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Are Microsoft's New Certifications Worth the Effort?

I'm sure you've seen endless analysis and opinion about Microsoft's re-re-revamped certification program, so I'll avoid adding any more to the pile. However, I do want to ask some questions -- because ultimately the value of these certifications comes from decision makers in organizations. If the boss cares, then the employees care, HR cares, and so forth.

First, one minor bit of opinion: "MCSE for Private Cloud" does, I have to admit, make me puke in my mouth. Just a tiny bit. I'm so sick of the "C" word, and this certification -- simply some Windows Server 2008 exams added to a couple of System Center 2012 exams  -- seems to be no "cloudier" than a nice day in Phoenix. But whatever. The marketing people probably could help themselves.

Microsoft's new certification program stacks into three tiers: The Associate level, the Expert level, and the Master level. These each break into two categories: "Certifications" and "Cloud-Built Certifications" (deep breath, hold, out the nose).

So... do you care?

In the beginning, these certification programs -- and I'm talking Windows NT 3-era here -- were largely a play by Microsoft to say, "Look, there are tons of people who can support our products, so why doesn't your business just send us a check for some software, hmmm?" Microsoft's certifications, like most IT certifications, have never been an attempt to protect businesses, to protect the public, and so on -- not in the way other professional certifications, like those in the medical or legal industries, are intended to do (whether they do it or not is, I'm sure, debatable).

So does the large body of Microsoft-certified human beings make you sleep more easily at night?

Do you find that a Microsoft certification acts as anything more than a bare-minimum filter for HR to hone in on when sorting through incoming resumes?

Knowing all about the "paper MCSE" syndrome, the scores of brain-dump Web sites, the certification cheats and all of that, would you still rather hire a certified individual over a non-certified one?

Would you discard, out of hand, the resume of someone claiming eight years of IT experience who doesn't have a certification over someone with less experience who does have a Microsoft title?

If you were to offer some advice to an IT person who doesn't have a certification but who's worked in a lower-tier IT position for a year or so, would you advise them to the exams needed to earn the new MCSE, MCSA or whatever? Or not? Why?

In short, how does Microsoft's certification program affect your business? I'm genuinely curious, and I'd love your comments. Drop 'em in the box below.

Posted by Don Jones on 06/05/2012 at 1:14 PM

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Reader Comments:

Thu, Feb 28, 2013

Investing money and time to getting the Certifications shows to the potential employers that you really want to work in IT field. That's why I would expect from HR to seek for certificated beginners. For experienced IT pros it's really doesn't seem to be useful

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 Unbeatable

I believe it is just a business strategy. it is completely useless.

Mon, Feb 11, 2013 jeffh NYC

I too came into IT from another field and even if I could prove I had a 250 IQ, and agreed to work as an apprentice for little or no pay, I couldn't get a SINGLE interview until I got a the NT 4.0 MCSE certification (thank you Brain Dumps!) - I got started on a 'chain gang' doing corporate inventory work and rolling out windows NT boxes, and spent 6 months asking "How to do you do this?" and was finally able to secure a 2nd level help desk job etc. I got to the point where I did the hiring and NEVER let a lack of a certfication take precedence over basic intelligence and willingness to work hard.

Thu, Jan 17, 2013

Unemployed people, fresh graduates or people seeking for better jobs and they don't have experience in some products or technologies... Cert. will be the best solution to acquire both of knowledge and practice.

Fri, Nov 30, 2012 Heidi Denver, Colorado USA

My husband lost his IT position at the beginning of the recession. He'd been in IT for almost 15 years but never got certs. (Horrible test anxiety.) Once he started looking for another position he realized that everything was dependent on pieces of paper. It didn't take long for HR to realize that they could require a college degree + multiple certs on a $10-15/hour position...and get it. No doubt those people didn't have the knowledge or experience of my husband, but they did get the interviews & jobs. Are certs worth it? Apparently so, at least to weed through resumes by people who don't know squat about IT.

Fri, Nov 30, 2012 JDB FLA

The actual value if an MS certification is still pretty good. It hits on technologies and features that you may not try otherwise. Given the choice, I would rather hire the person with experience than without. The main problem is HR departments. I many cases, they require that you have the letters 'MCSE' on your application. Because they get so many applications and resumes, they need a quick way to thin the huge stack of resumes. Unfortunately those HR departments often do not even look at years of experience etc...If you don’t have those magic letters you could be automatically rejected in favor of those that do. I need to put food on the table for my family, I need that job, I can do that job. I need those "letters" to even get considered for the job that I know I could hit the ground running.

Fri, Nov 30, 2012 Craig

The training behind the certifications is much more important than the certification itself. In general I find certs help get you the job interview however it’s the experience and talents of the person that get the job. I worked with a guy who was really great with IT but choked up when taking a test, so it took him many times to get his certification however if you talked to him he knew his stuff and could perform the work.

Thu, Nov 29, 2012 Tim

"Are Microsoft's New Certifications Worth the Effort?" Not to me. I've been in IT for over 10 years, and my first Microsoft exams were for MCSE on NT 4.0 and Novell CNE exams before those. It's the combination of cloud & having to "maintain" the new certifications that really turns me off. It's enough work to prepare and pass an exam, but to have to do it again a couple years later just to keep it "current" isn't worth it to me.

Thu, Nov 29, 2012 Amit Kuthrapali

This post doesn't take into consideration that most Microsoft Partner competencies require x number of people with certain certifications to obtain the competency. This elevates the value of certification from the individual to the business itself, and then raises the question to the value of having a Microsoft partner competency for the business.

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 Nay Australia

I completely agree with Alex from CT. I my self have an MS certificate which has definitely helped understand the product a lot more. I also have a Citrix cert but was gained after heavily working with the product. My old boss (technical architect) had a few old certs but knew almost everything about the up to date products that we were designing and implementing through doco reading and project experience. My point is that I believe certs mean that you can read and understand the bookwork and labs where project work means you know how to get the real work done. They both kind of compliment each other.

Mon, Oct 1, 2012 Emma Tameside

This is exactly what I've been wondering. I've been interested in enrolling on one of the DOT , but I'm really not sure if they're still viable enough to invest the time into.

From what I've heard, it really does open up career doors, which has obviously lead me to be tempted to apply. I guess it's down to what field you're going into.

Fri, Sep 7, 2012 Tony USA

I have been in IT Infrastructure for almost 14 years with the same company and have been the Lead for about 8 years. The only Cert I have is an MCP. I'm looking to relocate to Miami sometime in the next year. It seems to be a split of what people or companies are actually looking for. Are there any real statistics on who is actually getting hired first? Non certified vs years of experience

Sun, Jun 24, 2012 David C USA

I started my IT career with an NT4 MCSE so I can't say the certification was useless. Since then I've acquired more than 10 certifications with various vendors and I found the biggest benefit is the product knowledge gained in the process. That alone may not be sufficient to land you a job but would help tremendously when you actually do the work. The new product knowledge can be really helpful especially if you work with the product a lot even for seasoned professionals. I've interviewed more than 20 people last year and I never reject anyone just because he/she is with or without a cert. To me they are always a plus though not mandatory. As to the new MCSE certs, I think the price has been increased too much. I would only take them if someone else pay for it or MS gives me a big discount.

Thu, Jun 21, 2012 redstorm_ USA

I think many certifications are useless at this point at least from the point of view of making yourself stand out from other applicants. I've never gotten a job because I had a cert...I've gotten offers based on what I have done or was currently working in at existing or past jobs. I would much rather take courses to learn about a topic of deepen knowledge in areas which I work. That i more valuable to me. Perhaps someone just out of college or high school who has no experience and can pay for and take multiple certifications can benefit (i.e. can add to a mostly empty resume). For most of us, I take courses to learn..not for the cert. The exams are way overpriced in my opinion and cannot guarantee jobs so what is the point. I don't waste money on microsoft certs anymore as I can just as easily read a book or search for info that I need. Experience in IT counts more than certifications ever did...employers want someone to hit the ground running..not someone who has only theory, small amount of lab work and book reading behind them...

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 Josh M Fairborn, OH

I'm just tired of Microsoft changing from MCSA/MCSE, to MCTS/MCITP, and back again. Honestly, if you're not a paper MC-whatever, then you've done some studying and are aware of capability. Often, that's enough to get started in an operational capacity. No network I've worked on in 20 years has used every facet of what a particular cert covers, but having the cert shows you're willing to invest in self-improvement over time, and that's important in IT. There's a generation of elder-IT folks who transitioned to management and decided that they didn't need to learn anything about ITIL or MOF, and I despise their lack of motivation. If you're in IT, you might as well accept it - you're in college-equivalent-learning for the rest of your life. (or you're mediocre)

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 Joe Mandile Australia

I have been in the IT realm since '86. Coding COBOL using Mini Computers, Reel to Reel backups, applying patches to OS using tape etc... During this time as thing changed I fell into the IT Managers role and learned many things and I suppose you can call it that I was trained by real world experiences. Right now though I recently lost my position and I am out of a job. I have not been out of work for a long time, and now find that all places require you to have a certification. Experience means nothing if you don't have certification, it only helps you to get certification faster.

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 Tom Watson DC

I did a mid-life career change to IT 7 years ago. I went to a computer training center and got my A+, Net+, CCNA, and MCSE certs and became one of those "paper MCSEs" that everyone here is so disparaging of. The certs got me job interviews and I heard a lot of "hit the ground running" and "hands-on experience" talk, until, one day someone was willing to take a chance on someone with no experience, but who was intelligent and fast learning. As my career developed, I kept studying and earning more certs - I now have quite a collection. Now I am a senior engineer and project manager. When I am hiring, I look for people who have studied and earned certifications, and need a "foot in the door". My best staffers are the ones that I trained myself.

Thu, Jun 14, 2012 Alex Arizona

Certs can provide employers with a base level of knowledge IT staff should have. If certs became more difficult they may hold more value.

Thu, Jun 14, 2012 Gregg Thomas Saint Louis Missouri

I've been in IT for close to 15 years and I have several certifications under my belt, which I didn't get until later in my career. Real world experience out weighs the certs by far, but if a person has actually taken the time to study and learn the book material it just adds another level to your resume. Passing the certs is no easy tasks. When I earned my MCITP cert for server 2008 I studied for close to 8 months before taking the exam. I think people would hold a lot more respect for our certs if they could squash all the cheaters using brain dump sites. Paper MCSE's wash out pretty easy if you ask some basic questions in an interview. If a clown comes in for an interview with an MCSE and can't even tell me what the wiring configuration is for making a CAT5e patch cable then I know he's probably full of it.

Tue, Jun 12, 2012 Waldemar NJ,USA

I have worked for 22 years in IT( Unix,MS Windows, ORACLE,CISCO,etc.) and I have started getting certification for 7 years. I had never needed them before. You can't be good without that knowleage. It is like a drive license. First , you have to know rules and next you can start driving cars. If you are good, why you are afraid to pass exam (2 hours). Go and pass!

Mon, Jun 11, 2012 Christian Green Bay, WI

I think it is important for a post-college person to have a basic certification. Perhaps an MCP, or an A+, or Network+. This shows that the person has gone beyond schooling and earned something in their field. I also think it is a good idea if you were laid off -- go get a cert to show you remained in the IT sphere. But in the end, I think it is really important that one is balanced -- book knowledge, and can do something with it.

Sun, Jun 10, 2012 Alex CT

I have interviewed a fair share of folks and hired a few. So here's my answer - I usually don't give a hoot about these certificates. Yes, it can be a little confidence booster for me if I see an experienced candidate who also carries a title, however I almost tend to avoid any junior applicants who list 2 or 3 titles on their resumes - it tells me that those are just phoneys. I don't believe that certification has much of a value unless a person has done some real-life projects prior to getting certified.

Fri, Jun 8, 2012 Andrew Lloyd Havant, UK

It is an unfair reality that to move onwards and upwards either within your current workplace or to a totally new role certification is, and will always be, an HR filtering mechanism. If it gets you an interview great, you can then let your real world IT experience work It's magic and nail you the job.

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 Alexander Belotserkovskiy Russia, Tomsk

Wrong question. It is obvious that real-world experience is much more important than only a bunch of certificates (vendor doesn't matter). But certificates are a nice addition to real-world experience and CV. And a person who is an experienced in some field can easily pass an exam.

Tue, Jun 5, 2012 Wayne Hoggett Australia

A quick quiz at the interview quickly deals with any paper-MCSEs. Just give them a few questions you would normally expect an MCSE to be able to answer. On the other side of the argument, employers are asking for too many certifications, MCSE, MCITP, MCSA, CCNA, VCP, CCA, CCNP, ITIL, PMP. I mean really, what do you want?

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