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New Microsoft Certs Announced

Microsoft is preparing two new tracks for systems administrators and developers, which candidates may attain as early as first quarter 2002. Microsoft announced them during its partner conference, Microsoft Fusion, in Anaheim, California. Microsoft also announced the first of its XP/Windows .NET Server exams.

The new systems administrator track is aimed at "network administrators, technical support specialists and Web administrators who implement, manage, monitor, and troubleshoot the network and system environment for the Microsoft Windows 2000 and Windows .NET Server platforms," according to a press release issued by the company. The same release says the new developer track is for "individuals who create software components including complex macros, desktop and Web clients, and data access and business logic objects."

Anne Marie McSweeney, director of the Microsoft Certification and Skills Assessment group, says the new systems administrator track, which has yet to be officially named, won't require as many exams as the MCSE. The new track's exam requirements may list current exams from the MCSE track as well as one or two new exams specifically for the new sys admin track, including a possible core exam particularly suited to testing the skills of the day-to-day systems administrator. She said that the requirements are still in development.

What's driving the new systems administrator title is a skills gap that exists within the certifications, said McSweeney. "The MCP is a great entry into the certification program, but it doesn't define a particular skill."

"To make the [Win2K MCSE] credential valuable in the workplace, we needed to raise the requirements," she added. "As well, we needed to target those who do the design."

"There's a whole group of people who do just the implementation," which McSweeney said the new track will assess. "They don't do all the design stuff. That particular job function -- when we raised the bar we left a void."

McSweeney said that the developer track "wasn't as strong a need." Nonetheless, the same type of skills gap exists, with specialists whose roles are more narrowly defined as coders or programmers.

"I think it's something that the industry's been asking for for a long time, especially with the Win2K MCSE [becoming] such a great gap." Quoting one person, "It's like a step that's three floors up," said Thom Griffith, director of technical services for QuickStart Technologies, a California-based training company. "Taking a person who's a career changer and expecting that person to become an MCSE isn't realistic for the individual or for the industry."

Drew Cartwright, director of international business development at New Horizons in Santa Ana, Calif., thinks the track is a step in the right direction. "It's evolving nicely."

Ken Rosen, content strategist for Microsoft's Training and Certification Group, outlined the first in a line of exams and courses for Windows XP and Windows .NET Server. He said the new exam, 70-270, Installing, Configuring and Administering Windows XP Professional, will be made available soon after the Oct. 25 release of Windows XP.

Details were sketchy, but it's expected that the exam objectives will follow those of 70-210, Win2K Professional. It's also expected that Microsoft will make this exam a part of the Win2K MCSE and sys admin tracks, where candidates will be able to choose among a slew of WinXP/.NET exams as well as Win2K exams to fulfill the core requirements.

Exam objectives for 70-270 were not available on the Microsoft Training and Certification Web site at the time of this writing.

About the Author

Michael Domingo has held several positions at 1105 Media, and is currently the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.

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