The Microsoft Certified Application Developer (MCAD) designation displays a programmer's knowledge and abilities in developing, administering and troubleshooting Microsoft-compatible programs. Professionals with the MCAD credential can continue to promote their achievement since the certification doesn't expire, though the testing for the MCAD has been retired.
New and seasoned developers who are interested in updated Microsoft certification can earn or upgrade to current entry-level and advanced options. These include the Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA), Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) and Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS).
Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA)
Entry-level MTA certification offers programming and administration options for those who are interested in entering the information technology (IT) field or existing professionals who are looking for advancement opportunities. Only one test is required to earn the designation, though taking additional MTA exams could demonstrate a diversity of skills to potential employers and qualify individuals for advanced certifications.
Formal education isn't required to qualify for Microsoft certification testing, and Microsoft does not offer specialized preparation materials or practice tests for the MTA exams. Candidates can use on-the-job training and self-study methods to prepare for testing, and several community colleges offer certificate programs specifically designed to prepare for Microsoft certification. These programs generally cover topics in .NET programming, Visual Basic, web development and database creation.
Programmers can choose exams that test their abilities in general software development, Windows-based applications, web programming or database development. Depending on the discipline, tests might cover the following topics:
- Application architecture
- Object-oriented programming
- Coding languages
- Event-handling and queries
- Web controls and syntax
- Relational database creation and master data administration
Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD)
Programmers with advanced skills and experience can earn MCPD certification in applications development. Candidates are usually offered the option to test their knowledge on either of the last two versions of the programming software used, and the company often retires exams as support for a version expires. Microsoft provides upgrade paths to professionals with the MCAD certification who would like current credentials. Depending on the option selected, a series of 2-6 tests must be passed to earn the certification.
Like the MTA exams, none of the MCPD tests require formal education. Microsoft recommends at least two to three years of programming experience using the software covered in the exams and the .NET framework. Preparatory options are also available through Microsoft-authorized, instructor-led classroom programs, online training materials, self-study books and short practice exams. Some colleges offer preparatory certificate programs specifically for the MCPD tests. These nine-month to one-year programs teach skilled programmers about the technologies that are covered in the certification exams such as single-system, distributed and web development as well as programming in Visual Studio and C#.
The MCPD certification offers two avenues for the credential based on either Visual Studio or SharePoint programming. Microsoft further specializes the Visual Studio path with focuses on Windows-compatible, Internet or Azure-based application development. Some topics covered in the various tests include:
- Creation and enhancement of a user interface
- Functionality testing methods
- Stabilization and security strategies
- Web controls, forms and scripting
- Client- and server-side computing
- Database usage and management
Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS)
As another advanced option, the MCTS includes a number of specializations under the umbrella of this certification. Applications programmers can choose to test on one or more technologies for several platforms. Like other advanced certification, MCTS credentials also include single-testing upgrade paths for MCAD-holders that would normally require two tests for uncertified individuals.
Though not required, classroom learning is offered through Microsoft-authorized training centers and led by Microsoft Certified Trainers. Additionally, the software company provides online and published self-study materials and practice exams. To participate in online learning or register for classes, you'll need to have a Windows Live account.
MCTS certification options include several specialized options for programmers, including embedded and mobile application development, that require a single test, as well as .NET software programming for Windows systems, enterprise applications or the Internet that include two tests each. Product and technology topics vary based on areas of expertise and might include:
- Operating system modification and development
- Creating and updating services and drivers
- Application streamlining and optimization
- Coding single- and multithreaded .NET programs
- Mobile computing and security practices
- Designing and setting Web controls
Popular Career Options
Many industries use computer applications to educate and entertain users, promote products or services and provide metrics or data tracking solutions to individuals, businesses or governments. Applications developers could use their Microsoft certifications to qualify for the following positions:
- Web application developer
- Information technology professional
- Webmaster or Web designer
- Application implementation technician
- Application maintenance technician
Entry-level certifications expire after a five-year period and require retesting. Advanced certifications, such as the MCPD and MCTS credentials, don't expire, though certifications earned through retired exams become inactive unless an upgrade test is passed. Microsoft sets an inactive status based on a software or technology version, usually observing the last two releases. Exams are often retired as support is discontinued for the technology.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipated that employment for software developers will grow 21% between 2018 and 2028 as a result of a surge in new job creation for web applications developers and an increased demand for improvements to business, health care and mobile communications processes (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported applications software developers earned a median of $103,620 as of May 2018.
Advanced applications developers could seek jobs in software publishing, a profession that accounted for 23.09% percent of software developer employment in 2018, according to the BLS. The increased use of mobile technology and demand for smaller applications accessible through cell phones and the Internet should drive demand for these specialized professionals. In March 2020, PayScale.com reported that most senior software engineers with MCTS certifications earned between $45,000 and $146,000 per year depending on their specialty.
Even though Microsoft has stopped awarding the MCAD certification, current or aspiring application software developers may still pursue Microsoft certification by earning an MTA, MCPD or MCTS credential. These certifications differ by the level of skills needed to achieve them and their specializations.