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The 10 Most In-Demand Microsoft Certifications

Microsoft technology reaches into most corners of IT, site and Microsoft certification can be a powerful force in your IT career. These are the Microsoft certs employers are clamoring for in 2016.

Woman using a computer for cybersecurityLong before anyone knew what a software company was, Microsoft became the first such company in the nascent IT industry. Don’t just take our word for it: Steve Jobs said as much when he and Bill Gates were interviewed onstage together in 2007.

 

It follows that Microsoft was also one of the first companies to launch a vendor-managed training and certification program for software products. Microsoft rolled out its Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) program in 1992, with the first exams covering Windows 3.1, LAN Manager, and SQL Server.

 

Microsoft realized early on that linking professional certifications to specific products would enable established veterans and the new breed of IT professionals to help validate their skills with Microsoft software.

 

Microsoft’s meteoric growth acted as the perfect promoter for the MCP program. As Microsoft products took over the market, increasing numbers of IT pros became interested in earning an MCP credential. Microsoft expanded the MCP program to include designations targeted at specific IT job roles — database admins, network admins, and software developers.

 

Things got a little strange for the Microsoft certification program during the dot-com era. The enthusiasm for everything technology or Internet-based led to a mad gold rush for IT certifications, especially those from major industry players like Cisco, Novell and Microsoft. A glut of freshly-certified but predominantly inexperienced technopunks stormed the industry, lured by the promise of high wages, free lunches, and stock options that would make them millionaires before they were 28.

 

The reputation of Microsoft’s MCP program, and other vendor-managed training and certification programs, took a hit during the irrational tomfoolery of the dot-com boom and bust.

 

The passage of time has restored some much needed sanity and stability to the IT industry, and has also re-established an appropriate value for Microsoft certifications. There is now a much healthier relationship between Microsoft, its certified professionals, and the companies hiring these professionals to support their technical infrastructure.

 

Today, the Microsoft Learning program is a popular and well-respected source of IT credentials. The company has worked hard to make its certifications challenging and relevant to the IT industry. And the industry has responded.

 

Some quick facts from the Microsoft Learning website reinforce the value of MS certifications in the working world:

 

● In a survey of 700 IT networking professionals, 60% said that earning a certification led to a new job.
● Some 64 percent of IT hiring managers rate certifications as having extremely high or high value in validating the skills and expertise of job candidates.
● On average, Microsoft certified technologists earn 15 percent more than their uncertified peers.

 

The advantages granted by achieving a Microsoft certification are obvious. But which Microsoft credentials are currently in the highest demand in the industry?

 

To answer this question, we ran through job listings at Dice, Monster, and other large IT career sites. We consulted the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and looked at the latest numbers for projected high-growth job categories. We also consulted GoCertify colleague Ed Tittel’s research — Ed is a leading expert on IT certifications, and a talented IT pro in his own right.

 

Here is a breakdown of our ten picks for the most in-demand Microsoft certifications. Please note that this is not a ranked list. Any of these 10 certs can impact your marketability and earning power in the current IT landscape:

 

Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: Server Infrastructure

 

The MCSE has been a highly sought after and well-regarded industry credential since it was introduced. The acronym originally stood for Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, and the certification was primarily concerned with creating and administering Microsoft-based networks.

 

The MCSE has since been split into several different specializations, but the MCSE: Server Infrastructure is the certification that remains closest to its august progenitor. Fast Fact: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS) predicts a solid 8 percent growth in employment for network and computer administrators between 2014-2024.

 

Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate: Windows Server 2012

 

The MCSA was introduced with the release of Windows 2000, and was meant to be an intermediate certification that covered mid-tier Win2K client and server support. Like the more advanced MCSE credential, the MCSA has been split into other specializations over the years. The MCSA: Windows Server 2012 certification covers installing WS2012, administering the network(s) built on it, and configuring advanced network services.

 

Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer: Application Lifecycle Management

 

The MCSD certification has been Microsoft’s premier designation for software developers over the last 15 years. The MCSD: Application Lifecycle Management credential adds some specific components taken from that particular discipline, including software testing.  Fast Fact: The USBLS is predicting a mighty 17 percent job growth rate for software developers between 2014-2024.

 

Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate: SQL Server

 

Years ago, Microsoft had a certification called the Microsoft Certified Database Administrator or MCDBA. This certification was eventually retired, and Microsoft’s SQL Server product was represented by different credentials here and there. Today, the MCSA: SQL Server certification is aimed at database developers and analysts working with SQL Server 2012 or 2014. (As well as, very soon, SQL Server 2016.)