The most common way to become a Microsoft computer specialist is to earn one of the professional certifications offered through the company itself. Another way for students to gain the necessary expertise is to earn a bachelor's or master's degree in computer science.
Microsoft computer specialists provide installation and maintenance help to users of the Windows operating system. While there are several computer-related bachelor's and master's programs that provide the necessary information technology (IT) background, the Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) is the lowest-level designation necessary for work in this subfield of IT.
For more advanced students, there are the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) and Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) exams. These designations may be enough for a career as a computer user support specialist. Computer user support specialists, like Microsoft computer specialists, provide IT support within organizations or on an as-needed basis, but they must generally have a wider range of computer skills, such as familiarity with Macintosh or Linux operating systems in addition to Microsoft systems. It is also important to note that some employers only choose job applicants who have completed undergraduate degrees.
|Required education||Postsecondary coursework, associate's degree, or bachelor's degree (depending on the employer)|
|Projected job growth* (2014-2024)||12% (for computer support specialists)|
|Median Annual Salary* (2015)||$51,470 (for computer support specialists)|
Source *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Certification and Education Options
Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) Certification
The Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) is intended for individuals who are looking for a basic knowledge of computer technology. The MTA certification demonstrates to employers that the holder has the skills needed to routinely work with computers and computer applications. There are three MTA exams: IT Infrastructure, Database, and Developer. Students can choose between them based on their future educational and career goals.
No formal training or classes are required to take the MTA exam, but Microsoft and other organizations do offer online training tools and resources. Overall, a solid knowledge of computer hardware and software is needed to pass one of the certification exams. The MTA exam is administered only at colleges that have MTA campus license or MTA vouchers.
Advanced Microsoft Certifications
To demonstrate more advanced technology skills, individuals can take the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) and Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) exams. These certifications test students' grasp of advanced skills in computing technology, and certifications are sub-categorized for specific applications and operating systems. Microsoft offers a number of training options, such as remote classes or online learning, or training by product or technology. There are also a number of Microsoft training centers around the country.
It is important to note that MTA certification is not an official prerequisite for these certifications, although it does provide students with an introduction to many of the advanced concepts found on the MCSA and MCSD exams.
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
A Bachelor of Science in Computer Science trains students to work with a variety of software and applications and hardware solutions, including Microsoft technology. Course prerequisites in mathematics and science are followed by pertinent core courses, such as computing and data structures, introduction to Java, database management systems, computer architecture and multimedia networking. Students are then prepared for upper-level courses like algorithm analysis and design, programming language and logic design.
Master of Science in Computer Science
While it is not necessary to earn a master's degree to become a Microsoft computer specialist, graduate-level studies in computer science enable the computer professional to explore the complexity of algorithms, biostatistics, and the social and legal issues of modern computing. Courses such as parallel computing, database security systems, artificial intelligence and knowledge-based systems prepare students to further their potential in the field. Graduates may use this strong IT background in jobs as Microsoft or computer support specialists.
Many individuals who have IT-related certifications or degrees choose to become computer support specialists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities were expected to rise faster than the national average - 12% - for computer support specialists between 2014 and 2024 because of the continuously changing need for businesses to update their technology, much of it courtesy of the Microsoft Corporation. As of May 2015, the median annual wage was $51,470.
Other similar careers include network systems administrator, computer hardware engineer, and database administrator. Education requirements will vary, as some jobs require formal education (such as graduate degrees) while others place higher value on the training and experience that comes with certifications.
For individuals who want to become Microsoft or computer support specialists, a Microsoft certification or postsecondary degree can provide the necessary education to enter this field. Though certifications can showcase the specific computer skills someone has, most employers still prefer applicants to have an undergraduate degree.