MCSE Update – Beware the path you choose to tread.







Despite my crossing the professional tracks from Full time MCT to Microsoft Full Time Employee as an evangelist, I am still keen to engage with anyone on a certification journey or those still teaching and training our hard-working IT pro community. As such I feel the need to react to the announcement that there is now a choice in the path you take to gain your MCSE certification for Communications,
Messaging or SharePoint.

So first up, what was the position?

Well, when Microsoft released Windows Server 2012, they also reinvented the MCSA and MCSE certifications which I covered here and here, so no need to repeat that. The key point for this post is that the ONLY route to any of the new MCSE badges was the MCSA Server 2012. (3 exams 410,411 and 412 each getting progressively more challenging).

* The caveat to this (there is always one of those) is that if you held certain prior certifications you could take the upgrade exam (417) which I found harder than all the other three put together.

* The other caveat is that if you possessed the MCSA Server 2008 then you could use that to gain your MCSE for a specified time.

All that being equal, essentially the only route in now is to get your MCSA Server first, then take the two examinations for your chosen specialism.

As shown in the graphic below.








As a key, Communications relates to the Lync product, Messaging to Exchange and SharePoint is self-explanatory. But as I explain in the previous posts, the two MCSE level exams are not limited to single products like the MCSA levels, they are much more detailed complex and wide ranging in style and content.

So what has changed?

Well, with the release of the Office 365 MCSA, which I have posted about quite a number of times here. There is now the option to study for an MCSE without having any on-premises server certifications.

It is now an available route to MCSE by gaining the MCSA Office 365



Those who have read my trials and tribulations in achieving the aforementioned MCSA will know that it certainly is not an easy option. But there are more detailed questions to ask.

Is it right to be an MCSE, the premium level of certification now that Master and Architect have been benched, without any tested knowledge of the key skills such as DNS / DHCP / VPN / TCP/IP / Active Directory / ADFS etc.

My immediate and resounding answer to that is NO! Certainly not.

The clever thing here is that by granting an MCSA after only two exams instead of three, it looks like a quick and easy way to sneak under the skills barrier.

Far from it.

I have no doubt that those who cheat will still cheat and to them it makes no difference as they had none of those skills before, but to those who choose the Cloud route rather than on-premises, they will still need the whole list of skills I mentioned above to be successful in the Office 365 exams.

Both exams test a great deal about Active Directory / ADFS / PowerShell / Authentication in addition to the key skills for the administration of the individual online versions of Exchange, Lync and SharePoint. The final element is of course the other portals that are required to administer Office 365 and setup the subscriptions.

Two exams but having taken all the exams in both routes, the Server 2012 on-premises route was by far the less challenging for me.

This may have been because I already had the skills as a basis and that those who come in the future and know no on-premises products will not, in which case either route will be seriously beyond their reach without a great deal of study.

I think this addition is a good step and opens up a number of possibilities for future IT Pros to concentrate on the cloud first route into certification. Whatever the route, they will possess one of the most respected IT certifications around which will be of great value for the three years until re-certification is required!


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