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Microsoft Office Specialist: How Do I Become Certified?

Microsoft Office certifications are generally optional credentials that can demonstrate specialized competence in one or more Microsoft Office programs. Continue reading for an overview of the requirements for certification, as well as job growth and salary info for a few career options for certified professionals.

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Essential Information

Workers can prove their skills and proficiency with Microsoft computer programs by earning the Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certification. Individuals can elect to earn certification in one or more Microsoft programs, such as Word, Excel or PowerPoint. Before taking the exam, individuals have the option of self-guided training or participating in formal computer courses and workshops. There are no degree requirements to take the MOS certification exams.

Required Education None
Required skills Basic computer skills
Exam Requirements Test takers must complete exam at a test center authorized by Microsoft
Specialization Options Certifications for all or single Microsoft Office programs are available, including PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, Excel and Word

Step 1: Obtain Basic Computer Skills

Before becoming a certified Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS), individuals must have basic computer skills. MOS certification specifically requires training in Microsoft programs and operating systems. Students may enroll in a basic computer program, if they have little or no computer skills, or they can enroll in a program that allows them to learn a specific skill, such as how to use the Internet.

Step 2: Enroll in Microsoft Office Courses

Although individuals can teach themselves how to use Microsoft Office programs, college-level courses and workshops offer professional training that can teach a student about the proper way to use all the features of a program, which is information that is usually covered on certification tests. Colleges and universities typically offer courses under different skill levels: basic, intermediate and advanced. Each class usually covers only one Microsoft Office software program, such as Word, Excel, Access, Outlook or PowerPoint.

Step 3: Choose a Certification Program

To achieve MOS certification, individuals must choose a software program to become certified in. Individuals can obtain certification for all Microsoft Office programs, but certification for each software program requires passing a different exam.

Workers who create and update documents, such as newsletters, invitations, press releases or manuals, would benefit most by obtaining MOS Word certification. Those workers in charge of managing and creating databases might consider earning the MOS Access certification. For professionals who frequently give presentations, MOS PowerPoint certification would be a good choice. MOS Outlook certification may be useful for a professional who works in a company that uses Microsoft Outlook as a closed and secure e-mail system.

Step 4: Take Certification Exams

MOS certification exams can only be administered through testing centers authorized by Microsoft. Each certification exam takes about 90 minutes to complete. Exam questions ask applicants to complete a task using the appropriate tools within the software program. For example, the MOS PowerPoint certification exam might ask exam takers to make a slideshow with embedded video links.

Test takers are able to immediately view their results after completing the exam. Those who pass the exam are recognized as officially certified and will receive an MOS certification certificate through the mail. Those who do not pass the exam have the opportunity to challenge answers marked incorrect or retake the exam.

Jobs seldom require this certification, but it can certainly boost an applicant's employment potential. Examples of jobs for which this certification can be helpful include paralegal and secretary (or administrative assistant). Paralegals and legal assistants earned a mean annual salary of $51,170, according to May 2013 salary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Secretaries and administrative assistants earned an average of $34,000 as of the same year, also per the bureau.

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