Microsoft offers various security certifications, including Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) or Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP). There are a number of ways to prepare for Microsoft security certification exams, from non-credit programs to graduate certificates in information technology (IT) security.
Non-credit programs cover the basic information needed to pass the certification exam. Many programs of this type are self-guided and done in a virtual environment. To enroll in a graduate certificate program in IT security, applicants usually need at least a bachelor's degree and in some cases, experience in the field. This type of program has a fairly short curriculum focused solely on information security issues. Graduates have the knowledge to pass relevant Microsoft certification exams; they may also apply their credits towards a master's degree.
Microsoft Security Certification Prep Programs
Programs that prepare students for Microsoft security certification exams like Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist or Microsoft Certified IT Professional may be a single course or a series of courses that don't usually culminate in conferral of an academic certificate or credit. They generally prepare students by providing minimal hands-on experience with the classroom learning necessary for taking Microsoft security certification exams. With an overview of network security, administration, management, and Microsoft network operating systems, students also learn to install and configure networks and systems. They also learn when and how troubleshooting, upgrades, and repairs should be made. A single course may take a several weeks and a complete program may take more than a year, although extensions may be possible.
In general, schools' education prerequisites vary as widely as the kinds of Microsoft security certification prep programs available, although most require a minimum level of related knowledge and experience in desktop computer and network operating systems and network infrastructure. Some may formally require A+ Certification or Net+ certification. Schools are more likely to have firm work-related prerequisites than educational prerequisites.
Students can take self-paced, online, or on-campus courses in knowledge- and technical-based skills. Coursework includes basic computer hardware troubleshooting, upgrade, and repair activities. Students also master similar tasks on networking systems to introduce and reinforce skills necessary for security-related work in the IT field, and tasks specific to a Microsoft environment. Depending on the certification sought, courses may include:
- SQL Server 2005
- Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure Configuration
- Microsoft .NET Framework - Application Development Foundation
- Database Administrator 2008
- Business Intelligence Developer 2008
Graduate Certificate in Information Security
Certificate programs in information security are frequently offered at the postsecondary level and usually include a broad overview of the role of information security within an organization. Additional topics explored in the classroom and in labs can include network administration and systems architecture. Students develop skill assessing security risks as well as designing and implementing solutions to combat internal and external computer security threats. In some programs, information security may be examined from a management perspective. These programs usually include several courses.
Applicants are typically required to hold a bachelor's degree and some schools specify it must be in computer science. However, in some cases, students can take a proficiency test if they have equivalent experience. Some programs may also prefer students with previous relevant experience in addition to the degree. Those without postsecondary coursework may be required to take additional classes as part of the program.
The curriculum includes subject-specific required courses and relevant electives; there is typically little opportunity to dabble outside the field. Courses may include a lab component. Classes common to many programs include:
- Information security management
- Computer network security
- System architecture and security
- Security assessment
- Law and ethics in security management
Popular Career Options
Students who complete a Microsoft security certification prep program may take a formal Microsoft security certification exam. The knowledge and skills learned in these programs may qualify graduates to work as:
- PC technician
- Network administrator
- System administrator
- Database developer
- Business intelligence developer
Career Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that network and computer systems administrators could expect to see a 5% increase in employment between 2018 and 2028. Network and computer systems administrators earned a mean annual wage of $87,070 in May 2018, according to the BLS.
Continuing Education Information
Students may sometimes be permitted to apply their certificate credits to a Master of Science in Computer Information Systems, Computer Science, or Telecommunication degree. These graduate degree programs typically take two years to complete.
Some students may have the skills and knowledge applicable to Microsoft security certification exams, like the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) or Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) certification. Multiple certifications may be earned to demonstrate skill sets in Windows clients, Microsoft Office Project Server, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Exchange Server, and Microsoft SharePoint Server, among others. Certification typically requires passing a series of timed exams. Testing centers authorized by Microsoft administer the computer-based exams.
Non-credit and graduate certificate programs in information technology include direct-experience opportunities and laboratory sessions, in addition to core classes in security and network systems.