Perhaps the most telling observation I can make about the Microsoft Certified Technical Specialist (MCTS) and the Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) is that they're being replaced with

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refurbished versions of these three once-dominant Microsoft certifications:

  • MCSA (was: Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator; is now: Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate)
  • MCSE (was: Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer; is now: Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert)
  • MCSD (was: Microsoft Certified Software Developer; is now: Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer)

The fact is the MCTS and MCITP never really took off the way Microsoft might have hoped. Thus, the resuscitation of the older and better-known MCSA, MCSE and MCSD is both a calculated move to cash in on the former glory and widespread popularity of the originals and a very smart move on Microsoft's part to reinvent and reinvigorate the most important lower and mid-tier credentials on the Microsoft certification path.

This makes for a much clearer progression on the Microsoft certification path for all certs of each kind.

MCP versus MCTS?

I never really understood why Microsoft felt it necessary to invent the MCTS anyway, because it already had a perfectly good (and equally valuable -- or value-less) single-exam certification. That was, of course, the Microsoft Certified Professional or MCP credential, which still entails taking and passing any single Microsoft certification exam. For a while there it looked like the MCTS was trying to lend more flash and dash to newer tools and technologies based on newer Windows Server and desktop OSes, not to mention a plethora of platforms including Exchange, Lync Server, SharePoint, SQL Server, and so forth and so on.

Going forward, it looks like the MCTS will simply revert back to MCP. Given that there never was any real or profound distinction between these credentials, I think most people will give this development a merely passing ho-hum. That's about all it deserves. For more information on this waning program, which will cease to exist when pre-2012 versions of platforms, Windows Server 2008 (and R2), Windows 7 and so forth drop off of mainstream support, visit the MCTS page.

MCITP Gives Way to MCSA/MCSE

Currently, the MCITP comes in the following array:

  • Windows Client: Enterprise Desktop Support Technician on Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Administrator, Customer Support Technician on Windows Vista, Enterprise Support Technician on Windows Vista (four certs in all; two exams for each one)
  • Windows Server: Enterprise Administrator on Windows Server 2008 (five exams), Server Administrator on Windows Server 2008 (three exams), Virtualization Administrator on Windows Server 2008 R2 (three exams; three certs in all)
  • Microsoft SQL Server: Database Administrator 2008, Database Developer 2008, Business Intelligence Developer 2008 (three certs in all; two exams for each one)
  • Microsoft Office Project Server: Enterprise Project Management with Microsoft Office Project Server 2007 (one cert; three exams)
  • Microsoft Exchange Server: Enterprise Messaging Administrator on Exchange 2010 (two exams), Enterprise Messaging Administrator on Exchange 2007 (three exams; two certs in all)
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server: SharePoint Administrator 2010 (one cert; two exams)
  • Microsoft Lync Server: Lync Server Administrator 2010 (one cert; two exams)

Many of these items now read, "Retirement dates for these exams will be announced when new MCSE certifications are announced for this technology" on the MCITP page. Numerous others already have announced retirement dates of July 31, 2013 (Windows Client, Windows Server, SQL Server and Project Server). The Messaging Administrator for Exchange 2007 will end on September 30, 2012, coincident with its exams' retirement.

Get more resources about Microsoft certifications

Read about the value of Microsoft certifications

Learn about Microsoft certification training

Read about the importance of IT degrees and certification

A quick look at the number of MCITPs and the variation in the number of exams required to earn one helps explain why it's fading away in favor of MCSA and MCSE. Some of these credentials required only two exams, the MCITP: Enterprise Administrator on Windows Server 2008 required five exams. Lots of others require three. The introduction of the new MCSA spells out two or three exams for every credential, and the new MCSE adds one or more exams to its baseline requirement for the underlying MCSA. This makes for a much clearer progression on the Microsoft certification path for all certs of each kind and helps candidates, employers and HR or placement professionals understand where things fit in an overall skills, knowledge and experience hierarchy.

If the MCITP suffered from a lack of definition and clarity -- and it did -- the new MCSA to MCSE progression does not share those failings. The same thing is underway with the replacement of the Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) with the newer Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD). And, in fact, there will be developer-oriented MCSA credentials leading into the new MCSDs to ensure the same differentiation and stratification for new developer certs as there will be for new platform- and OS-oriented certs.

Pondering Microsoft certs: Old or new?

If you're pursuing an MCTS or MCITP currently, you should look for upgrade or conversion options for related MCSA and MCSE certifications. You'll find a surprising number of options already defined, and I'm sure there will be many more issued now that Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 have arrived. Then, too, we'll see all platform certs (SharePoint, SQL Server, Lync Server and so forth) update very soon, too, if they haven't been updated already. You can keep on with your MS certification plans, but you should switch over to the new MCSA, MCSE, MCSD and so forth as soon as you can.

Ed Tittel is a regular contributor to numerous TechTarget sites who also blogs three times a week on IT Careersand Windows Enterprise Desktop topics. His latest book is Clusters For Dummies, 2e, a custom title sponsored by IBM/Platform Computing. For more information on Ed and his activities and publications, check out his website at edtittel.com.

This was first published in January 2013

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