Students seeking training programs that prepare them for Microsoft certification can find numerous test prep classes and courses at colleges and universities across the country and online. Exams are computerized and given at approved testing centers.
It is important to note that Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA) and Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician (MCDST) were two certifications that Microsoft offered for IT professionals, but they have been retired. Students interested in earning certifications in these areas could consider earning Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) or Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certifications.
Microsoft Certified Database Administrator
The retired MCDBA credential validated an individual's skills working with SQL Server 2000 databases. Microsoft recommends the MCSE: Data Platform and MCSE: Business Intelligence credentials as a replacement. The data platform track is for those who build and administer large-scale data solutions, while the business intelligence track is designed for those who design and manage solutions that deliver data across organizations. Both certifications require passing five exams; the first three exams are the same for both pathways, but the last two exams differ by specialty.
Candidates for both certifications must pass three exams covering the following:
- Microsoft SQL Server 2012 and 2014 queries
- Microsoft SQL Server administration
- Data warehouse implementation
Students seeking the MCSE: Data Platform credential will also take exams that cover developing Microsoft SQL Server 2012 and 2014 databases and designing database solutions for SQL servers. Those pursuing the MCSE: Business Intelligence credential take exams in designing business intelligence solutions and implementing data models and report with SQL servers.
Exams are administered by Prometric and must be taken on computers at authorized testing centers. A testing-center directory is available on Prometric's website. In 2014, these exams cost about $150 each. The exams employ a variety of formats that may include multiple-choice questions, open-ended questions, case studies and simulations of technical tasks.
Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician
The MCDST credential was designed to validate skills in user support and Windows desktop troubleshooting. Professionals who provide user-support for and troubleshoot Windows desktop environments wishing to earn industry certification could now consider earning the MCSA: Windows 7 or MCSA: Windows 8 certifications instead. These certifications are appropriate for people who seek a credential that shows broad and deep knowledge of Windows desktop operating systems and applications. People who are preparing to earn the MCSA credential sharpen their troubleshooting and problem-solving skills, learn techniques for educating users and become familiar with Microsoft support resources.
The MCSA: Windows 8 and Windows 7 certifications require passage of two exams on troubleshooting and supporting users. Prometric administers the exams. Details are the same as for the MCSE exam. The exams cover:
- Configuring Windows operating systems
- Supporting users of Windows operating systems
Microsoft Certified Professional
Anyone who earns a Microsoft professional certification, including MCSE and MCSA, is considered a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP). It has no prerequisites and does not require additional education or testing. It is intended to assist professionals with Microsoft certification in finding jobs, advancing careers and remaining current in their fields. Online MCP resources include the following:
- Career center for resume posting, career advice and job searching
- Planner for tracking progress and identifying paths to certification
- Certification transcript sharing with employers and clients
- Certification logo creation for marketing materials and business cards
- Certificate manager for holders of multiple designations
- Subscription to newsletter that announces certification training and exam information, program updates and special offers
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for database administrators, as of May 2014, was $81,710. The BLS expects jobs for database administrators to increase by 11% from 2014 to 2024. This faster-than-average growth will be driven by increasing demand for data storage and analysis. Also contributing to the growth will be increasing security needs as more databases are connected to the Internet.
The BLS reports that employment opportunities for computer support specialists are predicted to increase by 12% between 2014 and 2024. Computer network support specialists earned a median annual salary of $62,250 as of May 2015.
The BLS states that certification can enhance employment opportunities for database administrators because many employers view it as the industry standard. In addition, some employers require database administrators to be certified.
Popular Career Options
The MCSA Windows certifications are appropriate for those who address a variety of hardware, software and applications problems that might arise within a Windows operating system environment. Holding the certification demonstrates a strong commitment to a career in IT support. MCSA Windows certification may enhance the careers of IT support professionals in a variety of positions, including technical support representatives, help desk technicians, computer support representatives, computer support specialists and technical support specialists.
By earning a certificate offered by Microsoft, aspiring IT workers can demonstrate their skills to potential employers. Each of these designations also enables access to Microsoft's professional resources.