The New MCSE: Changes To The Microsoft Certification Program


Microsoft has recently made some significant changes in the way they’re running the certification program, including the return of the #1 certification in the Windows world: The MCSE. [Read: Making Sense of the New MCSE: Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert.]

Shelby Grieve, Director of Professional Certification with Microsoft Learning, sat down recently for an interview with Joey Snow from the Channel9’s Edge Show at the Microsoft Management Summit, and discussed the upcoming changes to the Microsoft Certification Program.

Grieve had been hearing feedback from the community that it is too easy to get a Microsoft certification, and that the tests aren’t rigorous enough — so Microsoft has increased both the difficulty and the relevance with their new set of certifications.

Microsoft Exams are Getting Harder, And More Relevant

To increase the relevancy of the exams, they are focusing on some key aspects of the technologies that are front and center in the next wave of implementations, including an emphasis on cloud services, both public and private. To increase the rigor of the exams, they are increasing both the breadth and depth of the curriculum tested – going deeper into the technologies and crossing over more with complementary technologies.

With the new MCSE, which is now a designation for a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert instead of Microsoft Certified System Engineer, you will not be focused so much on system engineering with Active Directory and network services, but instead on having a more general knowledge of a wider range of technologies, while still being highly skilled in some engineering tasks.

While Microsoft’s MCSE does not have as much detail in the intricacies of Network Infrastructure and Active Directory engineering, there are still certifications to match up with the finer details of all of those products.

3 Levels of Microsoft Certifications

Grieve described the three levels of certifications established for professionals: Associate, Expert, and Master. Each of those is focused on providing solutions.

The associate level will cover a platform, such as Windows Server 2012 or Windows 8. They will be expected to know basically one product or technology, and to know all of its features and how it all works.

At the expert level, certifications will focus more on one of the specializations available, where you can get certified for the Private Cloud or for SQL Server 2012 data platform and business intelligence. At the experts level, there will be a significantly higher level of both breadth and depth.

Finally, at the master level will be the certification level that they expect only a few will aspire to. It will be for the people who want to achieve an even greater level of expertise, and the higher level of esteem that goes with it.

It is expected that the expert level certifications will be the highly regarded standard for professionals, and that it will indicate a substantial level of expertise with Microsoft’s products. While the expert level should satisfy most professionals and their employers, the master level is there for those professionals who want an even higher level of expertise.

Snow described the need for these certified professionals, and Grieve noted that new developments in technologies are coming on faster than our workforce’s skills are developing.

Bridging the Skills Gap

This difference between the new technologies coming out and the workforce’s ability to implement and support those technologies is called a training gap, or a skills gap, and it’s leading to a lot of opportunity for those professionals that work to become certified. Skills for working with private and public clouds are especially in demand: it’s estimated that by 2015 there will be more than 15 million jobs created in the cloud computing sector. The skills are needed, and there’s certainly opportunity for those who want to embrace those new skills.

And while the skills and knowledge required to pass the tests is great, and the tests themselves are hard, the rewards can be just as great. Grieve reports that in doing surveys with hiring managers, it was reported that 91% of those hiring managers surveyed use Microsoft certifications as a hiring tool. “They look, and they want people that are certified,” says Grieve.

Hiring managers will also know that your skills are current. Microsoft is adding in recertification requirements, so that at the expert level and above you have to recertify every 2-3 years (2 years for developers, 3 years for IT professionals). This is to ensure that those people that have Microsoft certifications are always up to date. This is especially important with the cloud offerings, where releases are not versioned and there can be 2 or 3 releases per year. It’s important that the IT professionals supporting those technologies don’t take too long away from it, because a lot can change quickly.

Grieve said she notices that when students would take the certification exams during beta testing, they would complain that they were hard. Then, they would follow it up with how necessary it is that they are hard. Likewise, the need to recertify is not going to sit well with some, and will likely be something that many will complain about. However, most of those same people that complain about recertifying will also agree that it is necessary to ensure competency and relevance.

For more information about Microsoft’s certification program and training, visit


So where do you stand with the new certifications? Will you certify in the new cloud offerings, or will you stop getting certifications now that you’ll have to recertify again in 3 years? Will you embrace the new MCSE, or do you expect that it will just cause a delineation where prospective employers will now specify “classic MCSE” in their postings?

Let us know what you think — post a comment below or contact us on Twitter at @petri_co_il.