Windows Insider

Au Revoir, MCSE

It'll be time to upgrade once Windows Server 2008 enters the picture.

The Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) is dead. Long live the MCSE. Well, sort of. When Windows Server 2008 rides into town, the MCSE certification -- like the good guy in an old black-and-white western -- will ride off into the sunset.

From Windows Server 2008 onward, credentialed IT workers will find themselves seeking their certifications through two new avenues: the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) and the Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP).

Why the change? Prior to Server 2008, the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) program had a few flaws inherent to its processes. First of all, in the previous program, an MCP was just that -- an MCP. There wasn't an association noting the discipline in which you were an MCP. So getting your MCP for Windows XP was the same as getting your MCP on Systems Management Server.

The old MCSE titles were also problematic. Many countries formally protect the title of "engineer." One can be called an engineer only after they've passed the Order of Engineers' Professional Engineer's Examination. Reports of Microsoft enduring numerous lawsuits by countries with special protection for this title made it operationally challenging to keep around. True, MCITP just doesn't have the same ring as MCSE, but it's in much safer legal territory.

New Frameworks, New Certs
Here's the framework for what Microsoft calls "the new generation of certification." At the bottom of the stack is the MCTS. Exams here are focused on specific products and show proof that the test taker has proven their skills on particular Microsoft technologies. MCTS exams do not require recertification. An MCTS certification will, however, evaporate when Microsoft discontinues the specified product.

One step above the MCTS is the MCITP. This is intended to show proof of skills related to a job function. There are two MCITP credentials specifically geared to Server 2008: MCITP: Server Administrator and MCITP: Enterprise Administrator. The former credential is intended to prove IT operational skills, while the latter credential adds design skills to the requirements.

At this point, you're probably wondering, "How do I obtain these certifications?" or "How do I upgrade my current MCSE?" As you may expect, obtaining the higher-level MCITP: Enterprise Administrator credential will require more work than the Server Administrator credential.

To earn the MCITP: Server Administrator credential, you'll need to pass two MCTS exams, as well as the Server Administrator exam for the MCITP itself. Those exams are:

  • 70-642: Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure, Configuring
  • 70-640: Windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring
  • 70-646: Windows Server 2008 Administrator

Passing the 70-642 and 70-640 both bestow an MCTS credential. Once you've completed all three exams here, you'll actually have three credentials: two for MCTS and one for the MCITP.

If you're interested in going all out for the MCITP: Enterprise Administrator, you'll have a bit more work ahead of you. You'll need to pass the two MCTS exams, and three more as well. In all, obtaining the Enterprise credential requires one of the following:

  • 70-620: Configuring Microsoft Windows Vista Client
  • 70-624: Deploying and Maintaining Windows Vista Client and 2007 Microsoft Office System Desktops

Plus all of the following:

  • 70-643: Windows Server 2008 Applications Platform, Configuring
  • 70-642: Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure, Configuring
  • 70-640: Windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring
  • 70-647: Windows Server 2008 Enterprise Administrator

Getting to this point, you'll actually end up with four MCTS credentials in addition to your MCITP. It's a long road, but one worth traveling.

There are other things to consider. First, the MCITP proves job role functions. It doesn't have a technology like "Server 2008" assigned to it. That being said, you'll need to recertify every three years to keep it current. Also, there are no more "elective" exams. According to Microsoft, most people were using the same electives to get their MCSE. In some ways, this made the electives moot, so they're no longer part of the MCITP.

Making the Upgrades
There is an upgrade path if you currently hold either a Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) or MCSE status in Windows Server 2003. That path is different depending on whether you have the MCSA or MCSE, and you should only take one path. Completing the upgrade exam doesn't directly earn you MCITP status, but instead replaces a few exams. Once you've finished the upgrade, you'll then have to take the other exams necessary to get the MCITP.

  • If you have a current MCSA 2003, take exam 70-648: Upgrading Your MCSA on Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2008. This meets the 70-642 and 70-640 exam requirements.
  • If you have a current MCSE 2003, take exam 70-649: Upgrading Your MCSE on Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2008. This will meet the 70-643, 70-642 and 70-640 exam requirements.

There's not always a direct path, though. If you have an MCSE in Windows Server 2000, you'll have to upgrade to Windows Server 2003 before attempting the upgrade to MCITP, as there's no direct upgrade path from the MCSE 2000.

The upgrade examinations are available now, but the other exams won't be available until the release to manufacturing (RTM) of Server 2008. The MCTS exams will arrive about 30 days after the RTM. The MCITP exams will run about 60 days after the RTM. The training kits will be available anywhere from one to three months after exam release.

I know -- I hate to see it go, too. The MCSE holds a special place in my heart. I have three of them: one for NT, one for 2000 and one for 2003. Times change and certifications change. It's up to us to keep up.

[This article is based on pre-release information, which may change prior to the full release. -Ed.]

About the Author

Greg Shields is Author / Evangelist with www.PluralSight.com, and is a globally-recognized expert on systems management, virtualization, and cloud technologies. A multiple-year recipient of the Microsoft MVP, VMware vExpert, and Citrix CTP awards, Greg is a contributing editor for Redmond Magazine and Virtualization Review Magazine, and is a frequent speaker at IT conferences worldwide. Reach him on Twitter at @ConcentratdGreg.

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