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Microsoft Developer Certifications: What's Your Path?

  • March 31, 2003
  • By Steve Rowe
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In this set of articles, we have been exploring the IT certifications offered by Microsoft. In our last article, we discussed the MCP, MCSA, and MCSE certifications. You learned how many exams each certification requires and the types of topics you may test yourself on (click here for the previous article). In this article, we will cover Microsoft's MCAD, MCSD, MCDBA, and MCT certifications. As you can tell from these two articles, Microsoft has a lot to offer in the certification realm! They even have a full Microsoft Office certification track. We don't talk about it in our articles because we are focusing on IT-level certifications only; they may interest you as well.

MCAD and MCSD

If you prefer software development to networking, the Microsoft Certified Application Developer (MCAD) and the Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) certifications may interest you. These are the premier developer certifications that Microsoft offers for their programming languages, solution architectures, and frameworks. According to www.mcpmag.com, the number of people certified with the MCSD credential is near 40,000. As of January 2003, nearly 1,300 people have pursued and passed the brand new MCAD certification.

The MCAD and MCSD curricula and exams have not reached the popularity of the MCSA and MCSE tracks. Often, experience and a verifiable portfolio of work is more important to developers in the market than certifications, but these certifications do hold valuable benefits for the knowledge level and skill set of a developer who uses Microsoft development technologies. Aptly stated by well-known development author Mike Gunderloy, "The best reason for going after the MCAD/MCSD on the .NET track is that studying for the three core exams will force you to become familiar with the breadth of features that the .NET Framework (and, to a lesser extent, the VB .NET and C# languages) has to offer. When you're moving into a new development environment that's as flexible as .NET, it's easy to get lost. If you haven't taken the time to survey the Framework, you'll constantly run up against questions such as "how can I read data from a network port?" or "can I intercept data from a Web Service before it goes to the client?" and not have a clue where to turn for the answers. An even more insidious problem is that you can develop a sort of tunnel vision. This can happen, for example, if you're a Visual Basic 6 developer making the transition to Visual Basic .NET by converting existing projects. You'll only be exposed to the classes that the upgrade wizard uses, rather than to the full breadth of capabilities of .NET, and so tend to do things in old, inefficient ways. Sure, anyone can sit down and try to read the enormous help file that Microsoft provides for the .NET Framework, but studying for the exams will give you a structured way to go through the main points." As Mike states, studying these curricula and passing the exams greatly expands your arsenal of tools and methodologies you can use in your development career.

The MCAD certification will only test you on .NET languages and frameworks. Whereas, the MCSD certification can be achieved by passing Visual Studio 6 technologies exams or by passing exams on .NET technologies. No upgrade exam exists for those holding an MCSD in Visual Studio 6 technologies to move to an MCSD with .NET. The breadth of changes in functionalities between Visual Studio 6 and Visual Studio .NET will require candidates to take a new set of exams.

Let's inspect each of these certifications in more detail.





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