Windows Server certification FAQ

Learn all the basic requirements, costs and benefits for Microsoft Windows Server certification.

The field of IT is growing as a highly competitive work environment. If you're working with Windows Server, there are ways to get ahead and ascend the ladder. Use this resource to find out information about what Microsoft certification can do for you and your career, what exams to take and more.

What's the benefit of a Windows Server certification in terms of salary and career advancement?
Becoming a Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) or Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) doesn't just add a cool abbreviation after your name; it has monetary benefits, too. Yes, it helps with optics: hiring managers do tend to see these professionals as productive, according to Microsoft's certification page. But here's where it counts: Microsoft says 43 percent of certified employees see raises and 57 percent expect to see bonuses.

What Windows Server certifications currently exist?
For Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2, two certifications exist: the MCTS and the MCITP.

Being an MCTS means having the knowhow to diagnose and fix problems with a server, as well as install it in the first place.

Think of the MCITP as the Decider. They figure out what needs to be done in terms of design and technology for a particular deployment. You will need to obtain an MCTS certification first in order to apply for MCITP status.

Two certifications, Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA), are up against the wall in terms of usefulness. The certifications only apply for Windows Server 2003, but can be useful for someone who wants to be familiar with all types of hardware and software combinations.

What exams will I have to take – and how much do they cost?
To be certified as an MCITP for Windows Server, Microsoft requires you to take Exams 640, 642 and 646. Each exam costs $150, running the total up to $450.  Add to that learning materials such as books and practice exams and it can be a costly endeavor.

What resources exist to help me study for my certification exams?
There are plenty of online learning resources that you can use to bolster knowledge and prepare for a Microsoft certification exam. Microsoft offers an e-Learning page, which allows you to select courses and take practice exams based on a particular subject. The learning site also has detailed descriptions of the certifications for the operating system you may want to pursue. Measureup, Transcender and uCertify are among many independent sites that sell practice exams and study guides. Plus, SearchWindowsServer also has a helpful tips page, which offers a wide variety of troubleshooting information on topics like PowerShell scripting, Active Directory administration, virtualization and the latest third-party tools.

Is it worthwhile to get certified on legacy operating systems (e.g. Windows Server 2003 vs. Windows Server 2008)? How long will my certification last?
While mainstream support for Windows Server 2003 ended in July 2010, getting certified on legacy operating systems might be worth it, considering Windows Server 2003 is deployed in 74% of IT shops according to a 2011 TechTarget survey. Some exams in the MCSA and MCSE certifications for Windows Server 2003 are at "retired" status, because that operating system support time has run out. Therefore, in some cases it's not possible to be certified for Windows Server 2003. If you're only planning to work with Windows Server 2008, there's obviously no reason to get certified for Windows Server 2003.

More on certification

A look at affordable Microsoft certification exam preparation options

 Microsoft may demand recertification for all credentials

 The MCITP certification path to career success

How will certification requirements change with the release of Windows Server 8?
It remains to be seen how the release of Windows Server 8 (expected in late 2012 or early 2013) will fit into the Microsoft certification picture. Microsoft recently announced that it would require recertifications for many credentials, and this may apply to existing Windows Server certifications once the new version is released – especially given the increased connections between Windows Server and the cloud.

This was first published in March 2012

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