Microsoft Certification:  The Definitive Guide

Microsoft offers certifications that cut across the solutions and platforms it offers the public for commercial and private use. These certifications cover your proficiency in using Microsoft’s servers, desktops, applications, database and its developer platforms. And obtaining a Microsoft certification showcases one’s ability to implement Microsoft solutions in solving specific business related issues.

Microsoft is known worldwide for its Windows operating systems and Office ecosystem but it is important to note that it offers a much broader portfolio consisting of solutions designed for business enterprises. Therefore, achieving an IT certification through Microsoft’s Certification Program is one of the best ways IT professionals can highlight their skills with the aim of furthering one’s career. Some of the benefits of obtaining a Microsoft certification include:

The Benefits of Obtaining Microsoft Certifications

Weighing the Pros and Cons before choosing to take a professional certification exam, is generally the norm for those looking for added advantages when pursuing career growth. In this section, we will explore some of the benefits obtaining a Microsoft certification holds for both individuals and business organizations interested in enhancing employee capabilities.

Benefits of Microsoft Certification to Individual Professionals:

  • Increases visibility—Microsoft certifications are issued by a reputable organization with a large market share in the enterprise software and business development niche. This means that a lot of business organizations rely on its infrastructure or services. Including evidence of proven proficiency to use Microsoft solutions in your CV or LinkedIn profile increases your chances of being seen by recruiters.
  • Highlights your dedication to personal and professional development—showing initiative by pursuing a Microsoft certification to highlight one’s proficiencies, tell potential employers’ one thing. You love knowledge and are committed to your professional growth.
  • Highlights your ability to solve technical problems—deploying Microsoft architecture to fit particular business needs is a technical activity that requires professionalism. Microsoft expert certifications showcase your ability to provide custom solutions for businesses using Microsoft’s infrastructures.
  • Provides you with access to exclusive Microsoft resources—Microsoft provides incentives to its certified professionals and this includes extensive materials and insights into infrastructure upgrades and their uses.

Benefits of Microsoft Certification to Businesses:

  • Increases clients’ confidence—ensuring your organization’s staffs earn certifications that highlight their abilities with using Microsoft infrastructure shows prospective clients that your business stays abreast of happenings in the IT industry. Thereby earning your business and its employees the respect and trust it deserves.
  • Highlights the professional standards of a business—there are industry standards that come with deploying enterprise infrastructure. And the best way for a business to highlight its understanding of these standards, is ensuring its professionals acquire the industry knowledge and standards that come with Microsoft certifications.
  • Boosts productivity levels—studies conducted by industry leaders in the IT community have shown that employees who obtain professional certifications are generally more productive. Therefore encouraging staff to obtain Microsoft certifications increases an organization’s ability to quickly troubleshoot issues and develop solutions.
  • Increases your confidence in employees: successful businesses eliminate the need to micro manage all business operations when they believe in their employees. And employees with Microsoft certificates give a business owner peace of mind when delegating responsibilities that consist of using Microsoft infrastructure.

Microsoft Certification Program Overview

Microsoft Certification Categories

Microsoft’s diverse portfolio of solutions means categorization must be employed for aspiring candidates to know the knowledge to be acquired and its application in the IT industry. Therefore, there are six certification categories you can choose from.

  • Mobility—certifications in this category are designed for those interested in highlighting their abilities with mobility management. An understanding of solutions such as Microsoft Intune, Azure Active Directory and Rights Management is required.
  • Cloud—these certifications showcase your understanding of Microsoft cloud infrastructure and services on its Azure platform. Key technologies to learn include Windows Server Virtualization and Microsoft Azure.
  • Productivity—certificates test your ability to deploy enterprise productivity solutions using Microsoft cloud solutions. Key technologies to learn include; Microsoft Office 365, Exchange and SharePoint.
  • Data—here, candidates defend their understanding and competency with specific aspects of Microsoft Business Intelligence solutions. The key technology to cover is the SQL Server.
  • App Builder—this certification targets app developers and their abilities to enhance software development and deployment using Microsoft solutions. C#, Framework 4.5 and Visual studio are some key technologies to understand.
  • Business—here, a candidate’s competency with using Microsoft Dynamics technologies will be tested. Technologies to stay abreast of include, Microsoft Dynamics and SQL Server.

Microsoft Certification Levels

Currently, there are three levels of Microsoft certification opportunities available to prospective Microsoft certified professionals.These three levels—Microsoft Technology Associate, Certified Solutions Associate and Certified Solutions Experts—were developed to showcase the level of proficiency an individual currently possesses using particular solutions across the categories above.

  • Microsoft Certified Technical Associate (MTA) —Microsoft technical associate certifications are basically certificates that validate your drive to be an aspiring professional using Microsoft solutions. It is basically a beginner certificate for aspiring IT pros.
  • Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS)—these certificates are entry level certificates centred on your understanding of Microsoft Office. It also serves as a prerequisite for pursuing further or more advanced certifications such as MCSA and MCSE certificates.
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA)—the learning resources and exams leading to obtaining the solutions associate certificate test your understanding and application of the core skills needed to use particular Microsoft technologies. Having an MCSA is a prerequisite to achieving an expert certification.
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE)—this is the premier certification anyone looking to highlight his or her proficiency with Microsoft solutions, can aspire to. An MCSE certificate shows that you are an expert at innovatively deploying Microsoft solutions for a chosen field.
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD)—this is the premier certificate for developers who use Microsoft resources to create both mobile and web applications. It showcases your ability to solve technical design and development problems using Microsoft’s extensive tools.

Microsoft Certifications List

Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) Certifications

Microsoft Technical Associate (MTA) Certifications

Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) Certifications

Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) Certifications

Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD) Certifications

Microsoft Certified Trainer Certificate

Microsoft Certified Educator Certificate

Microsoft Specialist Certificates

Microsoft Certification Categories, Available Certification Levels and Certificates: The Overview

Certification Category Certification Levels Certificate Options Certification Courses/ Exams Outlined Breakdown


MTA—this validates your core technical knowledge of Microsoft IT Infrastructure. MTA certificates in—IT Infrastructure, Database. MTA Exams— Windows Server Admin Fundamentals, Mobility and Device Fundamentals In the mobility certificate niche, the key technologies covered are; Windows Systems Center, Microsoft Intune, Azure Active Directory.
MCSA—this validates your ability to deploy and configure Microsoft mobility systems. MCSA certificates in—Windows 10. MCSA Exams—Installing and configuring Windows 10 and configuring Windows Devices. It is important to note that having an MTA certificate is a pre-requisite for pursuing an MCSA. While MCSA certificate is a pre-requisite for obtaining an MCSE
MCSE—this validates your ability to manage Microsoft’s bring-your-own-device (BYOD) enterprise. MCSE certificates in –Mobility MCSE Exams—Deploying Windows Desktop and Enterprise Applications, Administering Systems Center Configuration Manager and Intune, Planning for and Managing Devices in the Enterprise.


MTA—this validates your core understanding of Microsoft Cloud platform and infrastructure. MTA—IT Infrastructure MTA Exams—Windows Server Administration Fundamentals, Cloud Fundamentals, Security Fundamentals. In the cloud certification niche key technologies include; Microsoft Azure, Windows Server Virtualization.
MCSA—this highlights your expertise with Microsoft cloud technologies and infrastructures. MCSA—Cloud Platform, Linux on Azure, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2016. MCSA Exams—Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions, Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions. Obtaining an MCSA is a prerequisite for getting an MCSE certificate.
MCSE—this shows that you have acquired the necessary skills to run a modern data centre efficiently. MCSE—Cloud Platform and Infrastructure. MCSE Exams—Developing and Implementing Cloud Data Platform Solutions, Securing Windows Server 2016, Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud, Configuring and Deploying a Private Cloud.


MOS—this validates your understanding of Microsoft Office 365. MOS—Microsoft Office Specialization, MOS Expert 2013, 2016. MOS Master 2013, 2016. MOS Exams—Microsoft Word 2013 Expert, Microsoft Word 2016 Expert, Microsoft Access 2016, Outlook 2016, PowerPoint 2016. The key technologies to have a knowledge of include; Office 365, Exchange, SharePoint and Skype for Business.
MCSA—this validates your abilities as a SaaS professional with Office 365, SharePoint and Skype for Business. MCSA—Office 365. MCSE—Designing and Deploying Microsoft Exchange Server 2016, Managing Microsoft SharePoint Server, Deploying Enterprise Voice with Skype, Core Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint, Advanced Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint Server. Obtaining an MOS certification is a prerequisite for pursuing more advanced productivity certifications.
MCSE—this showcases your ability as a network or computer systems administrator. MCSE–Productivity


MTA—this validates your understanding of data management and analytics. MTA—Database MTA Exams—Database Fundamentals. The key technology to build your knowledge in is: SQL Servers.
MCSA—this validates your abilities to extract, transform, load and integrate data warehousing. MCSA—SQL 2016 BI Development, SQL 2016 Database Admin, SQL 2016 Database Development, SQL Server 2012/2014. MCSA Exams—Implementing a SQL Data Warehouse, Developing SQL Data Models, Administering a SQL Database, Provisioning SQL Databases, Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012/2014, Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012/2014 Databases etc. As expected, obtaining an MTA is a prerequisite for getting your MCSA certificate. While getting an MCSA is also a prerequisite for an MCSE certificate.
MCSE—this highlights your ability to access and receive insights from data using Microsoft data management infrastructures. MCSE—Business Applications, Data Management and Analytics. MCSE Exams—Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales, Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Service, Microsoft Dynamics AX-Financials,
MCSE—Designing and Implementing Cloud Data Platform Solutions, Designing and Implementing Big Data Analytics Solutions, Developing Microsoft SQL Server Databases, Designing Business Intelligence Solutions with Microsoft SQL Server.


MCSA—this validates your expertise at implementing Universal Windows Platform Apps to enhance user experiences across Windows devices. MCSA—Dynamics 365, Dynamics 365 for Operations. MCSA Exams—Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement Online Deployment, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customization and Configuration, Administering a Microsoft SQL Database Infrastructure, Microsoft Development AX Development Introduction. The key technologies to study when pursuing a Microsoft certificate in the business category includes: Microsoft Dynamics 365, SQL Server.
MCSE—this certificate sheds light on your ability to manage Microsoft business applications such as Microsoft Dynamics 365. MCSE—Business Applications MCSE Exams—Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales, Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Service, Microsoft Dynamics AX-Financials, Microsoft Dynamics AX-Distribution and Trade.

App Builder

MTA—validates your understanding of the fundamentals of software development. MTA—Developer MTA Exams—Software Development Fundamentals, HTML5 App Development Fundamentals, Introduction to Programming with Block-based Languages. The Key technologies anyone interested in a Microsoft App builder certificate should focus on include: C#, Visual Studio, .NET, CSS3, HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET MVC.
MCSA—this certification level validates your ability to implement Universal Windows Platform applications. MCSA—Universal Windows Platform, Web Applications MCSA Exams—Programming in C#, Developing Mobile Apps, Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3, Developing ASP.NET MVC Web Applications. For App Builder certifications, the MTA certificate is a prerequisite for MCSA and MCSA is a prerequisite for pursuing an MCSD certificate.
MCSD—this highlights the technical abilities you have acquired for building mobile and web applications. MCSD—App Builder. MCSD Exams—Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions, Universal Windows Platform-App Data, Services and Coding Patterns, Software Testing with Visual Studios etc.

Training and Practical Learning Materials

As an established body, Microsoft offers extensive training support to prospective exam candidates to simplify the task of successfully sitting for its exams. Regardless of the candidate—established professionals or beginners—there are courses and materials tailored to fit a candidate’s needs.

Microsoft also understands that not every prospective participant has the time to sit in traditional classrooms and has tailored its class sessions to meet the needs of everyone. There are two options available to students;

  • Classroom Training—this occurs in select locations and consists of Microsoft certified trainers teaching participants using a set syllabus from the examiner’s body.
  • Microsoft Official Courses On-Demand(MOC On-Demand)—this online learning process was developed to fit the needs of professionals interested in obtaining a certification but do not have the time to sit in a classroom. The MOC On-demand initiative also allows individuals learn on the go and at their own pace.

Lastly, there are also IT certification training providers, like SkillsBuild Training, that offer courses and exam preparation materials that align with Microsoft’s extensive certification program. You can also take advantage of these by selecting reputable third-party tutors—with Microsoft Certified Educator certificates—to assist you in accelerating your understanding of chosen course materials.

Related Jobs and Careers

Microsoft certifications open-up diverse opportunities for professionals working in the IT industry while also ensuring that certified professionals receive the recognition their abilities deserve. Therefore sitting,and successfully passing a Microsoft certification exam makes you eligible for the following job and career opportunities:

  • Managed IT Service Provider—businesses without the technical know-how needed to deploy and provision Microsoft servers, generally hire consultants or freelancers to help with these tasks. Therefore, an advanced certificate—MCSA or MCSE—gives you a foot in the door when applying for such positions.
  • Microsoft Cloud Architecture Developer—businesses are moving their operations to the cloud and a lot of enterprises do this with Microsoft’s public or private cloud architecture. A certified Microsoft cloud architect or developer will definitely stand a better chance getting hired by businesses.
  • Data Analyst—businesses looking to receive real-time insight from the data gleaned through customer transactions, will need to set-up data streaming and analytics infrastructure to achieve this. A Microsoft business or data related certification definitely gives you an added edge when applying for such positions.
  • App Builder and Developer—the digitization of everyday activities and the rise in the number of smart device users, have led to an exponential growth in the creation of mobile and web applications. Therefore a certificate that highlights your ability to build apps for Microsoft devices will definitely increase your ability to compete in this IT niche.
  • IT Educator—professionals can also choose the education route by providing timely classes and materials for learning about Microsoft technology solutions. A Microsoft certified trainer or educator certificate allows you work as a reputable consultant or teacher on its technologies.

Acquiring a Microsoft Certification: The Salary Advantages

The advantages of acquiring a Microsoft certification also includes your ability to earn more than the average IT professional without one. The average salary that comes with the three major Microsoft certification levels are:

  • Microsoft Certified Technical Associate—MTA certificate holders earn between $40,000 to $45,000 per year
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate—MCSA holders earn between $70,000 to $75,000 yearly
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert—MCSE holders earn between $80,000 to $90,000 yearly
  • Microsoft Specialist—specialists earn approximately $80,000 to $132,000 yearly

About Microsoft

Microsoft is predominantly a software solutions company operating in the technology space. It provides technological solutions to meet the needs of business and individuals worldwide. These solutions cut through the development, enterprise management, productivity and data management industries.