Microsoft Certification Changes

The big news last week was the announcement from Microsoft that they are changing their certifications.  In a nutshell, the MCTS and MCITP certifications are ending with SQL Server 2008. Going forward, the new certifications will be called Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) and Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE). (I think the “MCSE” terminology is a bit unfortunate given that this acronym used to stand for Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer several years ago and will likely cause confusion and / or unrealistic expectations of for people referring to the new certification.)

There are two big changes to the new certifications. First, the SQL Developer and SQL Administrator tracks are being combined. In order to get the new certification you will need to have knowledge of both areas. Second, the certifications are no longer product version based and will require getting re-certified every 3 years.

I just watched Kendra Little’s webinar about this changes on BrentOzar.com. I recommend people view that to get more information about the changes.

What are my thoughts on the certs? I think it’s a mixed bag. I like the periodic re-certification requirement. I think that is a good method to ensure people who have the certification remain up to date on the latest technology. After all, doctors and Certified Public Accountants have a similar requirements to maintain their licenses. On the other hand, I have a strong suspicion that the re-certification exams are going to focus on the latest version of SQL Server that is out at the time. This puts people who work for companies that do not like to be on the “bleeding edge” at a disadvantage.

I also like the combination of the Developer and DBA tracks. I may be partial to this because I started as a SQL Developer and moved into the Database Administrator role, so I already have a background in both, but I think this is a good change. I think it may be harder on existing developers than DBAs, but over time, I think only good can come from this. Hopefully, it will force developers to perhaps write code with more of a mind towards administration and performance issues their code might generate.

What don’t I like? First, I don’t like that they changed the certification program yet again. I don’t think the MTCS and MCITP certifications have been completely embraced by the business community. I still see ads for DBA positions that list a MCDBA certification as a requirement and that certification was retired with SQL 2000. Now hiring managers will have another set of initials to remember and look for. Combined with the previously mentioned confusion over the MCSE acronym, I don’t see this to be a good thing.

(Full disclosure: I am also a bit peeved because I just received my MCITP: Database Administrator 2008 certification two days ago and now everything is changing.)

My shiny new badge

But my biggest complaint is the number of exams the new certs require. I was able to get my MCTS: SQL Server 2008 cert by taking one exam (70-432) and my MCITP:DBA 2008 cert by taking one exam (70-450). That was starting from scratch, no upgrade exams from earlier certs. Look at the new cert requirements:

MCSA: 3 exams (70-461, 70-462, and 70-463)

MCSE: MCSA plus 2 exams (70-464 and 70-465)

The upgrade path from MCTS to MCSA is two exams and the upgrade path from MCITP to MCSE is three exams.

That’s a lot of exams, especially when they cost $150 each. (I’m assuming that will be the price. That’s what the current MCTS and MCITP exam prices are). If your company will reimburse you for exams, it’s not too bad, but if you are paying for these yourself, that’s a hefty investment. And don’t forget the 3 year re-certification requirement. No word yet on how many exams that will take.

During her webinar (at the 8:35 mark), Kendra said the new certs require only one more exam than the current certifications. This is somewhat misleading and smells a bit like spin to me. Her math seems to be based on comparing the number of tests to get the new MCSE cert with the number of tests to get both the MCITP DBA and MCITP Developer certs. Arguably, this is one way to look at it because the new MCSE cert combines the DBA and Developer certs. But in the old program, if I didn’t need both a DBA and Developer cert, I didn’t need to take all the exams. Now, I have no choice. So from my viewpoint, I went from having to take 2 exams for a cert that was 100% relevant to my job role to 5 exams for one that is maybe only 50%-75% relevant. That’s an increase of 3 exams. And the upgrade path from MCITP doesn’t really cut that down significantly.

(I am interested in how many people currently have an MCITP in both Administration and Development. Please leave a comment and let me know.)

As I said, I think these changes are a mixed bag. I will probably end up not getting a new certification any time soon. For one, my company has no plans to move to SQL 2012 or the cloud. For another, I have little faith that Microsoft won’t decide to revamp the whole certification program again in another 5 years. I will definitely be taking the wait and see approach.

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4 thoughts on “Microsoft Certification Changes

  1. Yes, I do realize that on the one hand, I’m applauding the combination of DBA and Developer requirements and on the other, I am complaining about the increase in the resulting number of tests. I want to have my cake and eat it too.

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