How Can I Become a Microsoft Certified Professional?

Research what it takes to become a Microsoft certified professional. Learn about education requirements, job duties, licensure, salary, and job outlook information to find out if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Computer Support Technician degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Microsoft Certified Professional Do?

Microsoft certified professionals (MCPs) are certified individuals who specialize in Microsoft information technology programs and applications. Experts in the field of Microsoft programs, they focus their technical support skills in various areas, ranging from operating systems to Web development.

Professionals can also earn certification in multiple areas, but this requires long hours of studying and several exams. Once granted certification, MCPs are eligible to receive college credit, and their certification will give them an added boost in the job market. Upon hiring, MCPs typically start out at a higher wage than their non-certified colleagues.

One popular career for this certification is a computer and information systems manager. These professionals manage IT departments and serve as liaisons with top executives to suggest software and system upgrades. The table below provides an overview of the general requirements for this career.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in computer or information science; graduate degree may improve prospects
Key Skills Knowledge of relevant systems and applications; computer; technological; problem-solving
Certification MCP Certification is preferred by some employers
Job Growth (2014-24) 15% (for all computer and information systems managers)*
Average Salary (2015) $141,000 (for computer and information systems managers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Microsoft Certified Professional?

You become a Microsoft certified professional as soon as you pass one of the professional certification exams offered by Microsoft. These certification exams test your knowledge of specific types of Microsoft technology, such as server operating systems, project management applications or Web development. Microsoft offers two certification tracks, the technology professional track and the business professional track.

There are five certification levels in the technology professional track. The most basic credentials you can earn are the Microsoft Technology Associate and Microsoft Office Specialist, which are primarily geared toward students and entry-level IT support professionals. With some experience in the field, you can test for a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) or Technology Specialist (MCTS) certification. An MCSE focuses mainly on server administration. MCTS credentials demonstrate specific proficiencies in particular technologies, such as Windows or SQL servers, allowing you to demonstrate the breadth of your knowledge base with multiple MCTS certifications.

You can earn a Microsoft Certified IT Professional credential by passing an MCTS exam in combination with an advanced test in the same technology. Microsoft offers high-level certifications in the Master and Architect credentials. To become a Microsoft Certified Master (MCM), you need to pass multiple exams covering several technologies of each type of server environment offered by the vendor. After earning an MCM, you can earn a specialized Microsoft Certified Architect designation in a specific server technology.

How Can Certification Benefit Me?

In the fast-paced field of information technology, where technical knowledge is constantly advancing and new technologies are continually evolving, earning Microsoft certification demonstrates to potential employers that you possess up-to-date knowledge and skills that meet industry standards worldwide. For this reason, earning certification could place you in a more competitive position in the job market. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes the job outlook for 2014-2024 for all computer and information systems managers is 15%. The same source also notes that the average salary for the same group was in May 2015 was $141,000. Additionally, some colleges and universities offer college credit for Microsoft certification, allowing you to apply your credential toward a degree. Becoming certified also gives you access to the Microsoft Certified Professional member site that offers an introduction to career resources, interaction with other certified professionals and continuing education offered by Microsoft.

How Should I Prepare for the Certification Exams?

You can prepare for certification exams by looking at the preparation guide for each exam available on Microsoft's website (www.microsoft.com) Each guide identifies the topics covered on the required exams. Since Microsoft recommends practical experience using its products, you could download trial versions of software from Microsoft's website. Microsoft also offers training opportunities through its Microsoft Learning program, providing both online and classroom-based training sessions and courseware. Additionally, several vocational schools, community colleges and universities offer preparatory classes and programs aimed at preparing you for for specific Microsoft certification exams.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Many options are available for those with a bachelor's degree in computer science and MCP certification. Computer network architects construct area networks, and also build intranet systems. Database administrators utilize proprietary software to store vital information for a company. There are also computer systems administrators, who oversee the daily operation of an entire computer network for a given company or organization.

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