Microsoft Certifications: Where Do I Start? (Part 1of 2)

I'm new to Microsoft certifications. Where do I start?

This question comes up a lot and quite frankly, I can understand why.  Microsoft has a plethora of certifications that go way back to early versions of Visual Basic, C++ and SQL Server.  We have changed designations over the years which has added confusion.  So, the purpose of this first post in the series is to help you understand our certification story and then point out suggested paths for getting started.

Microsoft Certification Designations

Most people are likely familiar with the credentials known as Microsoft Certified Solution Solutions Developer (MCSD) and Microsoft Certified Application Developer (MCAD).   These credentials have served our certified community well over the past few years but there were, and are issues with those credentials now.

Before the .NET Framework came along, these certifications fit well with developers because they were certified as developers creating applications on Windows using either Visual Basic or Visual C++.

Enter .NET and the ability to develop in VB, C#, C++, J# etc.  Windows applications, Web applications, client-side scripting, Web Services.  It got to the point where hiring managers had no idea what qualifications a candidate had by looking at the MCSD or MCAD credential anymore.  We had to find a way to fix this.

As technologies change and get added or removed to Visual Studio and the Microsoft development world, certifications must keep up.  This is why we created the new generation of certifications listing Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS), Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) and Microsoft Certified Information Technology Professional (MCITP) as the credentials that would help to alleviate these issues.

By creating the new generation of certifications, we are now able to provide credentials that focus on technologies.  At first it was simple, MCTS Windows Developer meant you were certified to create applications for Microsoft Windows using .NET.  It didn't say you could create Web apps, nor did it say you could create distributed apps.  Now, we have more technologies, Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) and Workflow Foundation (WF).  Not a problem, the new generation of certifications is able to keep pace.

So for a software developer, what is currently available?  The following certifications are available now;

TS: .NET Framework 2.0 Windows Applications
TS: .NET Framework 2.0 Web Applications
TS: .NET Framework 2.0 Distributed Applications
MCPD: Windows Developer
MCPD: Web Developer
MCPD: Enterprise Applications Developer

And for SQL Server;

MCTS: SQL Server 2005
MCTS: SQL Server 2005 Business Intelligence
MCITP: Database Administrator
MCITP: Database Developer
MCITP: Business Intelligence Developer

I encourage you to visit these links to view the preparation guides and requirements for these certifications as to post that here would make this way too long, and you would go away before completing it.  The Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008 certifications are coming out soon so I will cover what to do about those in tomorrow's and the remaining posts.

How do I get there?

Now you know what certifications are currently available, how you go about getting one or more of them depends a great deal on you.  Have answers to these questions for tomorrow's post, and it will help you decide which path is right for you.

1) What technology do I want to concentrate on?

2) What technology is my company using now and what will we be using in the future?

3) What is your job role? (Developer, Team Lead, Lead Developer, Management etc)

4) How soon do I want to be certified.

Until tomorrow.