I read an interesting article by Paul Randal the other day on whether certification was worth it (How valuable are certifications) and it got me thinking about whether Microsoft was serious about certification or does the program exist purely to “keep people happy” (and to drive sales of MOC).
Over the years Microsoft has been criticised for taking far too long to release certifications relevant to current technologies and for not doing enough to stamp out cheating (which devalues certification). Microsoft has also come under fire for releasing certifications but not releasing relevant study material (Self-paced Training Kits, e-Learning and classroom training etc.). Unfortunately these “issues” have further contributed to the belief that certification is a waste of time. Well, it appears times are changing.
Relevant and Up-to-Date Certifications
Microsoft Learning has listened to suggestions from certification candidates and is addressing the need for relevant and up-to-date certifications by ensuring it offers both training and certifications to enable IT Pros and Developers to develop and validate their skill. One example of this effort is the recently announced Private Cloud Certification (Beta in April 2012) and the upcoming Private Cloud Jump Start course. Another example is the recently announced SQL Server 2012 certifications (Beta in March 2012) and the SQL Server 2012 Developer Training Kit BOM. For me though, the most exciting aspect of Microsoft’s change in direction is recertification.
Recertification is Microsoft’s way of ensuring that certifications remain meaningful and valuable, and that a person continues to demonstrate competence in a given technology even as the technology changes through service packs, revisions, and new product version releases.
Recertification is currently required for MCPD: Windows Azure Developer and MCPD: Windows Phone Developer certifications (every two years) and for Professional-level SQL Server 2012 certifications (every three years). Hopefully Microsoft will make recertification a requirement for all technologies.
This is a difficult area to address and unfortunately cheating will exist as long as certification exists. That said, Microsoft has implemented a number of strategies to combat cheating and has even gone as far as publishing real-life stories of piracy and cheating. Exam security is not limited to cracking down on brain-dumps, theft or impersonation though. Take the MCM program for example.
A few years ago Microsoft released the MCM program which in my opinion addresses some of the criticism it received for not stamping out cheating (and the devaluation of certifications) as these certifications can’t be gained through study alone (thus ruling out the use of brain-bumps) as they contain a practical (lab) component. Significant security measures have also been implemented to ensure the integrity of the MCM is maintained and that people sitting exams are who they say they are.
As with recertification, I hope Microsoft extends lab based exams to all certifications and also implements the same MCM security related measures for all exams and certification candidates.
Need to report suspected cheating or piracy? Visit the Microsoft Certification Exam Policies site or send an email to TCTips@microsoft.com
I’ve always been passionate about certification and at times have been frustrated with the “perception” that certification is a waste of time because they become out-dated and that anyone can pass a certification exam by downloading a dump.
Microsoft appears to be listening to suggestions and heading in the right direction with some of the initiatives they’ve implemented and I hope they continue to refine and release additional initiatives/incentives to ensure certifications retain their relevancy.
Have questions about Training and Certification? Pop by the Training and Certification and Born to Learn forums where dedicated members will gladly point you in the right direction.,