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A sudden upswing in Windows 2003 credentials

Changes in Microsoft's certification process have caused an increased interest in Windows 2003-related exams. Certification expert Ed Tittel delves into the reasons for the recent trend.

As somebody with a vested interest in how new Microsoft cert exams fare in the marketplace, this is a subject that I watch closely on a regular basis. Until recently, Windows 2003-related exams (like the core titles for the MCSA and MCSE on Windows 2003, as primary examples) had been incredibly lackluster in performance, and has had no visible spikes in interest or demand.

In the last three months, this has changed dramatically. Sources inside VUE and Prometric indicate a sudden upsurge in seats occupied for such exams starting in the May-June time frame. Likewise, demand for study guides, exam crams, practice tests, classroom and online training, and all the other accoutrement for Microsoft certification have bounced upward as well.

To get a real frame of reference for what is going on, compare the numbers shown in Table 1, taken from two recent reports Microsoft released earlier this year.


Credential (Acronym) 2/14/2005 6/14/2005
Microsoft Windows 2003 Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE) 22,110 27,510
Microsoft Windows 2003 Microsoft Certified System Administrator (MCSA) 38,924 43,429
Microsoft Windows 2000 Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE) 270,445 272,406
Microsoft Windows 2000 Microsoft Certified System Administrator (MCSA) 147,029 153,755
Microsoft Windows XP Microsoft Certified Desktop Technician (MCDST) 4,051 7,077
Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA) 129,864 132,574
Microsoft.Net Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD) 12,829 15,463
Microsoft .NET Microsoft Certified Application Developer (MCAD) 27,560 33,298

Although Microsoft hasn't released official numbers since June 14, my sources from both major testing companies say that seats sold jumped substantially in the period from June through August, and that in some cases the number of seats for core Windows 2003 exams jumped to double or better when compared to numbers for the preceding three month period (March through May).

What's up? Two things: Microsoft began mass mailings to Windows 2000 license holders in May informing them that Windows 2000 was moving from regular tech support to extended support status in September. This signals the "beginning of the end" of product support for Windows platforms, and is apparently as powerful an impetus for upgrades and migration as Microsoft wants it to be. On the other hand, with Longhorn now scheduled for desktop release some time in the second half of 2006, and with server release about a year behind that, many companies may be experiencing a "gee, it's time to catch up" effect. Indeed, there is always some pressure to catch up with the current Windows release before the preceding one disappears, and a new one comes to market.

At any rate, I'm really looking forward to Microsoft's next update of these numbers (which it promises monthly, but apparently gets around to only once every 5 or 6 months) to see if the number of individuals taking exams is matched by a similar jump for those earning new credentials.

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, and has written numerous books on MS certifications. E-mail Ed at

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