Microsoft has raised the bar on the MCSE title. Will you attempt to clear it?

Another Shot at the Gold

Microsoft has raised the bar on the MCSE title. Will you attempt to clear it?

I know it hurts to think of having to pass a batch of tough new exams sometime between now and the end of 2001 in order to earn or keep that MCSE title. And there are some things in the new track that I question. Overall, though, I think it’s really nothing more than what most of you have wanted for some time.

“Make the title mean something!” “Make the exams harder!” “Get rid of paper MCSEs!” “Raise the bar!” That’s what I’ve heard you say over and over—and so has Microsoft. So who did you want the bar raised for? Those other MCSEs out there who are tarnishing the title by earning and flaunting it without enough knowledge and experience? Or everyone?

Look at the new track as a gift, albeit one that will require some work to realize. If you choose to jump through this new and very tough set of hoops that Microsoft has created, here’s your chance to again establish yourself as a cream-of-the-crop professional in high demand. By working with Windows 2000 and passing new exams on topics like network design, security, and directory services, you have a chance to verify that you hold a high-level skill set that few will have, at least initially. According to a recent Information Week poll of IT managers, 68 percent say they’ll be widely deploying Windows 2000 within a year of its release. That’s a lot of opportunity.

After all, the kind of branding that we all want to see for Microsoft’s certification titles—in particular, the MCSE—can’t come from Microsoft alone. Holders of the title must be willing to work hard, to continue to take exams that truly challenge you and that not just anybody can pass, and to tackle new technologies ahead of the pack.

Seven difficult exams, a recommendation of a year’s experience, fresh exam technologies that make it tougher to copy questions, seeding new questions into exams periodically, and more versions of each exam. Sounds like a toughening of standards. Sounds like what you’ve been asking for.

Sure, there are things I don’t like about the new track. My biggest question is whether the retirement date for the NT 4.0 exams (the end of 2000, giving MCSEs until the end of 2001 to upgrade) should have been set so soon. I wish Microsoft had waited to announce a retirement date based on market acceptance of Windows 2000. That way, at least it would give the appearance that marketing concerns aren’t dictating certification timetables. As several readers have pointed out to me, if you work for a small firm with no immediate plans to upgrade, but you want to maintain your MCSE, you face a real challenge in getting some hands-on experience with the new product. I agree.

But overall, I think Microsoft is on the right track. Maybe we should commend the company for being willing to take heat for making hard changes to its highly popular flagship title. Look at it this way—here’s your chance to once again be that rare and sought-after commodity, an MCSE—this time with Windows 2000 knowledge and experience. Start on it now, get it while it’s hot, and watch the market flock to your doorstep.

What do you think? Am I taking the wrong side on this one? Let me know at editor@mcpmag.com.

About the Author

Linda Briggs is the founding editor of MCP Magazine and the former senior editorial director of 101communications. In between world travels, she's a freelance technology writer based in San Diego, Calif.

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