Microsoft Certified Professional
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The Microsoft Certified Professional or MCP Program is the certification program from Microsoft that enables IT Professionals and Developers to validate their technical expertise through rigorous, industry-proven, and industry-recognized exams. The certification exams offered cover a broad range of technologies throughout the Microsoft ecosystem of IT technologies. When an individual passes a certification exam and earns a Microsoft certification, then they are recognized as a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP). By passing multiple exams they have the opportunity to earn larger, more distinguished certifications; such as the MCSE and MCSD certifications.
In 2016, Microsoft expanded with the launch of its Microsoft Professional Program, a fully online certification program in partnership with edX which includes various tracks in data science, front end web development, cloud computing, DevOps. This program has expanded to a total of 8 tracks in 2018 with the addition of its artificial intelligence and software development program certification in April 2018. Many of these programs are focused on equipping learners with up to date skillsets with various Microsoft tools, including Excel, PowerBI, Visual Studio, and Azure.
Overview of Microsoft Certifications
Microsoft Certifications are professional certifications that demonstrate the holder's expertise in Microsoft related technologies. They have been divided into 6 categories named as Cloud, Mobility, Data, Productivity, App Builder and Business applications. Each category aligns to a series of technologies that span the entire Microsoft product portfolio. The core technologies include Microsoft Azure, Windows Server, SQL Server, Office 365, SharePoint Server, Exchange Server, Skype for Business and Microsoft Dynamics 365.
The pathway to Microsoft certification is broken down into tiers to demonstrate the level of expertise for the holder. These include:
- Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) - demonstrates the proficiency of the holder in one or more Office Programs
- Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) - is the entry level certification that validates the holder's fundamental technology knowledge
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) - this certification validates the holder's ability to build and design solutions using core Microsoft technologies.
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) - these certifications show the skills to design and build advanced solutions which integrate multiple Microsoft technologies - requires MCSA prerequisite
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) - the certification proves the holder's skills in designing and building application solutions - requires MCSA prerequisite
- Microsoft Specialist - Designed to validate your knowledge and skills in a specialized area of technology, the Specialist credential sits outside the tier system - retired as March 31, 2017
The MCSE certification originally stood for Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. In 2012, Microsoft made some changes to the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) program, and renamed MCSE to mean Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert. At the same time, the MCSA certification was renamed to Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate; from its original, previous name of Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator.
Earning a Microsoft Certification
Microsoft Certifications are earned by passing exams aligned to a specific certification. The process of earning certification has changed multiple times since its inception.
The current iteration was introduced September 26, 2016, when Microsoft announced it retiring all existing MCSE and MCSD certifications, introducing new pathways and changing the way individuals earn and maintain those Microsoft certifications. Under the new process, the number and selection of exams required to achieve a Microsoft certification varies.
MCSA certifications require the individual to pass two or more exams in order to achieve the credential. Depending on the MCSA selected, individuals are either required to pass a set pathway of exams, or can choose from a pool of exams known as electives. MCSE and MCSD certifications now only require individuals to pass a single exam, each certification has a pool of aligned elective exams that the individual can choose from.
Historically, MCSE and MCSD credentials required the individual to recertify after a period of two to three years in order to keep the credential in the "Active section" of their transcript. Under the new system, the MCSE and MCSD credentials no longer have a recertification requirement, they remain on the "Active transcript" of the holder, once gained. Individuals instead now have the option to re-earn their certification every year by passing an additional elective exam. This is not a requirement, though Microsoft state it offers the holder an opportunity to demonstrate their growth in product knowledge. It was done to reflect the increasing cadence of updates to Microsoft products and services, where products like Microsoft Azure are adding new features every 48 hours.
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