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MCSD Revisions on Tap

MCP Magazine has learned Microsoft is in the midst of revising MCSD certification track requirements.

Officially, though, Microsoft remains tight-lipped about any changes. “The MCSD is definitely being revised for .NET,” said Tina Koyama-Wasser of Microsoft’s Skills and Certification group. “That’s all we can say for now.”

The current MCSD track consists of four exams: three core and one elective. The former requires candidates demonstrate their expertise in solution architecture and desktop and distributed applications development (implementing C++ 6.0, FoxPro 6.0 or Visual Basic 6.0). The latter requires proof of skills with various Microsoft development tools. Currently, close to 18,000 individuals hold the MCSD certification.

According to sources, the revised MCSD certification track would cover more ground than the present track, with a seven-exam framework: five core and two elective. The new exams would cover C++; Visual Basic; C#; and a new version of FoxPro, FoxPro 7.0. An emphasis on .NET would be seen on exams covering Web Forms and Windows Forms development, while .NET-specific questions could appear on the Solution Architectures exam (Exam 70-100 in the current MCSD track). The new MCSD set of tests also could feature a case-study-based Component Design exam, plus a developer version of the Highly Available Web Solutions exam that soon will be part of the MCSE program.

Two regular MCP Magazine contributors, both MCSDs, view the suggested new track in a negative light. “This...shows that Microsoft certification is driven by marketing,” said Mike Gunderloy. “When Windows 2000 came into being, Microsoft made it so that current MCSEs have to recertify for Win2K. Now, Microsoft’s marketing people have been given new marching orders—push .NET—and it looks like we might end up with an MCSD track that reflects that.”

Paul Brown echoed these comments, saying the suggested track makes it appear as if Microsoft is “forcing .NET down people’s throats.” He thinks Microsoft could approach a revised MCSD track in a more even-handed way, for example, offering two versions of the Solution Architectures exam—one concentrating on .NET and the other on conventional architecture.

“All MCSD candidates would still have to take the Solution Architectures exam,” Brown explained, “but they’d have a choice. They could focus on what’s most important to them in their work.”

Brown also thinks having seven exams in a new MCSD track, vs. the current four, would put an increased burden on MCSD candidates. Not only would it take longer to earn the MCSD following an expanded track, but also the dollar cost of preparing for and taking seven exams would add up.

“Face it. Up to now people haven’t exactly been breaking down the door to get the MCSD,” Brown said. “If you make it even more difficult and expensive to earn, I think you may end up hurting the certification.”

Gunderloy questions if a new MCSD track, or for that matter, the existing one, is really the best way to certify developer skills. If Microsoft is “truly serious” about ascertaining proficiency using its developer tools, he said, the company would simply test each MCSD candidate’s ability to write code.

“Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be possible to conduct this kind of testing on a mass scale,” Gunderloy said. “It would be just be too expensive and labor intensive. But it would be the right way to judge a developer’s skills.”

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