Microsoft MCSE and MCSA

For those wanting a career in IT, Microsoft's Network certificates have been a valued goal for a long time now. There are two main ones:

  • Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA)
  • Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE)

The final one, the MCSE, is probably the most well-know of the professional IT qualifications. Type in Jobs +MCSE into Google and you get over a million results. Which gives you some idea of how well-know it is. Gaining this certificate can lead to a high paying job.

However, the MCSE has become somewhat devalued over the past few years. A while ago, it used to be a career path that took 3 to 5 years worth of hard study. Now, a lot of companies have sprung up offering Fast-Track MCSEs. Known as Boot Camps, they offer to get your through the MCSE in about a month. Typically, you fly off to a training centre in say India, pay about 3000 dollars, and cram for 30 days. You still have to study, but there's often plenty of cheat-sheets to help you pass the exams.

The problem is, there's so much knowledge required for a Systems Engineer job, that you can't possible learn it all in a month. The MCSE certificate you get through a Boot Camp may get you an interview, but you may get found out in the technical questions stage.

Before paying any money for the MCSE, Microsoft recommends that you have a least one years experience in a network environment of over 200 users. An by experience, the don't mean just cleaning the mouse balls!

 

The MCSE - What's involved

As a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, your job is to set up Microsoft Windows 2000 or Microsoft Windows Servers, and make sure everything is running smoothly. In the jargon, it's design, manage and implement the server infrastructure.

There are seven exams to take and pass, six Core exams and one Elective. For the Core exams, there's four networking ones, a client operating system exam, and a design exam. Here's a rundown of them

The Four Networking System Exams

  1. Managing and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Environment (Exam 70-290)
  2. Implementing, Managing, and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure (Exam 70-291)
  3. Planning and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure (Exam 70-293)
  4. Planning, Implementing, and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Active Directory Infrastructure (Exam 70-294)

Client Operating System Exams (pick one)

  1. Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Windows XP Professional (Exam 70-270)
  2. Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional Exam 70-2102)

(With Vista now out, expect a new addition here)

The Design Exams (pick one)

  1. Designing a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Active Directory and Network Infrastructure (Exam 70-2973)
  2. Designing Security for a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Network (Exam 70-2983)

The Elective Exam (one exam needed)

For the elective exam, you have 17 different subjects to choose from, depending on what you want to specialise in.

 

MCSE Conclusion

If you already have a role working as a junior systems engineer, then the MCSE is still a worthy qualification to take. If only because most employers will have heard of it! Avoid the Boot Camp approach, though, unless you know your stuff. For those not yet working in a network environment, we recommend getting a job in junior role, and gaining some valuable experience. Then you can decide if the very-expensive MCSE is for you.

 

Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA)

This qualification is similar to the MSCE, but you don't need as much knowledge. With the MCSE, you'll be planning and designing the server systems that a medium to large business will use. For the MCSA, you'll be maintaining the systems, but not planning and designing. In other words, everything will be up and running. It's the job of the system administrator to keep it that way. If the network goes down, you'll be expected to fix it.

 

MCSA - What's involved

To earn the title of MCSA, you need to pass three Core exams and one Elective exam. Once you've passed four exams, the qualification is yours. The Core exams are:

  • Managing and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Environment (Exam 70-290)
  • Implementing, Managing, and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure (Exam 70-291)
  • Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Windows XP Professional (Exam 70-270)

For the elective exam, you can either do the Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician (MCDST) exam, or you have your choice of passing two of the Comptia exams. The two Comptia exams you need are Comptia A+, and either Comptia Network+ or Comptia Server+.

 

MCSA Conclusion

If you already have a Comptia A+ or Comptia Network/Server+, then the MCSA could be an excellent choice of next certificate. Don't be expecting to set up the Windows servers with this qualification, but maintaining a large network can be a very challenging career. And if it everything stops working, guess who they'll be shouting at?