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Microsoft Preps New Tracks for Systems Admins, Developers

Redmond examining exam matrices for new tracks, which candidates may attain as early as first quarter 2002.

Microsoft is preparing two new tracks for systems administrators and developers, which candidates may attain as early as first quarter 2002. Microsoft announced them Friday at its annual worldwide sales and partner conference, Microsoft Fusion, in Anaheim, Calif. During the same weekend Microsoft 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, will not 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 and that Microsoft has yet to complete its surveys and focus groups to fine-tune it before making an official announcement in a few months.

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 [Windows 2000 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."

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."

Andy Barkl, owner of MCT & Associates, a training and consulting firm in Phoenix, Arizona, thinks the new tracks, if implemented correctly, will finally "allow for 'job-based' training instead of just product and technology training."

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.

Cartwright calls the new developer track "a great opportunity. So many MCSEs were intimidated by the developer exams. Now it's an attainable and reasonable goal."

The fact that the announcement came with scant details miffed some CTEC owners who attended the announcement. "We got nothing," said one CTEC owner, who asked us not to identify him. "We just want to know what the curriculum will be."
—CertCities.com Web Editor Becky Nagel contributed to this story

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