The End of Microsoft Certification for Windows?

NOTE: This post was updated March 30. Please scroll to the bottom of the post for new information announced by Microsoft Learning in response to complications related to the global COVID-19 pandemic.


Man! It's the end of an era, or something. I just went poking around the Microsoft Learning website to look for Windows 10-related certifications or exams. Having just been awarded a Windows Insider MVP for 2020 from Microsoft, I was wondering what kind of training and credential options I might find.


Alas and alack, as the graphic included below reveals, a search for any kind of role-based certification (that's they only kind Microsoft offers nowadays, except for certain legacy items not yet retired) around "Windows" turns up a big fat goose-egg. Nothing. Nada. Zip.


Microsoft Windows Certification Search


Thinking Back on My Certification Career


I actually got started down the certification trail in 1988-89, when I was working for a company named Excelan. I developed and piloted a "LAN 101" class for them to introduce IT pros to the joys and sorrows of networking. Excelan was acquired by Novell in mid-1989, and I quickly found myself enmeshed in its certification program.


The old Novell training and exams, of course, all culminated in the first real nonpareil IT certification, the CNE or Certified Novell Engineer. By the time I left Novell in 1994, that cert had been overshadowed by the Master CNE (MCNE). It was, for many IT pros, a must-have credential.


It also presented a ripe target for Microsoft to pursue, which Microsoft did with its MCSA (Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator, later renamed to Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate) and MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, later renamed to Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert).


Certification Life Gets Interesting: 1996-2000


In the beginning was networking.

After leaving Novell in 1994, it was increasingly clear that Microsoft was winning the server/network OS wars, and had already taken up a more-or-less dominant position on the desktop front, as well. Thus, I started developing MSCE training classes for the American Research Group (ARG, now part of Global Knowledge) in 1995 and 1996.


In turn, that led directly to my realization that experienced IT pros needed a short and focused set of learning materials to help them prep for cert exams, especially MSCA and MCSE. From that insight — and fortuitous exposure to the late Kurt Hudson's one-day "Exam Cram and Jam" prep classes at New Horizons — the Exam Cram series was born.


When we launched the series in late 1997/early 1998, the "core four" book pack (NT Workstation 4, NT Server 4 in the Enterprise, NT Server 4, and Networking Essentials) was an immediate, smash hit in the marketplace. For at least a year after its debut, we sold 10,000-plus copies of that $80 item (discounted price) every month.


So Long, Windows Desktop Certification?


Where did all of the Microsoft Windows certifications go?

There's been a long, slow, and thorough reworking of the Microsoft Certification program underway for some time now. Most of the MCSA and MCSE credentials have been obsolete for a while (coming up on a year now), and Microsoft has re-oriented its programs around role-based certifications.


Those certs are divided up among a handful of specific Microsoft technologies, whose subsidiary entries are as follows (the numbers in parentheses refer to the count of entries under each such heading; I've also bolded the non-zero items in the following list to show where the momentum among MS cert offerings lies):


? Technology (32: this actually includes all offerings under other non-zero headings)
? App Builder (0)
? Azure (11)
? Development (0)
? Dynamics 365 (13)
? Microsoft 365 (8)
? Mobility (0)
? Productivity (0)
? SQL Server (0)
? Windows (0)
? Windows Server (0)


In looking over the items that appear under each heading, I also determined that such Windows desktop OS coverage as still exists is all under the Microsoft 365 heading. In particular, the following items are relevant to those who, like me, might wonder what's available today for individuals with a focus on Windows 10:


? Microsoft 365 Certified Fundamentals
? Microsoft 365 Certified: Modern Desktop Administrator Associate
? Microsoft 365 Certified: Enterprise Administrator Expert


The other 5 certs under the Microsoft 365 heading focus on areas such as application development, Teams, Messaging, Security Administration and Teamwork Administration (SharePoint, OneDrive and Teams), but will also inevitably touch on certain aspects of the Microsoft desktop OS, Windows 10.


Cloud Vincit Omnia


Cloud computing is taking over IT.

In Latin, "Cloud conquers all" is "nubes vincit omnia," so I did a mashup to entitle my conclusions for today. Indeed, cloud computing is reshaping all aspects of the IT business. It is reaching into and onto desktops and their OSes, just as it is affecting all other aspects of computing.


Thus the real emphases in the Microsoft 365 cert offerings focus on Software as a Service (SaaS) and a wide range of other cloud-based services, functions, and capabilities. The desktop is just a platform from whence users can access things that are mostly cloud-based, or that are made local from the cloud while in use, and restored to the cloud whenever such use comes to a pause.


That is what I believe explains the change in Microsoft Learning and its training, exams, and credentials. Thus: cloud conquers all!


Addendum: March 30, 2020


MCSA/MSCE/MCSD Cert Expiration Dates Extended


On March 26, Microsoft Learning published a blog post titled An Important Update on Microsoft Training and Certification. Because Microsoft testing partner Pearson VUE has closed many of its testing centers around the world in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Microsoft is working hard to extend its online testing capabilities.


At the same time, Microsoft Learning has decided to waive exam reschedule and cancellation fees to give people more time to reset their exam schedules. For more or less the same reasons, Microsoft learning has also decided to extend the retirement dates for the MCSA, MCSE, and MCSD credentials by seven months. That is, instead of retiring on June 30 as originally scheduled, these certifications will not retire until Jan. 31, 2021.


Likewise, other certifications originally scheduled to retire on or before Dec. 31 will have six months added to their retirements dates. Post author Alex Payne states further that "you will be able to view your updated expiration date in your certification dashboard within the next 30 days (on or before April 25, that is). Also, exam vouchers or discounts scheduled to expire between March 26 and Aug. 31 will be extended until Jan. 31, 2021 as well.


Finally, as you might expect, Microsoft Learning plans to switch its live instructor-led training over to virtual classroom formats, as will Microsoft Learning Partners, to limit interpersonal contact during the pandemic. Check in with local learning partners or visit Microsoft Events to find a virtual ILT event in your area.


Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
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.