Microsoft certification programs allow students to improve and demonstrate their skills in technology and applications development. Previously, mid-level programmers could earn the Microsoft Certified Application Developer (MCAD) credential; however, streamlining of Microsoft's programming certifications has retired the MCAD examinations and provided entry-level and advanced alternatives. These programs, which are offered online and through community colleges, prepare application developers for both the entry-level Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certification and the advanced specialized Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) and Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) certifications. Specialization options include Office, Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics, Visual Studio, and Microsoft Azure. Alternatively, students may pursue associate's degree programs that also prepare them for Microsoft certifications.
The exams offered for the MTA certifications test a professional's knowledge in basic programming and applications development, such as object-oriented programming, languages and basic desktop or database applications. Advanced exams for the MCPD and MCTS certifications ensure proficiency in creating enhanced user interfaces and back-end controls, providing stability and security for web and enterprise applications, troubleshooting web scripts and designing functional relational databases.
Microsoft, colleges and private training institutions offer Internet-based learning classes for beginning programmers and specifically for several of the advanced tests. Online Microsoft classes require a Windows Live account but allow students to study at their own pace. To complement this training, Microsoft has published several books for individual tests and comprehensive certification guides available for purchase online or through any bookstore. During a student's course of study and before sitting for the certification exams, practice tests can be accessed through the certification pages on Microsoft's website. Another option is attending courses through a Microsoft-authorized training center, where Microsoft Certified Trainers offer intensive 3-day to week-long instructional and hands-on sessions in a particular programming technology. Courses in these programs may include:
- Software Development Fundamentals
- HTML5 App Development Fundamentals
- Software Testing Fundamentals
- MS Word Essentials
- Gaming Development Fundamentals
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Associate's Degree Programs
Several community colleges partner with Microsoft to offer associate's degree programs specifically designed to prepare applications developers for one or more certification exams. These programs can take anywhere from two to three years to complete, and admissions qualifications vary based on the training, with more advanced programs requiring some previous education or experience. This degree requires general education classes, as well as specialized coursework such as:
- Application Development
- Software Development Fundamentals
- Database Administration Fundamentals
- Networking Fundamentals
After completing a training program or degree, programmers new to the field can earn a Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certification that offers four avenues representing particular programming abilities. Each requiring a single test, developer certification options include basic software, Windows-based, internet and database programming.
Advanced certifications include the Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) and Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS). Both include single-test upgrade paths for MCAD-holders. Candidates can choose between Visual Studio or SharePoint programming for the MCPD certification and further specialize in client, web, distributed systems and Azure development with the Visual Studio path. Applications development options for the MCTS credential include embedded or mobile development, which can be earned by passing a single test, or programming with .NET for Windows-based, web or distributed systems, which requires the passage of two tests.
Overall, if you want to earn a Microsoft certification, you can receive comprehensive training through a non-degree certification program or an associate's degree from a college that partners with Microsoft.