Microsoft refines technology credentials program

Microsoft refines technology credentials program

Microsoft on Tuesday rolled out its three-tiered certification program for IT professionals and developers, with the intent of aligning credentials to specific job roles and the company's technology road map.

The program differs from previous efforts in that it focuses on technologies and job roles as opposed to lumping jobs and technology skills into the same credential, said Al Valvano, director at Microsoft Learning certifications. The Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer certification, for example, operated under this format.

"The new program is much more modular and much more targeted, so what we do is we break apart that large certification into smaller chunks," to allow for specific technology focuses, Valvano said.

New certifications include Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist, Microsoft Certified IT Professional or Professional Developer and Microsoft Certified Architect. The Certified Technology Specialist is a job role-based certification whereas the IT Professional and Professional Developer certifications are more advanced, akin to having a Master's Degree in specific areas, Valvano explained. The Certified Architect designation requires knowledge of business along with IT skills for architecting a business solution.

The program features curriculum intended to enhance technical knowledge and skills, a certification framework to demonstrate unique skills and a benchmark for managers to make recruiting and staffing decisions.

Credentials will be offered for the Visual Studio 2005 development toolset and SQL Server 2005 database in early 2006. These two product sets ship next month. Subsequently, the program will offer credentials based on technologies such as Windows Vista, Office 12, and BizTalk Server 2006. Specific credentials focused on areas such as Web development and data warehouses also are planned.

The new program is an improvement on previous efforts, in which credentials were too general, said Thomas O'Grady, a private contractor doing database administration and development in Sammamish, Wash. He also is a Microsoft Certified Trainer.

Under the new program, people will know exactly what a certified Web developer or SQL Server database administrator is, as opposed to the general MCSE designation, O'Grady said.

"This is much more specific for business needs as well as making it more easily understandable to present to somebody, 'OK, this is what I'm certified in,'" O'Grady said. Although he favors the program, O'Grady is not necessarily looking forward to taking more exams for accreditation.

Those already possessing Microsoft credentials, such as MCSE, can retain that accreditation but seek new credentials going forward, according to Microsoft. The new certification process starts with a free online assessment to determine a candidate's strengths and weaknesses, Microsoft said. Candidates can then choose learning resources that reflect needs. In the next six months, new materials will be available to help candidates prepare for certifications.

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