Is Microsoft about to get rid of MCSA?
Posted on
October 23, 2015

Editor's Note: After Microsoft reversed course, or maybe just stuck to the original plan, Aaron wrote a follow-up piece.

The sun may be going down on Microsoft's long-lived MCSA certification level.

On Monday, Microsoft Learning's Born To Learn blog released some information on upcoming Windows 10 exams and related certification news � and if you read between the lines, it appears the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certification may be riding off into the sunset sometime in the near future. I'll talk about why I think this is the case a little later on, but first let's look at the Windows 10 exam news.

In this blog post, Microsoft announced that the first Windows 10 exam will be 70-697: Configuring Windows Devices. This exam was released in beta back in September, and is reportedly still available to candidates. If you decide to take the beta exam, be warned that it does not qualify for Microsoft's "Second Shot" free retake promotion, and score reports won't be issued for several weeks after the beta period ends.

For those interested in the 70-697 exam, here is a list of the knowledge domains and how much exam content is devoted to each:

  • Manage identity (13 percent)
  • Plan desktop and device deployment (13 percent)
  • Plan and implement a Microsoft Intune device management solution (11 percent)
  • Configure networking (11 percent)
  • Configure storage (10 percent)
  • Manage data access and protection (11 percent)
  • Manage remote access (10 percent)
  • Manage apps (11 percent)
  • Manage updates and recovery (10 percent)

The blog post goes on to say that the second Windows 10-related exam will be 70-698: Planning for and Managing Windows Devices. This exam is still being developed, and hasn't been released to beta yet.

There was also Windows 10 certification news for software developers. There are two new Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) exams currently running in beta:

  • 70-354: Universal Windows Platform �� App Architecture and UX/UI
  • 70-355: Universal Windows Platform �� App Data, Services, and Coding Patterns

If you pass both of these exams, along with exam 70-483: Programming in C#, you earn the MCSD: Universal Windows Platform certification.

Okay, now for the good stuff. Let's talk about the MCSA, and why I think it's going away. Eh?

Here is a list of every MCSA certification track available as of this writing:

  • Windows 7
  • Windows 8
  • Windows Server 2008
  • Windows Server 2012
  • SQL Server 2008
  • SQL Server 2012
  • Office 365

There is no longer an MCSA track for SQL Server — the exams for the new SQL Server 2014 product were added to existing MCSE certification tracks. So, when the SQL Server 2008 and 2012 exams are eventually retired, the SQL Server MCSA tracks will be gone.

On the desktop side, the MCSA: Windows 7 certification is still available, and will likely be so well into 2016. Why? Because Windows 7 is still the most prevalent client OS among Microsoft's enterprise customers. Windows 10 is gaining momentum, but it will take more time and testing before it takes over the business world.

That said, the MCSA: Windows 7 exams are now six years old, and Microsoft will want to retire them as soon as Windows 10 reaches a certain market share. Once this happens, the MCSA: Windows 7 track will be gone.

What about the MCSA: Windows 8 track? According to the MS Learning blog, the MCSA: Windows 8 certification is being retired on Jan. 31. The Windows 8.1 upgrade exams (70-689 and 70-692) will also be retired on that date. The two current Windows 8 MCSA exams (70-687 and 70-688) will be available until July 31 — but passing either exam will result in a Microsoft Specialist certification, not an MCSA.

Exit, MCSA: Windows 8 track. We hardly knew ye.

But, surely there will be an MCSA track for Windows 10, right? Wrong! And don't call me Shirley. (Leslie Nielsen, FTW!)

The aforementioned smoking gun blog post states that passing one of the upcoming Windows 10 exams will earn candidates a Microsoft Specialist certification — and that these exams will be recommended prerequisites for the MCSE: Enterprise Devices and Apps track. So no, there will be no MCSA for Windows 10.

The sun may be going down on Microsoft's long-lived MCSA certification level.

That just leaves us with nothing but the Windows Server and Office 365 MCSA tracks.

If the MCSA is to live on, it will most likely hang its hat on the upcoming Windows Server 2016 release. If this is not the case, however, then the MCSA for Windows Server 2008 and 2012 will eventually be retired, and that will be the end of the MCSA for Windows Server track.

That leaves the MCSA: Office 365 certification track. This oddball MCSA only contains two exams, and it isn't hard to imagine that Microsoft would simply reclassify these exams as Specialist certifications to eliminate the MCSA: Office 365 track.

And, that's it. If the above comes to pass, then the MCSA certification will no longer be available.

One last piece of info ... in the MS Learning blog post, a commenter directly asked about the future of the MCSA certification. The response from the author of the post, Senior Product Manager for Technical Certification at Microsoft Learning Larry Kaye, was as follows:

"There are no plans to retire the MCSA level of certification at this time." (Emphasis mine.)

So, we will see. Personally, I think there is ample evidence to demonstrate that Microsoft is at least seriously considering ending the MCSA. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author

Aaron Axline is a technology journalist and copywriter based in Edmonton, Canada. He can be found on LinkedIn, and anywhere fine coffee is served.

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