Carving out the .NET Certification Path

Published: 24th September 2008
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I know it's a bit early, but in North America we have an autumn holiday tenderly

called "Turkey Day." This is a time where friends and family put aside

differences and distances to share a large feast together in the pretense of

harmony. The event usually revolves around the traditional meat of turkey, and

the carving ceremony in my family has always been a moment of great anticipation

and even greater contention.

So, sitting down at the .NET certification table, you might be wondering what

happened to the big MCSD/MCAD turkey. Back in the day, the MCSD/MCAD

certification represented a master developer, a jack-of-all-trades. So if you

wanted a developer certification beyond the MCP, you had to eat the whole MCSD/MCAD

turkey, even if you were just a Windows developer or only developed ASP Web

sites; you had to eat both dark and white meat, leg and drumstick - everything.

With the introduction of the .NET Framework, the situation became even more

complicated. Developing a Windows application became very similar to harnessing

Web power, but you had to know everything about both to get the MCSD. The MCAD

certification attempted to alleviate the pressure, but it was never as

successful a certification as the MCSD.

So for the last few years Microsoft Learning has been busy carving the

certification turkey, trying to spread the slices across a much wider spectrum

of Microsoft technologies. We've entered a new age of smaller, more

technology-specific certifications, so that there's a little bit of

certification for everyone to share. Rather than the MCSD and MCAD designation,

there are now the TS (Technology Specialist) and PD (Professional Developer)


So how is the certification table currently laid out? Something like this (click

the image for a larger version):


The TS exams represent a basic proficiency in specific technology domains. Each

exam comes in at least two flavors: VB.NET or C#. Before you go too far over to

the dark meat, all candidates for Microsoft .NET certification must pass the

070-536 exam. If you use ASP.NET 2.0, you would also take the 070-528 exam (.NET

Framework 2.0 Web applications). If you use ASP.NET 3.5, you would also take the

070-562 exam (.NET Framework 3.5 ASP.NET Applications). There are also TS exams

for BizTalk, Windows SharePoint Services, and most other Microsoft products.

Once you clear the preliminaries, then you can put it all together by taking PD

exams. These certifications focus on applying the technologies to real-world

scenarios. You might know code, but do you understand the team environment and

the phases of software development? There are only three exams in this category:

Windows Developer, Web Developer, and Enterprise Application Developer, each for

.NET 2.0 and Visual Studio 2005.

The exams themselves contain a lot more code, more best practices from the

Microsoft Solution and Agile Frameworks, and have a lot less configuration and

property trivia. So, the exam you take will be honed in on the technology you

use with the language you know. Seems a lot more digestible, doesn't it?

So, seriously, no MCSD anymore? Well... not by name, per se. The MCPD: Enterprise

Application Developer is now the jack-of-all-trades certification, much like the

old MCSD. To get this certification, you need to get through all the .NET 2.0 TS

certifications and then pass the 070-549 exams.

Of course, if you have your MCSD/MCAD certification, then you could take an

upgrade path, but that may be a longer meal than most can handle. And I think

the tryptophan is kicking in, so I may need to sleep before posting on that

topic anytime soon. (But if you want an appetizer, here's an hors d'oeuvre from

the horse's mouth.)

But before I doze off, remember this: The new .NET certification isn't for

marathon competitive eaters anymore. Take your time and savor the certification

in each bite.

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