Over the past couple of years there’s been a shift in the requirements for what was once known as the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, or MCSE, certificate program. This certificate was generally regarded as the top-notch certification for Microsoft; it was a prestigious professional certificate to have on your wall and resume.
Recently, however, the MCSE underwent a name change and became the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM). In January 2014, that title and certificate was retired and the MCSE classification revived. Only this time it will be known by the name of Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert.
So what’s different now?
The major differences in the MCSE lie in the content of the certification. Even after the shift from MCSE to MCM, the certification program was directed toward a largely service style of learning.
Although the term “engineer” was often the focus of concern among IT professionals, at least one thing was certain about possessing the MCSE certification. Any systems administrator or IT professional with the MCSE was exposed to a wide range of facets of the system. An MCSE-certified professional knew pretty much all the aspects of network operations.
What caused the shift?
Perhaps it was a decline in new certifications when the name change happened that unnerved Microsoft enough to decide to restructure its program. The reality is that the entire company was in a huge transitional period. After the launch of the highly disappointing Vista Operating System, not too many people were keen on Microsoft for the changes.
Added to the equation was the rather shaky economy and its effect on the computer market generally. Many people were opting to head back to school rather than try to obtain more professional certifications. In an industry that favors one or the other for professional standards, a college education that offers long-term benefits wins over a technical certification with a three-year shelf life before the holder has to renew.
Back to the future
Microsoft must have seen these developments as a threat because the company changed the entire program this year. It brought back the popular MCSE designation but gave it a different name.
Microsoft also changed the entire process. Instead of a single exam with a wide range of applicable topics, the new MCSE certificate is specialized. When you take the Microsoft exam, you declare a focus and that’s what you’re tested on. Should you wish to master and be certified in another area, you have to take the courses and a renewal exam based on that focus.
So where does this leave you?
For the IT professional, the result is more exams and more fees to pay. It also means your certificate may not qualify you for other positions.
For example, your MCSE in Desktop Infrastructure is not the same as an MCSE for Server Infrastructure. Under previous standards, the MCSE certification covered all system technologies. So the certification has actually become less prestigious and older certifications with experience may now be worth more, even if they’re expired.
The only way to keep up is to train constantly and maintain each certification one by one. By the time you have them all, Microsoft will probably have made more changes and rendered all your efforts questionable again.