Microsoft NT 4.0 engineer certification spared

Microsoft Corp. has abandoned plans to strip MCSEs (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers) of certification for Windows NT 4.0 as of Dec. 31, and will recognize certifications for those who do not train for Windows 2000 after that date, the company said Oct. 11.

Some engineers are likely cheering the news, but others have either spent time and money making the change to Windows 2000 or had abandoned plans to certify as an NT engineer.

“This is going to tick a lot of people off,” said Brian Weller, director of administration and education at computer certification training school TMC Technology Inc. in Dallas. “A lot of people didn’t finish their 4.0 because they heard it was going to be decertified.”

More than a year ago, Microsoft said MCSEs for Windows NT 4.0 would lose their certification at the end of this year. The policy change makes the MCSE certification similar to certifications from some other vendors, including Novell Inc.’s CAN (Certified Novell Administrator) certification, which allows that, even if employers require more training for certain jobs, when someone has earned the title, it’s theirs forever. The NT 4.0 MCSE will be recognized simultaneously with certification for Windows 2000 and other systems, Microsoft said.

Microsoft executives still hope engineers will strive for new certifications. “There are going to be some people who are less than pleased, but…employers are saying that they’ll pay for that new skill set,” said Robert Stewart, Microsoft’s general manager of training and certification. “People who are upgrading their skills have tremendous opportunities right now.”

Microsoft also introduced a new certification, the Microsoft Certified System Administrator, or MCSA. Microsoft views system administration as an earlier stage of the career track for IT professionals, so developed a certification to recognize that. System administrators tend to frequently perform certain network tasks like opening new network user accounts that engineers only occasionally perform, and the MCSA test is designed to reflect such skills.

A Microsoft executive gave an analogy of doctors and nurses. “A lot of the basic skills are the same, but I want a nurse drawing my blood, because nurses do it all the time,” said Anne Marie, Microsoft’s director of certification and skills assessment. “The MCSA addresses the job skills of a system administrator, keeping the network up and running.”

The MCSA test has four examinations. Students must pass the three core requirements of installing Windows 2000 and administering a workstation, administering a server, and managing a Microsoft Windows 2000 environment, along with an elective test. The MCSE test has four core exams with one exam on design and two electives. The MCSE and MCSA tests overlap – a student can take the MCSE test with all the elements required to pass the MCSA test.

MCSEs have probably done all the things an MCSA would have done at some point in their careers, like adding users to a network, creating accounts or managing accounts, Stewart said.

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