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Microsoft certification preparation advice for Windows admins

Windows admins who want to prepare for Microsoft certification should learn which options exist and best align with their career path in order to form an effective study strategy.

Microsoft offers a number of certifications for IT professionals who want to advance their careers or prove their familiarity with the latest technologies. Having a Microsoft certification can give prospective Windows administrator candidates a leg up on the competition.

The exams required to earn a Microsoft certification test a Windows administrator's knowledge and expertise in areas such as server and desktop infrastructure. This FAQ will take the hassle out of Microsoft certification preparation and help administrators learn about different certification options and what study methods they can use.

What's involved with getting the MCSE certification?

Earning an MCSE certification requires candidates to take not one, but five exams. IT pros are able to substitute certain exams to better fit prospective job requirements. Once an administrator earns an MCSE certification, it must be recertified every three years.

What Microsoft certification options exist?

The exams required to earn a Microsoft certification test a Windows administrator's knowledge and expertise in areas such as server and desktop infrastructure.

There are several certifications available for IT pros at different stages in their career. Admins can start with an "entry-level" certification and work their way up to more advanced concepts. Older certifications are eventually retired to make way for new technologies, but admins can upgrade an existing certification by taking another exam.

Strategies for Microsoft certification preparation

Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach to studying for MCSE certification exams, hands-on experience with the relevant technologies is one of the best ways to prepare. Using a mix of resources may also help test takers better understand the material and prepare for different question formats.

Upgrade to a Windows Server 2012 MCSA

Windows administrators who currently hold a Windows Server 2008 MCSA certification do not need to recertify, but can update their certification to the Windows Server 2012 equivalent by taking an "Upgrading Your Skills" exam. Certifications are eventually updated to include new releases, such as Windows Server 2016.

Learn by doing with a Hyper-V home lab

A Hyper-V test lab is a low-cost method Windows Server administrators can use in their Microsoft certification preparation. A test lab allows admins to experiment and make mistakes without causing any harm to a production environment.

Next Steps

How to land a Windows administrator job

Brand building is an important skill for Windows admins

Master a system administrator job interview

This was last published in March 2016

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Which tips do you find the most useful to help you prepare for Microsoft certification?
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Indeed a Hyper-V home lab is really helpful to get a hands-on experience.
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