Depending on where you want to work in IT and how far up the ladder you plan to climb, there is a smorgasbord of credentials to choose from. From vendor-specific, highly specialized certifications to vendor neutral and more generalized certifications, there are options at every career level. And depending on your employers’ preferences, you may need to have certain credentials in order to even be considered for a job.
However, there is one type of certification that is welcome in nearly every business, and is largely considered to be a “starter” credential that can put you on the path to additional certs and more responsibility (and higher pay) at work. The Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate, or MCSA, remains important for anyone working in a business that uses Microsoft products, and is well worth the time and effort to pursue.
Why MCSA Is Still Relevant
With the introduction of Windows 10, many wondered what that meant for the MCSA certification, especially since at first it looked as if Microsoft would not be releasing a Windows 10 certification exam. That has since changed, and there is now certification in Windows 10 available, but the prevailing opinion is still that Microsoft is moving away from numbered versions of the operating system, and instead will be introducing Windows as a service, with continuously updated software. The fact that Windows 7 and 8/8.1 certifications are essentially obsolete at this point further supports the contention that Windows will be changing, and Microsoft’s desire to drive as many businesses as possible to the newest version of its operating system.
With these changes, there have been questions about whether any of the Microsoft certifications are still important. The short answer is that they do, for several reasons.
Certifications are still important for employment. Employers want employees to have at least minimum certifications, and the MCSA is the ideal starter certification. Holding the MCSA can help you avoid mistakes and save your company money, both important skills when trying to move up the career ladder.
You must have an MCSA in order to earn the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE), which is a highly sought after credential.
Most businesses are still Microsoft shops, even partially. While it may seem like Apple is taking over the world, much of their dominance remains in the mobile market. Most businesses continue to run Microsoft products for their servers and desktop computers, meaning that there is still call for experts with experience in managing them.
MCSA credentials are available in more than just the operating system; it’s also possible to earn credentials in Linux on Azure, SQL servers, Office 365 and more.
In short, the MCSA remains important for IT professionals, and if you haven’t earned yours, now is the time to get to work.
Earning Microsoft Certifications
Typically, earning a Microsoft certification involves completing an optional training course and passing an exam; most certifications require more than one exam. You can find the specific required exams on the Microsoft learning homepage, which will direct you to the specific certification you need and what you must do to complete the process.
While your experience and existing knowledge, plus the Microsoft training course, can help you pass the exams, it’s usually a good idea to invest in some additional training as well to ensure that you are adequately prepared for the test. Completing an online video course, for instance, can help you refresh your knowledge and better understand some of the more complex concepts that might trip you up, and give you more confidence for passing the test.
To register for the exam, you must visit the Microsoft website, and choose the exam you wish to take. When you do, you’ll be taken to a registration page where you can choose the date and the site for your exam, and pay the fee. On the day of the exam, simply show up to the test site with the required documentation, and complete the computer-based test.
Keep in mind that Microsoft certifications do have an expiration date, and that some of your older credentials may be expired or obsolete. Once you earn a new credential, you will have to complete the continuing education requirements to keep your certification current, or take new exams to update your credentials to the newest versions. However, in either case, keeping your MCSA current — or moving up to the MCSE — is an important step for your career.