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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 a senior partner and principal technologist with Concentrated Technology. He also serves as a contributing editor and columnist for TechNet Magazine and Redmond magazine, and is a highly sought-after and top-ranked speaker for live and recorded events. Greg can be found at numerous IT conferences such as TechEd, MMS and VMworld, among others, and has served as conference chair for 1105 Media’s TechMentor Conference since 2005. Greg has been a multiple recipient of both the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional and VMware vExpert award.

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Reader Comments:

Tue, Jan 29, 2008 don trump

Best to go for the 2008 certs, 2003 is 5 years old. more money for the microsoft cash cow..

Thu, Jan 24, 2008 Bryan Denver

MP from Phoenix, I'm pretty sure you're out of luck. I believe you had to complete your MCSE in 2003 prior to 12-31-2007.

Fri, Jan 11, 2008 Greg Shields Anonymous

Hi all!
To Packer Fan: Nope. You should only take one exam. Taking both exams is unnecessary and does nothing to assist your certification path.
To M: No, you aren't screwed. The MCSE 2003 isn't going anywhere. You will *never* be decertified. So, if you're well down the path of a MCSE 2003, then keep going. You'll keep it forever.
To MP: If you're only a single test towards 2003, you've got some thinking to do. I would think about the environment you'll be working with. If that environment is 2003, then stick with it (but go fast before the exams go away). If you'll be moving to 2008 very soon, then consider starting down the 2008 path. You'll want your certification to match the environment you want to work with. To everyone: Hope this helps!

Sat, Jan 5, 2008 MP Phoenix

I just passed the first test and I was on my way to get a MCSE certification. Should I continue to take all of the tests anyway, or wait for 2008 test to start on that path instead?

Fri, Jan 4, 2008 M Q

Im currently preparing for the 2003 MCSE due to a job requirement in my new job. Am I screwed?

Thu, Jan 3, 2008 Packer fan Frozen tundra


I'm an MCSE 2003 and an MCSA 2003. If I am taking 60-749 to upgrade the MCSE, does it make sense to take 60-748 to upgrade the MCSA or does passing the 60-749 make the 60-748 superflurous?

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