In this article we will examine the difference between an MCSA and MCSE and explain how Microsoft certifications exam work.
If you’re looking to get a leg up in the competitive tech industry job market, you’ve probably already heard about Microsoft Certifications. They’re a widely recognized and valuable way to prove that you have the most current knowledge and skills needed to succeed in your corner of the tech world.
However, you may be wondering which one is best for you.
How Do Microsoft Certifications Work?
In order to understand MCSAs and MCSEs, you first need to understand how the Microsoft Certification program is designed in the first place.
There are several certification pathways offered by Microsoft. Each is centered around a specific skill, like mobility, app building, or data, and deals with a specific set of key technologies, like Microsoft Azure and SQL server.
Before you start thinking about earning any sort of certification at all, you need to pick a pathway.
In addition to being divided up by pathways, Microsoft Certifications are also divided into levels. The number of levels varies by pathway, but for the majority of the pathways, the most basic level is the Microsoft Technology Associate, or MTA.
For most pathways, the MCSA is the intermediate tier of Microsoft Certification. Finally, regardless of the pathway you choose, the MCSE will always be the most advanced Microsoft Certification that you can earn.
How Do I Earn a Microsoft Certification?
In order to earn any level of Microsoft Certification in any pathway, you need to take and pass certain exams. An MTA certification generally requires that you only pass one required exam.
To earn an MCSA, you’ll need to pass two or three more. To earn an MCSE, the most advanced level of Microsoft Certification, you’ll need to take one more final exam.
What Are the Microsoft Certification Exams Like?
Microsoft Certification exams are offered online through Microsoft’s website. You take them online and are monitored via webcam by an official proctor. The number and style of questions varies from test to test, but you can generally expect there to be about 50 questions.
Depending on the level of certification you’re testing for, the exam time will be between 45 and 150 minutes. You might see multiple choice, short answer, drag-and-drop, and case study questions on your exam.
A few minutes after you finish taking your exam, you’ll find out whether you’ve passed or failed. You’ll also be issued a personalized score report, which shows you how proficient you are in each of the subject areas on the exam, so you can gauge your strengths and weaknesses.
All Microsoft Certification exams are scored out of 1,000 points. If you score at least 700 points, you pass! If you didn’t pass the first time, you can retake the test after 24 hours. If you don’t pass the second time, you must wait 14 days between subsequent retake.
Bear in mind that you do need to pay for each retake.
What’s the Difference Between an MCSA and an MCSE?
Now that you know what the Microsoft Certification process entails, you’re probably wondering which level of certification is best for you. If you’re looking for an entry-level IT job, an MTA certification is a good starting place. Plus, many of the higher-level certifications require that you earn an MTA first.
An MCSA certification is still not considered one of the most advanced distinctions in the tech field, but it’s a great way to prove that you’re committed to your work and can open the doors to more skilled and better-paying jobs.
To earn your MCSA, you’ll need to take two or three exams, each of which will require some amount of extensive study, either through a college course, bootcamp or prep course, or independent study using a prep book. The process could last between a couple of months and over a year.
It’s also a prerequisite to earn any of the MCSEs. As the most advanced of all of the Microsoft Certification Levels, the MCSE demonstrates your high-level knowledge and skill.
The road to earning an MCSE can be quite lengthy. You’ll need to earn the prerequisite MTA and MCSA first, which will involve taking three or four certification exams.
By the time you finally earn your MCSE certification, you’ll have taken between four and five different certification exams. The whole process could take anywhere between a few months to a few years.
Now that you know the basics of the MCSA and MCSE certifications, you can decide for yourself whether you’re interested in getting certified, and if so, which level is best for you.
Regardless of which certification you decide to obtain, it’s sure to bring a competitive edge to your resume and help you argue a higher salary in any tech position!