Many programs are offered in conjunction with Microsoft and address topics covered on each of the exams required for certification. Courses in these programs may take as few as five days to complete. Training options are also available in the form of IT or networking certificate and associate degree programs offered at community colleges and universities. These typically award college credit to students who complete courses lasting an entire semester.
MCSA training programs prepare individuals to take the two or three certification exams required for this credential, and may be completed online or in a traditional classroom setting.
MCSA training programs, as well as the certification exams themselves, are open to all. And while none of the traditional post-secondary education prerequisites apply, the certification exams are designed for working IT professionals. Microsoft suggests individuals have experience working with networks, server hardware, relational databases, and Windows operating systems prior to registering for courses.
Courses offered by any MCSA training program reflect the composition of the certification exams. Instruction will vary depending on whether candidates are pursuing certification options for Windows Server 2012 or 2008, SQL Server 2012 or 2008, or Windows 8 or 7. Sample course topics are listed below:
- Installing and administering Windows servers
- Configuring Windows server services
- Managing, configuring, and maintaining Windows 8
- Querying Microsoft SQL servers
- Administering Microsoft SQL server databases
- Implementing a data warehouse
Five exams are required for MCSE certification. A few training programs and courses aligned with these tests are offered online, though on-site training options are far more common. And while anyone can register for MCSE training courses or certification exams, it's recommended that students have a working knowledge of server hardware, networking fundamentals, and operating systems to benefit from courses designed to prepare them for the first three exams.
Depending on which certification option they pursue, they'll also need one year of experience working with network infrastructure or at least two years of experience working with Windows servers, Microsoft Lync technologies, or Exchange servers to be ready for the remaining two courses.
MCSE certification is available in eight areas, including server infrastructure, communication, SharePoint, desktop infrastructure, private cloud, business intelligence, data platform, and messaging. As with MCSA certification, course topics will vary depending on which option candidates pursue. Some sample areas of instruction are included below:
- Designing advanced server infrastructure
- Implementing desktop application environments
- Operating and deploying a private cloud system
- Developing Microsoft SQL 2012 databases
- Designing solutions with Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013
- Configuring online services with Microsoft Lync Server 2013
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
IT professionals with MCSA or MCSE certification can pursue positions as computer support specialists or network and computer systems administrators, to name a few. As of 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median salary of computer support specialists specializing in network systems was $62,250, while those working in user support earned a median salary of $48,620. Job opportunities for these professionals were expected to increase 12% from 2014-2024.
Network and computer systems administrators, on the other hand, earned a median salary of $77,810. The BLS projected that employment of network and computer systems administrators would grow by 8% between 2014 and 2024.
MCSE certifications must be renewed every three years by taking recertification exams. IT professionals who would like to pursue additional credentials can upgrade to the Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) designation by passing additional tests.
To prove they are able to manage computer infrastructure running on Microsoft servers, IT professionals can participate in an MCSA or MCSE training program and then become certified.