The Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) certification is a product-focused certification intended to demonstrate proficiency with specific Microsoft technologies such as the Windows OS, Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Visual Studio.
Microsoft releases new Associate and Expert-level certifications for each technology. As new certifications are rolled out, old certifications corresponding to that technology are retired. The current tiers of Microsoft Certified (MC) certifications are Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA), Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) and Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD). According to Microsoft, updated MCTS certifications are no longer in development. However, MCTS certs will remain valuable for companies that are using the technology in which a worker is certified.
Here's a list of MCTS certifications available:
- MCTS: Microsoft Project Server 2010, Configuration
- MCTS: Microsoft Project 2010, Managing Projects
- MCTS: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance
- MCTS: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Database Development
- MCTS: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Implementation and Maintenance
- MCTS: Windows Server 2008 R2, Server Virtualization
- MCTS: Windows Server 2008 R2, Desktop Virtualization
- MCTS: Microsoft .NET Framework 4, Windows Applications
- MCTS: Microsoft .NET Framework 4, Web Applications
- MCTS: Microsoft .NET Framework 4, Service Communication Applications
- MCTS: Microsoft .NET Framework 4, Data Access
- MCTS: Windows 7, Configuration
- MCTS: Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010, Deployment
- MCTS: Windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuration
- MCTS: Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure, Configuration
- MCTS: Windows Server 2008 Applications Infrastructure, Configuration
- MCTS: Microsoft BizTalk Server 2010
- MCTS on Microsoft Dynamics
- Microsoft Forefront Identity & Access Management, Configuring
Each MCTS certification has its own exam, and there's a fee to take them. Whether someone is paying to take an exam to be a more competitive applicant for a particular job or an employer pays the exam fee for its employees, no one wants to take an exam more times than is necessary. Fortunately, students have a number of options available for MCTS training.
Students can choose to self-study for MCTS exams using resources like instruction books and training kits. This option potentially works best for more-disciplined students who will be able to commit to working their way through material on their own. Kits may include study guides and practice tests both in hard copy and CD formats. Video courseware may also be available, either on DVD or streaming online. Video media is a nice compromise for those who want a self-paced experience on their own that is also more dynamic and interactive than reading a book or study guide. Self-study can make preparation for an MCTS exam extremely affordable.
Students who're already familiar with the material may want to purchase practice tests. These can be a helpful supplement to individuals studying for the certification exam whether they are pursuing a self-study option or taking a video course or even an in-person course. Different people need different amounts of practice, and those with test anxiety may find additional practice tests helpful in overcoming their nervousness.
Some find a structured classroom setting to be essential to their success when learning something new. Having a live instructor to answer questions and listening to the questions other students pose can be helpful. Instructor-led classroom training is usually more expensive than books, video courses, or practice tests. However, in-person trainings often provide students with access to the specific technology they are learning, whereas students pursuing self-study may not have access to a particular program at home. That aspect alone can make instructor-led training potentially worth it for more hands-on learners. Microsoft's website allows individuals to search for Microsoft Learning Partners in their area.
MCTS Certification Exams
Each MCTS exam measures the test taker's ability to accomplish specific technical tasks associated with a particular program or technology. Microsoft provides percentages that indicate the relative weight of each major topic area on the exam. The higher the percentage, the more questions test-takers are likely to see on that content area when taking the exam. Additionally, questions may be in any of a variety of formats, including but not limited to the following:
- Active screen
- Build list
- Case studies
- Drag and drop
- Hot area
- Multiple choice
- Repeated answer choices
- Short answer code
- Best answer
MCTS exams can be booked through the Microsoft Learning website. Exams may be available in a variety of languages including English, German and Japanese. Sometimes Microsoft offers specials such as free retakes if an exam isn't passed on the first attempt. Generally, test takers have 30 days from the date of the failed exam to schedule a retake.
MCTS Certification in the Workplace: Salary Impact and Related Careers
Generally, certification holders must renew their certification every 2-3 years, depending on the MCTS cert being earned. As noted above, as technologies are required, new certifications will become available, so individuals should be sure they are earning the correct certification for their anticipated job role. Once a certification has been retired, the test will no longer be offered. However, individuals possessing an active certification that's been retired will have a Legacy designation on their Microsoft transcript.
"Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS)," Microsoft Learning, March 27, 2015, https://www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/mcts-certification.aspx
"Microsoft Certification Exams," Microsoft Learning, March 27, 2015, https://www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/certification-exams.aspx
"Retired Certifications," Microsoft Learning, March 27, 2015, https://www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/retired-certifications.aspx