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

Ok, so I've filled your head with credentials, certification names, links to MCTS, MCPD and MCITP stuff, but you're waiting for the direction.  North.  That's it, just head North.  I mean, that's where Canada is, and that's where I'm originally from and we have great beer and 4 seasons.........

I asked you to answer four questions;

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.

Why did I want you to think about these topics?  Quite simply, to help you get the correct certification that fits your needs, this information is crucial.  If you don't know what technology your or your company are using or will be using, you have no end goal.  Without and end, there can be a beginning, but the road leads to nothing.

Why is your job role important?  It helps to determine the best path for you to take that will result in your satisfaction with a certification that shows your true skills and allows you to market those skills at the proper level.

How soon?  Why is that a factor?  It matters greatly as it will be used to determine the technology and or path that will be recommended based on exam and credential availability as well as product technologies.  Most of Microsoft has moved to a 2 year product lifecycle.  And you thought it was hard to keep up before?

So let's get started.


Visual Studio:

.NET Framework 1.0/1.1 - we have certifications for this that are known as Microsoft Certified Application Developer (MCAD) and Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD).  If you are developing on, or will continue to develop on Visual Studio 2003 using version 1.0/1.1 of the .NET Framework, then you should visit these links and look at the prep guides.  These certifications require passing multiple exams and they are actually a rigorous certification path as a result. 

I say this because if you want your certification to mean something to employers, but most importantly, to yourself, you will gain the experience and knowledge to pass these without using the plethora of brain dumps or easy paths.

Microsoft Learning offers many training resources for these exams which are found at the above links.  I will put out this notice to those thinking of taking this path, DO IT NOW!  There will be announcements coming out shortly about the retirement of exams, and these are set to retire next year.

.NET Framework 2.0 - Up until November of 2007, this was the current version of the framework for .NET developers.  There is a large base of organizations and people using version 2.0 at present.  This was also the first version that formed our new generation of certifications.

In my previous post, I mentioned that hiring managers had trouble determining your skill set from the MCAD or MCSD certifications and that the new generation would help to alleviate that.  For this version of the .NET Framework, you can achieve two different levels of certification, not counting the MCA program but we're not getting into that yet.  You can achieve the MCTS and/or MCPD credential with a focus on either Windows development, Web development using ASP.NET technologies, or Distributed/Enterprise development.

MCTS is the base level certification for all of our new generation credentials across developer, SQL and IT Pro audiences.  The exams in this series are designed to test your ability to actually use the tools and implement the technology.  In essence, they are the "how to" concepts of working with the technology.  In other words, how do you inherit from a class, how do you create looping structures, how do you implement IEnumerable in your own classes, how do you backup a SQL Server database, how do you add logins and server roles on SQL Server.  I think you get the picture.

MCPD becomes the next step and is aimed more at a job role with the ability to make decisions on what technology to use and when.  Typically you would be in a lead role at this stage of your certification path.  You already understand the "how to" because the MCTS was a prerequisite and you have proven you have those skills.  Now, you are taking that knowledge and applying it to design and implementation decisions.

The exams that you need to concentrate on for these certifications can be found here;

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

Each of the TS exams above require you to pass one prerequisite exam first, 70-536, which is the .NET foundations exam.  You only need to pass it once and it is good for either Web, Windows or Distributed.  You don't need to start with that exam, but I highly recommend it as the remaining exams assume you have the knowledge that is tested on 70-536.

These credentials and exams will be available for some time to come so you have lots of time to prepare for these.  Again, use these prep guides to understand the topics that the exams test on so you can gain experience with them.  Then, use the training recommendations to prepare for the actual exam.

.NET Framework 3.0/3.5 - Because 3.0 was essentially extensions for Visual Studio and 3.5 has the new technologies as a native part of it, we chose not to create any certifications for 3.0 but rather wait for 3.5 to release with Visual Studio 2008.

At present, we have three exams that are ready to go live in late March on Windows Presentation Foundation, Windows Communication Foundation, and Windows Workflow Foundation.  These exams are 70-502, 70-503, and 70-504 respectively.

The prep guides found at these links will help you understand what aspects of the technology are covered on the exam.  These are new technologies and our current courseware and other training resources are still in development but MSDN is always a great resource to get started on how to use these technologies.

We have three other exams that are in various stages of development for the rest of .NET 3.5 which are 70-561 ADO.NET, 70-562 ASP.NET, and 70-505 Windows Forms.  These are all MCTS level exams which means they are the starting point for your .NET 3.5 certification path. 

The credentials that fall under this category are;

TS: Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 - Windows Presentation Foundation
TS: Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 - Windows Communication Foundation
TS: Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 - Windows Workflow Foundation
TS: Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 - Windows Forms Developer
TS: Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 - ADO.NET
TS: Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 - ASP.NET

Each of these credentials will require the 70-536 exam as a prerequisite.

The MCPD story for .NET 3.5 will be completed and announced in the near future so stay tuned to this blog and Trika's blog for those announcements.


SQL Server:

If you are interested in pursuing certification in SQL Server, there are three considerations for you to look at,

SQL Server 2000 - The Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA) credential is another one of our older certifications that will be retiring soon, however, if you are still using SQL Server 2000 and don't see any immediate upgrades in technology, then you can look to this credential to prove your skills on SQL Server 2000. 

NOTE: Because this credential required core exams and elective exams, be sure you check the requirements, listed at the link provided above, to be aware of any elective exams that may be retiring.

SQL Server 2005 - SQL Server had one of those long product life cycles that took 5 years but, the wait was well worth it for the features that were added to the product.  As a result of the new technologies, SQL Server 2005 certifications also entered the new generation certification plan to better reflect the technology and how it would be used in the workplace.

Current credentials for SQL 2005 include;

TS: SQL Server 2005 - This credential requires the passing of one exam, 70-431, which tests topics on database administration and database development.

TS: SQL Server 2005 Business Intelligence - this credential shows your ability to implement and maintain business intelligence solutions using SQL Server 2005.  You are required to pass one exam for this credential, 70-445.

MCITP Database Administrator - This is the new professional level certification for Database Administrators.  Keep in mind that the professional level certifications are intended to be job role specific in the same manner as that for .NET as described above.

This credential requires the TS: SQL Server 2005 as a prerequisite plus two other exams,
70-433 and 70-444.  The prep guides found at these two links will help you prepare for these exams outlining our current training resources.

MCITP Database Developer - is a certification that is target more to those who are designing and implementing relational database models and database storage objects.  A lot of coverage around user-defined functions, triggers, stored procedures, Transact-SQL, and the CLR will be found on these exams, 70-441 and 70-442.  Again, 70-431 is a prerequisite for this credential.

MCITP Business Intelligence Developer - complete the 70-445 exam as the prerequisite and you can take one more exam, 70-446, to compete your credential as a SQL Server 2005 BI developer. 

This proves you can design analysis solutions, data transformations, and reports. Business intelligence developers design and implement multi-dimensional database models (logical and physical), data marts, data warehousing, data transforms, data analytics, and reporting solutions. This includes programming and customizing servers that use Multidimensional Expressions (MDX), customer transforms, and custom reporting solutions. Business intelligence developers are typically employed by mid- to large-sized organizations.

SQL Server 2008 - We are still completing development of our SQL Server 2008 exams but here's what you can expect on the MCTS front.

There will be three TS level exams this time around;

SQL Server 2008 Database Administrator - 70-432
SQL Server 2008 Database Developer - 70-433
SQL Server 2008 Business Intelligence - 70-448

Because these exams are not complete yet and the pro story is not complete, there are no links at this time for the prep guides etc.  We can't offer prep guides for exams that aren't complete.  :-)

I can recommend that you start preparing now by looking at content for SQL Server 2005 as I don't expect there to be any large amount of changes between the two versions of the products that will trip you up for your studying.

So, a very long post, but I hope one that is worth something to those who are starting our and are not currently certified.

Tune in for the next iteration in the series.