Surf's Up: Long Wave of Microsoft Certification Changes Breaking

Surf's up, Microsoft Certified Professionals!

The latest Certification Watch (Volume 19, Number 20) includes a Page 2 item titled "Microsoft Announces Changes to Windows Certification Lineup." It recites in brief what promises to be long line of upcoming changes to Windows-related certification exams and credentials from Microsoft.


The immediate news is that MS has finally caught the MCSA credential up to Windows 10 (out since July 29, 2015, and preparing for its "Anniversary Release" on July 29). There is also a second exam for that two-exam slate that is currently in development.


Microsoft Learning's Larry Kaye let slip with this upcoming exam release in his Born to Learn blog post of May 16 titled "Certification Update — Windows 10." It includes a bunch of news around that and other cert topics, so let me catch you up with what's coming up shortly for MCSA: Windows 10.


Until that new exam becomes available, the only way to earn MCSA: Windows 10 is to earn MCSA: Windows 8, and then to take exam 70-697: Configuring Windows Devices as a single-exam upgrade to transform that credential into its Windows 10 counterpart.


The new exam is 70-698: Installing and Configuring Windows 10, which (a) still shows up as "in development" on the exam page, and (b) shows a publication date of June 6, 2016 (it's May 19 as I write this blog post, so it's still a future date at the moment).


I'm guessing this means the exam will go beta in June, and should probably be broadly available by late August or sometime in September. At that point, the exam slate for MCSA: Windows 10 looks like this:


? 70-698: Installing and Configuring Windows 10
? 70-697: Configuring Windows Devices


And finally, the content for MCSA: Windows 10 will be all Windows 10-focused and Windows 10-based. I'm a little surprised it took MS this long to get all the ducks in a row for a "native" Windows 10 MCSA, but that's the way it goes sometimes.


Going forward, IT Pros will only need to know stuff about Windows 10 (and not a bunch of stuff about Windows 8, never terribly popular in the workplace) to get certified on Windows 10.


But wait, there's more! All of the exams related to MCSA: Windows 8 will be retiring on Dec. 31, going out with the end of the current year. Here are some particulars and pointers:


? 70-687: Configuring Windows 8.1
? 70-688: Supporting Windows 8.1
? 70-689: Upgrading Your Skills to MCSA Windows 8 (This one is a single-exam upgrade for MCSA: Windows 7)
? 70-692: Upgrading Your Windows XP Skills to MCSA Windows 8 (Single-exam upgrade from the "old" Microsoft Certified System Administrator MCSA)


After the end of 2016, none of these exams will remain available. Particularly for those who can benefit from upgrading an older MCSA to a newer one, the prudent time to exercise that option is likely at hand. You should at least consider taking action now, before the 8 and 8.1 exams have been given the old heave-ho.


On the other hand, it may make just as much sense to jump on the whole slate of native Windows 10 exams, because for such folks, two exams are in their future anyway and it might as well be two new ones instead of an old one and a new one.


Here's the deal

In the same blog post, Kaye also let slip information about a new path to the MCSD: Universal Windows Platform (UWP) with a cloud-focused route to certification about to make its appearance. By the end of year, candidates for this cert will be able to take mobile- and cloud-oriented exams (70-357: Developing Mobile Apps, scheduled for July 2016 beta; and 70-358: Developing Cloud Services, scheduled for September 2016) to qualify for this MCSD.


This is a big departure from the current path, which is more or less exclusively focused on UWP with exams 70-354: UWP – App Architecture and UX/UI, plus 70-355: UWP – App Data, Services, and Coding Patterns.


Buckle your seatbelts, folks: This is just the start of a long upcoming wave of Microsoft Learning certification changes. Technical Preview 5 for Windows Server 2016 was just released at the end of April, and MS has publicly stated that it will be the last TP release before the product itself is released some time in Q3 of this year.


At around the same time, the next version of Microsoft SQL Server will also see the light of day, to be followed somewhat later by SharePoint, Skype for Business (Lync), and other popular server-based MS platforms. I expect nothing less than a couple of dozen new certification exams around these topics to hit, starting in Q4 and extending into 2017.


I also expect them to profoundly alter the MS certification landscape and makeup, with further incursions into MCSA, and changes for MCSE and MCSD as well. It's going to be an interesting ride!


I hope you'll stay tuned: I've asked the Microsoft Learning team to comment on what's coming, and will report back here as soon as I get some answers.


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About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.