Lifecycle of new generation certifications

Hi. It's me, Trika. One of the selling points of the "new generation" certification program we keep harping about is currency. In a nutshell, the intent of the new program is that an employer or project manager can look at your Microsoft certification and know you are up on a specific Microsoft release and/or role best practices. The idea here is to increase the value of your certifications in the market. How that works in the new generation is via lifecycle policies. These policies--basically a retire date for technology certs and a refresh/update requirement for professional-series certs--will first come in to affect a little less than two years from now*. In the meantime, I know there are a lot of questions about how this will go down (Stan? Geoff? Andy? Leonardo? you know who you are...). Check out the verbose summary, below.

Your thoughts? 

If you're not sure what I'm talking about when I say 'new generation certification,' you can read about it here or watch the first 15 minutes of this presentation to get the 411.


Lifecycle Policies for New Generation Certifications

The “new generation” series of certifications--Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS), Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP), and Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD)--have lifecycle policies to ensure confidence in Microsoft Certification as an indicator of up-to-date, relevant skills on current Microsoft technologies.

Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) certifications will be retired when Microsoft discontinues mainstream support for the technology.

In general, mainstream support stops after 7-10 years from the product’s initial release; at this same point your MCTS certification will retire. Example: Your MCTS: Exchange Server 2007, earned in 2007, might be retired in 2016. Support lifecycle information can be found here: When your MCTS retires, it will no longer show on your transcript and you will not be able to create or use the logo. All related exams will remain on your transcript as PASSED.

Professional-series credentials (MCITP and MCPD) will require an update every three years from the date you earned the certification or your certification will lapse.

The update requirements will consist of a one-exam refresh path. The refresh exam could happen in two ways: 1) take and pass a new MCTS exam that supports your professional-series certification or 2) take and pass a professional-series exam specifically designed for the refresh process. In this case, you would earn the latest, related MCTS and maintain your professional series credential through this one exam. If you do not refresh your MCITP/MCPD in the correct time period, your certification will no longer show on your transcript and you will not be able to create or use the logo. All related exams will remain on your transcript as PASSED.


Why the retirement policy for certifications? The number one reason is to ensure confidence in Microsoft Certification as an indicator of up-to-date, relevant skills on current Microsoft technologies. Hiring managers must have confidence that someone who holds a Microsoft Certification is current and engaged with Microsoft, even if they themselves are not experts on each credential or certification.

Are you going to start retiring or requiring action for any of the existing credentials (MCDST, MCP, MCSE, MCAD, etc)? No. These new policies only apply to the MCTS, MCITP, and MCPD credentials, the “new generation” of certification. There are no plans to retire any of our existing credentials, nor will an update be required.

What if I miss the three year window to refresh my certification; can I still reinstate my certification or will I need to start over? Details are to be determined but most likely if you have not refreshed your certification within the three-year window, your certification will remain in our system as “lapsed” for a grace period of one year, during which you can reinstate your certification with the refresh path of one exam. After the one-year grace period you would need to begin your certification path from the beginning.

Will there be a “retired” certifications section on the transcript? We recognize that showing your “track record,” including older or obsolete certifications, can be helpful to show a commitment to learn and stay up to date over time. We are considering the possibility of a “retired” section or “lapsed” status indicators in our transcript.

What if three years passes and Microsoft hasn’t released a newer version of the product, so there is nothing that needs to be refreshed? Will I still have to take an exam to keep my certification? The three year requirement is based on best practices and experience showing that major technology, job-role, and/or technology best practices go through significant updates within three-year periods.

My company isn’t working on the “latest” technology from Microsoft-we are using the last version (or first version!) software. So why would you retire the certification that makes sense for me? The new generation framework is specifically focused on current technologies from Microsoft. The lifecycle of the MCTS, showing release-specific skills, takes in to account the need for skills on older releases with a lifecycle tied to technology support.

Could a refresh exam just be taking the same professional-series exam over again? No.

What will the refresh exam cost? Regular exam price.

How will the refresh policy affect the Retake Policy? The refresh exam will be a new exam number and different or updated content; it will not be the exact same exam.

How will we know when a refresh is required to keep our certification up to date? Details are to be determined but most likely Microsoft will alert you via the MCP site (your transcript or certification planner), the MCP newsletter, and/or a direct e-mail to explain the timeline and options.

* First refresh requirements will come in to play for early adopters of the SQL Server 2005 MCITP and Visual Studio 2005 MCPD certifications that became available in early/mid-2006.