Both Fall and Spring time each year mark times when Microsoft normally announces changes to the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) program. It was 2 years ago they started releasing the Azure certification exams (70-532, 70-533, and 70-534) and in Spring 2015 they announced if you take all 3 you’ll earn the MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect certification. Today, coinciding with the Microsoft Ignite 2016 conference, there are some broader changes to the MCP program being announced. This article will go over what these changes are, as well as discuss some of their implications to help give a full picture of the coming MCP landscape.

New Microsoft Certifications

Microsoft published a blog post mentioning some of the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) program changes, with those changes getting fully published on the MCP site on Sept. 26, 2016 along-side the 2016 Microsoft Ignite conference. These changes include 5 new Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) and Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) certification tracks!

2016_microsoft_certification_paths

Each of the new MCSE and MCSD certifications build on top of a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA). The way is works is that you might take 2 exams to achieve an MCSA certification, then you might take 1 more exam to upgrade the MCSA to an MCSD or MCSE depending on the certification track you’re targeting.

Looking at the diagram above, the white circles in the image represent a single exam that needs to be taken. Most MCSA’s require 2 exams to be taken, while some require 3. Then, an additional elective exam needs too be taken to achieve the MCSE or MCSD for a particular certification track.

These changes include 5 new Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) and Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) certification tracks!

Here’s the list of the new Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) and Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) certification along with a description of the focus and skills area they cover. Underneath each are the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certification tracks you can choose to start from:

  • MCSD: App Builder – Web and Mobile App development
    • MCSA: Web Applications – ASP.NET MVC, HTML5, JavaScript and CSS
    • MCSA: Universal Windows Platform – C#, UWP
  • MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure – Windows Server and Microsoft Azure
    • MCSA: Windows Server 2016
    • MCSA: Cloud Platform – Microsoft Azure, Big Data Analytics, Cloud Data Platform Solutions
    • MCSA: Linux on Azure – Azure Infrastructure, Linux Foundation certification
    • MCSA: Windows Server 2012
  • MCSE: Mobility – Windows Client and Enterprise Mobility Suite
    • MCSA: Windows 10 – Windows 10, Configuring Windows Devices
  • MCSE: Data Management and Analytics – On-premises and Cloud-based Microsoft data products and services
    • MCSA: SQL Server 2012/2014
    • MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Administration
    • MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Development
    • MCSA: SQL 2016 Business Intelligence Development
  • MCSE: Productivity – Office 365, SharePoint, Exchange, and Skype for Business
    • MCSA: Office 365

All of these changes are being made without adding addition certification exams. They are simply restructuring the MCP program and existing exams with new certification tracks for MCSA, MCSE and MCSD. If you’ve already taken and passed MCP exams that align with these tracks, you’re MCP transcript is supposed to be automatically updated to reflect the “new” certifications without you needing to take any additional exams if you already qualify.

Goodbye MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect

MCSD_Azure_BlkAnyone who has taken or is studying for the current Microsoft Azure certification exams (70-532 Developer, 70-533 Infrastructure, and 70-534 Architecture) knows they are getting a bit outdated. These exams were originally written in 2014 with their most recent updates being released in March 2016. While these exams don’t focus to much on the ever changing Azure Portal UI, the overall content of the exams has become stale; they don’t even cover Azure Resource Manager (ARM) and are still covering Azure Service Manager (ASM)! Hopefully we’ll see these exams get an overhaul, but now isn’t that time.

Around April 2015, Microsoft announced that if you take all 3 of the Azure certification exams (70-532, 70-533 and 70-534) it will earn you the full MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect certification. This certification will expire after 2 years and you will be required to take an upgrade exam to renew it. Since it hasn’t been 2 years since that announcement yet, Microsoft hasn’t released any kind of upgrade certification exam. This has left many who achieved this certification back in 2015 wondering what mystery exam they’ll have to study for and pass in order to maintain their Azure MCSD.

With the recent realignment and changes to the Microsoft Certified Professional program and the MCSD and MCSE certifications, Microsoft also announced they are killing off the MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect certification, as it will be retired on March 31, 2017. They are not however deprecating or replacing the 3 Azure certification exams (70-532, 70-533, and 70-534) at this time. Instead, the 3 Azure certification exams  are being integrated into the brand new MCSE and MCSD tracks. As a result, and as many of us have speculated would be done at some point, they have decided to make Microsoft Azure certification a more integrated part of the MCP program instead of the stand-alone silo it’s been for the nearly 2 years now.

Microsoft also announced they are killing off the MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect certification, as it will be retired on March 31, 2017.

Here’s a list of the Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer and Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert certification tracks the 3 “core” Azure certification exams are now a part of in addition to other exams necessary for each track:

The integration of Microsoft Azure certification into the different tracks of the MCP program will undoubtedly grow as Microsoft Azure and the Cloud grow to become more and more ingrained into the new landscape of IT.

Since taking all 3 Azure exams earned you the MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect certification before these changes, it’s logical to ask, “Will passing all 3 Azure exams earn you any of the new certifications under the new restructuring? What’s the Azure Certification path going forward?”. The path going forward is forked, since you could go for either the MCSD or MCSE track in the future. However, if you have already or are planning on taking all 3 Azure certification exams (70-532, 70-533, and 70-534) you’re certainly not our of luck. All 3 Azure exams will now earn you the new MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure AND MCSA: Cloud Platform certifications.

All 3 Azure exams will now earn you the new MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure AND MCSA: Cloud Platform certifications.

Changes to Certification Renewal

Over the last couple years Microsoft had been transitioning the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) program to require renewing the larger certifications (MCSD and MCSE) every 2 years by passing an update exam. In addition to introducing 5 new MCSD and MCSE tracks, they are also getting rid of the 2 year renewal cycle. Instead you will need to take an additional exam every year to stay current.

At first glance this sounds like a worse renewal process as the exams are hard and it can be nice to take some time off in between studying! Don’t worry, as they are changing it for the better; in a way. Instead of publishing “upgrade” exams that smash topics from multiple exams to basically test you on what’s changed since 2 years ago, you will have the choice of which additional elective exam you wish to take. This new renewal method allows you to renew your certification while both staying current and learning something new to help your career.

This new renewal method allows you to renew your certification while both staying current and learning something new to help your career.

Here’s a break down of how it’s going to work using the MCSA: Cloud Platform and MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure tracks as examples:

After those three exams you will have earned yourself the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification that will stay current for a period of 1 year. In order to renew and stay current, you just choose one of the remaining elective exams you have taken yet. Sticking with the above example, this would leave you will any of the following exams to take the following year in order to renew and stay current:

As you can see the new method of taking an additional elective exam to stay current is much cleaner and doesn’t keep retesting you on the “same topics but updated” as you need to renew. Instead you keep passing new exams each year, learning new stuff and hopefully keep your resume current and competitive too! Bravo Microsoft, this looks like a great direction for the MCP program!

Certification Transition

The new certifications and restructuring is awesome, but it wouldn’t be complete without the deprecation or retiring of some of the older, existing certifications in order to pave the road for the new certifications. On March 31, 2017, ALL EXISTING MCSD and MCSE certifications will be retired. These include the following:

  • MCSE: Server infrastructure
  • MCSE: Private Cloud
  • MCSE: Data Platform
  • MCSE: Business Intelligence
  • MCSE: Enterprise Devices and Apps
  • MCSE: SharePoint
  • MCSE: Communication
  • MCSE: Messaging
  • MCSD: Application Lifecycle Management
  • MCSD: Universal Windows Platform
  • MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect
  • MCSD: Web Applications
  • MCSD: SharePoint Applications

Out with the old, In with the new!

Individuals that hold ACTIVE MCSE and MCSD certifications from the following list will automatically earn the corresponding new MCSE or MCSD certifications for 2016 without needing to pass any additional exams. So long as they have passed a qualifying elective exam for the particular MCSE or MCSD within 2016 (since January 1, 2016).

  • MCSE: Server infrastructure
  • MCSE: Private Cloud
  • MCSE: Data Platform
  • MCSE: Business Intelligence
  • MCSE: Enterprise Devices and Apps
  • MCSE: SharePoint
  • MCSE: Communication
  • MCSE: Messaging
  • MCSD: Universal Windows Platform
  • MCSD: Web Applications
  • MCSD: SharePoint Applications

Additionally, from now through December 31, 2016, any individual with INACTIVE MCSE and MCSD certifications have the choice of taking a recertification exam or new exam from the list of electives associated with a particular MCSE or MCSD to earn the new certification.

86 thoughts on “Microsoft Certification Changes and Goodbye to MCSD Azure Solutions Architect

  1. I just received the email stating that I have the new certification for App Builder. That means I’m good for 2016 right? And in order to stay current, I just need to pass an elective some time next year right? Thanks!

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  2. So it isn’t clear what will happen if you’re midstream on a certification. Right now, I’m working on Exchange 2016. What will happen to me once I certify?

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    • They’ve said the older MCSD and MCSE certifications will be retired March 31, 2017. So right now they are still current. If the exams you are taking qualify of the newer MCSE, then you’ll earn that. What exams have you taken, and are going to take? I can help you map to the new cert track you’re on. 🙂

      Like

  3. It is also unclear what people with current MSCD certs in Web Applications need to do to renew this year? What test do they need to take or what new tests will qualify them to renew/ maintain their certification.

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  4. So if I have inactive MCSD: Web Application (inactive date 10/31/2015) and pass one elective exam “from now through December 31, 2016”, I will get new MCSD: App Builder?

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    • As long as the Exams you passed are still active and haven’t been retired, then they’ll still could towards new certifications. Assuming your passed exams are active, and they qualify for the new MCSD, then you should only have to pass 1 elective exam to renew it. Although, if your MCSD went inactive in 2015, then perhaps it’s time to renew anyway?

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  5. Hi, if I currently have INACTIVE MCSD: Web Application and take any of the elective exams by the end of this year, should I automatically get new MCSD: App Builder? Or should I pass the recertification exam first and then I can get the new cert by taking one of the elective exams?

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    • As long as the Exams you passed are still active and haven’t been retired, then they’ll still could towards new certifications. Assuming your passed exams are active, and they qualify for the new MCSD, then you should only have to pass 1 elective exam to renew it. At this point I wouldn’t bother with the old “renewal” exams, and instead focus on the new MCSD certification track.

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  6. I have MCSA: Cloud Platform, 70-532 and 70-534 and have not earned MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure.
    Loiking at Certification Planner the first requirement don’t list “MCSE: Cloud Platform” as a option just those three:

    MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect
    MCSE: Private Cloud
    MCSE: Server Infrastructure

    Like

  7. Hi Chris,

    Looking at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/mcse-cloud-platform-infrastructure.aspx (it may be wrong)

    It says:

    Step 1. Earn one of the following Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certifications:
    MCSA: Windows Server 2016
    MCSA: Cloud Platform (I have this one)
    MCSA: Linux on Azure
    MCSA: Windows Server 2012

    And

    Step 2. Pass one of the following elective exams.
    70-532 – Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions (I have)
    70-533 – Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions
    70-534 – Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions (I have)
    70-473 – Designing and Implementing Cloud Data Platform Solutions
    …..

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  8. So if I pass the 70-533 and the LFCSA for the MCSA: Linux on Azure, then take the 70-532 would I also attain the MCSA: Cloud Platform, or would that count as an elective, meaning I would receive the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure instead? Please let me know at your earliest convenience. Thank you!

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    • It is my understanding in this case the 70-532 would count as an elective since the MCSA: Linux on Azure is a stepping stone to the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure. Basically it should earn you both MCSA: Cloud Platform AND MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure by adding the additional 70-532 exam. 🙂

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    • Yes, MCSD: Web Application is being retired in March 2017. It is being replaced by the new MCSD: App Builder certification that has both Web and UWP tracks. You can check the exam list to see what you’ll need to do/pass in order to get App Builder and stay current. 🙂

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    • If you pass all three, then you’ll earn the new MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification. The MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect is being retired March 2017, so there will be no way to renew that. The new MCSE will require you to pass one elective exam every year to renew and keep current.

      Like

  9. I just passed 70-480 exam, I was planning for MCSD. Is MCSD App builder going to retire too on March 2017? Should I go for other 2 exams to become MCSD or better wait for newer exams after March 2017?

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    • Definitely go for it! The MCSD: App Builder is one of the new ones just released by Microsoft. It will definitely not be retired next year, as it’s replacing the MCSD: Web Application and MCSD: Universal Windows Platform certifications which are being retired in March 2017.

      Like

  10. Hello, I am new and would like to gain Microsoft certificates in servers and active directory ( MCSE ) not sure if Active directory included or not. I read the article about Microsoft changed certifications so all I am asking what exams should I take to gain MCSE and Active directory to be certified in both? Where can I study to understand, gain knowledge and pass the exams? Online or a book or a course ? Please recommend me resources if you know.

    Thank you very much.

    Like

    • First, there are a few great resources out there to learn and study for certification exams. I have some resources listed in my articles for each individual exam on this blog. Some really great video training sources are http://opsgility.com for Azure content, and http://pluralsight.com for pretty much everything else.

      You’ll need to look over Microsoft’s certification site (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/mcse-cloud-platform-infrastructure.aspx) to see what the correct path to your desired certification will be and what exams you’ll need to take to get there. I do have some resources on my blog, but Microsoft has the full information about their certification program. Microsoft even has links to practice exams and study guide books in the information for each individual exam.

      Feel free to ask any other questions you have regarding certifications and I’ll do my best to answer. Always glad to help! 🙂

      Like

  11. I was just about to start out on the courses and exams for MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect, but reading about these changes and that these exams are getting more and more obsolete due to the content not being up to date, Im having second thoughts on whether I should start now or wait for updated courses regarding Azure.
    Do you have any rough dates on when these courses will be updated?
    Thanks.

    Like

    • The MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect is getting replaced with the new MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure, so the certification path for Azure is not going away by any means. The exams (70-532, 70-533, 70-534) have been growing a bit stale as Azure keep changing / updating so rapidly. The good news is there is an exam update coming this month that will better align the exam objectives to the current state of Azure; including ARM updates too! I’ll be posting a couple articles about the exam updates soon so keep an eye out and subscribe to the blog if you haven’t already.

      Like

      • Thanks for the update.
        Do you know whether the on-demand courses OD20532 and OD20533 also get an update or is it only the exams?
        Should I go ahead and sign up for these on-demand courses now or wait for the info in your upcoming articles?
        Thanks.

        Like

  12. Hello Chris,

    Thank you for replying to everyone’s questions. I passed 70-410 about two months ago. I am about to take 70-411 this week. I can pass 70-412 before the year is out. So I will be MCSA, Windows Server 2012. Can I take 70-413 in January or February of 2017 and become MCSE?

    Like

  13. Is there any certification on the horizon for the latest ASP.NET Core 1.0?
    I was planning to take MCSD: Web Applications exam but now thinking that the stuff in there for exam 70-486 is outdated with the newer version of ASP.NET MVC.

    Like

  14. Quick question: Is there a guidance somewhere as to how much effort per week for how many weeks (e.g. 8h per week / 12 weeks) takes to prepare for each of the exams in the MCSA: Cloud Platform / MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure path?

    Like

    • The time and effort to prepare for certification exams varies for each individual. Some it may take 20 hours, some it may take 60 hours or more. It really depends on where you’re starting from and how much you need to learn. That stated, it’s very important to use the right study materials, and pay close attention to the exam objectives so you study the right topics too. The Azure documentation is really good these days, and it really helps to pay the money for a good practice exam for putting the final touches on preparation. Also, video training resources like http://opsgility.com, as well as many videos put out by Microsoft are invaluable training materials.

      Like

  15. Thanks for the post. What a mess. Hardly worth getting a MS certification as you can bet it will be obsoleted within a couple years during their next restructuring.

    Like

    • The technology industry as a whole is constantly changing. The 70-532, 70-533, and 70-534 exams were first introduced about 2 years ago. And it’s been nearly 2 years since the MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect was created to fill a whole in the bigger MCSD certification offering anyway. Microsoft has now identified how to restructure the MCP program to better fit the technology landscape, which includes an annual renewal for the MCSD and MCSE certifications. This pushes those certified to keep up on the latest stuff in order to keep their certifications current. This overall is a good thing, since the industry keeps changing and evolving.

      Like

  16. Is there any certification on the horizon for the latest ASP.NET Core 1.0?
    I was planning to take MCSD: Web Applications exam but now thinking that the stuff in there for exam 70-486 is outdated with the newer version of ASP.NET MVC.

    Like

  17. Dear Sir.

    I wanted to know when would be officially MCSA SQL Server 2016 released. I see now it is beta version. I was planning to take MCSA SQL Server 2012 but later found out it may be outdated as MCSA SQL server 2016 is released,

    Can you update

    Like

  18. Quick question: I currently hold MCSA: SQL Server 2012/2014. I wanted to work towards the MCSE. The old MCSE “Data Platform” path required both 464 and 465. On the new MCSE “Data Management and Analytics” path, 464 and 465 are still applicable, but it looks like only one of these is required (per year)?

    Like

  19. Quick question: I recently started studying for the exams 480 and 486, my plan is to take the first exam on February 2017, but I noticed Microsoft would restructure the certifications on On March 31, 2017. Should I wait until March 31, 2017, to take these exams? Or 480 and 486 are still counting to get the MCSD: App Builder certification?

    Thanks in advance.

    Like

    • Yes, stay on course. Passing the 70-480 and 70-486 exams will earn you the MCSA: Web Applications certifications. Then passing 1 additional exam after that will earn you the MCSD: App Builder. These exams are NOT retiring and will remain active after March 31, 2017.

      Like

      • Chris,

        Thanks for your response. Another question that I have is regarding exam 70-486. I read that the book “Exam Ref 70-486: Developing ASP.NET MVC 4 Web Applications” is a bit dated and doesn’t have a good review (Also I read about a new book “ASP.NET Core Application Development: Building an application in four sprints” coming). Could you give me your advice on this, please?

        Like

  20. Chris,
    Thank you for guiding everyone in here. I have question if you can kindly reply as early as possible. I have doen 70-480 and 70-486 for MCSD-Web Applications and i was planning to do 70-487 now. But just now i saw that the MCSD web application certification will retire in March this year. Now my question is should i still go for 70-487? where would my old certifications count in? Thank you so much in advance.

    Like

    • Taking 70-487 will now get you the MCSD: App Builder cert with those 3 exams passed. I would take the exam that seems like it’d be the easiest for you to do. If you think 487 is that, then take that one now before it’s retired. Otherwise you could choose a different exam from the list of electives for the MCSD App Builder certification.

      Like

      • Thank you for the quick reply. I was planning to give 70-487 as it was the main route then and i just now came to know about all the other electives. Which exam in your opinion is the easiest yet useful to learn?

        Like

  21. Hi Chris,

    I’ve passed 70-533, and I’m now looking to take 70-532 and 70-534.

    I’m might be able to pass them before the end of March.

    But what qualification would I earn, and what will happen to them in April?

    I need to be also to show an employer that I have an advanced Azure qualification.

    Thanks

    Lee

    Like

  22. Hi Crhis, I was looking at the new pages of the MCSA certifications (particularly for SQL 2012/2014) and I don’t see anymore any information about the elective exams. I already pass the 70-461 and 70-462 and I had already pass the 70-410 a year before I started to work on my SQL certification. I thought that by just making an effort of passing 70-411 I would be getting the MCSA SQL 2012/2014, but that was last year, now I don’t see any information about the elective exams for 70-463. Are the elective exams gone for the MCSA of SQL 2012/2014? Thanks.

    Like

  23. Hi Chris. I have a question about the elective exams for the MCSA. Last year I looked at the website for the MCSA for SQL 2012/2014 and it had elective exams for the 70-463 exam. I recently pass the 70-461 and 70-462 and I was looking to take the Windows 2012 70-411 exam to get my SQL MCSA certification. Unfortunately the new web sites are not showing any information about elective exams. Are the elective exams gone for the MCSA SQL 2012/2014 certification? Thanks

    Like

  24. Hello Chris I have passed 70-410,411,412 and 70-246 I am left with 70-247, is 70-246 and 70-247 going to be retired on the 31st of March 2017?

    Like

  25. Chris, I am planning on taking all three 70-532, 70-533, and 70-534 exams, is there any value in passing all three before March 31, 2017? I know I will earn MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect, but it will be retiring in a couple of days, so should I hurry to take all three before the 31st?

    Like

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