How Can I Become Certified in Microsoft Office?

Research what it takes to become certified in Microsoft Office. Learn about the courses offered, potential earnings, and prerequisites to find out if this is the option for you. Schools offering Computer Support Technician degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is Microsoft Office Certification?

Skills with Microsoft Office are required for a broad range of careers. Microsoft offers three certification levels for its Office program suite: specialist, expert, and master. Students can earn certification in all current years of office, including 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. These exams are meant to display a proficiency with the various Office programs typically used for business, with specific credentials for five of them, including Word and Excel. Becoming certified shows potential employers that you have a variety of high-level skills in Microsoft Office products and knowledge with computers.

The following chart gives you an overview of career information for these certifications

Training Required Formal training is voluntary for certification; certification prep courses are available as classroom or online training
Key Programs Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 12%* (computer support specialists)
Average Salary (2015) $52,430* (computer support specialists); entry-level positions requiring Microsoft Office certification may pay up to $16,000 more per year than those not requiring certification (2013)**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **Microsoft

What Microsoft Office Certifications are Available?

The Microsoft Corporation offers certification in Microsoft Office programs, including Microsoft Office 2007, 2010, 2013, or 2016 with Windows operating systems. The Microsoft Corporation offers three certifications levels for Microsoft Office programs, including specialist, expert, and master.

Each level requires completion of at least one examination per level and builds on previous requirements. As of March 2017, you must complete one test in a specific Microsoft program in order to earn certification for that program. You can choose from Microsoft Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, or Outlook.

Expert certification is available in Microsoft Word or Excel. To obtain master level certification, you must pass expert level exams in Word and Excel and complete the PowerPoint test. You must also take a test on one other program, either Access or Outlook, but you can choose between the two.

How is Training Offered?

You can take classes online or in the classroom, according to Microsoft. In the classroom, training lasts 3-5 days and includes hands-on experience with specific programs. Private companies, community colleges, or for-profit schools contract with Microsoft to offer certification in various Microsoft Office programs. Fees for these programs may include textbooks and learning materials, although that depends on the facility offering the training. Classroom training may be short, a single session, or may be broken into two 4-hour sessions.

If you prefer online learning or cannot access classroom training, there are self-directed classes or Microsoft Official Distance Learning (MODL) courses. These courses are facilitated by qualified instructors and allow you to train at home while still interacting with other students and instructors. MODL classes are taught by individuals who have been certified to instruct others in the use of Microsoft programs.

What Skills Are Tested?

In proctored examinations, students must demonstrate a range of abilities. The specific abilities that are tested depend on the subject or program for which the applicant is seeking certification. For example, your test for Microsoft Word at the specialist level may involve dealing with draft versions of documents, merging document files, formatting, creating references in documents, and mail merges. The expert exam may include creation of indexes, adding and using macros, and creation of content that can be used in several documents.

In the tests for Microsoft Outlook, you could be tested on application of program settings, filters, and creation of e-mail documents. You could be tested on contact and calendar management tasks and meeting request creation. For PowerPoint certification, your tasks could include creation of presentations that utilize comments, proofreading tools, and photo albums. You'll explore file options, toolbars, and the various ways to view the PowerPoint program. You may also be tested on utilization of graphics, audio, and video elements.

What Careers Can You Get With These Credentials?

One career path for certified Office users is to become a computer support specialist. Specialists are classified into two groups: computer user support specialists and computer network support specialists. Computer user support specialists use their knowledge of computers and common issues users may face to remotely help customers work through issues they have, answering questions about product functions and concerns. Computer network support specialists work for companies overseeing computer systems, performing routine maintenance and solving problems that arise during use by employees. Education requirements are varied for these careers, with a Microsoft Certificate and some postsecondary classes potentially being all you will need. Others positions, especially in larger companies, may require an associate's or bachelor's degree.

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