MCSE Overview and Renewal Requirements

Introduction

During the height of the late-90s Internet bubble and in the decade after that, the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) cert was one of the most prestigious certs that an IT professional could obtain. It was the gold standard if your job role involved designing and implementing various types of network infrastructures and configuring servers with the different operating systems that came out from Microsoft.

But in 2007, Microsoft abruptly stopped this much sought-after cert and replaced it with an entirely new one called the “Microsoft Certified Information Technology Professional,” or simply “MCITP.” But the IT industry still highly valued the MCSE cert, and at the same time, the MCITP was simply not gaining the traction it was expected to receive.

As a result, Microsoft brought back the MCSE in 2012, and this time, gave it a new name to fit the acronym. It is now called the “Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert.” Its new focus is not so heavy on the networking side, but rather focuses upon testing an IT professional’s skill level when it comes to creating and deploying technology-based solutions. This could be the integration of various platforms, for example, or even addressing multiple instances of that same platform.

A Review of the MCSE Tracks and the Exams That Are Required

In the new MCSE tracks, there are five specializations that the IT professional can choose from. They are as follows:

MCSE: Business Applications

This area focuses primarily on working with, as well as managing, the different types of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Technologies. One must first possess the actual MCSA cert for Microsoft Dynamics and pass one of the following exams:

  1. Exam MB2-717: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales
  2. Exam MB2-718: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Service
  3. Exam MB2-719: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Marketing
  4. Exam MB6-895: Financial Management in Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations
  5. Exam MB6-896: Distribution and Trade in Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations
  6. Exam MB6-897: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Retail
  7. Exam MB6-898: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Talent
  8. Exam MB2-877: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Field Service

MCSE: Core Infrastructure

This area focuses on running an efficient and modern data center, with concerns such as identity management and networking. To follow this track, the candidate must have the MCSA in Windows 2012 or 2016 and pass one of the following exams:

  1. Exam 70-473: Designing and Implementing Cloud Data Platform Solutions
  2. Exam 70-475: Designing and Implementing Big Data Analytics Solutions
  3. Exam 70-744: Securing Windows Server 2016
  4. Exam 70-745: Implementing a Software-Defined Datacenter
  5. Exam 70-413: Designing and Implementing a Server Infrastructure
  6. Exam 70-414: Implementing an Advanced Server Infrastructure
  7. Exam 70-537: Configuring and Operating a Hybrid Cloud with Microsoft Azure Stack

MCSE: Data Management and Analytics

This area focuses on SQL Server Administration, creating and building large-scale data solutions and making use of Business Intelligence (BI) technologies both on-premises and in cloud-based environments. The candidate is required to have the MCSA cert in SQL Server 2016 cert and pass one of the following exams:

  1. Exam 70-473: Designing and Implementing Cloud Data Platform Solutions
  2. Exam 70-475: Designing and Implementing Big Data Analytics Solutions
  3. Exam 70-464: Developing Microsoft SQL Server Databases
  4. Exam 70-465: Designing Database Solutions for Microsoft SQL Server
  5. Exam 70-466: Implementing Data Models and Reports with Microsoft SQL Server
  6. Exam 70-467: Designing Business Intelligence Solutions with Microsoft SQL Server
  7. Exam 70-762: Developing SQL Databases
  8. Exam 70-767: Implementing a Data Warehouse using SQL
  9. Exam 70-768: Developing SQL Data Models
  10. Exam 70-773: Analyzing Big Data with Microsoft R
  11. Exam 70-774: Perform Cloud Data Science with Azure Machine Learning
  12. Exam 70-775: Perform Data Engineering on Microsoft Azure HDInsight
  13. Exam 70-777: Implementing Microsoft Azure Cosmos DB Solutions

MCSE: Mobility

This area focuses primarily on the management of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in the office environment. The candidate should already possess their MCSA in the Windows OS and pass one of the following exams:

  1. Exam 70-695: Deploying Windows Desktops and Enterprise Applications
  2. Exam 70-703: Administering Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager and Cloud Services Integration

NOTE: This track is expected to be retired on March 31st, 2019.

MCSE: Productivity Solutions Expert

This area focuses primarily on migrating to a cloud-based Infrastructure from an on-premises one, as well as the security issues that are involved in this process, such as data leakage. The candidate should already have the MCSA in Office 365 or in Windows Server 2012 or 2016, and pass one of the following exams:

  1. Exam 70-345: Designing and Deploying Microsoft Exchange Server 2016
  2. Exam 70-339: Managing Microsoft SharePoint Server 2016
  3. Exam 70-333: Deploying Enterprise Voice with Skype for Business 2015
  4. Exam 70-334: Core Solutions of Microsoft Skype for Business 2015
  5. Exam 70-331: Core Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013
  6. Exam 70-332: Advanced Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013
  7. Exam 70-341: Core Solutions of Microsoft Exchange Server 2013
  8. Exam 70-342: Advanced Solutions of Microsoft Exchange Server 2013

On the Path to Becoming an MCSE

Now that you have a better idea of what the various MCSE tracks are and the specific exams that are required in order to achieve a certain specialization, you are probably wondering about the experience required to take an MCSE exam. And how do you prepare? This is reviewed in more detail in the following sections.

The Experience Required to Obtain an MCSE

It is very important to remember that the MCSE tracks and their related exams are advanced ones. They are not designed nor intended by any means to be considered entry-level certs. They are viewed advanced in nature, and the candidate who wishes to appear for a particular exam must have both a deep understanding of the related concepts and a reasonably substantial amount of work experience.

For example, Microsoft recommends that exam candidates should have at least two to five years of solid work experience in designing, configuring, deploying and troubleshooting all types of network configurations, operating systems and network/cloud-based Infrastructures. Experience with the SQL Server database is a must as well.

A candidate for the MCSE must also have already obtained a lower-level cert, namely the Microsoft Certified Solutions Association (MCSA). Depending on the skill set of the candidate, it is quite possible that it could take many months or even a couple of years to be fully prepared for the MCSE cert exams.

Microsoft also highly recommends that the candidate have a four-year college degree in a technology major such as computer science or information management.

How to Prepare for the MCSE

Just like any other IT or cybersecurity cert, there are a number of ways in which candidates can prepare for exam that correspond to their chosen MCSE specialization. These include the following:

  • Self-study
  • Instructor-led classes
  • Boot camps
  • Online training
  • Instructional videos and practice quizzes/exams
  • Specialized MCSE courses

With the latter, these classes are typically offered for college credit in an associate degree program. They often run as half semester or complete semester courses (8 weeks or 16 weeks, respectively).

Most of the study books, videos and so on can be purchased through online stores. A Google search can lead you to many of these sources.

Exam Details and Recertifying

The exam details vary depending upon the MCSE specialization that the candidate is focusing on. Possible differences include:

  • The time allotted for the particular exam
  • The total number of questions
  • The minimum passing score required;
  • The types of questions asked
  • The details of exam registration
  • The cost of the exam
  • The skills that are measured by each exam

As a rule of thumb, the MCSE exams are generally about $150.00 and usually do not take more than four hours to complete. After taking the exam online, the candidate is notified almost instantly if they have passed or not.

If the candidate fails the exam for the first time, they are allowed to retake after a minimum of 24 hours. Any other retakes after the second attempt require a 14-day waiting period.

It is important to note once you achieve a Microsoft cert such as the MCSE, the qualification technically does not expire; rather, they become “inactive” and are noted as such on your transcript. The key question that gets asked here is how do you know when your cert actually becomes inactive? Microsoft uses a number of criteria, but a cert typically becomes inactive when the product that is associated with it also is going to be retired as well, based on either the mainstream or extended support it has received.

Typically, in order to keep the MCSE cert active, the IT professional must recertify every three year  and take a different elective exam in their track of specialization. It is very important to keep in mind that if you miss a recertification, you will not be allowed to recertify in the future. As a result, your status for that particular MCSE will be permanently marked as inactive.

Conclusions

This article has examined the changes to the MCSE cert since its origin and what the new specializations are today. Just like any other IT or cybersecurity cert, the MCSE exams are quite challenging and can take an enormous amount of time, energy and commitment to prepare for.

But after passing an exam and obtaining the MCSE cert, the next big challenge for the IT professional is knowing exactly when to recertify. The best way to keep track of this is to be vigilant for any product changes related to your MCSE. Since this is not so clear-cut, it is highly advised that you keep checking for the latest at Microsoft’s MCSE website.

 

Sources

  1. All about the MCSE certification tracks …, TechTarget
  2. Explore Microsoft Certifications, Microsoft
  3. Keeping Your Certifications Current, Pearson
  4. Roadmap to Success: MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure, CBT Nuggets
  5. How Long Does IT Take to Get My MCSE Certification?, Study.com
  6. Do you need to recertify your Microsoft exams? Recertification for MCSE and MCSA Explained, Accelerated Ideas
  7. MCSE 2016 Changes, Gareth’s Blog
  8. Microsoft Revamps MCSE Cert Program, MCP Mag
  9. Microsoft Recertification for MCSE: Data Platform : 70-469 Exam, ExamsReviews

Be Safe

Section Guide

Ravi
Das (writer/revisions editor)

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Section Guide

Ravi
Das (writer/revisions editor)

View more articles from Ravi