Microsoft Certification? Worth it?

My friend is in his 40’s and wants a career change and more pay. He works for a small company that sells, repairs, and manages phone systems for businesses where he does ‘project management’, but he spends some part of every day fixing all the office computer problems. He does indeed know alot about computers, operating systems, some programming, and can do physical repairs also. He still remembers being the first guy on the block with a Commodore 64 (I think that was the name of it).

He said he wants to become Microsoft Certified. I thought he would be better off to go to the local Community College. He does not have any education except for high school and a few community college hours long ago. He’s married with smallish kids.

Will the MC help him in any way?

I can only speak for the environment that I work in, which may or may not be similiar to “IT” has a whole, but…

No, the MS cert won’t help him. I’d say his best bet (short of getting a BS in CS) is to try and get a foot in the door with the computer people at the company he works in now. Not so sure about the community college angle–the possible social connections he could make would probably be more valuable then the education he’d get, so if I went that route I’d really try and cozy up to the professor (professors at community colleges, especially on the night courses, often do it has a second job and work full-time in the field) and any already-employed classmates…

My certs have been worth the cost – of course, I have never paid for any of mine.

Seriously, I try to steer toward employers who look at experience and know how over certs. The only time certs were a factor in my employment was when I was teaching, and had to have the certs as documentation from my state credentials.

BTW, I’m 3/4ths of the way to my MCSA, was 1 point off of my CCNA when I took it last november, have my CNA4, and have a bunch of Brainbench certs. I’ve got 12 years of progressive experience, am state certified to teach multiple CIS courses, and am about 1/4th of the way through my masters in CIS/INT.

MS certifications are a dime a dozen. I guarentee that if he goes into a job interview and says “hey look, I have an MCSE” the response from any interviewer who is familiar with the industry at all is going to be “so what?”

Any certification is going to be third in line behind actual experience and college degrees. Most certs will definately help your case, but nobody is going to hire solely based on them, in particular a MS one (the comptia certs are beginning to fall under the same category). Those things are just simply printed out by the boatload and anyone who really wants to can get one.

I’m currently on the CCNA -> CCSP -> (maybe eventually, if I’m good and dedicated) CCIE approach. The difference with these is that you can’t cram or guess to pass them. You need to know what you’re doing in order to pass them, which is why certifications such as Ciscos’ both will help you out more (still not as much as experience or that master’s) and won’t be held by every other person in the industry.

In computing, experience trumps everything. That’s because things change so rapidly that only hands-on experience is useful – as well as the ability to keep learning.

Not that the certification will hurt, but it will only be part of his resume. He should work on a functional one, listing his experience with computers and what software he’s familiar with.

It sounds like he could get some sort of user services position as is.

At my old job, the pc tech said that MCSE simply stood for Must Consult Someone Experienced…


all the paper certs in the world aren’t worth crap if you can’t properly troubleshoot hardware, hands-on experience is far more valuable than a silly piece of paper

Keep in mind that it really is “Dilbert world” out there at many places. Clueless HR folks and pointy-haired bosses. Those folks use MS certs like a crutch. They have no idea how worthless they are but need something to do a first order filter.

So having the certs gets you past the 1st filters and then it starts to matter what you really know.

Note that many quite small places don’t have HR idiots and few if any PHBs. (Otherwise they’d be boarded up in weeks.) So a lot of those places don’t care in the least. It’s like getting a free roll of the dice in the job hunting game.

As far as MS core certs go, they are so easy that there’s no point in paying real $ for courses on them. There are companies that provide “dress rehearsals” of the tests that are amazing “like the real thing”. Buy/borrow those books/CDs, forget the courses.

(My personal exp. I got the Sun Java 2 Programmer Cert a few years ago. Got me a couple of job interviews. I.e., it got me past HR. The actual people interviewing me had never heard of the cert and didn’t care.)

I’ll ditto that. I once interviewed a lady that had an MCSE. She was a floor supervisor at a call center (on an Internet support project, no less – I think it was ATT Worldnet) where I was senior repair tech (I got to touch equipment, not answer phones) early in my career.

Part one of the interview consisted of opening a computer and asking her to identify the major FRUs. She pointed out some random large chip as the CPU, power supply as the hard drive, and the NIC as a modem.

Part 2 is the written portion. It was the test you have to pass with at least 85% before you come off of tech probation. It contains a lot of questions very specific to the call center (like the extension of the file used for configuring the Oracle clients, etc) Interviewees are only expected to know 40% of the questions, because there are about that many A+ and general questions in there. She got 8%.

Part 3 was the oral exam. 1st question was supposed to be a softie – I asked her for the names of the 2 dlls that were required for Windows TCP/Ip access. “Winsock” and “wsock32” and the names of the files that the phone agents on her project EVERY DAY tell their customers to look for. She ran out of the room crying.

I went on a business trip afterwards. When I came back, she was being trained by the department’s other senior tech (who, incidentilly was old, crotchety, and very impatient with his charge). I quit the next day, because it was obvious that HR stuck me with her because she had an MCSE.