Microsoft Unveils New Cert Structure
On Tuesday, Microsoft officially released a detailed roadmap for its Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist and Microsoft Certified Professional Developer Certifications. The release coincides with the release of SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 in November. The official announcement primarily focuses on updates and finite details to the program, much of which was originally announced in July at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (See "MCP Program Takes New Road in September
" in the News archive.)
"Nothing's really changed," said Al Valvano, Microsoft Learning Group program manager. "It's entirely consistent with what we shared [at the WPC]." But he emphasized that the program "is the realization of a lot of customer feedback, both who are currently certified in the MCP community and also those who've never really engaged in certification, which is an important audience as well."
Valvano said the program boils down to a "series of achievements":
- Technology series, which is based on expertise with a Microsoft technology. Valvano said those who pass an exam at this point will earn a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist credential.
- Professional series, based on definition of one's job role. Valvano said that there will be "two flavors of Professional credentials -- one can be certified as an IT Professional or Professional Developer."
- Architect Series is the last piece, which Valvano said was integrated into the program back in July (see "Microsoft Previews Board-Level Certification at TechMentor" in News).
|Figure 1. Microsoft's New Generation Certification Program broken down into the three tiers. (Click image for larger version. Source: Microsoft Corp.)
At the first tier, the Technology Series, the group introduces five new Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist titles for SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005 and BizTalk Server 2006:
- MCTS: .NET Framework 2.0 Web Applications -- Completion of two exams: 70-536: TS: .NET Framework 2.0-Application Development Foundation and 70-528: TS: .NET Framework 2.0-Web-based Client Development
- MCTS: .NET Framework 2.0 Windows Applications -- Two exams: 70-536 and 70-526: TS: .NET Framework 2.0-Windows-based Client Development
- MCTS: .NET Framework 2.0 Distributed Applications -- Two exams: 70-536 and 70-529: TS: .NET Framework 2.0-Distributed Application Development
- MCTS: SQL Server 2005 -- One exam: 70-431: TS: SQL Server 2005-Implementation and Maintenance
- MCTS: BizTalk Server 2006 -- One exam: 70-235: TS: Developing Business Process and Integration Solutions Using BizTalk Server 2006
The MCTS series will be made available when the exams are released to the general public starting in January 2006. Exams will be in beta from November 2005 through February 2006.
At the next tier is the Professional series, with two types of credentials available, one for the Microsoft Certified IT Professional designation, and the other for the Microsoft Certified Professional Developer. The MCITP series for SQL Server 2005 has three options:
- MCITP: Database Developer -- Completion of three exams: 70-431 (from the MCTS series); 70-441: PRO: Designing Database Solutions by Using SQL Server 2005; and 70-442: PRO: Designing and Optimizing Data Access by Using SQL Server 2005
- MCITP: Database Administrator -- Three exams: 70-431; 70-443: PRO: Designing a Database Server Infrastructure by Using SQL Server 2005; and 70-444: PRO: Optimizing and Maintaining a Database Administration Solution by Using SQL Server 2005; and
- MCITP: Business Intelligence Developer -- Three exams: 70-431; 70-445: PRO: Designing Business Intelligence Solutions by Using SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services; and 70-446: PRO: Designing a Business Intelligence Infrastructure by Using SQL Server 2005
The MCPD series for Visual Studio 2005 consists of the following:
- MCPD: Web Developer -- Three exams: 70-528 and 70-536 (from the TS series) and 70-547: PRO: Designing and Developing Web Applications by Using the .NET Framework and Foundation
- MCPD: Windows Developer -- Three exams: 70-526 and 70-536 and 70-548: PRO: Designing and Developing Windows Applications by Using the .NET Framework
- MCPD: Enterprise Applications Developer -- then pass one exam, 70-549: PRO: Designing and Developing Enterprise Applications by Using the .NET Framework
Like the Technology series, the Professional series titles will be made available when the exams are released to the general public starting in January 2006. Exams will be in beta from November 2005 through the first half of 2006.
The third tier, the Architect series, hasn't changed as of the program's announcement in spring 2005.
|Figure 2. Microsoft's New Generation Certification Program broken down into the three tiers. (Click image for larger version. Source: Microsoft Corp.)
Valvano said to expect more Technology Specialist and Professional series titles to come as new technologies come pouring out of the Redmond campus next year. He also reminds that the new generation MCSE isn't expected until after after the release of Longhorn next year.
Exam guides and certification requirements guides have already popped up for some exams on the Microsoft Certified Professional Web site. The guides also list supporting training materials that will be available through Microsoft Certified Training Centers, through the Microsoft e-Learning site and Microsoft Press in the coming weeks. "Most of the instructor-led courseware will become available in the January time frame," said Valvano.
The group has made available its series of e-Learning course for SQL Server 2005 on the e-Learning site for free; the courses, which retail at $99 each, will remain free until November 1, 2006.
For those already certified as MCDBAs, MCADs, and MCSDs, the group has mapped upgrade paths for specific Professional series titles. Here's how each credential maps to its MCITP and MCPD counterpart:
- MCDBA and MCSD to MCIT: Database Administrator -- Two exams: 70-431 and 70-447: UPGRADE: MCDBA Skills to MCITP Database Administrator by Using SQL Server 2005
- MCAD to either the MCPD: Web Developer or MCPD: Windows Developer -- One exam: 70-551: UPGRADE: MCAD skills to MCPD: Web Developer by Using the .NET Framework
- MCSD to MCPD: Enterprise Applications Developer -- Two exams: 70-553: UPGRADE: MCSD .NET Skills to MCPD: Enterprise Application Developer by Using the .NET Framework: Part 1 and 70-554: UPGRADE: MCSD .NET Skills to MCPD: Enterprise Application Developer by Using the .NET Framework: Part 2
Details on upgrade paths for the MCSE, MCSA, and MCDST titles will be released when the new certifications are announced later next year.
According to Valvano, exam prices won't change next year. "[One of the] major things we're trying to do is reduce the total cost of certifying, the cost of training, the opportunity costs or the time these folks spend away from their families in terms of prepping and studying," he said.
The group also plans to put together an upgraded benefits package for those who obtain any of the new premium certifications, but he said he had no details as of the announcement date. So far, Valvano confirmed only that certificates will undergo a newer design to differentiate them from the current certifications.
Noteworthy for Microsoft Partners, Valvano also said that the group is working on creating synthesis with the Partner program. "If you're attempting to meet your Partner status in the Business Intelligence competency, we're going to have exams and credentials that discretely map to that skills domain that makes sense for that Partner competency."
He said there will be another major change: "Partners who take certification exams will not only be able to meet their partner requirements, but [Partner exams] will also qualify in the MCP program." One example is exam 74-132, Designing a Portal Solution with Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies, which Valvano said is likely to be an elective for the MCTS "going forward" and might be an elective for the MCSE on Windows 2003. It's all in the technology mapping, he said.
However, Valvano said not all exams will find a place, such as 70-121: Designing and Providing Microsoft Volume Licensing Solutions for Small and Medium Organizations. He said details are still being hammered out, and an official announcement will be made in the coming weeks.
Microsoft plans no retirement of exams this year. Valvano said that any announcement in that regard might be made in December 2005.
For complete details, go to http://www.microsoft.com/learning/mcp/newgen/ on the Microsoft Certified Professional Web site site. An informative FAQ that provides upgrade info is at http://www.microsoft.com/learning/mcp/newgen/faq/. To read the original announcement from MCPmag.com, see "MCP Program Takes New Road in September" in the News archive.
Michael Domingo has held several positions at 1105 Media, and is currently the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.