A Brief Overview of Microsoft Specialist Certifications

Dude with laptop checking server

Most IT industry veterans are familiar with the key ingredients of the alphabet soup served up by Microsoft Learning: MCSE, MCSA, MTA, MOS, MCSD, and so on. Relatively few people, however, are familiar with the Microsoft Specialist credential, a certification that gives candidates a way to zero in on a specific Microsoft technology.

The Microsoft Specialist certification track consists of a number of single-exam designations that test a candidate's skills and experience within a select Microsoft product. Many of the Specialist certifications were developed specifically to help companies and contractors who belong to the Microsoft Partner Network to set themselves apart from their competitors. That said, the Specialist exams are open to any candidate who wants to challenge one.

Passing any one of the Microsoft Specialist exams is all that's required to earn the titled certification related to each exam. Here are the technology specialties that make up the MS Specialist track:

  • Visual Studio
  • Azure
  • Lync 2013
  • Project 2013
  • Server Virtualization
  • Microsoft Dynamics products

Here is a closer look at each specialty, and what Specialist certification options are available for each:

Visual Studio

There are two Specialist exams available in the Visual Studio specialization:

  • Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3 (exam 70-480)
  • Programming in C# (exam 70-483)

Azure

There are three Specialist exams available in the Microsoft Azure specialization:

  • Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions (exam 70-532)
  • Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions (exam 70-533)
  • Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions (exam 70-534)

Lync 2013

There are two Specialist exams available for Microsoft's Lync 2013 office communication system:

  • Lync Network Readiness Assessment (exam 74-335)
  • Lync Depth Support Engineer (exam 74-338)

Project 2013

Candidates can choose from two different Specialist certifications for Microsoft's popular project management product:

  • Managing Projects with Microsoft Project 2013 (exam 74-343)
  • Managing Program and Projects with Microsoft Project Server 2013 (exam 74-344)

Server Virtualization

There is only one Specialist certification for the Server Virtualization specialization:

  • Server Virtualization with Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center (exam 74-409).

Microsoft Dynamics

Microsoft Dynamics is where the Specialist certification track goes a little crazy. Here are the Microsoft Dynamics products that have related Specialist certifications:

  • Dynamics CRM (customer relationship management)
  • Dynamics AX (enterprise resource planning)
  • Dynamics GP (business accounting)
  • Dynamics NAV (enterprise resource planning and business management)
  • Dynamics SureStep (used to deploy Dynamics solutions)

The Specialist certification track becomes much more granular when it comes to some of the Microsoft Dynamics products. There are currently nine different Specialist exams available for Microsoft Dynamics CRM; Microsoft Dynamics AX has over a dozen Specialist exams dedicated to it.

The Microsoft Dynamics product specialties, however, work the same as all of the other Specialist technology areas: passing a single exam earns its related MS Specialist certification.

Who is the Microsoft Specialist certification for?

As mentioned above, the Microsoft Specialist track is largely aimed at official Microsoft Partner Network members who want to add specific training and certification accomplishments to their professional portfolios.

Microsoft Specialist certification, however, also gives individual tech workers a low-impact means of earning a credential related to their professional specialty. There's no need to master a much larger knowledge area, or take on a full multiple-exam certification track.

For example, a network tech who wants to get a credential that shows he is adept at creating and managing virtual servers, can take the Server Virtualization with Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center exam and earn the Microsoft Specialist certification. The alternative would be to dive neck-deep into the full Windows Server 2012 skill set in order to pass one or more of the related MCSA or MCSE exams.

The Microsoft Specialist certification offers any candidate a way to prove their prowess with one of several common Microsoft enterprise solutions. For more information about this program, visit the Microsoft Specialist page on the Microsoft Learning site.

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About the Author
Aaron Axline is a freelance technology writer based in Canada.

Aaron Axline is a technology journalist and copywriter based in Edmonton, Canada. He can be found on LinkedIn, and anywhere fine coffee is served.