Microsoft introduces new tiered certification path

Microsoft last month announced a certification program that maps skills credentials based around Microsoft products with three levels of Microsoft certifications.

IT executives can become certified at using Microsoft products at the entry-level Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist level, the Microsoft Certified IT Professional or Microsoft Certified Professional Developer level, or (if appropriate for the product) at the high-end Microsoft Certified Architect level. Microsoft has been talking about the Architect certification since the summer and expects the program to be in full swing at the beginning of 2006.

“The new framework focuses on technologies and job roles enabling individuals to be certified on a technology,” said Al Valvano, director of Microsoft certifications.

The first products in which IT executives can be certified under the new framework are Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005 and BizTalk Server 2006. Certifications for Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 will be available in early 2006 and Microsoft planned to announce details of the certification for BizTalk Server 2006 at the product’s launch on Nov. 7, Microsoft said. The new framework will be phased in across all Microsoft technologies as new products, including Exchange 12, Vista and Longhorn, ship, said Microsoft.

Each product will have different levels of credentials depending on whether they are credentials for Technology Specialists or Professionals. For instance, there are four credentials for SQL Server 2005: one for the Technology Specialist designation and three for the Professional designation (enterprise database administrator, database developer and business intelligence developer). A Technology Specialist is proficient at using the software, while a Professional is able to show that he knows how to apply the technology, integrate it and when best to use it, Valvano said.

The certification process starts with a free online assessment to determine a candidate’s skills level and a customized learning plan is provided that directs candidates to specific resources, Microsoft said. In the next six months, a slew of new materials, such as books and courses, will be available to help candidates prepare for the certifications, Microsoft added.

Valvano said the new framework helps to reflect the full career lifecycle of an IT pro, and hiring managers can be specific as to the level of proficiency they want for a particular technology.

Valvano said Microsoft would continue to support and recognize the popular Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) certifications.

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