Like all professional technical qualifications, the Microsoft range of certificates is always expanding and being updated to ensure that knowledge of the latest operating systems is required in order to obtain them.
These certifications are considered professional and equivalent to degree-level, meaning that the same level of study and effort should be put into them as with a university degree.
The key is knowing which qualifications you actually need for the jobs you wish to apply for.
Get our definitive guide on Microsoft Certification – Overview and Study Methods here with some examples of the more common certifications.
- Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP)
- Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA)
- Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE)
- Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician (MCDST)
The first one is obtained by passing at least one exam set by Microsoft (there are some exceptions to this).
The MCSA requires candidates to pass 5 examinations and the MCSE requires 2 additional exams, all of which require candidates to demonstrate that they either meet or exceed the knowledge requirements for the relevant certifications.
The one with the lowest value is the MCDST, as this focuses specifically on supporting users who are having trouble with computer systems. This qualification is, however, ideal for anyone wishing to work in a call centre or anywhere as a 1st line support technician.
This particular certification is also ideal for anyone who needs to be certified quickly, as it only requires candidates to pass 2 exams, as supposed to the much larger number required for the other certifications, with the MCP certification being an exception to this rule.
Although the MCP qualification only requires one exam, it doesn’t offer specialist and specific knowledge recognition, like the MCDST does, which is what employers are looking for at the moment.
For 2nd and 3rd line support, a minimum qualification of MCP would most likely be required, as well as possibly some additional hardware-based qualifications, such as the CompTIA series of exams offered by Cisco.
Although there are many books and online study resources available, the best resources available are those produced by Microsoft themselves in the form of Microsoft Press books. These often include discounts for the exams if taken within a specified time period.
As well as saving you money, this is also an incentive to gain certification in a shorter amount of time. As well as using these books, another really good way is to plan out when you do each chapter and also note the amount of time each exercise will take (there are time estimates for all sections in Microsoft Press books).
Depending on both your reading speed and existing level of technical knowledge, the time that it takes to complete the exercises can vary greatly. As a guide, it would take an expert computer user approximately 2 months to complete each of these books.
There is, however, no time limit between Microsoft certification exams, meaning that you can study at your own pace, and therefore have the best chance of gaining the relevant knowledge and experience. It is far more important to have the knowledge for these certifications than it is to pass exams, meaning that you should never rush through the books in the hope of gaining quicker results.