Maximizing Job Security

I made a surprising discovery recently: You can now more easily earn multiple certifications and have those certifications demonstrate something other than that you like to take tests. For example, if you already have the Windows NT 4.0 MCSE certification, adding the Windows 2000 MCSE can demonstrate not only that you've upgraded your skills, but also that you have some experience to back those skills up. Because Microsoft retired the core NT 4.0 exams last year, anyone with an NT 4.0 MCSE obviously took the exams at least 11 months ago. If your resume shows that you've been working in a related field since then, you can make a credible case that the combination of the NT 4.0 and the Win2K MCSE certifications makes you a highly qualified job candidate. You have exposure to the old and to the new.

With such thinking in mind, I've plotted a few paths through the certification requirements so that you can earn one or more premium certifications with a minimum number of exams. Let's start with the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA)-MCSE combination.

The MCSA requires core exams 70-210, 70-215, and 70-218, which is due out in beta next week. Of those, exams 70-210 and 70-215 are also core requirements for the Win2K MCSE; exam 70-218 is a Win2K MCSE elective. For the MCSA elective, exam 70-216 is a good choice because it's also a core requirement for the Win2K MCSE. So if you take these four exams (70-210, 70-215, 70-218, and 70-216), you'll have the MCSA and three of the five required exams and one of the two electives for the Win2K MCSE. For entry-level IT workers, this is a great path to the MCSE. For NT 4.0 MCSEs, the MCSA shows that you're working to upgrade your certifications.

The Win2K Microsoft Certified DBA (MCDBA) certification is a good complement to both the MCSA and the Win2K MCSE. All three certifications require exam 70-215 as a core exam, and exam 70-216 is a valid elective for both the MCSA and the MCDBA. If you take both exams 70-215 and 70-216, you'll have two of the four exams you need for the Win2K MCDBA (the remaining two exams are the required SQL Server exams). Both the SQL Server 2000 and SQL Server 7.0 administration exams (exams 70-228 and 70-028, respectively) qualify as electives for the MCSA and the MCSE, and the database programming exams (exams 70-029 and 70-229) count as electives for both the Win2K MCSE and the MCSD. That the MCDBA requires only four exams and that the two required SQL Server exams count toward so many certifications makes the MCDBA an especially good first certification if you plan to work with database servers.

Those of you who've taken the core NT 4.0 exams but no electives should take note as well. Microsoft has decided to let Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs) pursuing the NT 4.0 MCSE earn the certification as long as the exams that they have yet to take are still active. Exams 70-028, 70-029, 70-228, and 70-229 are still active (exams 70-028 and 70-029 have no announced retirement date). If you've passed the four NT 4.0 MCSE core exams, the SQL Server exams can count as your two electives. In addition, you'll have two electives for the Win2K MCSE, one elective for the MCSA, and you'll be halfway toward earning the MCDBA. That's a nice return on your study time.

For MCSDs who plan to take exam 70-015 or 70-175, the natural next step is the MCDBA. Exams 70-015 and 70-175 are both options for the required portion of the MCSD, and both count as MCDBA electives. Also, exams 70-029 and 70-229 count as MCSD electives. So, for example, if you take exam 70-175 to satisfy the MCSD core requirement and exam 70-229 as an MCSD elective, you'll have taken two of the four exams required for both the MCSD and the MCDBA. If you take exam 70-100 and 70-176 to finish the MCSD and exams 70-228 and 70-215 to finish the MCDBA, you'll earn two certifications for the price of six exams. If you take exams 70-210 and 70-218, you'll earn the MCSA, MCSD, and the MCDBA for the price of eight exams. That combination of certifications should demonstrate to anyone that you can write enterprise-ready database applications with the best of them.

Those of you who've passed exam 70-240 or can do so before its retirement on December 31 can reap unique rewards. Usually, one exam can't count for both the required portion and the elective portion of a certification, but exam 70-240 is an exception. For the MCDBA, exam 70-240 counts as both the required networking systems exam (replacing exam 70-215) and an elective exam. If you pass exam 70-240, you'll be halfway toward earning your MCDBA. In addition, exam 70-240 replaces all four Win2K MCSE core exams. Exam 70-240 has the potential to drop your testing requirements from seven exams to four for the Win2K MCSE and from four exams to three for the MCDBA. If you plan to earn both certifications, passing exam 70-240 can drop your exam count from 11 to four—certainly incentive enough to endure those uncomfortable testing center seats for 4 hours.

Multiple certifications demonstrate that you have a broader range of skills than those who hold any one certification. In today's business environment, the cost and time required to take a few extra exams is a small price to pay to maximize job security. Coupled with demonstrable experience, any one of the certification combinations that I've discussed should make you a desirable employee or candidate.

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