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I am a .NET developer using WPF and ASP.NET MVC and I was hoping to pass some kind of certification exam.

There seems to be four exams but I am unable to understand what the differences are even with Microsoft's definitions:

  • MCPD
  • MCAD
  • MCSD
  • MTA

How do they relate to each other? Is there a natural progression path through the certification exams? What version of .NET are they suited for?

closed as too broad by gnat, Bart van Ingen Schenau, GlenH7, user40980, Dynamic Nov 29 '13 at 4:49

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Difference between MCPD, MCAD, MCA/MCM

MCPD is thing that you should go for being a .Net Developer

Path is: MCP > MCTS > MCPD

There is no specific certification for Silverlight. you need to do certifications for WPF + WCF instead.

  • MCTS: .NET Framework 3.5 Windows Communication Foundation Applications Exam 70-536 and Exam 70-503
  • MCTS: .NET Framework 3.5 Windows Presentation Foundation Applications Exam 70-536 and Exam 70-502

MCTS is more focussed on development Technologies like Dot Net Framework 2.0, 3.5 and 4 and technologies like Desktop development, ADO.net, WPF, WCF etc. YOu should be following the path MCP > MCTS > MCPD

You will need to 70-536 .Net Framework 2.0 Application Development Foundation. This will make you an MCP. Then you can choose any MCTS Certification that may either relate to Web Development or Desktop Development, Distributed Application Development, Windows Development or more. Then after the completion of MCTS in one more (at least one) you will need to go for MCPD for that specific MCTS you have completed.

  • Windows technologies
  • Microsoft Visual Studio and Microsoft .NET Framework technologies
  • Microsoft SQL Server technologies
  • Microsoft Office System technologies (including Office SharePoint Server and Office Project Server)
  • Microsoft Exchange Server technology
  • Other technologies

MCPD Certifications are more closely related to software development using .Net Technologies.

MCAD contain mostly retired exams. You may call these Legacy Certification program.You should not be going for it.

MCSD is a retired certifications program. You should not go for it.

There is no such thing as MTA I guess. You probably meant MCA (Microsoft Certified Architect). This program is currently limited to certification related to the following MS Solutions. Microsoft currently offers three MCA certifications:

  • MCA: Microsoft Exchange Server
  • MCA: Microsoft SQL Server
  • MCA: Windows Server: Directory

Microsoft plans to extend the MCA certifications to include two other technologies:

  • MCA: Microsoft Office Communications Server
  • MCA: Microsoft Office SharePoint Server

Steps to Become MCA

MCM is Solution Specific. Not strictly related to coding or development from scratch. Its about being able to develop solutions out of Microsoft solutions like:

  • MCM: Microsoft Exchange Server 2010
  • MCM: Microsoft Lync Server 2010
  • MCM: Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
  • MCM: Microsoft SQL Server 2008
  • MCM: Windows Server 2008 R2: Director

Preparations

Microsoft provides Self-Paced Training Kits for almost all of of its Exams. Various third party sites also sell sample test papers. You may google them.

Mostly the exams are easy if you have experience of 2-3 years in development using .Net technologies. You may start here:

MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-536): Microsoft® .NET Framework 2.0 Foundation

Difficult Level between each

Not all of them are strictly related to one another except MCP, MTS, MCPD and MCM. They are not hard at all if you relevant experience. If you dont I suggest that you go through the relevant Self-Paced Training kit from Microsoft.

  • I'd suggest going through the training kits even if you think you have relevant experience. They put things on the exam that are useful to know but not very commonly seen in day-to-day development. – Adam Lear Dec 24 '10 at 23:42
  • I'd like to clarify your post: MCSD and MCAD exams were retired in 2009 and if you don't have them already, you can't get them. The .NET 2.0 exams (with 1 exception: 70-536) get retired June 2011 as VS 2005 gets "end of life" at that time. The specific exam for Silverlight (70-506) hasn't come out of beta yet. – Tangurena Dec 25 '10 at 2:12
  • 2
    The MCSD certification is back! See microsoft.com/learning/en/us/certification/mcsd.aspx – Peter Stephens Nov 10 '12 at 18:00
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Both MCAD and MCSD are certifications for older versions of the .NET framework (.NET 1.1 to the best of my memory) MCAD was kind of a stepping stone to MCSD - 3 exams were needed to get a MCAD and another additional 2 papers would help you attain MCSD (the additional papers were related mostly to MS products like SQL / Biztalk etc)

MCPD papers were earlier targeted towards .NET 3.5 (EDIT: I checked the MS site and this set of certifications have been upgraded for .NET 4.0. Basically, what it looks like is that now there is a separate set of MCPD papers targeted to .net 2.0 / 3.5 / 4.0).

MCPD-EA is supposed to be the closest equivalent to the erstwhile MCSD certification.

The MTA is new to me. Based on what i read from the MS site, seems to be an entry level certification. The MS site says Help demonstrate your knowledge of technology fundamentals by earning a Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certification. Earning the MTA certification can help you stand out when you submit college and internship applications by helping to prove your commitment and understanding of a variety of entry-level technology concepts

The MCSD/ MCPD exams are all time bound - usually around 60 mins but it can vary. The number of questions also usually varies for the different exams.

Regarding the resources, usually, there is an entire series of MS press books -called Self paced training kits one for each exam - these books are not indepth but they are useful to gauge the scope of the topics that are usually covered for each exam.

As for preparation / difficulty, it is subjective. Based on my experience, these exams focus more on breadth rather than depth and hence cover a wide variety of topics and personally, i found it worthwhile to use the self paced training kit as a reference and specifically look up certain topics like deployment / tools etc for which my practical knowledge was largely superficial

Regarding the validity of these exams, frankly, i would take it with a pinch of salt. There are just too many sites out there selling the question + answers for these (and most other) certifications and largely, seeing one of these certifications listed on a potential candidate's resume means nothing to me.

  • +1 for the breadth rather than depth advice, it is unlikely that anyone will use every element covered by the exams in their day-to-day work as a developer. I certainly hadn't, despite working in an agency environment on a broad range of different projects. – Carson63000 Mar 27 '11 at 7:48
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You need to define your career goals to be able to select the right certification path. Microsoft changed the way they certify professionals few years ago, and has focussed on providing a certification for a specific role.

Check this site: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/career/en/us/default.aspx

You also need to decide the technology you are interested in (Web, WPF, Windows Forms, Cloud).

The real value you obtain is the learning process and the effort you put into learning the core subject.

Also, you may want to work as a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT).

As for training material, the sad part is, for the exams I took, MS books presented the subject to some extent but the questions were not even close to the questions in the MS books. However, this site may help you find training materials (the net is full of material):

MS Training Catalog

As said before, certifications should give a positive image about your interest in your career but they are not a substitute for solid knowledge and experience. However, some people don't believe in certifications.

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As of Jun 5 '13:
Looks to me like the path is MCSA > MCSE. MCSA has been around since Windows 2000, maybe even NT. If you were going for something like SharePoint development, you'd probably start by being an MCSA on Windows Server 2012, then becoming an "MCSE: SharePoint":

MCSA, Windows Server 2012:

  • 70-410: Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012
  • 70-411: Administering Windows Server 2012
  • 70-412: Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services

MCSE: SharePoint 2013:

  • 70-331: Core Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013
  • 70-332: Advanced Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013

(http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/mcse-sharepoint-certification.aspx#fbid=tqfR4CMqXo5)

The MCM/MCSM path for SP 2010 is expiring and does not yet include exams for SP 2013. The path is MCTS > MCM. These have to be completed by Aug. 1, 2013.

MCM/MCSM: SharePoint 2010:

  • 70-667: TS: Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Configuring
  • 70-573: TS: Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Application Development
  • 70-668: PRO: Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Administrator
  • 70-576 : PRO: Designing and Developing Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Applications

(SP 2010: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/mcm-certification.aspx#fbid=tqfR4CMqXo5)

(SP 2013: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/mcsm-sharepoint-certification.aspx#fbid=tqfR4CMqXo5)

Updates/Changes, 5/19/2017:

MCSE: SharePoint

As quoted from Microsoft:

Note This certification retired on March 31, 2017. Find out about the replacement certification, MCSE: Productivity.

Reference: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/mcse-sharepoint-certification.aspx#fbid=tqfR4CMqXo5

Taken from that MCSE: Productivity site, it says your path begins by taking "one of the following MCSA certifications: MCSA Office 365, MCSA Windows Server 2012 (as described earlier, far above), or MCSA Windows Server 2016" first.

MCM - MCSM - MCA

As quoted from Microsoft:

All Microsoft Certified Master (MCM), Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA), and Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) certification exams were retired on January 1, 2014.

Reference: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/mcsm-certification.aspx#fbid=tqfR4CMqXo5

Original Question
For the original certs in the original question:

  • MCPD
  • MCAD
  • MCSD
  • MTA

MCPD:

As quoted from Microsoft:

Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) certifications will not be updated for versions later than Visual Studio 2010, and your MCPD certification will decline in value as companies move to newer versions of our products.

In other words, IMHO, don't bother. Visual Studio in my shop already uses 2015, so technically the certification is useless to prove you know the tool-at least the changes that have been made to it, which have been enough since 2010 to possibly make an employer question if you're up on the latest methods.

Reference: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/mcpd-certification.aspx

MCAD / MCSD:

This used to be the path to saying you were an applications developer, then a solutions developer. MCAD, and MCSD .NET, are now listed as legacy (retired) certifications by Microsoft at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/retired-certifications.aspx, under Visual Studio certifications, but then if you go to the Microsoft Learning home page and click Certifications & Exams > About certifications > Certification overview, and you go to "App Builder", it still lists MCSD as the top tier, with MCSA and MTA as its predecessors. So actually appears

MTA -> MCSA -> MCSD

to be the path they intend people to take, except....

MTA:

The new Microsoft Technology Associate certificate is now a starting point for being a certified developer, if you are new to the field. You have various MTAs: Mobility (database development), App Builder (full system applications), and IT Infrastructure (includes cloud-based, desktop, and server infrastructure). MTA is NOT a prerequisite for MCSA/MCSD, the next 2 rungs.

I would suggest not to bother, since it's not required.

Reference: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/mta-certification.aspx

New Certification Path:
MTA being optional leaves MCSA, and then MCSD as your path to success for an App Builder. For other paths they preface it with MTA (not required) and end it with another cert, an MCSE (note that MCSE: SharePoint is now retired and is now MCSE: Productivity). It depends now on what type of developer you want to be, out of these new categories:

  • Mobility
  • Cloud
  • Productivity
  • Data
  • App Builder
  • Business

Based on that dictates if you have MCSE at the end or not. I feel it's optional and is that extra thing, like the Master certifications used to be, for the MCSE, and that MCSA and MCSD should be good enough.

Reference: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/certification-overview.aspx#/

(Note: MCSE used to stand for Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer for that particular technology, but is now Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert.)