Computer networks are such an integral part of the modern business landscape that is it almost difficult to imagine a time when they were absent. As business computer systems grew to prominence, new classes of professionals also appeared. It quickly became necessary for employers to differentiate between computer system specialists and those who only claimed to be.
The Microsoft Certified Professional Program was developed to fill that need. First announced in March of 1992, the program initially covered Windows 3.1, LAN Manager, and SQL Server systems and was designed to measure expertise on critical issues with Microsoft platforms and servers. By hiring employees with Microsoft certifications, employers could be sure that new personnel had a certain level of proficiency and were capable of creating or managing a computer system that would help the business succeed.
The program has evolved through the years into a series of credentials that IT professionals simply must have in order to command top salaries. Certification demonstrates competency, validates ability, and allows employers to quickly identify IT professionals with the knowledge and skill sets necessary to work on critical computer support systems.
Microsoft recently modified the certification program to include the validation of cloud-related skills. The new program is comprised of three core levels with specific certifications available within each level. The Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate, or MCSA, is the most basic certification level available. It demonstrates proficiency in the core skills required to perform at a beginner’s level and is required before advancing to the next certification level. MCSA certification is available with specializations in Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2008, or SQL Server 2012.
The Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert and the Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer, or MCSE and MCSD certifications, are the flagship credentials of the certification program. They demonstrate proficiency with the complex and constantly changing skills required by IT professionals who are expected to be on top of current Microsoft technology solutions. In order to demonstrate relevancy to current platforms and technology, both the MCSE and MCSD certifications require annual updates. Beyond the MCSA and MCSE, a Microsoft Certified Solutions Master certification (http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/certification/mcsm.aspx) is available to validate the highest level of skill and work experience with Microsoft solutions.
While the revised certifications continue to demonstrate proficiency in the skills needed to maintain an on-site system, Microsoft has now also included components that validate cloud-related skills. Cloud computing is the obvious future of business computer systems. It allows companies to focus IT resources on personnel and company growth instead of hardware maintenance and new computer software purchases. The new MCSA thoroughly tests participants on Microsoft platform capabilities and does not just simply focus on specific features.
The revised MCSA certification (http://www.trainace.com/courses/mcsa/) is so new that the salary benefits of certification cannot yet be evaluated. However, IT managers and staff alike agree that training and certifications improve job performance, and everyone expects MCSA compensation trends to mirror those of the earlier Microsoft Certified IT Professional series.
Over the last five years, IT professionals with MCITP certification have earned an average of $5,242 per year more than non-certified counterparts. Recent studies indicated that 78 percent of non-managerial IT professionals who sent personnel to receive MCITP training felt that the employees were more effective at their job after receiving the training. More than 84 percent of IT managers agreed with this assessment.
In 2011, the average salary of an IT professional with MCITP certification was approximately $77,000 per year. Salaries varied by area of specialization and by position within the company. For example, the average salary of a person with an MCITP: Enterprise Support Technician certification was $64,353. The average salary of a person with an MCITP: Microsoft Certified IT Professional salary was $77,529, and the average salary of a person with an MCITP: Enterprise Messaging Administrator certification was $91,192. The new MCSA certifications are expected to follow these same trends.
Salaries also varied by geographic region. For example, the average salary of a person with MCITP certification in California was $88,948 per year. In New York, the average MCITP salary was $84,149. In the Chicago metropolitan area, the average salary of an IT professional with MCITP certification was $82,223, and the average MCITP salary in Texas was $80,337 per year. The same position and certification paid $73,305 per year in Florida.
Time and money invested in MCITP certification has yielded verifiable financial returns to IT professionals over the past five years. MCSA certifications should be expected to yield similar benefits. MCSA certifications immediately demonstrate system proficiency and are as important, if not more important, as an impressive resume or project history.