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Making Sense of Certifications: MCSA vs. MCSE

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By: Olivia

June 1, 2017

In a recent post, I looked at the difference between the CSA+ and CEH certifications, and considering that security certifications are perhaps the most popular on the site, it seemed like the best place to start. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how many Cybrarians are also interested in entry-level IT skills, which will benefit them in any business setting. I began to wonder more about the certifications that surround some of my daily tasks working in an office: the MCSA and MCSE.What’s the difference, who are they for, and why do I need them?There are so many certifications out there, and it’s hard to sift through them all. In this post, and many to follow, I’ll attempt to make navigating that path a bit more straightforward.

MCSA Overview

An MCSA (Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate) is someone who has the ability to design and build technology solutions using Microsoft products including Windows, Windows Server, Exchange Server, Lync, Sharepoint, SQL Server, and Microsoft Dynamics.Although the acronym (MCSA) is the same, this is an entirely different credential than the Microsoft Certified System Administrator.

How Does It Compare?

According to Microsoft, “The MCSA was created as an improvement of the retired Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator qualification, which was more job specific. The MCSA was designed to be more comprehensive and more adaptable to changes in technology.”It differs from the MCSE because it is a less difficult exam meant to be taken prior to seeking the MCSE certification.

Who is MCSA Intended For?

The MCSA certification is intended for professionals who “seek entry-level jobs in an information technology environment” and who work on Microsoft-related core platform technologies.Because the candidate must prove his breadth of knowledge in building and managing various Microsoft technology solutions (whether on-premise or in the cloud), some previous IT knowledge is required.

Why Earn the MCSA Certification?

Aside from being the professional "starter certification," arming individuals with the skills and knowledge necessary to put relevant Microsoft platforms, tools, technologies, and applications to work in a business environment, it also serves as a stepping stone to the MCSE. MCSA credentials act as prerequisites to specific MCSE credentials.“In high-growth industries, entry-level employees who hold a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certification or Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certification can earn up to $16,000 more, annually, than their peers.”

MCSE Overview

An MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert) is someone who has the ability to solve difficult problems requiring innovative resolutions, design systems and complex solutions, build and deploy, and operate, maintain and optimize Microsoft-based systems.Although the acronym (MCSE) is the same, this is an entirely different credential than the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer.

How Does It Compare?

According to Microsoft, the update is “designed to meet the demanding requirements facing advanced-level Microsoft professionals in today's ever- changing technology environment.”The MCSE builds on the foundational skills developed at the MCSA certification level and candidates must have completed the MCSA requirements in order to become MCSE certified.

Who Is MCSE Intended For?

The MCSE certification is intended for “IT professionals seeking to demonstrate their ability to build innovative solutions across multiple technologies, both on-premises and in the cloud.” The ideal candidate will hold an MCSA certification and hopes to expand their technical expertise.

Why Earn the MCSE Certification?

The MCSE certification is ideal for professionals looking to grow their career and demonstrate an advanced enterprise skillset relative to Microsoft technology. Not only will this certification demonstrate an in-demand skillset, but those with the credential typically yield a higher earning potential than even that of an MCSA certification holder.

To Summarize

In order to obtain the MCSE, you must first pass the MCSA certification exams related to your choice MCSE track (which will earn you the MCSA credential). Then you must pass additional exams to earn the MCSE on your chosen track.Those who are not ready to attempt the MCSA may want to consider starting with CompTIA IT Fundamentals.

MCSA and MCSE Certification Paths

Perhaps the most confusing aspect of the MCSA and MCSE certifications are the varying certification paths.
  1. Mobility
  2. Cloud
  3. Productivity
  4. Data
  5. App Builder
  6. Business
More information can be found in the graphic below.

This image is copyright of Microsoft, 2017. 

What tools does Cybrary offer in Preparation of the MCSA and MCSE Exams?

Cybrary offers a full range of virtual labs and practice tests for both the MCSA and MCSE. Browse the catalog using the desired exam number (example: 70-740) for best results.

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Olivia Lynch (@Cybrary_Olivia) is the Marketing Manager at Cybrary. Like many of you, she is just getting her toes wet in the field of cyber security. A firm believer that the pen is mightier than the sword, Olivia considers corny puns and an honest voice essential to any worthwhile blog.
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