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Certification: What's in store for 2002

Expect a full-blown proliferation of .NET tools and technologies to spawn lots of new design and elective exams for all of Microsoft's multi-exam certifications.

The past year left many changes to Microsoft certification. As I write this tip, the Windows 2000 accelerated exam for Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs) on NT 4.0 (70-240) is no more. For those who passed the three Windows NT 4.0 core exams (70-067, 70-068, and 70-073), this tough and nasty exam offered a faster (if not smoother) MCSE upgrade path from NT 4.0 to Windows 2000. Likewise, in 2002, the door will be closing on similar sweet deals for holders of older, less up-to-date Microsoft certifications.

The good news in 2001 was Microsoft's surprise decision to count discontinued, NT 4.0-era exams as electives for the MCSE on Windows 2000. This decision represented a profoundly conciliatory move that should encourage existing MCSEs to upgrade without debasing their "new and improved" credential based on Windows 2000. The bad news: per-exam fees now cost $125.

In 2002, you can expect many more certification program changes and developments. Here's a preview of coming attractions:

  • .NET Server: In the wake of Windows .NET Server's expected introduction some time in 2002 (Most of the smart money?s betting on a release date between June and August.), lots of new exams will be offered to incorporate new .NET server technology. We know that the Windows 2000 Server exam will be updated to from 70-215 to 70-275; the networking infrastructure exam from 70-216 to 70-276; Active Directory from 70-217 to 70-277; and the Windows 2000 network management exam from 70-218) to 70-278. XP Professional (70-270) has been available since last October. So, at the bare minimum, you can expect is a complete slate of Server .NET core exams for both MCSE and MCSA credentials. Individuals will still be able to mix and match Windows 2000 with Windows XP Professional and Windows Server .NET exams since Microsoft plans to maintain both sets of exams in parallel.

  • Design exams and electives: So far, neither core design exams nor electives for MCSE or MCSA have become explicit targets for new version upgrades. Thus, it's not clear that the "add 60" formula by which you "add 60" to earlier exam numbers in order to predict corresponding new exams that incorporate new technology applies to this set of credentials. Still, it will be fascinating to see what new entries Microsoft adds to its existing slate of exams. I have no clue whether the "add 60" rule will hold true for all exams, or whether upgrades will appear only for some subset. My bet's on the latter. I also expect to see new exams strongly related to new .NET infrastructure components, tools, and technologies within a year or so of .NET Server's release.

  • Developer makeover: Microsoft has already said it will be creating a lower-level developer certification with the same relationship to the MCSD that the MCSA has to the MCSE. I'm guessing that this credential will do away with the 70-100 Solution Architecture requirement and that it may be called MCSP where the P stands for programmer. I also expect Microsoft to wait until after releasing Windows .NET Server before introducing this change. Redmond will probably adjust requirements for the MCSD when it introduces its slate of .NET Server developer exams.

  • Other adjustments: We'll see some changes to MCDBA as a consequence of .NET Server's release, and possibly some new exams for this specialization to boot. Alas, I don't have enough information to speculate further on any details.

    All in all, there should be quite a flurry of activity as soon as the new server operating system is released. I'm expecting full-blown proliferation of .NET tools and technologies to spawn lots of new design and elective exams for all of Microsoft's multi-exam certifications. As I learn more about the details, count on me to keep you posted throughout 2002.

    Ed Tittel is a principal at a small content development company based in Austin, Texas, and the creator of the Exam Cram series, and has worked on over 30 certification-related books on Microsoft, Novell and Sun related topics.

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