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Is Microsoft Certification Becoming Worthless?

Microsoft certification used to be a golden ticket, buy cialis but certification confusion has made it much harder for IT employers and professionals to know exactly what a Microsoft certification actually means.

Back in the mid-1990s, I became a MCP when I passed my first Microsoft certification exam. Six months later I earned my MCSE designation, a certification prestigious enough to warrant an out of the blue phone call from someone at ISSC (eventually to become IBM Global Services) with an unsolicited job offer despite having just two years of IT experience. All through the 1990s, the MCSE, was a ticket to job interviews and proof of a high skill set regardless of what titles were listed on your resume. By the time the Internet Boom became the Internet Bubble, Microsoft certification was a golden ticket.

Certification Inflation

Originally, Microsoft's certification program had just two levels, the MCP level which demonstrated expertise in a single product or subject area, and premium level certifications like the MCSE and MCSD. Holding one of those certifications proved that you were a full-fledged Microsoft guru.

 Unfortunately, Microsoft designed its certification program around an electronically administered multiple choice test. In order to prevent someone from just repeating the test or giving too much guidance to another test taker, a pool of hundreds of questions was created. It wasn't long before the Internet cracked this laughable number. Websites encouraged people to post all the questions and answers they could remember, called a braindump. Soon they cataloged nearly every single test question and answer, and Microsoft certification started to lose its luster.

In 1999, I participated in interviewing for a Windows Administrator position. Only MCPs in Windows Server, or MCSEs were interviewed. After 23 interviews, you could count the number who could tell you what directory contained the login script files on one hand.

Microsoft certification had become the equivalent of a high school diploma. Anyone who hung around computers for long enough, eventually got one.

Redesigning Microsoft Certification

In response, Microsoft changed the tests and increased the size of the question pool. This seemed to have the desired effect, but there were still far too many "paper" MCSEs.

In 2005 Microsoft introduced the Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA), the Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP), and the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS), along with several other titles and something called "tracks". The purpose of these new designations was both to reduce certification inflation and to more closely link certifications to job duties and career paths.

With the original certification paradigm of just two levels, a small business owner who didn't know much about computers would have been able to quickly learn about MCP and MCSE certifications. More importantly, he would have been able to distinguish between the two without having to study charts, or read white papers.

Likewise, a job posting could easily be limited to certain types of candidates by specifying a requirement for an MCSE or an MCP in, for example, Microsoft Exchange. Today, only people in IT understand the various certifications.

Are the New Certifications Working?

The primary value in technology certifications for IT professionals has been its ability to open new doors on the job front. For businesses and IT managers, the primary value has been the assurance that employees or potential employees were skilled in a complex technology.