After taking a look at three different reports on the number of Microsoft certified IT pros in the industry, I have noticed a slowing of certification growth rates. Does this simply reflect a slow economy, or is there less interest in MS certs in general? I think it's a little of both. The October and June data in the table below comes from Microsoft; April numbers are from MCP Magazine.

A tale of three snapshots

  Oct. 1, 2002 April 7, 2003 June 1, 2003
MCP 832,259* 877,310 882, 049
MCSE NT 4.0 N/A^ N/A 393,575
MCSE 146,373+ 200,890 205,152
MCSD 37,357 42,458 42,347
MCSD .NET N/A~ 373 597
MCDBA 75,726+

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107,631 109,000
MCSA 30,006+ 62,416 66,521
MCAD N/A~ 3,466 4,229

* Counts only individuals who hold no other MS certs
^ Counts only Windows NT 4.0 based credentials, new number as of 5/03
~ Applies only to Windows .NET; reporting begins 11/02 for MCAD, 4/03 for MCSD

What do these numbers say? Here are my observations:

  • The MCSA is not quite the monster that I and other pundits forecast it to be. Since its introduction in late January 2002, the program is averaging just over 4,000 new MCSAs per month -- not as big as the MCSE program, despite lesser requirements. This tells me that not as many candidates are pausing for an MCSA on their way to the MCSE as I had thought.

  • More than two years after the Windows NT 4.0 MCSE expired, the Windows 2000 MCSE population has yet to catch up. This tells me that many NT 4.0 MCSEs never upgraded. But an average of 5,000+ MCSEs per month since February 2000 (when Win2k shipped) is still respectable.

  • The MCDBA remains a strong credential with a respectable growth. Since its January 2001 launch (the month the SQL Server 2000 exams went final), it's averaging over 6,000 a month.

  • I'm sure there's a story as to why MCSD totals are higher in April than June -- perhaps separating .NET credentials explains the dip. But no matter how you slice them, numbers for MS developer certs don't begin to match those for administrator certs.

    It will be fascinating to watch the growth rates of .NET and Windows Server 2003 credentials over time, too, because they'll show how fast (or slow) these technologies and platforms gain market share. Look for another set of numbers and analysis in about six months!

    Ed Tittel runs a content development company in Austin, Texas, and is the series editor of the Que Exam Cram 2 and Training Guide series. He's worked on many books on Microsoft, CompTIA, CIW, Sun/Java, and security certifications.

    This was first published in June 2003

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