REDMOND, Wash., May 7, 2002 — Mark Craddock, an independent IT contractor based in Plymouth, England, has Microsofts newest certification to thank for his latest gig — an assignment of up to one year for the Devon County Council that includes, among other things, the rollout of Microsoft Windows XP to 3,500 desktops. Craddock recently completed a stint with the Royal Bank of Scotland International, migrating many gigabytes of Microsoft Office documents from Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 onto a Microsoft Windows 2000 cluster. Craddock facilitated this quick transition by having the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator credential.
“Basically, the MCSA got me the job,” he says. “It demonstrates my abilities as a system administrator and shows that Im up-to date on the latest technology, especially Windows 2000 and XP.”
Microsoft officials say they heard from many customers of the need for a certification to address the growing demand for professionals with the skills required to administer networks.
“Weve listened to everyone from aspiring network administrators to hiring partners at major firms,” says Robert Stewart, general manager of Training and Certification at Microsoft, “and what we heard is that there was definitely a need for a certification that addresses the day-to-day skills of administering a network.”
Stewart says Microsoft analyzed the job functions of a systems administrator as it developed the certification. Candidates are required to pass four exams that measure technical proficiency and expertise in administering and supporting existing Microsoft Windows 2000 systems. The MCSA tests such skills as monitoring and managing network security, publishing resources in Active Directory, optimizing usage of system resources, and configuring and troubleshooting network connections.
Craddock says that obtaining MCSA helped expand the depth and breadth of his knowledge. “The MCSA certification definitely reflects the skills that you need to know in order to do the job,” he says.
In an unsteady economy, he says, certification is more significant than ever. “Of the 15 or so colleagues I keep up with in the IT field, 10 of them are out of work,” he says. “And theyre the ones who arent certified.”
Since it became available in January, the credential has quickly become the most successful Microsoft certification yet. There are currently more than 12,000 MCSA-certified individuals. In comparison, the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) for Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 certification had slightly less than 600 members five months after the final exam was offered.
Industry interest in this certification was already apparent several weeks before the credential was made available. In December 2001, a survey conducted by CertCities.com showed that 75 percent of the respondents planned to pursue the MCSA, either as an end goal or as a step on the way to earning the MCSE certification.
The significance of certification in the high-tech industry is not lost on Ken Reid, hiring partner at Houston-based Smith Datacom, a business-infrastructure company that provides out-of-the-box IT to small- and medium-sized businesses. “I dont hire anyone without a certification,” he says. “Its a selling point for us that our folks are Microsoft-certified. Its not like someones brother-in-law who maybe read this or that in a book is coming over to have a look.”
His advice for someone thinking about pursuing a career in system administration is simple: think about the market before choosing a certification to pursue. “Its important to choose a certification thats in demand and will be in the future as well,” he says. “Microsoft is still growing, especially with XP.”
Reid recommends the MCSA certification for those who are new to the field. “When youre first starting out, youre not going to be designing and building networks,” he says. But when a person does reach that point, Reid fully supports pursuing MCSE certification by rewarding employees with a US$500 bonus each time they pass an MCSE test. When they complete the certification, they receive $1,000.
For Reid, certification has figured prominently in his own career. After working for many years in restaurant management, he decided at age 57 that it was time for a change. He attended classes at Southern Methodist Universitys Advanced Computer Education Center and took courses that led to an MCSE certification. “I took a huge pay cut,” he says. “But Ive since made up for it and then some.”
Reids faith in certification — particularly Microsoft certification — doesnt end with the workday. His granddaughter, a 20-year-old single mother, is currently pursuing her MCSA certification. And Reid, who says hes never been afraid to put his money where his mouth is, is footing the bill. “I want her to have a good career,” he says.