back to article Microsoft's MCSE and MCSD will become HARDER to win

Microsoft has decided it won't replace the Masters-level certifications it once described as the "pinnacle" of a Redmond-centric IT pro's education. Redmond ”retired” the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM), Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM), and Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) certifications last year. At the time …

  1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

    I have an idea. It's outlandish, but there you go. Why not make the tests more relevant rather than "harder." An example of this might be testing fundamental concepts and/or working on the problem solving capabilities of the individuals taking the tests, rather than their ability to regurgitate propaganda or memorize "the shortest number of clicks" to find the place where Microsoft has most recently moved the control panel items necessary for actually administering a PC?

    Microsoft exams are far too much "tell us how Microsoft views the world" and not enough "identify the category of problem and the various ways you might solve it." They are a lot of wrote memorization and virtually no actual problem solving.

    The reason I make fun of MCSEs is that they can't format a floppy disk in order to update the BIOS but they can remember obscure powershell commands with exactly the right syntax in order to call up something that used to be two clicks away after login.

    Another good one would be "describe and demonstrate understanding of the basic principles of the various common tools for detecting and recovering from a malware infection on a Microsoft PC, starting with Combofix and ending with DBAN." Oh, I could go on for ages and ages. Maybe we should create an El Reg Certified BOFH exam? If you pass without dying you get a Vulture pin and a cow prod?

    1. N2 Silver badge


      "The reason I make fun of MCSEs is that they can't format a floppy disk in order to update the BIOS" bloody hell, thats a tall order!

      I once bumped into one that asked me how to map a network drive from the command line.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I find that highly unlikely. Did you actually see his certification? An MCSE requires at least 5 pretty hard to pass exams that require detailed systems knowledge and a re-certification every 3 years.

        Probably he was a claimed MCSE, and not a real one. Or was he Indian? (In which case someone competent probably took the exams for him for a bribe.)

      2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        " "The reason I make fun of MCSEs is that they can't format a floppy disk in order to update the BIOS" bloody hell, thats a tall order!

        I once bumped into one that asked me how to map a network drive from the command line."

        I totally agree with both of you.

        I never considered myself a Windows expert, just 'someone that knows a bit', but the number of times I've ended up fixing something the self proclaimed gurus (with MCSE qualification) couldn't it's beyond funny.

        To most, after a cursory look around, their conclusion of 'you have to reinstall the OS' is a valid solution!

        Some have even said there is no way to recover anything because it won't boot (though obviously if it's just the OS that is buggered there is nothing stopping you retrieving user files with a rescue disk / dual boot etc.)

        But even that aside, on many occasions that their proposed solution has been 'have to reinstall', I've managed to locate a corrupted boot config etc., fix/restore it, and get the system running again without any loss, after which I start preaching about backing up important files!

        It's little wonder MS installs are often insecure - the cowboys give the decent MS gurus a bad name.


        On another note, how is it fair to make a qualification harder without changing it's name? Are people with the harder qualification going to be known as MSCE++ (or, as it's MS, MSCE# !)

    2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Microsoft exams are far too much "tell us how Microsoft views the world"

      All vendor courses and exams I've been on have been like this. I've generally been fortunate and had honest trainers who say "The vendor says X, but in the real world it's Y."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        training? you were lucky....

        youve been fortunate to get any kind of training. 20 years I've been at this and it seems that the 3 employers in that time consider training as something that will make me get a better job elsewhere. so fuck em , now i've got over the job security paranoi and hopping jobs and training myself. So ill be up for some bullshit parrot fashion mcp type stuff now

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: training? you were lucky....

          " youve been fortunate to get any kind of training. 20 years I've been at this and it seems that the 3 employers in that time consider training as something that will make me get a better job elsewhere."

          Ouch. I've worked with people who expect to be sent on training courses, and whinge if they haven't : "I can't do that problem. I haven't been on the course."

          They didn't last long.

    3. Lee D Silver badge

      I have spent my career running Microsoft networks.

      Not once have I ever felt hindered by not having a Microsoft certification.

      And, anecdotally, though I'm sure there are many MCSE's out there with good skills, I only really hear the term in interviews now. The last two times in the manner of "Do you have any MCSE or other certifications?", "No, just fifteen years experience.", "Oh, good... the last guy we hired who said he had all the certifications was just rubbish and did X, Y and Z...."

      Honestly. I tell no lie. I was hired in two interviews with a major factor being that I actually asked if their previous guy's MCSE's had made them a better IT guy. Both times the answer was no, and both times the employer actually reeled off a list of people they knew with MCSE's who they regretted hiring.

      And why? Because of this reason. It's memorising how to click the new icon that's appeared in Windows 8 whereas before it used to be underneath another icon, or vice versa. The questions teach you how to USE a computer, not manage it. And when they do veer into technicalities, it's so Microsoft focused as to be useless.

      I was working with another IT Manager a few months ago, and he was hiring a technician. He had a little practical test, a little written test, and an interview. He shared with me the results of the tests and asked my opinions because, literally, they were SO BAD that he couldn't decide but was being made to by his circumstances. People didn't know what RAID was. They couldn't explain the simplest of technologies. They have no idea about what order to do things in, or even Microsoft-specific stuff like how to do the simplest of management on an AD.

      The questions on "common problems" that occur MS networks, the answers were hilarious. People didn't know how to reset a profile,or a password. They had literally memorised the path, and done it so long ago it had got corrupted in their heads, and the answers were junk. What we were looking for was NOT a menu-selection, but a general overview of the process - we don't care WHERE the menu is, you'll find it if you know what it does, or you can Google it at worst. We care that you know what clearing a profile means, what the implications are, when you should and should not do it, and most importantly that you TAKE A BACKUP (whether explicitly, by keeping a shadow copy, by renaming the folder, etc.).

      MCSE doesn't furnish you with any IT skills that are useful. I could teach a teenager everything in MCSE in a few weeks, and most of it would probably NEVER come up if they were actually working with me. The bits that did, I bet they could Google quite easily and find a more comprehensive and reliable tutorial in seconds.

      The guy doing the hiring, though - the only technician he had was a young lad who'd done A-Level's, worked a bit for his uncle, and then had to find a real job and ended up in the IT department. He was fabulous. Quite learner, very keen, even touched on programming etc. while I was there because he was trying to suck all the knowledge he could out of us. And didn't have a single IT qualification to his name.

      The guy they ended up hiring. All the certs. Left in a month, and had been nothing but trouble in between. And the young lad was so scared of being ignored for promotion etc. because of the age/experience/certs that that guy had.

      Dumb employers with no sense of actual IT might request an MCSE. I get that. If you don't know the industry, a certification looks good. But, like I say, it's like a guy with a McDonald's Chef Certificate applying to run your businesses kitchen (or, in some cases, a catering business or even a posh restaurant). I don't have one and have never had a problem explaining it. If it ever took two sentences, I probably wouldn't ever want to work for such a company anyway.

      In all the places I've worked, freelance and employed, they don't particularly care - mainly because experience has showed them that it has more correlation with £699 in spare cash, time on your hands and a gap on your CV than anything to do with IT skills. Some places have asked if I wanted to do it as part of training. I politely declined each time. When they ask why, I show them the course content which, if I couldn't do, I wouldn't be able to do the job they asked me to do.

      I fear that making them "more rigorous" will just be a matter of more obscure questions, because the marking still has to be "easy to do" and the training for it still has to be given by people who've never managed a network in their life.

      If I were Microsoft, I wouldn't continue with MCSE, I'd change the name entirely and reinvent it. Because everywhere I go, MCSE has a bad name. Most of the people in my position that I ask about such things, they are ashamed to admit they have one, and quickly qualify it with "Oh, well, my employer made me take it, and they were paying, and it was a couple of days off so..."

      1. AMBxx Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Just an MCP

        I became an MCP many years ago in Windows Server 2000. I found it very useful as it was quite broad and general, so a good grounding. I didn't need much more, just needing MCP for MS Action Pack, so never bothered with MCSE etc.

        Decided I'd upgrade it to Windows Server 2012. Just full of nonsense about powershell. Not something I need as I do very little admin. Gave up.

        Not sure what newbies do these days to get started.

      2. BlartVersenwaldIII

        > I have spent my career running Microsoft networks.

        > Not once have I ever felt hindered by not having a Microsoft certification.

        Same here. I came into computers late, with w2k being my first OS, and learnt windows and linux at more or less the same time. Gravitated to mostly windows but kept my oar in with linux, and as I've waxed lyrical before I *loved* the RHCT and RHCE exams because they were rooted purely in practicality. "Here's a broken computer, in an hours time it should be able to do this".

        Like you say, there's very little in any of the MCSE streams that I would say gives you a good working knowledge of windows in a realistic environment. Lots of repeating The One Microsoft Answer, little to nothing that takes any one of a million "yes, but in *this* configuration..." caveats into account. Highly domain-specific information that doesn't foster learning how the whole house of cards fits together, nor turning the house of cards into a deck and back again.

        I had an employer that inherited a boss that considered my not having any MS certifications a colossal hindrance, and he'd diligently refuse to listen to any input from me or my team members as a result on the grounds that I was unfit for work ("We're an MS shop! Even our receptionist has an MS certification for heavens sake! You NEED one to work in this company!") yet refused to pay for one on the basis that we shouldn't have been employed without one in the first place and therefore should foot the bill ourselves. Joke ended up being on him as he was golden parachuted out of the top floor after a series of embarrassing IT disasters that we'd predicted would happen if he listened to his "qualified" yes-men instead of his sysadmin grunts, and crucially the written reports that had gone before the board of directors before any of the incidents have happened (and we'd taken steps to mitigate some of the fallout that was soon to ensue to make things less of a catastrophe). Armour piercing question from the CTO: "If these people you employ are so unqualified and incompetent, how come none of your much-vaunted MCSEs saw these issues coming and they did?". I tried to stifle a huge, huge grin.

        In my last job interview, one of the questions I was asked was "let's say you've just accidentally rebooted the mail server in-hours, the failover node is offline for maintenance and the server takes at least 10mins to POST and boot. What's the first thing you do?". Apparently I was the only candidate to give the non-technical answer of "stand up and tell the rest of the team and any incident managers in earshot that I've just made a colossal fuck-up". Apparently a rare skill...

      3. Rick Giles

        @Lee D

        "'s so Microsoft focused as to be useless."

        Isn't that an oxymoron?

    4. John Sanders

      It will never work.

      You're asking too much of point & click engineers.

    5. Cico

      Why not make the tests more relevant rather than "harder." An example of this might be testing fundamental concepts and/or working on the problem solving capabilities of the individuals taking the tests, rather than their ability to regurgitate propaganda or memorize "the shortest number of clicks" to find the place where Microsoft has most recently moved the control panel items necessary for actually administering a PC?

      In short: bring back MCM

    6. Goat Jam

      "Why not make the tests more relevant rather than "harder." An example of this might be testing fundamental concepts and/or working on the problem solving capabilities of the individuals taking the tests, rather than their ability to regurgitate propaganda or memorize "the shortest number of clicks" to find the place where Microsoft has most recently moved the control panel items necessary for actually administering a PC?"

      I was going to say much the same thing, now I don't need to. Have an upvote.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of the two or three certs I've bothered to take I found they were simply verbatim regurgitation. I took my Oracle certs after about 15 years of working with Oracle DBs. When I took the tests you're given 60 mins, I had finished the 70 odd multiple choice questions in 12 mins. I would say that 75% of the questions I saw on the actual test were available in various books and papers I found on the internet, exactly as they were in the test! I knew most the answers as I'd worked with it for so long but for anyone who's been in the Oracle game for year or so the base level certs are simply a short term memory test, not a test of skills, ability or understanding.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Of the two or three certs I've bothered to take I found they were simply verbatim regurgitation"

      Microsoft exams certainly are not. Microsoft / Prometric mostly base the questions around real world scenarios and practical problems - and the answers and names and order of options, etc change randomly each time you do the exams so that you cant just remember them from a text book!

  3. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    In test for SQL certifications we ask you to actually create an SQL query

    Really? It's taken them this long to come up with this ground breaking idea?

    1. Hans 1 Silver badge

      RE: Microsoft's MCSE and MCSD will become HARDER to win

      Using drag and drop, of course ... ;-)

    2. Jay 2

      Being a Linux guy and not taking too much notice of anything MCSE, that sort of revaltion does shock me! You would like to think that for some sort of certification you might have to demonstrate your knowledge, rather then recall it for a multi-choice.

      Many years ago I became an RHCE (Red Hat Certified Engineer) in which the exam was in 2 parts. The first was you were plonked in front of a PC with a deliberately-borked setup of RHEL and told to fix it so that various end user functions could be accomplished. In the second part you were given a config/feature list and told to rebuild the PC so that it conformed to the config/list.

      All the above was done without notes. Also it was open-ended enough so that if, for example, an email server was required it was your choice if you wanted to use sendmail, postfix or anything else you could get your hands on. And to top it all off you had to sign an NDA as not to make it easy for anyone else!

      My certificatoin has now lapsed (and then some), so I guess I should get it renewed at some point. If only I could get the company to pay for it and give me the time off...

      1. Is this secure?

        The RHCE is a great example of how to do it right and MS did actually do this with one of their exams for Active Directory but it seemed to disappear as they stupidly gave people a choice to do the standard exam or simulation

        This is also the best way to interview technical staff, once they get past the "do you fit the culture and basic tech" interview.

        NDA's are generally on all exams, most of the exam dumps come from compromised testing centers.

  4. Slacker@work

    I remember when I were a lad....

    MCSE in NT4 - now that was a slog!

    I was working with some whipper-snappers a couple of years back who referred to it as "an abacus MCSE", cheeky feckers! Not one of them could sub-net properly, or knew what NetBUI was...

    ahhh them was the days

    1. Ian 7

      Re: I remember when I were a lad....

      Don't think I know what NetBUI was either... now NetBEUI on the other hand... :)

      1. Steve Walker

        Re: I remember when I were a lad....

        Yes that made me smile as well "Must Consult Someone Else" was the moniker we gave to people with them in the day :-)

        NetBEUI LOL now that made networks fun and WINS :-) oh the tears come back to me now.

        1. Benno

          Re: I remember when I were a lad....

          Wrong, wrong, wrong!


          'Must Consult Someone Experienced'

          I considered an MCSE back in the mid-late 1990's. And after doing some courses and sitting an exam or two I came to the conclusion that Redmond was living in a world where Fortune 500 customers were the only ones that existed. Even in that context the questions were barely relevant.

      2. Slacker@work

        Re: I remember when I were a lad....

        apols for the typo, it's me age - I pre-date broadband (and many other technologies). I remember when it was all typewriters round 'ere....

  5. Dazed and Bemused

    I agree that I don't think an MCSE tells an employer anything, but I do think doing them is of some use to techies if only because sitting down and reading a study guide is a good way of learning about new features of the OS (even if you'll never use half of them). And once you've done that you might as well take the exam anyway, if only to get past the sort of filters a recruitment agent might put in your way.

  6. corcoran

    Passed the Office 365 MCSA recently -- there was loads of powershell queries I had to.. put together.. which is weird because in the real world, on my laptop, I have a folder called 'Powershell Scripts' with lots of Powershell queries saved as text files where I refer to all the powershell functions I need for Exchange, AD, etc -- does that make me less of an expert?

    Getting people to remember how to execute SQL queries or Powershell scripts is utter nonsense.

  7. Andy Roid McUser

    cv in the bin

    Candidates that place a high emphasis for MCSE qualifications on their cv are promptly placed in the t.r.a.s.h filing system.

    If they are to make the exams harder/useful then a re-branding exercise is definitely required.

  8. htq


    A while back the company I was working for wanted me to take the MCSD certification. I took the first three courses, VB.NET, ASP.NET, Advanced SQL2000 Programming, passed them then went onto look at other courses. Two or three of the required courses weren't available from MS, for example System Design, so you had to gain that knowledge elsewhere. So much for "MS certification". I decided not to bother.

  9. Hans 1 Silver badge


    <joke>The Microsoft Certified Surface Expert we hired is very good at getting the windows in the office clean, the Microsoft Certified Specialist of Desktops manages to get the coffee marks off of our tables like no other ... They are not allowed anywhere near our Casio Fx100 calculators let alone computers.</joke>

    I remember an NT4 MCSE who had never used a PC computer ... that day I came to the conclusion that MCP/MCSE's are for idiots.

    I trained ppl for MCP's on Windows 2000 back in the day, I did say that despite what the courses for MCP say, you upgrade your BIND servers and keep them as primary DNS servers. MS recommended to use them as backup DNS servers as the version in question did not support DDNS.

    All trainees ended MCSE's.

    No, most of the stuff you are supposed to learn is propaganda, and multiple choice is just plain silly.

    Easy MCSE/MCSD certifications have managed to produce a great number of MS software "experts", which in turn has been a vector in the growth of MS in datacenters around the globe. The result has been lousy IT infrastructures managed by incompetents the viri writers have used and abused for decades.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Purpose of qualification

    Certifications are a way round the problem of finding a job without experience. You leave the forces, the factory closes never to return, the industry is sinking etc so you have to re-skill. There is not an equivalent of the chartered accountancy or legal qualification route for IT so vendor certifications are pretty much all that's left.

    I like to see evidence of interest on the part of interviewees, for example a blog about their training or a technology that interests them. But recruitment agencies cannot realistically sort candidates on that criteria so instead they use a glorified word sort before sending me CV's.

    Once in the industry you can be snotty about cert's but for someone trying to find work they can be the best of a bad set of options.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Purpose of qualification

      Sorry, but IT is one of the few industries where you can branch out on your own - uncertified - and still get a ton of stuff done.

      Stick an ad in the paper to "clean your PC" for £40. You'll eventually do the PC of some business that was in dire straights, then go help them out. Bang, instant "career experience" (self-employed) moving into the B2B side of support.

      But paying £699 for an MCSE course (or, worse, making someone else pay for you) is just a waste of money if you're out of work. See the attitudes that most IT guys have to it in the comments above, then ask who's going to be the "technical" guy on the interview panel at the very least.

      It's not like you have to legally have a qualification to work in IT (unlike an electrician, gas fitter, taxi driver, etc.). You can start now, for friends, do the horrible jobs for yourself, then slowly turn it into a career. I know, I've never had any other job but in IT and never been unemployed for a day, and never had any certifications (which, as I stated above, is actually sometimes seen as a positive thing precisely because of the reputation of those certifications). The best guys I've worked with don't either - the smartest techs I've seen don't. And the places I've gone to with entirely MCSE-certified staff? God, I wanted to kill myself. They solved about one ticket a day, and struggled all the way.

      Recruitment agencies are in fact the worst culprits. So you tell your agent "I don't care about MCSE, I just want experience - on the job or self-employed". One line of criteria, and your recruitment people can't manage that? THEN STOP USING REED. (cough).

      Honestly, IT is the easiest career path to get into if you're even vaguely techy. You can make a killing just going round people's houses and cleaning up the viruses, honestly. I bet even some entrepreneurial spirit like knocking on doors and asking if they have any computer problems that you could help them with would likely generate enough business on a quiet day.

      You won't walk into Google, or IBM, or Facebook, but damn sure you can get there if you try (my friend just moved from Rackspace to Symantec to Google datacenters, and they had nothing past A-Level and only on-the-job training).

      I started from uni making websites for friends. Then one friend worked in a school, so I went there and did their website. I was just a kid, didn't even know what to charge them. Then a few visits later it was "Oh, well, we have this little computer problem, I don't suppose you could take a look?". Within a year I worked in six schools in the Borough, supporting their entire infrastructure (including finance, child protection data, etc.) and was slowly pushing RM's expensive support contracts out single-handedly (I succeeded in almost all of the schools I worked at). Did that for 8 years, ran out of time to handle schools, made enough money not to care about dropping some of them. Then worked a few tech positions, always being promoted, recognised and headhunted. For the last five years I've been an IT manager for independent schools.

      I literally have NO INDUSTRY QUALIFICATIONS, and in the beginning had never touched a server let alone managed one. But I outdid those who do have qualifications, managed the systems better, and offered what the clients were missing. Did I sweet-talk my way in? No, I'm terrible socially. Did I undercut them? No, a lot of schools couldn't afford me. Did I need to prove training and qualifications when word-of-mouth and nice headteachers phoning other schools worked enough to fill my working week? No.

      IT has the lowest barrier-to-entry as a career. The guy you get in to install that rack, or setup that server, or configure that access control system, or whatever? Chances are he's just a guy that would be out of his depth on anything else. But you trust them to come in and plug things in all over your network all year round. And it's a short step from being in that position, to being regarded as actually a good troubleshooter to an entire career where nobody questions your experience.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Purpose of qualification

        "IT has the lowest barrier-to-entry as a career" well you were extremely lucky!

        I got into IT 20 years ago , worked for som big institutions , some of which had "investors in people" badges , and I must say I'm fucking amazing at it, theres not one aspect of any of the jobs ive had that i havent excelled at, not to mention making significant contributions to things that wernt in my remit, but for some reason ive never got off the bottom rung, I've managed to claw a lot of experience of other rungs - but never offically had the title or been paid for it. 'dead mans shoes' is part of the issue i think, and bloody minded box ticking managers is another, hence these mcses might be worth something



  11. drexciya

    MCA and MCM had poor ROI, certification in general

    Well, what they don't tell, is that you didn't get enough ROI on getting a master certification. Since it was rather costly, but only valid on a specific version of a product (Say: Exchange 2007), you would have to go through it again and again. Add to that, the fact that the added value of this certification wasn't properly acknowledged in the marketplace, so it's no wonder people were not lining up for it.

    As to the regular certifications, I think any IT professional should be aware of the fact that just having passed exams doesn't say a lot. There's a lot of web sites out there which "offer" exact copies of the live exams so the only skill you need is memorization. I've known someone who passed the Exchange 5.5 exam without having seen the product! On the other hand, a lot of IT professionals are required to pass exams for their employer and experience can/will work against you sometimes, so here the vendor creates a problem for themselves.

    I agree with exams reflecting real life scenarios and actual understanding of the topics involved. Unfortunately, vendors tend to use it to push certain technologies/features or stupid memorization of facts. Also, there's a definite lack of teaching the basics. In the early days you were supposed to pass the Networking Essentials and TCP/IP courses; which proved to be invaluable many years on. Now that's taken as a given, although I see some changes in the course ware come up lately.

    The PowerShell hype is getting to me a bit as well, it's all over the course ware for one of the Win2012R2 courses (20410) and I think that's overdoing it. In a recent VMware exam they showed how it should be done; you had to fix an existing script instead of writing one from scratch; now that shows that you understand what you're doing.

  12. BlueGreen

    "In test for SQL certifications we ask you to actually create an SQL query"

    Fuck me. That just sums it all up [*].

    From what I've seen the stuff you have to learn for their certs is mostly shite anyway. Some is useful as a starting point, the rest is irrelevant theory or click-memorising. You're kept away from the CLI mainly[**], except I guess that with their new shiny powershell they're forcing it on everyone as hard as they can because it's proprietary.

    And that last bit is the clue - that with MS everything is just another way of sinking the MS hook deeper into your cheek. Screw what you need, it's what MS wants.

    [*] that's my 15 years of MSSQL experience laughing its tits off

    [**] btw anyone know any comprehensive source of info on windows security ACL control via the CLI? Because I spent a while looking and could find sod all.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: "In test for SQL certifications we ask you to actually create an SQL query"

      The command you seek is secedit.

    2. Hans 1 Silver badge

      Re: "In test for SQL certifications we ask you to actually create an SQL query"

      >btw anyone know any comprehensive source of info on windows security ACL control via the CLI? Because I spent a while looking and could find sod all.



      Give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach him how to fish, feed him for life:

      1. BlueGreen

        Re: "In test for SQL certifications we ask you to actually create an SQL query"

        @Trevor_Pott, @Hans 1

        Thanks both, I found the cacls previously (ok, 'sod all' wasn't entirely accurate) but I never found any useful examples, and most especially of using cacls beyond files which is what I was really after. Nothing about how to control one process' access to a non-file resource such as another process, on user accounts, devices such as the DVD, IOW general non-file objects.

        Just couldn't find the info so I gave up and maybe just as well as I'm not an admin nor wish to become one, just like to know how to tighten up security in a fine-grained way.

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: "In test for SQL certifications we ask you to actually create an SQL query"

          When I want to get into that sort of stuff on Windows, I turn to Liquidware Labs. It isn't as easy as it is in *nix.

  13. Is this secure?

    Certs aren't all bad

    I think certification has its place but is most definitely not a measurement of ability, unfortunately they get you past a lot of HR departments that don't really understand what they are. In my previous life as a Senior IT Engineer (they required a MCSE and CCNA for that job), I told HR to submit all applicants directly to the IT department and we would select the candidates (my last hire had no certs).

    I think the important aspect of certification is the reason for doing it, they provide a structured learning process and when I first started in the industry this was useful. Also I never stayed within the confines of the material and would always go and build infrastructure and just play. I am at the point in my career that I don't need to do them anymore, I just keep up with the knowledge and if I want to learn something new, I go and do it.

    What I hate to see is someone who is certified to a high level without the experience that is required to really understand what they are doing. I have had CVs from people with CCNP and MCSE but work as 1st line support operatives. If you take the certification path, it should be on a par or 1 small step ahead of where you are.

    1. Hans 1 Silver badge

      Re: Certs aren't all bad

      Certifications are for incompetents looking for a salary increase/new job, so they have a place.

      1. Is this secure?

        Re: Certs aren't all bad

        Entitled to your opinion however pointless

        I have worked or companies that paid £10k increase for achieving certian accreditation, so definitely worth the time and effort

      2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

        Re: Certs aren't all bad

        @Hans 1 Certifications are for incompetents looking for a salary increase/new job, so they have a place.

        It depends on how the tests are structured. If they're multiple guess^H choice, then the "knowledge" gained probably isn't that great. If the exams are practicals, then you *have* to know your stuff.

        Jay 2 mentioned the RedHat exams, and I've heard that the Cisco CCIE exams are tough practical exams too. Those are the qualifications that are worth something.

  14. Wattsy

    I don't know why people are so down on MS Certs. I have been upgrading my MS Certs since NT4 MCSE I achieved many moons ago just because it gets my foot in the door when its time to look for a new job.

    Some of the knowledge you gain from the books is useful but most of the time you just know what do to because you have experience and Google. Getting past the HR drone is the hardest part once you speak to a techy then you should leave the certs behind and talk about what you have actually done and do.

    My last job interview (my current position) I just walked them through examples and situations, they actually wanted the MS certs to get competencies as a MS Partner.

    No need for bashing IMO, its a tool that is very effective if used correctly.

  15. John Sanders

    Microsoft certifications will never be taken seriously

    Because to reflect real life scenarios in the exams, they would have to acknowledge that there are other products in the market that people use, products which are not based on MS technologies, and are not sold by MS.

    This including not lying outright about the capabilities of those products.

    Also in those exams MS should stop talking about a heterogeneous network as a network running different versions of MS products.

    And of course stop behaving as if MS products are the only thing in life that you will ever need.

    But MS we're talking about.

  16. TonyJ Silver badge

    Revenue generator

    They're a revenue generator. Full stop.

    I was the 54th person to be Citrix Certified Enterprise Architect (CCEA) back in the day.

    It was a bloody tough cert to get, made even more so by questions on products that were no longer in support.

    At the end of it, I got a badge, a certificate that looked like it'd been printed on an original HP DeskJet printer and was on paper so thin you could see right through it.

    But delight of delights I got access to a CCEA-only website. Which consisted solely of a list of exams required to become CCEA accredited.

    At the same time I was working towards my MCSE in Windows 2000, having passed the Windows NT networking essentials exam.

    It didn't take me long to realise that these things exist for one purpose - to generate revenue for the vendor. By making it a pre-requisite to have x numbers of y certifications they guarantee that partners will cough up to have them.

    I've been in the position where, at the annual renewal people (including me) were being asked to sit down over a week and take numerous exams to qualify because we were the ones they thought had the better chance of passing. Try getting on a course any time in the year otherwise and you had zero chance.

    So my last MCSE was in Windows 2003 and I seem to recall it was a single exam. I am yet to find a scenario where my experience combined with the companies I've contracted to (MS, HP, Siemens, etc etc) in addition to the kind of projects I've been involved in hasn't been enough.

    I _have_ been queried on why I never bothered to become, for example, PRINCE2 or TOGAF certified and my answer is always the same: I don't need the certification to be able to converse with a PM and since I am not a PM I don't need PRINCE2 and I would prefer a common sense model that has proven to work.

    And traditionally I am shy of hiring someone with multiple certs - particularly from multiple vendors - for one, it shows a general lack of specialisation and two when do they have time to fit their day job in??.

    1. drexciya

      Re: Revenue generator

      Very true, back from the start it was all about the money. It's the combination of certification and training which can be quite profitable.

      What vendors seem to forget, is that you need properly trained people to get your products to work in the marketplace to begin with. That should be the driving force and not making money, but I guess this will never come true.

      The whole ITIL and PRINCE2 thing is something I've never understood to be honest. My guess is that it's really popular in large, rigid, top-heavy (as in too many managers, red tape) IT organizations. The problem with both is that they try so hard to be risk averse, that you create a very static environment, which is almost violently opposed to changes.

  17. Javapapa

    Certs vs Experience

    BS degree in Finance (quit laughing, I have).

    Forty years of IT experience, over half as a direct contractor.

    Self taught in RPG, SQL, Databus, Java, Javascript, HTML, CSS, NoSQL.

    Exactly one certification - Sun Java Programmer.

    Exactly one paid formal training for a product (Obsysdian) which was eclipsed by Java.

    Attended a few conferences when I could justify the opportunity cost, never paid to go.

    Many viewings of conference keynotes and tech talks on Youtube, Vimeo, or conference sites.

    Many viewings of tech talk slideshows on Slideshare.

    Hundreds of books (my expense) on software development and database design.

    Subscriptions (my expense) to ComputerWorld, BusinessWeek, Fortune, JavaWorld, Database, Programming Languages back when print was king.

    Many, many monthly user group meetings (my expense or free). Still go.

    Purchased compiler licenses (my expense) of VisualBasic, Databus, Smalltalk.

    Hundreds of downloads of open source software.

    Made friends with other professionals; was an instructor/mentor to others.

    Get the picture? Invest in yourself. No one else cares more about your career than you.

    Regrets? Some, mainly not seeking masters degree and not going to more conferences.

  18. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

    It's all a fucking racket anyway....

    ... and re-certification every 3/4 years ...

    It's just a racket to generate revenue for companies, they churn their product every few years so you have to take a course to see what has changed been churned. If they were insurance products they would be illegal.

    Did you fail your Java (tm) exam because you used a capital letter instead of lowercase letter. Bollocks! that's what the syntax checker in the compiler is for.....

    I'm not picking on PMI/PMP specifically, but I have seen on their website that they will "revisit" the course material every 4 (?) years. Why? Did they not get it right the first time??

    Strange though, nobody in the past 26 years has ever asked me "Am I COBOL, AIX or MQ certified?", but I have been asked am I java, oracle cicso certified, I guess the IBM marketing machine missed a golden opportunity there.

    And even stranger, my Alma mater has never contacted me ask me to "re-certify" my degrees.

    Can I conclude that IBM and universities are the only ones that are capable of delivering a education first time and getting it right?

  19. vytas

    Looks like a ton of poor hiring practices....

    It's amazing some of the ignorance displayed in this thread. Certification and Experience are two _completely_ different factors in the hiring equation. "I hired a guy who was an MCSE who couldn't map a drive...never used a pc before...etc"

    Wow, did you bother, um, you know, interviewing the guy before hiring them? Did you look at their CV/Resume and ask them questions about their work experience? Did you conduct a tech screen?

    Don't blame the MCSE program for poor hiring practices, and poor candidates.

    As someone who has successfully hired some great technical talent in the past, a cert is an indicator of exposure to a technology. It should only have weight when it is backed up with experience, and it can be used as a tie breaker when all things else are equal. It can also be used as a validation of training that a candidate has undertaken.

  20. Herby Silver badge

    El Reg Certified BOFH

    Where do I sign up. This ought to be a good certification. Maybe El Reg can make a buck/quid or two.

    How to do it: Get a bunch of people who want the certification and let them make up questions for others to answer. I'm sure Simon will have the final say.

  21. Shred

    I started down the MS certification path with the Windows NT Advanced Server 3.5 exam. It had some value, since it forced me to learn about obscure features that were occasionally useful.

    Unfortunately, when the MCSE* really started to become popular, brain dumps completely eroded the value of the certification. I remember a former computer salesman with practically no technical ability bragging about having simply bought the various MCSE exam questions and their answers online. He claimed that the testing centre had never seen anyone breeze through the tests as fast as he had. Of course he was quick completing the exam: he was cheating! That was the point at which I decided there was no point studying for any Microsoft certs.

    * MCSE = Mine Sweeper Consultant and Solitare Expert

  22. Rick Giles

    Paper MSCE's

    I've ran into my share of "MCSE's" in the 20 years I've been in IT and everytime, it's something new that they just don't have an fscking clue to do.

    Wish I hadn't been lured away from *nix by the shiny that was Novell only to have it squashed by M$.

    However, as Bender Bending Rodríguez says, "I'm back, baby!"

  23. AnnaD


    Certifications are just a way to generate revenue to microsoft , when I did my MCSE I didnt spent too much , I learned from youtube and used , anyways I don't think you should rely on them too much.

  24. AnnaD

    MCSE is easy anways

    1. TheVogon Silver badge

      "MCSE is easy anways"

      Not so much anymore. They have changed the exams to defeat dumps. Questions are randomly constructed from different scenarios, names, etc and it's near impossible to use a dump to help pass. You now actually have to understand the material in real depth!

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