Path to Becoming an MCSE
When considering Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) certification, it can be helpful to know about the specialization areas, eligibility requirements, exam preparation options, and possible career options. The timetable to complete certification can range from months to years, depending on the exam taker's experience and learning pace
The MCSE credential is available to IT professionals who would like to demonstrate their proficiency with Microsoft servers. Certification requires passing scores on five exams and is available in five specialty areas: business applications, cloud platform and infrastructure, data management and analytics, mobility, and productivity.
Since the MCSE designation is intended for IT professionals with advanced skills, individuals are expected to have prior knowledge related to the field before they start studying for the MCSE exam. Generally Microsoft recommends that individuals have at least two years of experience configuring, installing, designing, and troubleshooting networks, operating systems, and servers before intending to sit for certification exams. They also require MCSE applicants to have previously earned a lower-level Microsoft designation: the Microsoft Certified Solutions Association (MCSA) credential.
While there is no set time limit to prepare for these exams, it isn't typically something that can be done in a short period of time. It may take months or even years to prepare for all five MCSE certification examinations, depending upon the individual's learning pace and professional experience.
For example, an individual who has completed a four-year degree program in such areas as computer science, information technology, or networking and earned years of on-the-job experience might find that he or she doesn't need to spend as much time studying as someone with limited training.
Preparing for Exams
Many study resources are available to individuals interested in earning MCSE certification, including practice tests and instructional videos available through Microsoft. These resources allow students to prepare for exams at their own pace.
Microsoft also offers instructor-led classes that can typically be completed in five days. These are commonly available through computer training schools or colleges' continuing education departments.
Students looking for more extensive training can also find MCSE courses offered as part of for-credit certificate and associate degree programs designed for current or prospective IT professionals. Classes offered in this format can last anywhere from eight weeks to an entire semester.
Certification and Renewal
Each specialty area has a separate exam focusing on the specifics of that particular field. Test times vary depending on the exam, but generally do not last more than four hours. Test-takers receive their results within minutes of finishing the exam. If a candidate fails a test on the first try, he or she may retake it within 24 hours. All subsequent retakes require a 14-day waiting period. In order to become certified, a certified MCSE must pass a recertification exam once very three years. The concepts of these tests are similar to that of the original certification exam, but they focus specifically on the latest changes in products and practices in the field.
Career and Salary Info
According to Microsoft, the following positions are among those available to applicants with an MCSE designation. They are accompanied by their median salaries, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2016:
- Computer support specialist - $49,390
- Information security analyst - $92,600
- Network and computer systems administrator - $79,700
- Database administrator - $84,950
- Computer systems analyst - $87,220
Job opportunities in these fields were projected to experience average to faster-than-average job growth through the 2014-2024 decade, according to the BLS. Computer support specialists, for example, could see a 12% growth in new job opportunities, while database administrators could experience 11% growth over this 10-year period.
Individuals who wish to earn an MCSE designation must have significant IT experience and also be ready to take the exam in their specific specialty area. There are a variety of career options for professionals with this designation.