Microsoft Programming Qualifications

If you've ever done any programming using a windows machine, then you may have dreamt of making a career out of it. In this section, we'll explain the various paths to becoming a Microsoft programmer.

The Certificates

There are three main programming certificates to choose from. It can be quite tricky trying to decide which one to go for, so you need to know the difference between the three. But the three are:

  • The Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD)
  • Microsoft Certified Application Developer (MCAD)
  • Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD)

The MCPD is a more specialised certificate, and allows you to concentrate on Web Development, Windows Application Development, or business applications. It's usually done after you've gained an MCAD. The most well-known is probably the MCSD, so we'll start with that one.

 

Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD)

This certificate is for those who want to work analysing, designing and developing Microsoft applications and programming technologies in a business environment. Before taking an MCSD, you should already have two years experience working as a developer. To give you some idea of what's involved, here what the exams are all about. (You need to pass four of the Core exams, and one Elective exam.)

Core Exam One - Web Application Development

Either

  • Developing and Implementing Web Applications with Microsoft Visual Basic .NET and Microsoft Visual Studio .NET (Exam 70-305)

Or

  • Developing and Implementing Web Applications with Microsoft Visual C# .NET and Microsoft Visual Studio .NET (Exam 70-315)


Core Exam Two - Windows Application Development

Either

  • Developing and Implementing Windows-based Applications with Microsoft Visual Basic .NET and Microsoft Visual Studio .NET (Exam 70-306)

Or

  • Developing and Implementing Windows-based Applications with Microsoft Visual C# .NET and Microsoft Visual Studio .NET (Exam 70-31)


Core Exam Three - Web Services and Server Components Development

Either

  • Developing XML Web Services and Server Components with Microsoft Visual Basic .NET and the Microsoft .NET Framework (Exam 70-310)

Or

  • Developing XML Web Services and Server Components with Microsoft Visual C# and the Microsoft .NET Framework (Exam 70-320)


Core Exam Four - Solution Architecture

  • Analyzing Requirements and Defining Microsoft .NET Solution Architectures (Exam 70-300)

Elective Exam

For the elective exam, you can choose any one of the following:

  • Designing and Implementing Databases with Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition
  • Designing and Implementing Solutions with Microsoft BizTalk Server 2000 Enterprise Edition
  • Designing and Implementing Solutions with Microsoft Commerce Server 2000
  • TS: Developing Business Process and Integration Solutions Using Microsoft Biztalk Server 2006
  • Managing, Organizing, and Delivering IT Projects by Using Microsoft Solutions Framework 3.0
  • Implementing Security for Applications with Microsoft Visual Basic .NET
  • Implementing Security for Applications with Microsoft Visual C# .NET
  • TS: Microsoft SQL Server 2005 - Implementation and Maintenance
  • Developing E-Business Solutions Using Microsoft BizTalk Server 2004

With new NET technologies coming out all the time, you can expect the above to chop and change a lot. But gaining a MCSD qualification is a long road, and one you'll probably have to do while working a full-time job. And it's not cheap, either!

 

Microsoft Certified Application Developer (MCAD)

A software cycle consists of roughly six steps: Analyse, Design, Develop, Test, Deploy, Maintain. The Solution Developer is expected to do all six. As an Application Developer, you'll be expected to do the last four, but not the first two. So if you don't enjoy planning what the programme is going to do, sketching out what problems may lie ahead, and planning what the application will look like, then go for this certificate, rather than the full MCSD. In short, the MCAD is a programmer, while the MCSD is a developer and programmer.

To gain an MCAD qualification, you need to pass three exams, two fewer than for a MCSD. The exams you need are two Core exams, and one Elective one.

Core Exams: Web or Windows Application Development (Pick One)

  • Developing and Implementing Web Applications with Microsoft Visual Basic .NET and Microsoft Visual Studio .NET (Exam 70-305)
  • Developing and Implementing Windows-based Applications with Microsoft Visual Basic .NET and Microsoft Visual Studio .NET (Exam 70-306)
  • Developing and Implementing Web Applications with Microsoft Visual C# .NET and Microsoft Visual Studio .NET (Exam 70-315)
  • Developing and Implementing Windows-based Applications with Microsoft Visual C# .NET and Microsoft Visual Studio .NET (Exam 70-316)

Core Exams: Web Services and Server Components Development (Pick One)

  • Developing XML Web Services and Server Components with Microsoft Visual Basic .NET and the Microsoft .NET Framework (Exam 70-310)
  • Developing XML Web Services and Server Components with Microsoft Visual C# and the Microsoft .NET Framework (Exam 70-320)

Elective exam (one required)

  • For the elective exam, the choices are more or less the same as for the MCSD


The MCAD is not as tough as the MCSD, and doesn't pay as well in the job market. It's more rewarding if all you want to do is programme, though, as it dispenses with all that dull design stuff! And you don't need a couple of years work experience as a developer before you start.

 

Conclusion

Choosing the right Microsoft programming certificate can be a baffling affair, as there's lots of initials to get to grips. Crossover subjects are common. But go for the MCAD, if you're not already working as a programmer. Once you gain an MCAD, it may be worth specialising in one of the MCPD disciplines (but probably not). For the higher paying Microsoft programming jobs, you need to aim for a MCSD. With all the money you'll spend gaining one, you'll probably need it!