Microsoft Retired Your MCSA. Now What?
In 2018, Microsoft announced it was retiring a handful of MCSA certifications and replacing them with role-based certifications. If you were studying for one of those certs, understandably you were probably shocked or upset. The change happened. A lot of exams retired in 2019. Life went on. And then, Microsoft dealt a final blow to the old certification program in 2020.
In February 2020, Microsoft announced it will be retiring the remaining MCSA, MCSE, MCSD Exams. Read more about that change.
We totally get it — earning certs can take a lot of time, money, and energy. We don't blame you if you feel like throwing your monitor or laptop out the window. But before you do anything rash, we've got some advice for you to consider.
Here are our thoughts on MCSA certification retirement, your options moving forward, and how you can make a smooth transition.
Microsoft Cert Retirements. Why Now?
Take a look around the IT certification industry and you'll notice a lot of changes. Amazon has eliminated exam prerequisites. VMware certifications don't expire. Cisco turned their cert program upside down by rolling 9 CCNAs into one. And then there's Microsoft retiring an a few exam series it released months prior. Needless to say, 2019 and 2020 were a tumultuous couple years for certifications.
In 2018, Microsoft unveiled new role-based certifications to replace many of their popular MCSA certifications. These role-based certifications are designed to close the gap between the knowledge needed to pass cert exams — and the knowledge needed to perform specific job roles.
After years of building certifications around their products and services, Microsoft is pulling a 180. Their role-based certifications focus on the skills that IT pros need to be successful on the job rather than the knowledge needed to pass an exam.
The first MCSA certifications to go were Cloud Platform and Linux on Azure in December. They have been replaced by the following role-based certifications:
Microsoft Certified Azure Administrator Associate
Microsoft Certified Azure Developer Associate
Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect Expert
In March 2019, MCSA: Windows 10 and Office 365 retired. Microsoft took a number of exams from beta to retirement in less than a year. Here's the full path of Microsoft moving from the AZ-200 to the latest version, AZ-204, in less than two years.
You can see a full list of all the Microsoft certifications in our Complete Guide to Microsoft Certifications, which will be updated as we get details.
These certification retirements have been a little disconcerting for many MCSAs. Does this mean your MCSA knowledge and skills are obsolete? The answer: Absolutely not.
It's not like Microsoft is significantly changing Azure, Office 365, or Windows. Instead, Microsoft is revamping what their certifications and exams validate. In moving to role-based certifications, Microsoft is shooting for a more holistic approach to certifications. IT pros are no longer tested on product knowledge alone. They're required to apply product knowledge to specific job roles and tasks. If you're new to IT or a few years into your career, this is good news. You have a chance to start fresh.
Research the Certification Before Taking the Plunge
If you've been thinking about MCSA certification, now's a good time to visit Microsoft's website. You can avoid a lot of wasted effort and money with a few clicks to find out if a certification is slated to be retired soon.
Many IT certification vendors are pretty good about sharing certification retirement information. Microsoft is no exception. They make it very clear if a certification is or slated to be retired. You can't miss the red font that says "This exam has been retired."
Words of warning, though, Microsoft isn't the best at directing learners from those pages to replacement certifications. For example, if you go to the retired 70-533 Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions certification page, there's no link to the certification that replaced it. Luckily, we already mapped the retiring Microsoft exams to their replacements.
Here's a full list of exam retirements from the first round in 2018 and their current corresponding exams:
70-532: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions | AZ-203 AZ-204: Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure
70-533: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions | AZ-100 & AZ-101, AZ-103 AZ-104
70-535: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions | AZ-300 & AZ-301 AZ-303 & AZ-304
70-346: Managing Office 365 Identities and Requirements | MS-100: Microsoft 365 Identity and Services & MS-101: Microsoft 365 Mobility and Security
70-347: Enabling Office 365 Services | MS-100: Microsoft 365 Identity and Services & MS-101: Microsoft 365 Mobility and Security
70-697: Configuring Windows Devices | MD-100: Windows 10
70-698: Installing and Configuring Windows 10 | MD-101: Managing Modern Desktops
Here's the list of retiring certifications from February 2020. You may notice this may look like a list of ALL the remaining MCSA, MCSE, and MCSD certs. Because it is.
MCSA: BI Reporting
MCSA: Dynamics 365 for Operations
MCSA: SQL 2016 BI Development
MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Admin
MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Dev
MCSA: SQL Server 2012/2014
MCSA: Universal Windows Platform
MCSA: Web Applications
MCSA: Windows Server 2012
MCSA: Windows Server 2016
MCSD: App Builder
MCSE: Business Applications
MCSE: Core Infrastructure
MCSE: Data Management & Analytics
These certifications will retire on June 30, 2020.
Knowing if and when certifications retire is crucial. It can be the difference between going all in on a cert — or changing gears.
When to Stay the Course with an MCSA
A lot of Microsoft MCSA certifications are being retired this year. It's up to you to determine if you have time to get one of those certs.
Let's say you part way through your MCSA certification coursework. You've spent all that time and energy studying, preparing, and taking practice tests. You're not finished — but the finish line is clearly in sight. Should you just throw it all away? Nope.
If you feel like you have the time, then keep your exam date.
If you're barely started studying and the retirement day is approaching, then maybe hold off for the replacement. Be honest about where you are at in your studies. Don't cheat yourself out of the opportunity to keep current with the skills you need.
When to Change Course with a New Cert
Most new certifications aren't complete overhauls, so the time you've already spent studying isn't wasted. The new exams include a lot of material from previous certs. For example, they're not completely phasing out Windows 10. It's being folded into a new role-based certification that focuses on desktop administration. If you know your Windows 10 stuff, the new certifications shouldn't be wildly different.
Microsoft also has a track record of making transition certifications available to those who already have a recently retired certification. We'll go into this more below. If you're close enough to finish the certification, you'll find the transition certifications just as achievable.
Be prepared, though. If there's a replacement certification, it could be a while before study resources become available. While you wait, you might still want to run through the study materials for the soon-to-be-retired exam.
What if you recently earned an MCSA?
When Microsoft retired its MCSA Azure certifications, they made transition exams available to anyone who already had those certifications. These exams are designed to help current MCSA cert holders upgrade to new role-based certifications easier.
For example, instead of taking the two exams (AZ-200 and AZ-201) required to earn the Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer certification, you only have to take one exam: AZ-203 AZ-204.
Microsoft's intention isn't to force people out of the certification. Rather, it's to keep everyone current and keep being "current" meaningful. Furthermore, the certification doesn't get deleted from anywhere.
Microsoft keeps retired certifications on your transcript. It just moves to the "Legacy" section a year after its retirement. Nothing is getting taken away from you if you've already got the MCSA. It just won't remain active forever.
So, don't panic if your newly minted certification is being retired. There's a good chance there's a transition exam.
The Bottom Line
There's a reason you set on the path to get the certification. It was either for personal growth, a job requirement, or future marketability. None of this changes just because of a certificate's impending retirement.
Is your decision to earn an MCSA related to your job? Rest assured, Microsoft's decision to retire MCSA: Windows 10 doesn't mean your organization (or others for that matter) won't need IT pros to administer Windows. It's also highly unlikely companies will require IT team members to earn the new role-based certifications right away.
In the meantime, you're still perfectly valuable for the skills you have — along with the initiative you've shown. Getting certified shows dedication and knowledge. Most of the time that knowledge isn't on an expiration date — only the certification is. If you're still on the fence and need help making the jump, here's some advice.