Are you thinking about earning a Microsoft Certification? Wondering about whether it's worth the effort? We've asked some IT professionals who have earned a variety of Microsoft Certifications to share their impressions of the experience with you. Maybe what they have to say will give you the answers you need.
Certifications fuel new careers and six-figure salaries
Here's what some of those experts say about the role Microsoft Certifications have played in their lives.
"They've allowed me, a person with just a GED education, the ability to move out of a blue collar job into the professional, white collar field with limitless opportunity and a six figure salary since I was 35 (going on my tenth year of that). I have only been bound by the number of hours in a day as to how far I can go". —Jason Zandri, a systems engineer from Connecticut
"Certifications have helped me move up from technical engineer back in '99 to being a managing partner for a company of 28 highly skilled consultants nowadays". —Peter De Tender, an infrastructure architect from Belgium
"Being able to say that I'm a Microsoft Certified Professional adds to my credibility, to my résumé. It's something that persists beyond each individual job… I still have that certification that I carry with me, it's not bound to my company." —Matt McDermott, a consultant and trainer from Austin, Texas
"We're always judged by our peers in our industry. [Microsoft Certification] is a great way to show legitimate competency in your skill set, and to prove to other people that you have what it takes to do the work." —James Cradit, client systems engineering manager from Portland, Oregon
"Certification has the ability to completely change one's career and also change one's life. Back in 1999, I was basically a burger flipper. I went off and decided to study my MCSE, got my MCSE, got into the IT industry and haven't looked back since". —Andy McMurray, IT pro evangelical from Australia
Take your career to a new level
Here's what they have to say about the opportunities that certifications have made possible.
"The job market today is insane: I get job offers every day. It's a great market for developers. It's even better if you have your certification because that gives you that one little edge you have against somebody that doesn't if you're going for the same job." — Teresa Burger, a developer from Texas
"One of the questions that I get asked all the time from both seasoned and new IT professionals is, 'What advice can you give to help my career?' … Based on my experience and what I have seen over the years with others that I have helped, the best advice I have is 'Get certified.'" — Garth Jones, One Simple Thing to Help Your IT Career: Certification, Windows IT Pro
"Certification changed my life… It seems to have taken my career to a whole new level. They do a good job of making it relevant and going across the board with various skills needed to perform your job". —Jim Finder, senior systems engineer from Florida
"My life has many more possibilities with my certifications attached to my resume… If you're on the cusp of the IT envelope and want a way to stand out of the crowd, I would definitely recommend earning as many Microsoft Certifications as possible". —Curt McNamee, an Active Directory engineer from Washington
Feed the passion, reap the rewards
Listening to what these folks have to say, you realise that getting more job opportunities and higher pay isn't all that's driving them.
"And I did it all because I wanted to, not because I had to". —Jason Zandri
"The gain is amazing. I hunger for knowledge and that level of access to the product team and the product internals is appealing". — Michael Blumenthal, an IT consultant from Chicago
"The certification is more than a credential for your employer or potential employer to measure you by. It is your own measuring stick as the only person you really need to best is yourself. Learn the technology, study the material and pass the exams and you will have as much opportunity to do the next greatest thing that you get in your path". —Jason Zandri
The experts concur: more opportunities, more pay on the horizon
The experts agree that opportunities in IT are only growing, and more opportunities translate into higher pay. Certifications place you in a position to take advantage of them.
Eighty five per cent of IT recruiters consider IT certification a medium to high priority when hiring for IT positions. (CompTIA, Employer Perceptions of IT Training and Certification, Jan 2011)
Forecast through to 2018: IT employment is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations, and job prospects should be excellent. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, March 2011)
IT professionals gain an average 9 per cent salary increase immediately after receiving certification, and 29 per cent over the long term, versus peers who are not certified. (CompTIA, Employer Perceptions of IT Training and Certification, Jan 2011)
And here's some great news addressing Microsoft Certifications in particular:
Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, Microsoft Certified IT Professional and Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator are among the top 25 highest-paying IT certifications. (Global Knowledge, 15 Top-Paying Certifications for 2015)
Advice from the IT professionals, going forward
Each of the professionals mentioned in this article continues to develop their own plans for further certifications, and they have some advice to offer.
"My key recommendation is prepare, prepare, prepare. Get some books, attend a course (virtual or classroom) and build labs. Earn your experience by doing … start with earning a certification of a product you already know. This will make studying easier, passing your exam rate will go up, and your self-confidence will boost. That's what you need for taking another exam. And before you know it, you will have your MCSA, MCSE or MCSD credential". — Peter De Tender
"Start with what you know. I knew Windows 95 cold so I started with that. If you know XP cold then work on that. If the certification exam is no longer offered then work on the next one you are best at. Once you have that move on to what is most prevalent in the market (notice I said prevalent and not "hot"). Server 2008 R2 may be getting ready to sunset and the certifications will be going offline soon but they are the most relative to the job market now. Master those and certify yourself on them and THEN start going towards the bleeding edge that is Server 2012". —Jason Zandri