UPDATE: Microsoft Rescinds Retirement of NT 4.0 MCSE Track

In a significant announcement made late Wednesday, Microsoft is no longer retiring the certifications of those who obtained their MCSE title under the NT 4.0 track.

Call it listening to customers and partners. In a significant announcement made late Wednesday, Microsoft is no longer retiring the certifications of those who obtained their MCSE title under the Windows NT 4.0 track. At the same time the company publicly announced for the first time just how many people currently hold the MCSE credential under Windows 2000.

In a conference call with Robert Stewart, General Manager of the Microsoft Training and Certification Group, and Anne Marie McSweeney, Microsoft's Director of the Certification and Skills Assessment Group, learned that the company has reversed itself from a stern policy decision set two years ago to decertify those who hold the NT 4.0 MCSE title by the end of this year.

Microsoft has rewritten how it will look at its certification titles. Historically, Microsoft has periodically retired credentials earned on older versions of its products.

Starting immediately, no longer will Microsoft-certified IT professionals be faced with a decertification process; instead, Microsoft says that it will create version designations of its titles. An MCSE holding the title under the NT 4.0 track will be designated as "MCSE on Windows NT 4.0." MCSEs in Windows 2000 will now be formally referred to as "MCSE on Microsoft Windows 2000."

McSweeney said the updated designations will appear on MCP transcripts probably beginning in April 2002.

The new policy affects titles in the program moving forward. Specifically, it affects those who hold the NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 versions of the MCSE, as well as the MCP+Internet, MCSE+Internet, MCP+Site Building, MCSD, and MCT. However, McSweeney emphasized that the company won't offer new credentials for MCSE+I, MCP+I, or MCP+Site Building under Windows 2000 or Windows .NET Server.

Under the revisions, those candidates who have passed all core exams for the MCSE on Windows NT 4.0 can continue to earn an MCSE credential on Windows NT 4.0 using exams that are currently being offered. Also, those MCPs who have achieved their titles on NT 4.0 exams will retain their certifications too. Microsoft will not bring back exams that have been retired.

Unaffected by the announcement are MCSDs in the Windows Operating System and Services Architecture track (exams 70-150 and 70-151) and the Windows Architecture track (exams 70-160 and 70-161) and MCSEs certified in Windows NT 3.51. Those who have not upgraded to the current tracks of their respective certifications will remain decertified.

Why the change of heart? Stewart says that since the company made the original decision years ago, the IT climate has become more complex. "Back then, we tried to hold to a simple, clear message," said Stewart. "But as the industry has moved to a complex and heterogeneous approach to technology, we figured that keeping [the certification program] simple wasn't the best solution. We wanted to do the right thing."

One factor in the decision, he said, was that Microsoft realized the industry could absorb that complexity. Also, Microsoft has realized that it can't predict the appropriate timing for such retirements. The new policy eliminates the need for those predictions. Plus, it allows companies to be able to identify individuals certified on Windows NT 4.0 while the product is still part of their IT environments.

"[Microsoft] had what might be called an identity crisis," added McSweeney. The company said evidence had built up proving NT 4.0 expertise was still needed. Customers and partners only reinforced that conclusion. Microsoft finally decided to reexamine its decertification policy. "We shouldn't be the ones calling the shots; we should let the market decide that."

The policy change will not affect the retirement of the 70-240 Win2K Accelerated Exam, which Stewart maintains will still happen Dec. 31, 2001. (The free voucher for this exam must be ordered by Nov. 1, 2001; see "Free Voucher Offer Ends Nov. 1" in News.)

The news brings a reprieve to those MCTs who have been struggling to achieve certification on Windows 2000. While Microsoft Certified Trainers are still expected to obtain the newer credential or another premium title such as MCSD or MCDBA, the deadline has been pushed back to May 1, 2002 from its original date of December 31, 2001.

In a side note, McSweeney revealed that about 47,000 people worldwide have obtained the MCSE on Microsoft Windows 2000.

Current feedback as posted in an earlier version of this story from certified professionals appears to be running about 75 to 85 percent favorable towards the decision.

"Microsoft, leave the version sorting to me and my employer. You provide the OS and the market will take care of the rest," said MCP Steve from Dayton, Ohio, in a message posted to

"Great news. We run an NT 4.0 network and have no plans to upgrade for at least the next two years," said Robert King from Scotland. "Thank you, Microsoft. Common sense prevails."

Of those who expressed dismay about the decision, about a third hold the MCSE on Windows 2000.

"Retirement of the NT 4.0 paper MCSEs was the only thing that was going to make the effort I put into my 2000 MCSE worth it," said Chris from Texas. "Now I stand here with letters on my resume that mean even less than they did yesterday. I assure you that when I'm hiring people, I will overlook NT 4.0 MCSEs in favor of Windows 2000 MCSEs because it shows effort, desire, and the ability to learn quickly."

To read the official press release from Microsoft, go to

About the Author

Michael Domingo has held several positions at 1105 Media, and is currently the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.


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