Microsoft's latest certification credential -- the Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician (MCDST) -- targets entry-level help desk or technical support staff who support end-users on PCs (running Windows, of course). The company's objective is to open up MCP certification to the legions of support professionals who view their job as a first step towards a full-fledged IT career.
To obtain this certification, candidates will need to pass two exams:
- Exam 70–271: Supporting Users and Troubleshooting Microsoft Windows Desktop Operating Systems
- Exam 70–272: Supporting Users and Troubleshooting Applications on a Microsoft Windows Desktop Operating System Platform
Exam 70-271 focuses on users who run Windows XP Professional in a work environment and Windows XP Home at home. In addition to understanding Windows XP, candidates should also be familiar with typical bundled applications such as Internet Explorer and Outlook Express. The technical focus is on installing XP, managing and troubleshooting access to resources, configuring and troubleshooting hardware devices and drivers, configuring and troubleshooting the desktop and user environments, and troubleshooting network protocols and services.
Exam 70-272 also focuses on professional and home versions of XP, but in the context of typical desktop applications. Here, the technical focus is on configuring and troubleshooting applications (specifically, Office, IE, Outlook Express and OS application support), resolving usability issues (support features in Office, IE, Outlook Express and XP ), plus resolving issues related to application and desktop/OS customization, connectivity and security.
As you'd expect in a credential that focuses on support, both exams stress people skills such as telephone demeanor and proficiency with tools that provide remote access to and control over users' desktops. Also, candidates must possess a working knowledge of Windows workgroups and Active Directory domains to help diagnose and resolve related end-user difficulties.
Both exams are currently under development, but are expected to beta in November, 2003. They will count toward MCP status, but not directly toward other Microsoft credentials, though you may use the MCDST to satisfy one of two elective exam requirements for the MCSA in either Windows 2000 or Windows Server 2003 tracks.
By defining this credential and ways to use it to pursue more advanced certs (most notably, the MCSA), Microsoft hopes to entice a large new population into its programs while helping employers find better-qualified entry-level staff. It will be interesting to see if the marketplace endorses this concept -- and if the MCDST program attracts the large numbers Microsoft expects. The MCDST home page provides more information about this program, for those who might be interested.
Ed Tittel has been a writer since 1986, is series editor for Exam Cram 2, and writes regularly on cert topics for various TechTarget Web sites.