Certifications / Microsoft

What Was the Microsoft MCSA Certification? What is Replacing It?

by Team Nuggets
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Updated on February 27, 2024

Microsoft is present in nearly every work environment. Windows is the most popular operating system in the world. Microsoft Server is the industry standard. Azure cloud services power an ever-increasing number of business processes.  (That's probably why Microsoft Azure certifications are in high demand right now.)

Most IT professionals will manage and configure at least one Microsoft product in their career. Many IT professionals build entire careers installing, configuring, managing, and eventually designing Microsoft products and systems.

Microsoft certifications are essential for IT professionals to learn the products and validate their knowledge. In most cases, employers are either seeking certified IT professionals or willing to train their technical staff to earn the right certifications.

In 2021, Microsoft retired all MCSA, MCSD, and MCSE certifications in favor of role-based training. We'll explore the current certifications in a further section.

What Was the MCSA Certification?

The Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) was a certification designed by Microsoft to test and validate the product knowledge and technical skills of entry-level IT professionals. The MCSA validated the knowledge and skills someone would acquire in their first year of work experience.

MCSA certification showed applicants had the experience required in a consistent, industry-approved way. Conversely, employers could hire a Microsoft-certified IT professional with confidence that they have the appropriate level of knowledge to manage their Microsoft products.

The MCSA was the second level of Microsoft certification. Microsoft certifications were previously laid out as a pyramid, with each level of certification leading learners to higher, more specialized, complex certifications.

At the base of the Microsoft pyramid, IT professionals develop the foundation of knowledge with the MTA (Microsoft Technology Associate). The MCSD (Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer) was an entry-level track similar to the MCSA, except for Microsoft developers.

Finally, the MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solution Expert) represented the highest level of certification offered by Microsoft and provides learners with the opportunity to develop specializations related to MCSA-level content.

What is the Difference Between MCSA and MCSE?

The Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) and Microsoft Certified Solution Expert (MCSE) were the entry- and expert-level certification tracks, respectively. Not only did they have separate requirements and validate different skills, but the two exams also prepared learners for different IT career roles.

The Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) was an entry-level Microsoft certification that validated the knowledge and skills an entry-level IT professional will learn in the first year of working with a Microsoft product. That's why Microsoft recommended test takers have at least one year of experience working in a Microsoft environment.

Though recommended, Microsoft does not verify work experience in the exam process. To earn the MCSA, IT professionals typically need to pass three exams. Certification at the associate level prepares IT professionals for jobs like system or network administrator, desktop support specialist, or other support roles. The MCSA certification was also a prerequisite for the MCSE.

MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solution Expert) was an expert-level Microsoft certification. While the MCSA was a three-exam series, the MCSE only required passing one exam. However, MCSE validated a higher level of expertise than MCSA. 

While you only needed an additional exam to earn the MCSE, the subject matter was more difficult and technically in-depth than the MCSA. The MCSE typically qualified the recipient for management roles like IT manager or senior technical roles.

Until 2017, the biggest difference between the MCSA and MCSE was the recertification process. Before 2017, MCSE certifications expired every three years. But that's no longer the case. Just like MCSA certifications, MCSEs are valid for two years after the exam is retired. 


The Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) and the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certifications are vastly different, but many IT professionals obtain both. While there's some overlap in some Microsoft networking certifications, CCNA validates knowledge about different product types and prepares test takers for different IT roles.

The biggest difference between CCNA and MCSA is the companies' respective approaches to certifications. Microsoft certifications are largely product-based. For instance, the MCSA library comprises dozens of certifications that validate knowledge about Microsoft products, including Windows, Server, SQL Server, Dynamics, and Office.

Cisco has a robust certification program that's more role-centric. Their certification exams cover topics like routing and switching, security, collaboration, and wireless. Cisco certifications also test product knowledge, but typically within the context of a network.

One similarity between the MCSA and CCNA certifications is that they are both entry-level certifications. System and network administrators are typically responsible for managing both Cisco and Microsoft products. For that reason, it's not uncommon for IT professionals to earn both the MCSA and CCNA certifications relevant to their job roles.

Note: While the MSCA was retired, CCNA is still offered. 

What Replaced the MCSA? 

While no direct replacement exists currently for MCSA, the Microsoft Certified: Windows Server Hybrid Administrator Associate is the closest related certification. 

Microsoft is replacing the MCSA with what it calls "role-based" certifications. These certifications focus on specific roles an IT professional might have rather than broader knowledge. 

So, instead of taking one entry-level exam, you'd select the role you're in (or looking to move to) and take courses in that field. You can explore the different certifications by role on the Microsoft Learn website. 

Roles include: 

Depending on your job role, you might consider these certifications: 

Start learning today: Microsoft 365 Certified Fundamentals (MS-900) Online Training

MCSA Certification Cost

Most MCSA exams cost $165 (USD) for test-takers in the United States. MCSA exams will cost international test takers from $55 to $165 per exam in their local currency. Because MCSA certifications require either two or three exams, the cost to earn an MCSA ranges from $330 to $495 in the United States.

Microsoft exams have a reputation for being challenging, and it's not uncommon for learners to take an exam more than once. Microsoft is aware that their exams are difficult. Most years, it offers an Exam Replay, allowing an exam retake at a fraction of the original cost. Because Exam Replay availability varies by exam, test takers should regularly check their availability for certain exams.

MCSA certifications are relatively inexpensive compared to certifications offered by other vendors. But like any certification, additional costs will be accrued in MCSA training material.

MCSA Recertification and Renewal

MCSA certifications do not expire or require recertification/renewal, even though the exams have been retired. MCSA holders can find all their certifications listed on their official Microsoft Certified Professional Transcript classified as "Active" or "Legacy." 

Certifications will remain in "Active" status until two years after Microsoft retires the exam. When that happens, the certification will be listed as "Legacy." But, it's not expired.

MCSA Salary: How Much Does an MCSA Make?

Information technology has a diverse set of job roles and titles. With more than a dozen MCSA certifications that span the entire universe of Microsoft products, IT professionals who earn these certs can expect disparate and varying salary ranges.

MCSA: Server 2024 Average Salary

IT professionals who pursue the MCSA: Server are often in technical roles with job titles like systems administrator. In 2024, Payscale.com reported that the salary range is $52,000 to $97,000 per year, with $72,679 as the average salary.

MCSA: SQL 2024 Database Administration Average Salary

IT professionals who pursue the MCSA: SQL Database Administration are often in database management roles with job titles like database administrator. In 2024, Zippia.com reported the salary range is between $68,000 to $116,000 per year, with $89,648 as the average salary.

MCSA: BI Reporting Average Salary

IT professionals who pursue the MCSA: BI Reporting are often in business intelligence (BI) roles with job titles like a business analyst. In 2024, salaryexpert.com reported the salary range for BI analysts was $76,000 to $133,000 per year, with $107 as the average salary.

While certifications are valuable on their own, they are even more valuable combined with commensurate experience, education, and complementary technical skills. It's also important to note that salary ranges vary greatly among industry and geography.


Microsoft has revamped its certification process in recent years. While the MCSA is no longer offered, Microsoft does offer a range of certifications based on specific IT roles. These certifications can help you expand your income, learn new skills, and expand your career opportunities. 

CBT Nuggets offers several training courses for the current Microsoft certifications. Whether you're just getting started in your IT career or looking to expand your career in a new direction, our online training prepares you to take on the current certifications. Explore CBT Nuggets Microsoft training to learn more. 

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