certifications that can help you keep up with the pace of change. And don't forget that any retired certifications still remain on your record, even if you acquired them in the past.