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Microsoft Certifications- Good, Bad, or Ugly? RRS feed

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  • One of my friends that prefers to stay anonymous gave me permission to post his feedback he sent to me via email:

     

    I’m with you on this one.  I can speak from experience here.  During my first year as an MCS consultant, my manager asked me to set getting certified as one of goals – so I did.  A few other consultants recommended that I use Trascender practice exams to prepare for the tests – so I picked up the practice test for Windows programming with C++ and off I went.  This is back in ’99 so at the time I used to live, breathe and eat ATL in C++, and I just finished a couple years worth of hardcore MFC prior to that.  So I was expecting to walk all over that exam.  I was shocked when I got my ass handed to me by the Transcender practice exam – I think I scored somewhere in the ballpark of 50%.  There were tons of questions about installation, deployment and tools that are part of Visual Studio that may be nice for a small side project, but aren’t useful when building an enterprise application.  So I brushed up on these esoteric areas, retook the practice exam, aced it and signed up for the real one.  I was surprised at how similar the actual exam was to the practice test – some questions were practically verbatim, concentration of questions on things like building an installer for your ATL app.  I aced the exam – but I would have gotten slapped if I hadn’t practiced with the transcender exam.  Was I that much smarter when I took the exam thanks to the practice test – not really, I just brushed up on some small areas that the exam asked a bunch of questions on and then forgot it afterwards – b/c they were areas that I didn’t use in my day-to-day programming, and if I needed to accomplish such things, I opened the book and read up on it at that time.  I went through a similar experience with respect to tests about database design – just learn the pattern that they want you to regurgitate and then perform.  Same situation – wasn’t too hot one the first practice exam, learned the patterns they were expecting, then aced the exam.  Big change in scores, but not much smarter.  Plus – nowadays, they’ve got these web sites where folks just donate “braindumps” of what they recall after just taking the exam – so you don’t even have to memorize the arcane topics that are on the exams, you can memorize the questions/answers themselves…worthless.

     

    Now, that new architect certification may be different, but that looks like the only one I see.  And I can also agree that when I see lots of acronyms after person’s name I’m usually under impressed when we have a technical interview…well at least I used to be, now I don’t raise my expectations – I lower them ;-)

    Monday, January 9, 2006 5:50 PM
  •  Harpreet Bhatti wrote:
    I am a big fan of certifications and as a consultant if you have them then there is no need to prove yourself to anyone (client etc.)

    yeah. . . right. . . sure. . . um-hm. . .whatever you say. . . NEXT!!!

    Thursday, January 26, 2006 5:00 PM

All replies

  • I've commented on it several times, but I added my two cents to your blog.
    Sunday, January 8, 2006 10:22 PM
  • If my employer wants to pay for one thats fine. . . I wouldn't waste my money on them.

    I find it sad that alot of people think of them as a short cut around getting a formal education. You can end up paying more for certs than a four year degree at a good university. . . and what do you have? a poprietary background in a technology that could be archaic by the time you get out into the job market.

    On the other hand. . . get a formal education in Math and Computer Science and learning a new technology is just a matter of picking up a manual.

    Nothing, absolutely nothing, beats a formal education!

    Sunday, January 8, 2006 10:56 PM
  • Note that Microsoft's Architect certification programs (http://www.microsoft.com/architecture/default.aspx?pid=share.certification)

    Are completely different from the developer certification ones

     

    Arnon

    Monday, January 9, 2006 4:28 AM
  • One of my friends that prefers to stay anonymous gave me permission to post his feedback he sent to me via email:

     

    I’m with you on this one.  I can speak from experience here.  During my first year as an MCS consultant, my manager asked me to set getting certified as one of goals – so I did.  A few other consultants recommended that I use Trascender practice exams to prepare for the tests – so I picked up the practice test for Windows programming with C++ and off I went.  This is back in ’99 so at the time I used to live, breathe and eat ATL in C++, and I just finished a couple years worth of hardcore MFC prior to that.  So I was expecting to walk all over that exam.  I was shocked when I got my ass handed to me by the Transcender practice exam – I think I scored somewhere in the ballpark of 50%.  There were tons of questions about installation, deployment and tools that are part of Visual Studio that may be nice for a small side project, but aren’t useful when building an enterprise application.  So I brushed up on these esoteric areas, retook the practice exam, aced it and signed up for the real one.  I was surprised at how similar the actual exam was to the practice test – some questions were practically verbatim, concentration of questions on things like building an installer for your ATL app.  I aced the exam – but I would have gotten slapped if I hadn’t practiced with the transcender exam.  Was I that much smarter when I took the exam thanks to the practice test – not really, I just brushed up on some small areas that the exam asked a bunch of questions on and then forgot it afterwards – b/c they were areas that I didn’t use in my day-to-day programming, and if I needed to accomplish such things, I opened the book and read up on it at that time.  I went through a similar experience with respect to tests about database design – just learn the pattern that they want you to regurgitate and then perform.  Same situation – wasn’t too hot one the first practice exam, learned the patterns they were expecting, then aced the exam.  Big change in scores, but not much smarter.  Plus – nowadays, they’ve got these web sites where folks just donate “braindumps” of what they recall after just taking the exam – so you don’t even have to memorize the arcane topics that are on the exams, you can memorize the questions/answers themselves…worthless.

     

    Now, that new architect certification may be different, but that looks like the only one I see.  And I can also agree that when I see lots of acronyms after person’s name I’m usually under impressed when we have a technical interview…well at least I used to be, now I don’t raise my expectations – I lower them ;-)

    Monday, January 9, 2006 5:50 PM
  • I agree that Trascender practice exams are good enough to pass the mcsd exams and there are areas that you just memorize to pass the exams and never use in real life but at the same time it touches a broad range of subjects and possibilities available from the technology which can enhance your design and architecture skills...

    I am a big fan of certifications and as a consultant if you have them then there is no need to prove yourself to anyone (client etc.) and you are in a much better position while negotiating your wages etc. since that part is done before you start on an assignment, job etc...

    Tuesday, January 24, 2006 9:50 PM
  • Harpreet,

     

    I think your point is what too many people believe, that once certified you no longer have to prove yourself, or at least the fact that you don't have real world experience should be excused during the interview process.  And for too many companies that holds true, because they want the certified individuals on board to count towards their partnership program.  Experience is overlooked. 

     

    Which is fine when you need lower level developers.  I think Jerry summed it up quite well here.

     

     

    Thursday, January 26, 2006 12:55 PM
  •  Harpreet Bhatti wrote:
    I am a big fan of certifications and as a consultant if you have them then there is no need to prove yourself to anyone (client etc.)

    yeah. . . right. . . sure. . . um-hm. . .whatever you say. . . NEXT!!!

    Thursday, January 26, 2006 5:00 PM
  • Certifications are the way to prove you know a lot of a technology. Anyway you have to study Systems Engineering to be good enough.

     

    Certifications have one good thing, they are valid in the whole world, and maybe my systems engineering degree from colombia is not useful anywhere. and If I am certified I can get a job in another country more easy.  Anyway years of experience gives more credits.

    Monday, January 30, 2006 1:22 PM
  • Blair - you are talking sense here. It doesnt matter how many Cisco, Microsoft and other company qualifications you have - if you are going into an industry that is based around technologies that have a mathematical basis then some form of educational qualifications are a good start.

    When I left school in the UK I left with a handful of basic qualifications - I had enough to get a job as my only interests at the time were earning enough to have a few beers and a good time. Within a few years the computing bug hit - late seventies - and I decided I needed to change direction.

    I tried courses from people like Computeach in the UK - at the time there were no MCSE etc I found it difficult to understand the concepts as a piece of my education was missing.  So what I did was to get myself a degree in mathematics and computing science. The penny dropped when i was studying for my degree as i actually did courses around the mathematical functions underpinning coding/logic.

    This formal education gave me the grounding you talk about. It was the spring board for my career in computing.

    I then worked through a career structure in government computing and now the private sector going through systems engineering disciplines from support, programming, analysis, design and now architetcure at the infrastructure, application, information and enterprise levels. I dont think I could have done this without the education I had - and by the way - I got my degree through home study with the UK's Open University - moving house several times and having a couple of kids on the way. Its hard but rewarding and your are not too old or young to start that way.

    This said - my nephew has just spent thousands of pounds of a loan getting his MCSE and his Cisco engineering qualifications - unfortunately he doesnt have previous IT experience and he doesnt have a degree. He worked dam hard to take these and pass them, in particular the Cisco. However, no degree meant in a lot of job trawls his CV didnt get through the first cut. Even more so - no IT work experience meant he couldnt get major employment to put these into practise. Fortunately an ISP has employed him - at 26yrs old - on their help desk so he can start to build up a CV. To keep his IT skills up to date he has build his own infrastructure environment at home - helps to keep practising so you can replay real world problems and scenarios in interviews.

    So I actually think you have a combination of factors:

    The educational foundations be it a degree, or whatever.

    Some form of on the job training - you cannot beat experience.

    A structured programme of learning supplemented by formal industry qualifications if required by the field you are working within - and if your employer requires it.

    I can say that I have had feedback from the Microsoft Architectural qualifications programme as our company have had an involvement in this and you do need the real world experience. I personally would give it a few years to settle down in the Microsoft field. Microsoft have never been big in architecture, they are only just building up their expertise - in the past thats where their partners excelled for them. However Major Corporations now want to engage with people who understand architecture - not product specialists or sales people - who were the normal class of Microsoft person.

    We are looking beyond what Microsoft are doing and have been looking at courses endorsed by the BCS ( British Computer Society ) and the ISEB. Consultancy qualifications here to supplement architectural knowledge require you to have extensive industry knowledge and experience and you need company sponsorship to take the courses and exams. This stops the kids out of college syndrome. It also means clients engaging with you when you list people on your books with these types of letters after their name they know they have the practical knowledge and have not got the letters from reading in a book or using exam cram techniques.

    Hope the above helps the debate.

     

    Eddie

     

    Friday, February 3, 2006 9:52 AM
  • OK, this is my point of view.

    I am embarking on education that from my level is priceless (despite paying a total under £6000)

    I start off working towards an MCDST and all the way up to MCSA then MCSE; the way the education planner works, it looks like it will take me the best part of 1 year, or less if my aptitude is what it used to be.

    You lot who are technical gurus in one way or another will indeed scoff at these, but for me, I know nothing.

    Fact is for 10 years (since the age of 12) I have been doing paid work repairing computers for the general mob getting paid independently for knowing my way around Windows and using programs to to clean out home user rubbish and so on and so forth. OK, so informally I know my way around an average home PC and how to look after it for a number of years without having to replace it or upgrade it, especially Vista platforms (I managed to get a client's budget home made Vista working perfectly well on 0.75GB the other day and it runs sweet as a nut! Yay!).

    Thing is I have never been able to afford or see means of funding £30,000 for a university degree without a job, so paying £6000 for decent world-wide recognised education is spot on for me.

    Where I live it is very difficult finding ANY employment apart from self-employment. I have been there, done that, literally scraped a living and now its time for me to get myself off the floor and do some high flying with Microsoft.

    That is my story and how Microsoft Certification is going to help me, in fact it may save my salt's worth of being an IT Technician. It can only improve it any way, not make it worse. I may be a bona-fide noob but I am soon become a bona-fide Microsoft Student, and to the masses around here, that means a lot.


    Friday, December 26, 2008 1:15 PM
  • Microsoft certifications are very Important to get a better career in Networking, Programming and database.


    To Know more about Microsoft certifications visit :

    http://www.certifications4you.com/Microsoft/MicrosoftCertifications.aspx



    Certifications4You. ......
    Monday, July 27, 2009 1:56 PM
  • Most everything that should be said on this topic has already been said but I can't help but add my 2 cents. 

    I have been writing software professionally for about 17 years and using MS technologies almost exclusivly for about 13 years now.  I have never put too much stock in the MS certifications,  I had a bad experience with an employee who had an MCSD and couldn't write a basic hello world web app (I really wish I was kidding).  I expect that is the exception though and not the rule.  I recently changed jobs and joined a fairly elite consulting company.  Part of my terms of employment was to earn an MCPD.  I used pretty much the same technique for each test.  Read the MS training kit book from cover to cover, do all of the exercies, and do a little extra work on the concepts that I had trouble with.  Each exam I took got a little easier than the one before because there is some repetitive subjects (ado.net, basic WCF calls...) and you learn what to expect from the exams.  I have earned my MCPD in enterprise app development and for me the value was the reading of about 4500 pages of text and doing a couple hundred excercises.  I was also introduced to a lot of tools and techniques that I would never have considered - either because I didn't know about them or because the code I was working on would never need to use a specific technology.  These things are tools in my toolbox I wouldn't have had without going through the certification exercise.  Let's face it, some number of people out there do earn the certification by studying practice exams rather than doing any work.  Others work their tails off.  What you get out of the certification is what you put in.  If you use practice exams to pass the test, you are probably pretty good at .Net trivia.  If you went through all of the text and exercices you have a little more experience to draw upon than you might otherwise have the next time you are faced with a problem you have not solved before. 


    Tim
    Monday, July 27, 2009 3:15 PM
  • Most everything that should be said on this topic has already been said but I can't help but add my 2 cents. 

    I have been writing software professionally for about 17 years and using MS technologies almost exclusivly for about 13 years now.  I have never put too much stock in the MS certifications,  I had a bad experience with an employee who had an MCSD and couldn't write a basic hello world web app (I really wish I was kidding).  I expect that is the exception though and not the rule.  I recently changed jobs and joined a fairly elite consulting company.  Part of my terms of employment was to earn an MCPD.  I used pretty much the same technique for each test.  Read the MS training kit book from cover to cover, do all of the exercies, and do a little extra work on the concepts that I had trouble with.  Each exam I took got a little easier than the one before because there is some repetitive subjects (ado.net, basic WCF calls...) and you learn what to expect from the exams.  I have earned my MCPD in enterprise app development and for me the value was the reading of about 4500 pages of text and doing a couple hundred excercises.  I was also introduced to a lot of tools and techniques that I would never have considered - either because I didn't know about them or because the code I was working on would never need to use a specific technology.  These things are tools in my toolbox I wouldn't have had without going through the certification exercise.  Let's face it, some number of people out there do earn the certification by studying practice exams rather than doing any work.  Others work their tails off.  What you get out of the certification is what you put in.  If you use practice exams to pass the test, you are probably pretty good at .Net trivia.  If you went through all of the text and exercices you have a little more experience to draw upon than you might otherwise have the next time you are faced with a problem you have not solved before. 


    Tim
    All excellent points Tim, one thing to note is that "little" extra experience can go a very long way.  How often do you see developers approach a problem with the first solution that comes to their head, as opposed to researching for what a more "standardized" solution might be.  I know this is very often the case around these parts.  One thing the study material provides is at the very least a direction towards a canned "standardized" solution to a problem.
    Tuesday, July 28, 2009 2:16 PM
  • Personally I think certifications are a good idea.

    That said, I can give some direction here, I got an MCSD (back in the days of VB6), and a good deal of time had passed, so I thought that doing some more certs would brush up my skills.  I have to admit that there were areas that the extra knowledge came in handy, but in general, most of the knowledge was the same for the MCTS as it was for the MCSD (with the exception of analysing requirements and defining solution architectures back then, that was really tough!)  I wouldn't do another development based certification on that basis, as it was largely the same knowledge all with slightly different names (.NET rather than VB6 dialect)  I can definitely say that over the years, having studied this material has most definitely hepled me with things that I probably otherwise wouldn't have bothered to study.  Does it make me better at what I do?  I guess it does because of the previous statement, however I didn't take the certs and expect a steep learning curve, and I wasn't surprised to find that I was right.  That said, I've been in the industry long enough to be able to say that I really should know the stuff anyway.  So I guess my comment out of this is that it probably does give me an edge, and if my being taken on by a company adds to the partnership status, that's a bonus for them, and probably for me also.  What I mean here is that I can then get the team development tools that they need without having to fight with the CFO to justify the spend.

    In terms of someone being employed because they have certifications, that's simply rediculous, what I mean there is that whomever interviews these people as simply assumes their knowledge is not doing their job properly.  If someone has a degree, do you assume they know all that there is to know about their topic of study?  Of course not, this is no different.

    So, in summary, yes, they're good, and yes, I will do more, just different ones.

    Cheers,

    Martin.

    MCSD, MCTS, MCPD. Please mark my post as helpful if you find the information good!
    Thursday, July 30, 2009 2:53 AM
  • I do agree with Martin, having MS Certifications with you matters a lot when it IS.

    Now in our company we have made it mandatory for a programmers to complete atleast one to two microsoft certifications in a year. Which will be considered at the time an annual appraisal. And that doesn't mean someone carring only certificates has a upper hand in our organization and the same holds for a fresh recruitment.

    This will be an added advantage, to your resume. and not the WHOLE.


    Stay Cool

    Vishal Mohan
    Thursday, July 30, 2009 2:13 PM
  • Here is a discussion about MSFT certification http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/biztalkgeneral/thread/cb7cd120-41ac-4870-8387-f537cc2f5130/

    "...the certificate is not about my knowledge, if braindumps exist for this certificate exam. Period.
    The certificate is worth absolutely nothing, if braindumps exist for this certificate exam. Period."

    If you guys think the certification exams are for studying, you are wrong.
    If recruiters/employers think the MS certification worths something, they are wrong. It was working before google, not now. :)

    Leonid Ganeline [BizTalk MVP] http://geekswithblogs.net/leonidganeline
    Wednesday, August 5, 2009 10:32 PM
  • Leonid,

    Completely disagree.  If you cheat and use braindumps, that certification is useless for the person that cheated.  They're not going to get a position and be able to do the job, that's the reality.

    For those that use the certs for good, to learn, to reach a certain standard, a refresher, they're good if those people did not cheat.

    Your argument is a little like saying that if one person cheats on an exam at school, college or university, that all schools, colleges and universities are pointless.  That is clearly not that case at all.

    There's also the argument that someone can learn the information but not be able to practically apply it, does that degrade it for everyone?  I don't think so, I think it actually means that the person who can't apply the knowledge will not stay in a job long.

    Let's hope you don't write bugs into your BizTalk solutions, otherwise people might start to think that all BizTalk solutions are pointless.  Period.

    Seriously, and I'm not having a go here, there is point for those that actually get something out of it, if you either already know the stuff, or cheat, then yeah, it's completely pointless.  And for yourself, I doubt you'd bother with a BizTalk certification, as you're probably fairly advanced with your knowledge already.  Was this always the case?  When you started that leg up with knowledge could surely have been useful?

    Cheers,

    Martin.
    MCSD, MCTS, MCPD. Please mark my post as helpful if you find the information good!
    Friday, August 7, 2009 6:16 AM
  • The Microsoft Certifications are not for everyone...

    Everybody knows that MCP is better that just the formal education.







    MCTS, MCITP, MCSA, MCSE

    José Miguel Macías MCP
    Wednesday, September 2, 2009 8:07 PM
  • Martin,

    I would like to agree with you, but...
    It is all abut numbers. 
    If 1 of 100 student cheats in university, the university survived this.
    If 50/75 of 100 exam takers cheat, this certificate worth nothing. Why? Because nobody would use it to select employees.  And this is what certificate after. Agree?
    We don't know how guys study things for exams. Only one thing is sure if there is a braindump for this exam we CANNOT trust this certificate. Just google for a braindump for exam and you have got the answer.
    Several years there wasn't a BizTalk braindump in net and my BizTalk certificate was OK. Unfortunately, not now. I've deleted the mention of my certificates from my signature for reason.
    If exam is "braindump-proof", we are OK. But now the exam creators do not care about this. They do not change the question sets for years!

    BTW I write bugs in my BizTalk solutions. Nothing wrong with it. It is all about numbers. How much?... ;)

    And one more time. Using the certification exams for studying, kind of weird. Taking courses, reading books, focusing on knowledge not on marks is much more productive, isn't it?

    Leonid Ganeline [BizTalk MVP] My BizTalk blog
    Wednesday, October 7, 2009 5:02 PM
  • Hmmm interesting topic. I am only 24 and recently went to a ASP.NET 3.5 course and  became a Microsoft Technology Specialist and to be honest I felt the exam was rediculously easy and so was the course. I don't see why it is such a big deal to have an MS Certification as people on my course didn't know a lot of programming yet they passed!

    I read a ASP.NET 3.5 book which was extremely detailed and felt that the course (when I asked about more in depth questions) didn't explain them very well. This could be because of the person teaching it but they often said you don't need to know that and it's not course related.

    I was honestly put off MS Certifications and felt there is no way I would personally pay that much to get one (£2000).

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010 8:22 AM