Whenever Microsoft rolls out a new slate of IT certifications, as it did in April 2012, it typically provides an upgrade path for those who already hold some current

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certification credentials. For the latest round of Microsoft credentials based on Windows Server 2012, specifically the MCSA: Windows Server 2012, there are several Windows Server 2008 credentials from which cert holders can start to take a one-exam upgrade to MCSA: Windows Server 2012.

The evolution of Microsoft IT certifications

From 1996 until 2008, two credentials ruled the world of Microsoft certifications: Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA).

With the introduction of Windows Server 2008, Microsoft introduced two new credentials: Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) and Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP). Things changed again when Microsoft revamped its certification program in spring 2012.

The following credentials are now available:

  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA)
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE)
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD)

These new certifications lean heavily toward the cloud, reflecting the perceived growing importance of cloud-based tools and technologies in the IT profession. To learn more, see our breakdown on Microsoft certifications: How MCSE and MCSA have changed.

The following list makes up the six starting-point Microsoft IT certifications:

Of these credentials, the MCSA is tied to Windows Server 2008 (all of its exams were originally issued in 2008), while the MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator exams are tied to Windows Server 2008 and Windows 7 (exams issued in 2009). The Virtualization Administrator credential is tied to Windows Server 2008 R2 and the associated release of Hyper-V and the management tools therein. The Enterprise Messaging Administrator credentials may be tied to either Exchange 2007 (associated with Windows Server 2003) or Exchange 2010 SP1 (associated with Windows Server 2008 and/or R2). Lync Server and SharePoint MCITPs focus primarily on those platforms in the context of Windows Server 2008 and/or R2.

Breaking down the 70-417 exam

The required upgrade exam to advance from any of the aforementioned credentials to MSCA: Windows Server 2012 is 70-417: Upgrading Your Skills to MCSA Windows Server 2012.

This upgrade exam draws topics from all of the base-level MCSA: Windows Server 2012 exams (70-410, 70-411 and 70-412). Its topics relate to installing and configuring the new OS, as well as administering that OS in a production environment. In addition, the 70-417 exam delves into methods for configuring advanced Windows Server 2012 services, such as high availability, file and storage solutions, continuity and disaster recovery, network services, and identity and access solutions. Passing this exam also provides credit toward the MCSE: Server Infrastructure and MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure credentials.

The 70-417 is really a condensed version of three exams combined, rather than a free pass to MCSA, as some might be inclined to treat it.

The 70-417 exam draws on all three of the exams that those who do not qualify for 70-417 must take to earn the MCSA: Windows Server 2012. And it helps to make sense of the suggestion that those who are eligible for 70-417 should prepare for this exam by studying for all three of those other exams -- namely 70-410 (Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012), 70-411 (Administering Windows Server 2012), and 70-412 (Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services). It really is a condensed version of those three exams combined, rather than a free pass to MCSA, as some might be inclined to treat it.

Although it's a typical $150, 90-minute Microsoft IT certification exam, it can draw from such a wide range of topics that candidates are advised to prepare for all three of the base-level exams (70-410, 70-411, and 70-412) as the best way to get ready for this exam.

Getting a Second Shot

Anyone who's interested (and qualified) for the 70-417 exam should also check out the company's ongoing and current Second Shot program before they register for this exam. By obtaining a Second Shot voucher, test-takers qualify for a free second attempt at the exam subject to these conditions:

  1. They must request a Second Shot exam voucher when they register to take this exam.
  2. They must use their Second Shot voucher number when they schedule and pay for their exam through Prometric at http://www.register.prometric.com.
  3. They must register for and take their second shot on or before May 31, 2013, by reusing the same exam voucher number they used for the first exam sitting (you must wait until the day after your first exam to register for the second take, to give Prometric time to enter test results into its systems).

Obviously, this means that hanging onto the Second Shot exam voucher is important if you choose to exercise this offer. Be sure to keep it in a safe place.

Ed Tittel is a regular contributor to numerous TechTarget websites and writes the IT Career JumpStart and Windows Enterprise Desktop blogs for the IT Knowledge Exchange. Contact Ed through his website.

This was first published in October 2012

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