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.

Posted by Chris Pietschmann

Chris is a Microsoft MVP and has nearly 20 years of experience building enterprise systems both in the cloud and on-premises. He is also a Certified Azure Solutions Architect (both MCSD and MCSE), a trainer, and Cloud Advocate. He has a passion for technology and sharing what he learns with others to help enable them to learn faster and be more productive.

97 Comments

  1. Hi Chris,

    Last month I completed 70-532 exam. There has been a considerable change in the exam content for 70-532, 70-534 and 70-533 exams. I am planning for 70-534 now. Is this the right track? Can you please guide me here.

    Reply

    1. Chris Pietschmann September 20, 2017 at 8:23 am

      Yes, definitely! If you pass the 70-532, 70-533, and 70-534 then you will earn the MCSA: Cloud Platform, and MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certifications.

      Reply

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