Over the past year or so, Microsoft has resurrected the MCSE credential. Read on to learn how we can earn the MCSE to document our competency with SharePoint Server 2013.

When I earned my Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) certification in Windows NT 4.0 back in 1997, I saw immediate return on investment (ROI) in terms of industry prestige, job opportunities, and new networking possibilities.

Around the time of Windows Server 2008’s introduction, Microsoft made a mistake of replacing the highly-respected MCSE credential with something called the Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP). The idea was that you could demonstrate professional-level competency not only in Windows Server, but also related Microsoft technologies such as SharePoint Server, Exchange Server, and SQL Server.

MCITP in SharePoint Server 2010 administration

MCITP in SharePoint Server 2010 administration

Trouble was, the MCITP program was complicated, convoluted, confusing, and never really took hold in the marketplace. Fast forward to 2013: now we have a totally revamped MCSE that also is attached to all of the mainline Microsoft server platforms.

Here’s the key difference: nowadays MCSE stands for Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert, and the focus is on Microsoft product and service integration. For instance, in order to become an MCSE in SharePoint Server 2013, we must also pass qualifying exams in Windows Server. But I get ahead of myself…

Anatomy of the SharePoint 2013 certification ^

Of course, the Microsoft Learning Web site is your “go to” spot to learn how their certification programs work. However, I’m here to help you to cut through the marketing fluff and describe how the certification works by using ordinary language with no bias one way or the other.

Here’s the deal: in order to earn your SharePoint 2013 MCSE, you must register (pay) for and pass the following tests:

If you’re cynical like me, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Man, Microsoft really wants to maximize their revenue streams here, don’t they? Why do I have to pass three Windows Server 2012 tests if I want to qualify my skills on SharePoint Server?”

Well, if you have any industry experience with SharePoint, then I think you’ll understand where Microsoft is coming from here. We must remember that SharePoint is, at base, a SQL Server data-driven ASP.NET Web application. Therefore, Windows Server and IIS run all through this technology stack, and we should be experts in SharePoint’s host platform.

SharePoint is a multi-faceted beast of a Web application

SharePoint is a multi-faceted beast of a Web application.

Going further, the Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) in SharePoint requires that you certify as a SharePoint developer in addition to as an administrator! Now that is one well-rounded SharePoint expert!

Another cool benefit of having to take Windows Server 2012 exams in addition to the two SharePoint admin tests is that you’ll pick up a second title, the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) in Windows Server 2012.

Logistical details ^

You register for all Microsoft exams through the Prometric Web site. Before you do so, make sure to check out the Special Offers page to see if Microsoft is offering their Second Shot program. Also, you can save money by purchasing exam vouchers as “packs” rather than individually.

Speaking of individual registration prices, each exam costs $150 USD per attempt, for a total investment of $750 for the SharePoint MCSE title.

Does the credential expire once you’ve earned it? No, but the exams themselves certainly will expire in time, so keep your eyes on the Microsoft exam retirements page to stay current on this issue.

Study Tips

I’ve taken and passed literally hundreds of IT certification exams. Therefore, I have the following three-part recipe for passing these SharePoint tests (actually, this method applies to any vendor’s cert program):

  • Learn the theory. You can use computer-based training here to pick up the “bookish” information and watch the instructor conduct demos to bring the theory to life
  • Experiment with the technology. Check out the SharePoint test labs or, even better, set up a practice networking using trial software and virtualization software. You MUST know how to use the product(s) before you sit for your test.
  • Drill yourself with practice exams. I used to write for Transcender and Boson, so I can vouch for their accuracy. Here you build discipline in taking computer-based tests. I’ve seen experienced IT professionals fail tests because, while they knew the material, they were unaccustomed to providing “the Microsoft answer” on the live exam.

Alrighty, then! There you have it. I hope that you found this information useful; please leave any questions you have in the comments portion of the post.

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