IT Career JumpStart

May 11 2009   5:21PM GMT

MS Certification Profusion Leads to Confusion?

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

In the latest round of articles posted at one of my favorite IT Certification Websites,, guest author and full-time trainer Brian Nelson raises some interesting issues about the latest crop of MS credentials, especially the many different flavors of MCTS and MCITP certifications that Microsoft now makes available (with many more to come, too, as soon as Windows 7 goes commercial). Nelson’s basic points might be summarized as follows:

  • Microsoft’s decisions to create an MCTS-MCITP-MCM-MS Architect ladder creates too many rungs, with too many possibilities at the lower rungs.
  • Hiring managers seem confused about the relative weight and merit of these credentials based on a survey of “mentions by name” at
  • Microsoft has been forced to up the ante on its exams, question coverage, levels of difficulty, currency, and validity since the original MCSE came out, but too many people earn MS credentials without really mastering the associated subject matter. This comes largely thanks to multiple-choice exams, which are too easily documented online and reduced to rote memorization to ensure a passing grade.

All of this leads him to conclude that current MS credentials are somewhat debased, and that they’re not worth anywhere near what they used to be in the marketplace, thanks to the implications of the preceding summary points.

FWIW, I tend to agree with this analysis, but don’t think the situation is quite as dire as he paints it to be. In recent conversations with MS Learning I’ve also learned that they’re introducing more simulation- and hands-on based forms of testing, which work much better to assess real skills and knowledge than do multiple choice exam questions. That said, Microsoft’s emphasis on job roles and related credentials works very well for those who understand IT, job roles, and the technologies to which they pertain, and not so well for those who don’t–which probably does include hiring managers at a great many small and medium sized businesses where IT is primarily a necessary evil, rather than an important means to realizing business goals.

What do you think? Are MS certs as worthy as they used to be? Does this mean they’re becoming worthless? As with so many other grey areas in life, I think the truth is somewhere inbetween “moderate worth” and “worthless,” but certainly not all the way down at the bitter end of that spectrum.

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