Counting MCPs one more time

Certification guru Ed Tittel reports on the rising number of Microsoft certified professionals.

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Every now and then, I like to check in on the number of Microsoft certified professionals (MCPs) tracked on the Microsoft Web site and make some observations about what I see. The chart below shows the number of IT professionals who have qualified for ten certification credentials from April 2003 through February 2005. Microsoft hasn't been updating these numbers as frequently as it once did; in the past year, updated numbers were posted...

only in May and September, and again this year on Valentine's Day.

Overall, the numbers show that growth rates for Microsoft certified professionals continue to be slower than they were at their peak in 1999 and 2000. But I'm seeing more evidence of interesting monthly growth rates across the board in the past 13 months than in the two years before that.

Though I've read claims in many publications that IT certification has been on a turnaround course in the past six to 12 months, the numbers from Microsoft in the table below are the first set of hard numbers I've come across that appear to lend some credibility to such claims.

I have observed that Microsoft is no longer reporting a hard count for MCPs who hold no other Microsoft credential other than certified professional. Now the company reports the total number of people who have earned MCP or better, which explains the near-doubling in the MCP column from December of 2003 to February 2005. My best guess is that if the previous method of reporting were used instead, it would be in the range of 1.1 million to 1.2 million instead.

April 7, 2003 June 1, 2003 Dec 18, 2003 Feb 14, 2005
MCP* 877,310 882,049 967,549 1,600,000+
MCSE 2000 200,890 205,152 231,286 270,445
MCSE 2003 N/A N/A 1,349 22,110
MCSD 2000 42,458 42,347 44,499 N/A
MCSD .NET 373 597 5,170 12,892
MCDBA 107,631 109,000 117,924 192,864
MCSA 2000 62,416 66,521 92,673 147,029
MCSA 2003 N/A N/A 3,127 38,924
MCAD 3,466 4,229 11,473 27,560
MCDST N/A N/A N/A 4,051~

Notes:
+ No breakout on difference between those who hold only MCP and those who also hold additional credentials available.
~ MCDST launched in February 2004; about 1,500 certificate holders were reported as of Sept. 9, 2004.


CERTIFICATION DEFINITIONS:
MCP* Microsoft Certified Professional
MCSE Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer
MCDBA Microsoft Certified Database Administrator
MCSA Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator
MCAD Microsoft Certified Application Developer
MCSD Microsoft Certified Solution Developer
MCDST Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician

Here are some other observations based on my analysis of the numbers:

  • MCSE continues to show strong and steady growth. Numbers for Windows 2000 are up about 39,000 from the previous date listed, for a monthly average growth rate of 3,000 or so. For 2003, the numbers are up by nearly 21,000, for a monthly average growth rate of just under 1,600.
  • MCSA is finally starting to develop some serious momentum. For Windows 2000, numbers are up by over 54,000, with a monthly average of nearly 4,200. For Windows 2003, those numbers are about 36,000 and 2,750 respectively. This is the first time I've seen MCSA beat MCSE across the board, and I'm also encouraged to see meaningful growth for 2003 as well.
  • Microsoft isn't reporting the old MCSD counts any more: only the new MCSD .NET numbers are available. These show slow but steady growth of about 600 per month over the past year and a bit. By contrast, the MCSD is growing at about 1,200 per month, or more than double MCSD rates. This seems like a pretty typical ratio for a junior- versus senior-level certification, and I expect this slow but steady pace to continue through 2005.
  • For years, MCDBA would chug along at a steady monthly rate of 1,000 or so. In the past 13 months however, it's jumped by nearly 75,000, and has enjoyed a monthly growth rate of more than 5,000 -- the biggest rate across all Microsoft certifications reported here.
  • The MCDST (Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician) didn't appear until February of 2004, which gives it only 11 months of data. Even so its growth rate is still well under 1,000 a month (under 350, in fact), but growth has picked up since the last numbers report on 9/9/2004 (about 600 a month since then). Although this is a sign of increasing interest and momentum, numbers still aren't where I believe Microsoft wants them to be.
  • It's interesting that growth rates for MCSA and MCSE for Windows 2000 continue to outpace those for Windows Server 2003, typically at a ratio of 3 to 2 if not bigger. This year could finally be the tipping point for that ratio, simply because a new release of Windows (codenamed Longhorn) is finally in the offing. With a new desktop scheduled for 2006, and a new server in 2007, companies and organizations are bound to finally start upgrading to Windows Server 2003 in larger numbers, and certifications are bound to track such trends. Of course, it will be interesting to watch the numbers and see if they bear these beliefs out!


    Ed Tittel is the Series Editor for Exam Cram 2, and a contributing editor and columnist for Certification Magazine. He also follows certification topics for InformIT.com and has written numerous books on MS certifications. E-mail Ed at etittel@techtarget.com.
This was first published in March 2005

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