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Before You Dig Into The Windows Server 2012 MCSA And MCSE

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

A 20 year IT veteran, Mike from Boulder Colorado, is interested in finding out the fastest and easiest way to achieve Microsoft's new MCSA (Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate) and MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert) certifications on Windows Server 2012.

Hi Ed,

I have 20 years in IT and started out with the old CPM/DOS and Novell area, then NT 3.51/4.0, Back Office 4.5, etc.

I am looking for some help/advice on what is the fastest path to certification, what will get me the most certs for the upcoming MCSE 2012.

I have decided to update my Microsoft Certification as I am looking for a new job. I have been working with Windows Server 2008 the last couple years and also have the ability to setup my own lab. I also took the VCP4 class ($1,800), but have not taken the test yet. I build machines and do upgrades including PCs and servers as well as support all kinds of major brands of hardware.

I hold the certifications below and would like some advice on what would be the easiest, fastest route to end up with the MCSE 2012. For example, would getting an A+ or any of the other 3rd party certifications help/be faster?

I am not sure if any of my old certs will count for anything, but I am also not wanting to take things I don’t need; Novell and MCP+I, for example. I have also taken 2 different CCNA classes but did not take exam.

While I agree it is important to make sure someone has formal training/certs as well as experience, I just don’t see the need nor can I afford to update every 1-2 years.  It’s very expensive and time consuming (unless major new products come out) such as Windows Server 2008/2012

Anyway, I'm sure you’re a busy guy, but I would appreciate any guidance in this area, I have found, over the years, the Exam Cram books were very helpful but I don’t see anything for the 2012 stuff?


Mike S.
Boulder, CO

Dear Mike:

Thanks for your e-mail! It's nice to hear from somebody who's been around long enough to have so many cert elements in common with me, including both Microsoft (I got started writing about certification in the NT 3.5/4.0 era) and Novell (for whom I worked from 1987-1994, and where I got started developing and teaching cert stuff). Before I dig into the Windows Server 2012 MCSA and MCSE, I'd like to respond to some other ancillary queries in your e-mail. I hope you don't mind the out of order answers, because that will help me clear the deck before digging more deeply into the current Microsoft credentials in which you express some interest.

For one thing, chasing a CompTIA A+ (or other lower-level 3rd-party credentials) isn't likely to help much with the MCSA/MCSE sequencefor Windows Server 2012, so I think you can safely skip that. Given your time in the industry and prior experience, I don't think these certifications would teach you very much what you don't already know (or couldn't learn quickly on your own), and I don't believe they will help you much in preparing for the Server 2012 stuff anyway, especially if you're already familiar with Server 2008.

Next, if you've taken the VCP 4 class already, you should definitely take the VCP 4 exam as soon as possible. Then, you'll be eligible for the (cheaper) "What’s new?" class for VCP 5, after which you should take the VCP5 exam as well. This credential remains valuable and interesting to employers and will make a nice complement to your Microsoft stuff, too. And since you do have an interest in virtualization, you might want to put the MCSE: Private Cloud on your planning horizon, too.

As far as the MCSE 2012 goes, you'll want to chase down and earn the MCSA 2012 first. The MCSA gets you past exams 70-410 (installing & configuring), 70-411 (administering), and 70-412 (configuring advanced services), after which you need to complete only two more infrastructure exams: 70-413 (designing and implementing) and 70-414 (implementing and advanced) to finish up your MCSE. If you do decide to go for this -- and I think you should -- look around for bundle or package deals on self-study materials (including Exam Crams which should be coming out in the next 2-3 months for all these topics), exams, and classroom or online training (if your budget and interest extend that far). You can usually save 15-25% or more off the cost of single-shot purchases of any of these things by buying them in bulk instead. Don't forget to see if you can get the Microsoft Second Shot deal when you buy your exams (or vouchers for some, which is often a better deal) so that if you should happen to fail a first try on any one of those exams, you'll be eligible to take a second try for no additional cost. Single exam second shot deals expire on May 31, but bundles stay good through the end of this year, which is another inducement to buy a bundle as well.

For what it's worth, your timing is excellent because many companies won't be jumping onto Server 2012 until next year (2014) or the year after (2015), in keeping with the now-traditional 2-3 year delay between when a new server OS ships and when it hits mainstream adoption. This should give you time to train up, pass the exams, and jump on the Server 2012 bandwagon, just in time for the leading edge of the big wave of Server 2012 adoptions that are already in planning stages at most medium-sized and larger organizations. If you take your time, you should be able to finish your MCSA and MCSE 2012 in a year or so. If you want to put the pedal to the metal, it will still take you at least 5-6 months to work your way through all 5 exams.

 Best of luck, and thanks for providing enough information for me to be able to make some hopefully helpful recommendations.