REDMOND, Wash., Dec. 15, 2000 — In response to a last-minute flood of IT professionals seeking Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 certification exams before 2001, Microsoft has extended the availability of the examinations from Dec. 31, 2000 to Feb. 28, 2001. The extension is intended to eliminate scheduling difficulties caused by limited capacity at testing centers.
This grace period also will allow more NT-certified professionals the chance to qualify for Microsoft’s 70-240
exam, a simpler way to become a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) in Windows 2000. This is important to professionals who want to keep their job skills current, because MCSE certifications in Windows NT 4.0 will expire at the end of 2001.
Microsoft also is creating a new certification exam to test skills a technical professional needs to maintain Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 in today’s networking environment. The exam will include skills required to maintain and troubleshoot Windows NT 4.0 networks where incremental upgrades of the desktop client to Windows 2000 Professional are taking place.
PressPass spoke with Anne Marie McSweeney, Microsoft’s acting director of certification skills and assessment, about the advantages expected from these adjustments in Microsoft’s certification tracks.
PressPass : Why did you delay the retirement of the Windows NT exams?
McSweeney: We’ve been in discussions with our testing centers, and they were seeing increased demand as the deadline approached for retirement of the NT exams. We anticipate the trend will continue and will cause bottlenecks in many areas worldwide. The holiday seasons around the world will only compound the scheduling problem for our candidates. Testing centers are going to all kinds of lengths to meet the demand — there’s even one testing center in Australia that is testing candidates until midnight.
As we watched this tidal wave continue to build momentum, we decided to try to alleviate it before it became a real problem for candidates. We didn’t want scheduling problems to prevent someone from becoming certified.
PressPass : Why are you retiring the Windows NT certification exams at all?
McSweeney: When the exams for certifying IT professionals in Windows NT were first developed, there was an emphasis on planning and installation skills because those were the critical skills needed at that time. Now, troubleshooting skills and maintenance skills are the skills needed to support existing NT networks. Over time, the use of technology and the demand for a particular skill set changes, and we feel it’s important to have an exam that reflects that evolution. It goes back to our number one goal: keeping the MCP certifications meaningful and relevant.
PressPass : How long will the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) certification in NT last? What comes next?
McSweeney: The MCSE credential based on the existing NT 4.0 track will be valid until the end of 2001.
Someone who passes the new NT 4.0 exam will earn the MCP credential. We anticipate that this exam will not retire for at least a couple of years.
This new exam is designed to assure two things: that the MCPs certified under it are experts at maintaining existing Windows NT systems, and that these MCPs have the transitional skills needed to upgrade desktops on these networks to Windows 2000. We feel this is an important way to keep the MCP credential relevant and valuable in the workplace.
The exam also will put an MCP ahead of the game later. That’s because it qualifies as an elective toward the MCSE certification in Windows 2000.
PressPass: How will this new MCP exam affect someone who is already a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) in Windows NT 4.0?
McSweeney: We’re encouraging current MCSEs to migrate to the Windows 2000 certification. That’s a path that makes sense for most of them, since the NT-based MCSE designations will expire at the end of 2001.
However, there are people who are currently working in companies with NT 4.0 environments and these companies aren’t planning on changing to Windows 2000 immediately. Or perhaps someone on the path to MCSE fears not being able to finish by the end of 2001. For them, taking the new MCP exam might make sense. But it’s also important to understand that if they take only that one exam, they’ll be an MCP, not an MCSE.
PressPass : What other choices is Microsoft offering for MCSEs planning to upgrade their certification?
McSweeney: MCSEs can take the accelerated exam on the Windows 2000 track until December 31, 2001. Windows 2000 certification normally requires four core exams, a design elective and two other electives. But, by passing the accelerated exam, called
you knock out the four core exams.
PressPass: What are the requirements for taking this test?
McSweeney: If you’ve passed three NT 4.0 exams, you can take the accelerated test once, free of charge, through the end of 2001. Vouchers are being provided to all who qualify.
However, this is a
exam. My advice to people is, if they feel you’re ready, take the test because it will save them time. If they don’t feel ready, hold off until they are. But they should at least start thinking right away about what they need to do. Certification is a path, and you don’t want to wait until the very last minute, because there could be more to do than they thought — and then their MCSE status would expire at the end of 2001.
PressPass: Why do the requirements for certification keep changing?
McSweeney: Technology moves very fast, and we want our credentials to keep pace with the changes and the needs of the industry. And employers want to be able to identify people who can help them right now with their IT needs.
Our overriding criterion for every decision that we make is that the MCP and MCSE credentials have long-term meaning in the marketplace. We want to protect the value of that investment for IT professionals and for us.
PressPass: What will happen to the supply of MCSEs as a result of the certification changes?
McSweeney: We have more than 350,000 MCSEs right now. I think we’ll see a dip over the next year as the MCSE NT 4.0 certification disappears, but then the numbers will start to rise. We didn’t get to 350,000 overnight — it’s taken five years. So we are preparing now for the high demand for MCSEs in the future.
PressPass: What do all these changes in the certification tracks mean for the future, as Windows 2000 replaces NT and the
operating system emerges?
McSweeney: Everything we’re hearing from our early adopters of Windows 2000 is really positive. Users are pleased with the performance improvements, reliability, and reduction in administration time. So we’re seeing a lot of anecdotal information that businesses will move in that direction because it makes business sense.
But we don’t have a crystal ball, so we can’t say when the next major version of an operating system will come out after Whistler. What’s really driving all this is what people need computers to do. With each new system, as tasks get easier, the users keep trying to figure out how to do more complicated tasks. The users push the envelope and demand more of the technology.
What we can say, though, is that people who take the Windows 2000 exams will not be required to take a Whistler exam to keep their certification current. Many of the core technologies in both systems are exactly the same.