Is Microsft Technology Associate (MTA) certification right for you?
The Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certification is Microsoft's entry-level designation, aimed at people who are just starting out on their IT career path. The MTA is also suitable for any non-IT business professional who wants to have a better understanding of a given technology that he (or she) frequently encounters in the performance of normal work responsibilities.
While the MTA is classified as a foundation-level designation, it is not a prerequisite for Microsoft's more advanced certifications like the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) or the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE). Candidates who already have a strong knowledge of IT fundamentals will likely want to dive directly into one of the MCSA, MCSD, or MCSE training programs.
The MTA is split into the following certification tracks:
- IT Infrastructure
Passing a single exam from any of these tracks is all that's required to earn an MTA certification. Let's take a closer look at the MTA certification tracks, and what IT disciplines they cover.
MTA: IT Infrastructure
The MTA: IT Infrastructure certification track is made up of the following specializations (related certification exam numbers are listed with each specialization):
- Windows Operating System Fundamentals (exam 98-349)
- Windows Server Administration Fundamentals (exam 98-365)
- Networking Fundamentals (exam 98-366)
- Security Fundamentals (exam 98-367)
According to the Microsoft Learning website, the OS versions focused on in the MTA IT Infrastructure exams are Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008.
Microsoft describes the IT Infrastructure track as being "for those intending to build a career in desktop or server infrastructure or private cloud computing." The MTA: IT Infrastructure certification track is also a good fit, however, for project managers and strategic planners who want to be more knowledgeable about the technologies they encounter in their day-to-day activities.
The MTA: Database certification path consists of a single specialization: Database Fundamentals (exam 98-364). This exam focuses on Microsoft SQL Server 2008, and covers the following topics:
- Understanding core database concepts
- Creating database objects
- Manipulating data
- Understanding data storage
- Administering a database
The MTA: Database track is "for those intending to build a career in data platform administration or business intelligence." Yet the MTA: Database track isn't just for future DBAs. Nearly all technology professionals, from software developers to network administrators, can benefit from having a more thorough understanding of database fundamentals.
The MTA: Developer certification path is the most varied of the MTA tracks, as it covers a more diversified subject in software development. Here is the list of MTA: Developer specializations, with their accompanying exam numbers:
- Software Development Fundamentals (exam 98-361)
- Windows Development Fundamentals (exam 98-362)
- Web Development Fundamentals (exam 98-363)
- .NET Fundamentals (exam 98-372)
- Mobile Development Fundamentals (exam 98-373)
- Gaming Development Fundamentals (exam 98-374)
- HTML5 App Development Fundamentals (98-375)
- Software Testing Fundamentals (98-379)
The number of options offered by the MTA: Developer track reflects the more advanced Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) certification, which is also made up of a number of disciplines. Unlike the MCSD, howver, which requires passing several exams, passing any one of the MTA: Developer track exams is all that's required to earn an MTA certification.
The Software Testing Fundamentals specialization is of special interest in this track. Released in September 2013, this relatively new exam (98-379) focuses on the following core software testing skills:
- Testing fundamentals
- Testing methodology
- Creating software tests
- Managing software testing projects
- Working with bugs
- Automating software testing
Many regional IT job markets feature listings for software testers, also commonly referred to as software QA (quality assurance) analysts. The Software Testing Fundamentals specialization of the MTA: Developer certification track offers a very relevant credential for candidates looking to pursue this job role.
The Microsoft Technology Associate certification is an excellent entry-level designation for people looking to get their start in the IT industry. It's also a good credential for those who work outside of the IT department: It can be a boon to those who want to learn more about the technology they encounter in the projects they manage, or have a better understanding of the skills possessed by the workers they manage.